|Trinidad & Tobago||Grenada|
|Jerol Forbes (57')|
Kevon Carter (70')
|2008-04-27||Marvin Lee Stadium||Tunapuna, Trinidad and Tobago||0|
'Oil Men' take centre stage
United Petrotrin coach Brian Williams might have blushed as the Trinidad and Tobago national football team strode out at the Marvin Lee Stadium on Sunday evening to face Grenada in friendly battle.At right back was the dreadlocked Petrotrin player, Kareem Smith, whose steady debut may have resuscitated memories of when Williams-perhaps the last Rastafarian to play in a competitive fixture for T&T-made the position his own during the mid-1980s and early 1990s. But Williams' and indeed south football's influence went beyond this flattering coincidence.
When the final whistle signalled a 2-0 result for the "Soca Warriors", six of the 11 locals in the middle were employed in south Trinidad and four at Petrotrin, the present T&T Pro League leaders.
It was just a friendly and the 2008 Pro League season is still in its infancy but it was a sign that, at least temporarily, the balance of power in the local game might be shifting.
Last season, three eastern outfits-CL Financial (now CLICO) San Juan Jabloteh, bmobile Joe Public and Neal & Massy Caledonia-illuminated the League race in a tense battle to the finish (although Vibe CT 105 W. Connection dominated the knock out competitions). But only one Public player, Kerry Baptiste, was fielded on Sunday and he was withdrawn at the interval while Stephan David and Ataullah Guerra, the sole representatives for Caledonia and Jabloteh respectively, were late substitutes.
The other Pro League outfit to win favour from national coach Francisco Maturana was Defence Force who had four players in the starting line-up. The army/coast guard combination are playing better than their low Pro League place might suggest, although there were mixed reviews for coach Kerry Jamerson's troops on Sunday.
Defence Force left back Aklie Edwards was a late inclusion after 16-year-old Presentation College student, Akeem Adams, bowed to a knee injury during the warm-up. But Edwards had a torrid time chasing another youngster, Grenadian flanker Kwan Baptiste, whose bravado and distribution was the highlight of the game until he was usurped by Trinidad and Tobago's speedy France-based attacker Kevaughn Connell.
His fellow soldier, Devon Jorsling, was largely anonymous up front, while right side midfielder Kevon Carter salvaged an uneven afternoon with a mazy run to score the second goal.
Thirty-year-old Defence Force captain Anton Pierre was a surprise return at central defence after an extended period in the wilderness since 2005. Pierre usually operates as a sweeper for the regiment with two markers to attend to the chore of chasing opposing forwards.
Pierre did not have such protection against Grenada and looked to be behind the pace of the game at times. However, he compensated with his perceptive reading of the action and he is arguably the country's best defensive player with the ball at his feet.
In the post-match press conference, assistant coach Anton Corneal suggested that the defence lacked protection in the first half and Europe-bound teenaged midfielder Khaleem Hyland was one culprit.
"(Hyland) was the most mobile when we had possession but that is only half the game," said Corneal. "People have to realise their role when we don't have the ball."
Hyland is a free agent after seeing out his contract with Jabloteh, which should please prospective purchasers like England Premier League outfit, Portsmouth.
But seven months-the time between his last Pro League outing and the European pre-season in July-is a long time for an 18-year-old to be away from the education provided by the daily club routine. A short-term contract with a local team may suit all parties concerned.
T&T captain Aurtis Whitley, the only present remnant from the 2006 World Cup squad, distributed well but rarely got forward and this might be because Hyland looked less interested in supporting his defence than when he made his home debut against Guadeloupe on Ash Wednesday.
Local football fans-or at least those who are alien to the Pro League-might have been surprised to see Kerry Baptiste used as an orthodox striker.
Trinidad and Tobago are oversubscribed up front at present-even Connell, who gave a promising, bustling performance at left midfield, is registered as a striker for third division French outfit, L'Entente SSG.
However, Baptiste did have two peeks from the edge of the opposing area that he normally converts while his ability to serve the ball and retreat into midfield-granted, neither were in evidence on Sunday-might make him a genuine option as a deep-lying striker.
Petrotrin's sudden prominence was the most interesting sub-plot, though, and it was their striker and substitute Jerol Forbes who got the opening goal with a close range finish.
Williams' 20-year-old playmaker and dead ball specialist, Daniel, played poorly and even passed on a free kick opportunity but is likely to keep his place based on recent performances, while Hislop did little wrong in central defence and should also be back.
Smith, for me, was the pick of the bunch with a simple yet effective display. Only Jabloteh veteran Cyd Gray enjoyed a consistent spell for his country at right back since Williams' retirement and that came after four tortured years of regular rotations and patchy displays. Smith made a decent start and I expect to see him back in national gear soon.
Petrotrin appear the early winners from Maturana's Pro League scouting sessions. Time will tell if Williams' men can hold their elevated positions in the domestic and international game.
|6.||Anton Pierre (capt.)|
|85' Ataulla Guerra|
|46' Kevaughn Connell|
|9.||Aurtis Whitley (capt.)|
|66' Stephan David|
|86' Stephan David|
|0'||Jerol Forbes for Kerry Baptiste|
|46'||Kevaughn Connell for Khaleem Hyland|
|66'||Stephan David for Devorn Jorsling|
|85'||Ataulla Guerra for Kevon Carter|
|86'||Stephan David for Kevaughn Connell|