Soca Warriors WC Campaign - A work in progress » EntornoInteligente

Soca Warriors WC Campaign – A work in progress

Entornointeligente.com / Af­ter the nau­se­at­ing ex­per­i­ment against the Unit­ed States went awry where the So­ca War­riors were hu­mil­i­at­ed 7-0, T&T’s foot­ball fans lo­cal­ly and abroad looked for­ward to the start of the open­ing round of the 2022 FI­FA World Cup CON­CA­CAF qual­i­fiers against Guyana in the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic fol­lowed by an away fix­ture against Puer­to Ri­co.

Fans were un­sure of what to ex­pect es­pe­cial­ly against a Guyana side that has posed prob­lems in the past for the So­ca War­riors. They boast­ed a Brazil­ian coach in Már­cio Máx­i­mo with sev­en play­ers play­ing pro­fes­sion­al­ly out­side of Guyana al­beit in the low­er leagues of Eu­rope. But all in all, one could sense a feel­ing of un­cer­tain­ty of what this Guyanese side was ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing.

Nev­er­the­less, fans would have ex­pect­ed noth­ing but a vic­to­ry from coach Ter­ry Fen­wick’s charges and they right­ful­ly de­liv­ered. The So­ca War­riors start­ed pos­i­tive­ly and nev­er al­lowed their op­po­nents to set­tle and from ear­ly on they looked like, as a friend texted me, “they good for 4 or 5”. The im­por­tant ques­tion is: were the War­riors that good to whip the Guyanese by 3-0 in­clud­ing miss­ing a penal­ty, or were the Guyanese just hope­less? When one looks back at the game in its en­tire­ty, it is a mix­ture of both. There were times T&T looked good, es­pe­cial­ly when Levi Gar­cia was in full flow as he was men­ac­ing on the right flank, but far too much de­pend­ed on his quite ev­i­dent in­di­vid­u­al­ism. He tru­ly has so much tal­ent that he was able, on oc­ca­sions, to claw his way out of trou­ble. Both Gar­cia and Jo­evin Jones seemed iso­lat­ed at times, as when T&T moved for­ward in­to at­tack, the co­he­sion of the team failed to be on dis­play. Ryan Telfer up­front was like The Lone Ranger and when he made his runs and picked up the ball, he was forced to try and drib­ble op­po­nents as the ex­pect­ed sup­port from the mid­field was way too slow in ar­riv­ing. Kevin Moli­no was sore­ly missed as he would have been the out­let not on­ly for Telfer but for Gar­cia and Jones.

T&T fans should re­main hope­ful that when their team set­tles and finds an iden­ti­ty for it­self, they will be able to wit­ness some more flair in the mid­field with play­ers push­ing for­ward as a unit; and pos­si­bly with the de­fen­sive mid­field­er sit­ting on top of the de­fence but with in­struc­tions to move for­ward once in pos­ses­sion.

Ad­mit­ted­ly, I was con­cerned with T&T’s de­fence. I thought Guyana would score and on one oc­ca­sion, the post got in the way. Debu­tant goal­keep­er Nick­las Fren­derup, who looked pret­ty sol­id, made a cou­ple of good saves. In Shel­don Bateau and Robert Primus at the heart of the de­fence, there was every rea­son for T&T fans to feel com­fort­able as they are two very ca­pa­ble de­fend­ers, but when the Guyanese strung a few pass­es to­geth­er, the de­fence seemed to pan­ic. To call a spade a spade, they did not look as or­gan­ised as they should be at this lev­el. Should their op­po­nents have had more qual­i­ty, the War­riors could have eas­i­ly suf­fered a goal or two. I know it will take some time for the play­ers to un­der­stand each oth­er, but they need to learn fast as I am un­sure each play­er on the field knows their role and how to mesh that in­to the over­all team.

The 3-0 vic­to­ry was a great start to their cam­paign and would have giv­en them a much-need­ed boost of con­fi­dence against a Puer­to Ri­can team that, by all ac­counts, have im­proved tremen­dous­ly in the last cou­ple of years. A match of this na­ture a few years ago would have been a walk in the park but based on their re­sults, it was go­ing to be a tough nut to crack. El Hu­racán Azul (The Blue Hur­ri­cane) as they are fond­ly re­ferred to, were at home and know­ing they need­ed a vic­to­ry to stay alive in the qual­i­fiers, it was im­per­a­tive the So­ca War­riors start­ed the game like they did against the Guyanese or they could have found them­selves fac­ing a Cat­e­go­ry 5 Blue Hur­ri­cane that could have been dev­as­tat­ing. Luck­i­ly, they in­stead faced a trop­i­cal storm as they put T&T un­der con­tin­u­ous pres­sure and again, Fren­derup proved his worth as he made crit­i­cal saves when called up­on which ul­ti­mate­ly kept the War­riors in the game. I know be­fore the start of the en­counter, coach Fen­wick spoke about the pow­er and the run­ning abil­i­ty of this Puer­to Ri­can team, but T&T did not seem to match them with the same in­ten­si­ty that was need­ed to keep them at bay and in­deed, were for­tu­nate to go in­to the dress­ing room on lev­el terms.

The War­riors start­ed the sec­ond half more pos­i­tive­ly and tried to keep pos­ses­sion but this young and en­er­getic Puer­to Ri­can team nev­er stopped run­ning and T&T were able to take the lead with their im­proved sec­ond-half dis­play leav­ing Puer­to Ri­co be­hind and chas­ing their fad­ing world cup dreams. As men­tioned, this Puer­to Ri­can team is tal­ent­ed and in young, 17-year-old Wil­fre­do Rivera, who plays for Or­lan­do City, is a piece of dy­na­mite and gave Ne­veal Hack­shaw a night to re­mem­ber with their equalis­er be­ing well-tak­en in the end. The So­ca War­riors came away with a point and qual­i­fy­ing is still very much on their own feet but doesn’t be sur­prised if this Puer­to Ri­can team in the next few years em­u­lates Pana­ma as their foot­ball grows in stature to chal­lenge all of the CON­CA­CAF’s big names.

Next up, the So­ca War­riors should take care of the Ba­hamas but the big game (imag­ine than?) is against St Kitts and Nevis and noth­ing but a vic­to­ry would see T&T in­to the next round. I un­der­stand coach Fen­wick is seek­ing to strength­en his squad which is all well and good how­ev­er, his team must place em­pha­sis on en­sur­ing his play­ers un­der­stand their roles and the sys­tem in which they are brought in to play. I have seen on so many oc­ca­sions where play­ers come in­to a squad but they just don’t fit in­to the sys­tem and things go hay­wire.

For­mer coach Leo Been­hakker was a mas­ter of bring­ing play­ers in­to a team to fit in­to a role that strength­ened his squad. As such, one can on­ly hope that the same thing un­folds here and that the team’s at­tack is filled with uni­ty and flair while be­ing de­fen­sive­ly well-or­gan­ised and tough to break down. That I am sure is all the fans are ask­ing for as I am to­tal­ly con­fi­dent the na­tion is 100% be­hind the So­ca War­riors on the road to Qatar 2022. But no one can dis­agree that there is still lots of work to be done.

Ed­i­tor’s note:

The views ex­pressed in this col­umn are sole­ly those of the au­thor and do not re­flect the views of any or­gan­i­sa­tion of which he is a stake­hold­er.

LINK ORIGINAL: The Trinidad Guardian

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