Lawrence: I’m still searching for striker; T&T coach blames individual errors and poor finishing

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Dennis Lawrence lamented individual errors and poor finishing as the Soca Warriors crashed out of contention for the Russia 2018 World Cup after a 3-0 loss away to Panama last night.

The result, which was the first time that Panama ever got a result of any kind against the Warriors in World Cup qualifying competition, left Trinidad and Tobago with no chance of advancing despite having two games to spare against Mexico and the United States next month.

“Of course it’s very disappointing because we are not into the competition [to lose] games,” said Lawrence, at the post-match press conference. “We knew what was at stake [last night] because if we could have managed to get a victory it would have kept us in it so we are very, very disappointed.”

Lawrence, a hero with the Warriors team in 2006 and a first-time head coach, said the visitors acquitted themselves well but could not recover after falling behind after self-inflicted errors.

Curtis Gonzales and Kevan George failed to stop Panama attacker Gabriel Torres, who ran half the length of the pitch for the opening goal while Carlyle Mitchell doubled their host’s advantage with an own goal in the second half.

“I knew we were coming into the game and it was going to be a very difficult one because Panama are a very organised team,” said Lawrence. “I thought the game was very tight before two individual errors cost us the first two goals. And from there it was difficult because Panama showed a good drive and determination tonight to get a victory and I want to congratulate them on that.”

The 2006 Warriors squad were led by record goalscorer Stern John, who sat on the bench last night as Lawrence’s assistant coach. Yesterday, Lawrence started his third centre forward in six games—but Trinidad and Tobago have not managed a single goal from any of them.

“If we put away the first chance then it put Panama under pressure, we are on the front foot and it gives us something to hold onto,” said Lawrence. “It’s a situation we had in the last couple of games. We’ve conceded goals and also missed opportunities and it’s something we have to try and fix.

“It’s a position on the football pitch which I’ve been searching for, which is that striker who knows how to put the ball into the back of the net. Tonight showed the difference.

“Panama had the couple opportunities and they put away three. We had our chances and we missed so that cost us the game in the end.”

The former Everton and Wigan Athletic assistant coach said he will have one eye on the future when the Warriors reconvene next month to play Mexico in Mexico City and host the United States.

He assured supporters that the Warriors still intend to put out a team good enough to compete though.

“We’ve got a responsibility and there’s still a lot to play for, for other teams,” said Lawrence. “Obviously we are not in contention anymore but we are going to ensure the we put together a squad with the view of the future. We will always put together a squad that will compete and make sure that we don’t let the Hexagonal teams down because obviously we understand that we have a responsibility to go out and put in the performances  to try and get results…

“We have to find a way to dust ourselves off as soon as possible and move on. We have to start looking ahead to the future.”