Trinidad & Tobago Struggle In Opening Rounds Of Concacaf Nations League

Though it may have been just a consolation prize considering their last-place finish in the Hex, Trinidad & Tobago’s shocking win over the United States at the tail end of 2017 was ample reason for the small nation to celebrate. 

Since then, however, the Soca Warriors’ ship has been attempting to navigate choppy waters without much success.

Four friendlies in 2018 resulted in three losses and a lone win against the United Arab Emirates, and they have yet to capture a win in 2019 through eight fixtures. They failed to find the back of the net in a pair of friendlies against Wales and Japan, and their subsequent Gold Cup campaign wasn’t anything to write home about: two shutout losses against Panama and the U.S., followed by a disappointing 1-1 draw with Guyana thanks to a late Kevin Molino equalizer. Spirits simply couldn’t sink much lower after falling to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in an August exhibition.

The inaugural Nations League offered the country an opportunity to regain their footing after a rough two years, as well as a platform to bring new players into the fold. The latter is exactly what they have done, as coach Dennis Lawrence announced before the action began that he had called up three uncapped players to lead them into battle this fall: Andre “Dre” Fortune of North Carolina FC, Apollon Limassol’s Daniel Carr, and Ryan Telfer of York9 FC.

Group C opponents Martinique completed a flawless qualifying campaign and gave Mexico everything they could handle in their final group game at the Gold Cup, but Trinidad & Tobago would have undoubtedly liked their chances to finish ahead of them and challenge Honduras for the top spot.

Any hopes of getting off on the right foot were dashed five minutes before the stroke of halftime when a case of sloppy defending on a corner put them in a hole. A Joevin Jones penalty was ultimately enough to salvage a point after a fairly even affair.

Still, a draw is a far cry from a disastrous result on the first matchday and particularly in light of it coming away from home. With a golden chance to soar to the top of the group in Port of Spain on Monday, it was a case of defensive lapses on set pieces to let a two-goal lead slip through their fingers before having their door slam shut by Martinique goalkeeper Löic Chauvet. With the result in the balance and facing wave after wave, the 31-year-old stood on his head and paved the way to a significant away result.

A positive sign for the Soca Warriors is one of the aforementioned trio sliding right in and already making his presence felt. Ryan Telfer will be looking to make a statement for his new international side and get his MLS career back on track, and he got off the mark with team’s second goal of the match when he latched onto a loose ball moments after the intermission.

Next up is a friendly against Mexico to start the month of October before their Nations League resumes and only gets tougher with a home-and-home with Honduras. With a pair of draws in the rearview mirror, the Soca Warriors will need to muster up the same type of spirit they produced against the Yanks nearly two years ago and avoid more errors at the back if they are to advance or perhaps even avoid relegation to League B.

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The opening two rounds of the Concacaf Nations League are in the rearview mirror, and when action resumes we will see the likes of Mexico, the U.S., Costa Rica, and Honduras join the competition. For many of the region’s top players, next up is a healthy serving of UEFA Champions League fixtures beginning Tuesday. 

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