Trinidad and Tobago’s senior men’s team touched down in Panama City shortly after 9am on Wednesday ahead of Friday’s Copa America Centenario qualifying match versus Haiti at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
Head Coach Stephen Hart and his 22-man squad seemingly brought some Caribbean sunshine with them as the conditions have been mostly rainy and overcast in Panama for the past few days. The Haitian team which also arrived on Wednesday might have been thinking along the same lines as they no doubt came with the same intentions of grabbing a win on Friday night and booking their place in the prestigious Copa America.
The first order of business for the T&T team was the official welcome meeting during which a presentation against match fixing and other illegal practices were outlined. Meetings conducted by Concacaf officials were held with all four teams taking part in the playoff
T&T got a good feel of the playing surface in October when they defeated the hosts 2-1 in an international friendly and Iceland-based forward Jonathan Glenn, who laid the pass off to Kenwyne Jones for the opening item, believes that the “Soca Warriors” will definitely fancy their chances of a win on Friday.
“It’s going to be a bruising contest without a doubt because both teams know what is at stake and it’s like a Cup Final, win or nothing,” Glenn told TTFA Media shortly after the team’s arrival on Wednesday.
“But we should feel that we know the conditions here quite well, we know the ground and we know what to expect. We also know the Haiti team quite well so it’s going to be down to us to really put our heads together and pull off the result that we all want on Friday night,” he added.
T&T were scheduled to train at 8pm (9pm TT Time) on Wednesday at the Cascarita Tapia and would then have a session at the match venue at 5pm on the eve of the encounter.
“We knew we would maybe try to get in two good sessions here but this is why it was important to have everyone back at home for the period we did which turned out quite well,” Hart said.
“The focus now is going to be in relation to how we play the game on Friday. We’ll work on a couple things in training here but it’s just basically a couple sessions away from game time. We know what the task is and we know what our focus is going to be,” he added.
DirecTV W Connection’s Shahdon Winchester who came into the team as a replacement for Keron Cummings, admitted his excitement on being in Hart’s squad for the match, adding that he didn’t consider himself to be reserve call up.
“When I got the call I was excited and even though it was as a replacement, I was excited as though I got called in the first twenty three. I took it with a good heart and came into the session and try to give a hundred percent and do what the coach asked of me,” Winchester said.
“It was easy for me to fall into the team because there is a good bond and a lot of excitement. My aim is to perform in the game against Haiti and to be consistent and hopefully keep my place in the team,” he said.
T&T’s match with Haiti will kick off at 5:30pm (6:30pm TT time) on Friday followed by the second match between Cuba and Panama. Both winners will advance to the Copa America Centenario in the United States.
Watch the T&T Team Arrival in Panama City
Hart, Boucaud and Hyland talk to the Press before leaving for Panama
Positive Warriors ready for Haiti.
T&T Guardian Reports.
National coach Stephen Hart and members of the Soca Warriors leave today for the Copa America Centenario Berth match against Haiti in Panama City.
They took a 6 am flight, Copa 0315, enroute to the Central American nation following their final training session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium yesterday. Hart said he was very pleased with the attitude by the players and the energy levels they have shown during the sessions.
The Canada-based coach will leave with a 22-man team as he did not name a replacement for English-based defender Justin Hoyte, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Hart’s men were strengthened by the return of Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino, who joined the team last week. He continues his recovery process following ACL surgery in May. Molino is targeting a return to play in March.
The team trained rigorously over the past week and according to Central FC midfielder Ataulla Guerra, the players are aiming to overcome Haiti, their next hurdle.
“The training camp has been quite intensive but very good for us. For me personally, I feel really good to be back after missing out the last couple games.
“We have a big task ahead but it is very important that we stay focused and treat this game with all the respect it deserves,” he said.
“Everyone is very eager to do well. We know what is at stake and the opportunity will be a great one. Day by day we are just putting in the work which I think will see us produce the kind of football on the pitch that will bring us the result we are looking for.”
Only two days ago the team received a visit from Keron Cummings, who was shot last Sunday and had to undergo surgery. Cummings said he wanted pledge his support for the team ahead of their play-off with the Haitians who have already named their squad for the match.
Manager William Wallace said the team was upbeat and ready to play in the Copa America Tournament which is being played in the United States for the first time. The team is expected to touch down in Panama at 8.20 am and will hit the training field at 6 this evening. Tomorrow the team will engage in two other training sessions before the match on Friday. Wallace said the players had indicated that they want to qualify for their injured teammate Cummings before they turn their attention to the World Cup Qualifiers.
The Soca Warriors have four points from two matches, following an impressive 2-1 victory over Guatemala and a goalless draw with the United States at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.