Sun, May

It might seem like a simple missed opportunity now but, at the end of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, that swirling free kick from El Salvador's Osael Romero last Wednesday could come back to haunt Trinidad and Tobago.
With the last kick of the match in San Salvador, Romero chipped it sweetly and neatly out of the reach of T&T custodian Clayton Ince, stealing a point from a match that seemed destined for a loss for the home side.

From the distraught look on the faces of the T&T players, coach and fans alike, the magnitude of a botched penalty, a host of chances that went a-begging, and an inexplicable offside call must have sunk in.

But Clayton Morris, the T&T "Strike Squad" skipper during that infamous 1989 USA home match when one goal separated the teams, dashing T&T's hopes of making their World Cup debut at the 1990 finals, thinks that the result was a good one.

"I don't feel we dropped a point," the FPATT (Football Players of T&T) vice-president told the Express. "Playing away from home it's always good coming away with one point. We would say we dropped a point because we were leading, but that is different. We went in with a point, and we came back with one."

Some important issues were highlighted in Wednesday's match, some by Morris himself.

First, the T&T side comprised all eight foreign-based players in the starting XI in preference to the local-based players who trained for more than two weeks in Argentina for the match.

"I was expecting about five or six of the players who went to Argentina to the training camp to be in the (starting) team," Morris explained. "It was clear we lacked that togetherness in the team. When you're under pressure you need that cohesiveness more. That was where El Salvador came back into the game. It was a sure case of a lack of camaraderie, to make sure the team gelled."

Add to that the heavy reliance on the aging players-T&T had the highest average age of any 2006 World Cup team-which Morris agreed played some part in a youthful El Salvador's comeback,

"This team should really be training to give them the confidence, not just holding on until the foreign-based players come. It will come a time when we will have to depend on them in the near future. We have to go to the young players," Morris pleaded.

It might be easy to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of T&T striker Stern John, who reportedly asked to take the second penalty referee Marco Rodriguez of Mexico awarded the visitors. After all, he did miss the penalty that would have put T&T 3-0 up, by a mile. In football, it's often those crucial misses that hurt the guilty party in the end.

But T&T did struggle in the final 20 minutes, allowing the hosts back into the match and that, more than anything, must be a red flag for the technical staff.

"It was a sure case of youth against experience, (or) I should say youth with energy," Morris noted.

That left a "bitter taste" in coach Francisco Maturana's mouth.

The good news for T&T is that it is only the first match of the final round, which gives them some time to regroup and work out the kinks for the biggest match ahead, most notably a home clash with Honduras on March 28.

When they will have to do without captain Dwight Yorke, custodian Clayton Ince and England-born midfielder Chris Birchall.

All is definitely not lost and T&T are still firmly in the running for a second successive World Cup berth. But if, God forbid, the Soca Warriors stay true to 'Trini' form and leave it until late to qualify for 2010 World Cup South Africa, they may very well reflect on the chances that could have been from a 2-0 advantage over a stuttering El Salvador outfit.