FIFA World Cup
1/26/2009 – By Peter Mallett
It’s a new year with new hope. Trinidad & Tobago and coach Francisco Maturana is hoping to dismiss December’s disappointing Caribbean Championship as an anomaly, and recover the its form when it resumes World Cup qualifying next month.
A two-week training camp in Argentina could provide the inspiration the Soca Warriors need.
Maturana, who guided Colombian to the 1990 World Cup, saw Trinidad earn just four points from three matches at the Caribbean cup, denying the side from a trip to the CONCACAF Gold Cup for only the third time.
Maturana will have a chance to tinker with his roster in matches against first-division clubs Independiente, Valez Sarsfield, Gimnasia y Esgrima de la Plata and second-division outfit Quilmes as the team prepares to open the final round of World Cup qualifying at El Salvador on February 11. Of some consolation to Maturana was that he was without most of his European-based players, unavailable with the Caribbean cup played outside the international fixtures window.
Maturana has assured fans that the recent appointment of midfielder Russell Latapy as a playing assistant coach won’t be a distraction, and will further T&T’s chances of a second consecutive appearance in the World Cup.
“He understands me as a coach as well and we have our roles to play,” Maturana said. “We also discussed his role and importance as a player and he will be very important in relaying instructions out in the middle [of the field].”
The return of Sunderland striker Dwight Yorke gave the squad a boost during the semifinal round of qualifying, which included a 2-1 win over the United States where the former Manchester United forward scored the winner.
Not to be forgotten is out-of-contract Keon Daniel, who led the Soca Warriors in scoring during the semifinal round with four goals in six matches.
Meanwhile, San Jose Earthquakes striker Scott Sealy, Bristol City’s Stern John, Swansea City’s Jason Scotland and newcomer Errol McFarlane, who plays with Lebanon’s Al-Mabarrah, will provide Maturana plenty of other attacking options as he looks for a solution to the team’s recent drop in form.
Veteran goalkeeper Clayton Ince of English club Walsall appears to have settled back into the starter’s role and, with 72 caps, should be the No. 1 choice after a freak injury to backup keeper Marvin Phillip.
Phillip, who split net the duties with Ince in the semifinal round, was injured in a bizarre December 20 knife attack while coming to the defense of a friend in the street, and his fitness level has become a big question as he recovers. Defender Dennis Lawrence anchors the T&T defense. Osei Telesford of the Puerto Rico Islanders and Miami FC’s Avery John, both of whom play in the United Soccer Leagues – the U.S. second division, also will provide Ince with valuable cover.