After opening the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup with two losses, Trinidad & Tobago sits fifth in the six-team table, leading the United States on goal difference (-4 to -5).
Winger Levi Garcia believes the Soca Warriors can right the ship starting in March, when they resume play in the competition with home matches against Panama (March 24) and Mexico (March 28).
“It is a long campaign,” the 19-year-old told CONCACAF.com. “We still have eight matches to go to turn things around. We have two games to come in March against Panama and Mexico so this is a grand opportunity to show we are capable of great things in this region and make the fans happy. We have to target 6 points.”
It has been a long time since T&T hosted either side in a WCQ. The Caribbean power beat Panama 2-0 in 2005, and drew 2-2 with Mexico four years later.
More recently, T&T faced both in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, battling Mexico to a 4-4 stalemate, while falling 6-5 on penalty kicks to Panama after knotting at 1-1 in a quarterfinal meeting.
“We certainly have the ability and the determination to do well. It is all about executing now,” stressed Garcia, who joined Dutch Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar from Central FC in 2015. “We have a good record versus Panama and Mexico at home, so we are hoping past results against them can be replicated.”
With AZ this season, Garcia has notched a goal and an assist in eight games. He credits his European experience with helping him earn a spot on the senior squad despite his relative youth.
“Playing in the Netherlands is quite an adjustment to playing in Trinidad,” Garcia finished. “The pace of the game is quicker. It is much more technical, so it took some time to adjust. However, after a few months, I felt settled and I feel it has prepared me for International football, especially at the senior level. Scoring a brace on my senior debut (entering as a substitute in a 3-2 World Cup Qualifying win at St. Vincent & the Grenadines on March 25, 2016) was a good experience and I feel once I continue improving in Eredivisie it will positively help my country.”