A night Soca Warriors want to forget

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T&T nationals play cricket in the car park before the T&T-US World Cup clash.
INSET: Carlos Edwards catches up with some Trini news on his cell phone.


After sitting in Toyota Park, Chicago, last Wednesday and witnessing T&T’s pathetic display against the United States in the World Cup qualifiers, I wonder if this country would ever beat the Americans in football.

There was great expectation for the Soca Warriors this year. The youthful T&T team created history in August, beating Cuba 3-1 in Havana. The Soca Warriors stumbled on September 6, being held to a 1-1 draw by Guatemala at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.

Despite the draw, Colombian coach, Francisco Maturana, was looking for a positive result against the US. One must remember, that before Wednesday’s game, the Americans defeated T&T eight times with the other two drawn.

The Soca Warriors arrived in Chicago on the night of September 7, settling into the Marriott Southwest Hotel. It is a top class hotel and the staff is friendly. The management of the hotel went out of their way to make the local team comfortable.

There was so much rain the following day that a practice session at Toyota Park was cancelled. The footballers practiced indoors at the hotel. On Tuesday, the Soca Warriors got the opportunity to practice, first at a University ground, and then later in the night, at Toyota Park.

On Wednesday, the day of the game, the Soca Warriors were left on their own to relax before this important World Cup clash. The guys were so relaxed and many felt they were ready for the Americans who up to that stage, were not convincing in their two away matches.

The Warriors were taken to the ground by a luxury coach. On arrival at the Park, there was a sea of red. It was obvious that nationals of T&T travelled from various cities in the US to Chicago for the event. One woman, who lives in New York, said she never missed a T&T match in the US.

The Trinis, all dressed in their red jerseys, were more optimistic than anyone else. From the back of an SUV, Kitchener’s CD was heard blasting. Calypsoes of the sixties and seventies were being played, and both the young and old were enjoying Trini alcohol, including Royal Oak.

To the surprise of many American fans, the Trinis were playing a game of windball cricket in the car park. Trini flags fluttered in the breeze and the fans were warming up for the World Cup clash.

Inside the Park, there was no Dwight Yorke. He had been summoned back to London by Sunderland Manager Roy Keane after the game against Guatemala. The Associated Press wanted to know where Yorke went. That was a major setback for Maturana. The final 11 was announced and T&T was down to one professional - Carlos Edwards.

The war horse, Dennis Lawrence, was left on the bench. T&T lost the match before the start. From the first whistle, T&T was out of it. Akile Edwards, the left back, was caught many times napping. The Americans were switching their players and were left alone on the right wing. Everytime they got the ball, they moved forward with Edwards (A) out of place.

Keon Daniel, who scored three goals so far in the qualifiers, was not his usual self. It seemed that the Americans did their homework and marked Daniel and Carlos Edwards out the game. It was not surprising when the US went ahead in the ninth minute through Michael Bradley and then in the 18th minute through Clint Dempsey.

The Warriors who started off very slowly, went on the defensive and were not able to take the fight to the Americans. Thankfully, the half time whistle blew and Maturana headed to the dressing room to talk to his players.

Whatever he told them at the break, brought some life to their play. Anthony Wolfe replaced Densil Theobold and the Americans were suddenly on the defensive. Akile Edwards got a yellow card. Out of the free kick in the 57th minute, Brian Ching scored and the Americans were 3-0 up.

T&T’s goalkeeper Marvin Phillip had a good night, saving his team from a more crushing defeat. Maturana made just one substitution. Lawrence stayed on the bench all night. He looked disgusted at the end of the game and hustled in the team bus long before the other players.

All the players walked dejectedly towards the bus. Striker Cornell Glen spoke to the media, so too did Maturana.

The Soca Warriors left Chicago on Thursday morning bearing two things in mind. It was the seventh anniversary of the September 11 bombings in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Security was tighter at all US airports.

The Warriors returned to Trinidad via Houston. They got out just in time as Hurricane Ike headed to Houston, Corpus Christi and New Orleans the following day.

©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited