National coach Stephen Hart admitted yesterday that the opening two World Cup Qualifying matches against Guatemala on November 13 and then the United States four days later, will be difficult encounters.
“I know being away to Guatemala is not an easy task and then the USA in our second match will also be tough” Hart said yesterday at a press conference to launch the new T&T Football Association (TTFA) website at the VIP Lounge of the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo. The Soca Warriors will be looking for a point or at least full points in the Guatemalan capital before an even more difficult test with the US in what is expected to be a grudge match.
Hart said he is taking it one step at a time which means his focus is on Guatemala and cannot even think about the USA right now. He is concerned about a few niggling injuries in his camp, particularly to midfielder Ataullah Guerra which means that there will be some rotations in the team.
The influential playmaker has been out for almost a month now with injury and Hart will have to do some chopping and changing against the Guatemalans.
Similar rotation will be done with the players soon after the Guatemala match as Hart tries to put the pieces together, with players who will be coming off injuries and their fitness ahead of the all-important USA clash. But the coach told the media yesterday that striker Kenwyne Jones, who was injured in his last matches against Nicaragua at the Hasely Crawford Stadium has been back in training with his team English Championship League club Cardiff City.
Jones will miss his team’s encounter today with Ipswich Town but is expected to be back in the line-up on Tuesday when the Bluebirds face Leeds United.
Hart who took over the Soca Warriors a few years ago on the recommendations of former coach, Dutchman Leo Beenhakker, told the media that the names of his squad were already submitted ahead of the Guatemala clash and hopefully by next week he will reveal the starting team to the media.
Meanwhile Hart explained that the recent CONCACAF draw which put the Soca Warriors against Haiti in a play-off for a spot in the Copa America Centenario on January 8 in Panama. This match will be the second of a double header that will see the home team Panama facing Cuba. The winners of both matches will join four other CONCACAF teams in the South American tournament which, for the first time is being held outside of that region.
Hart said he was concerned that the matches were being held on non-FIFA dates which meant that he would not have his full team. “This is a major situation because I will not have all my players, but I have made an approach to the local clubs and have asked them to have the players released for the game and it looks good so far” Hart explained.
The T&T team has been unbeaten in their last few matches but Hart said this achievement was due basically because he had a good staff as well as players who bought into the idea that was sold to them.