TRINIDAD and Tobago football coach Ian Porterfield, by his own admission, has been “under pressure” at the helm of the “Soca Warriors”.
And there will be no room for slip-ups tonight when the defending champions take on Haiti in the 2001 Copa Caribe final from 7 p.m. at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
The host nation is seeking an impressive eighth regional title from 11 editions of the Caribbean tournament—four of them won on home soil—and the first-prize bounty of US$50,000.
The runner-up receives US$20,000, while the third and fourth-place teams get US$10,000 and US$6,000, respectively. All other participating nations left with US$3,500.
However, midfielder Brent Rahim, T&T’s most promising player on show, believes that the champs would lose the title if they repeat their performance in a 2-0 semifinal win over Cuba on Tuesday.
“I think we definitely have to play better than we did against Cuba,” said Rahim. “It’s one thing going out there and fighting the game but we have to play football. I don’t think we can afford to stand up to 90 minutes of pressure from Haiti.
“They will eventually score.”
Rahim echoed Porterfield’s concerns about the team’s slow starts and promised that the “Warriors” would come out firing.
Porterfield should be just as concerned, though, with their inability to consistently bring the ball upfield—uninterrupted—from goalkeeper Clayton Ince through to strikers Stern John and Arnold Dwarika.
It was Cuba who showed greater appreciation for ball possession and dictated the pace of the match on Tuesday evening at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, although the hosts emerged winners.
The Haitians, however, are a different prospect all together.
In their 5-0 semifinal win over Martinique, they rarely seemed interested in prolonged possession and are happier to strike quickly on the break.
Captain Golman Pierre, the tournament’s leading goal scorer with five items, will be their attacking linchpin, ably assisted by strike partner Renel Mompremier.
A tall elegant striker, Pierre has paid the price for his early successes and was marked heavily in his last two group matches.
He should be watched attentively tonight as well by T&T captain Marvin “Dog” Andrews.
On the other end, Haitian defender Bruny Pierre will know all about his Joe Public teammate Dwarika and tends to run a similarly tight shop.
Like T&T’s group match against Jamaica, the midfield should hold the key to tonight’s contest. Porterfield, already without the suspended Angus Eve, must decide who will hold the reins of playmaker.
Hibernian midfielder Lyndon Andrews has not done himself justice in that role, while Porterfield has been reluctant to use either Rahim or Dwarika behind the two strikers.
The Scotsman would recall, though, that T&T’s best performance in the tournament came against Barbados when assistant coach Zoran Vranes—deputising for the suspended Porterfield—withdrew Dwarika to the midfield in the second half to telling effect.
There has been less debate over the exclusion of Vibe CT 105 W Connection captain Reynold Carrington for Joe Public midfielder Dale Saunders.
Although Carrington does not offer the mobility of Saunders, his strength—not to mention composure and distribution—may be a crucial asset against the physical Haitians.
But Porterfield has had more than just the Copa Caribe tournament on his mind of late.
Last Saturday, he was quoted in a daily newspaper as saying that the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation’s (T&TFF) decision to hire Brazilian Rene Simoes as technical director without first consulting him was a mark of disrespect.
On Wednesday, Porterfield said “some people want to put me under pressure”, while, at the same time, insisting that the T&T squad had “improved tremendously” during his tenure.
He would be well advised to give his employers a sneak preview tonight.