Russell Latapy, coach of the Trinidad and Tobago football team, is contented with his squad’s 1-0 win over El Salvador in their 2010 FIFA World Cup CONCACAF Zone Final Round qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo on Wednesday.
But the 41-year-old is not resting on his laurels, and is hoping that the momentum that the team earned on the night will keep alive their quest for a spot in next year’s World Cup in South Africa.
Cornell Glen scored the winner in the seventh minute and Latapy, during the post-match media conference, pointed out that Glen’s recent form, with his MLS club San Jose Earthquakes, and at the recent training sessions, gave him the nod, instead of Jason Scotland, as Kenwyne Jones’ strike partner.
“What Cornell showed in training we decided to start him,” said the soft-spoken Latapy.
Commenting on the surge of the El Salvadorans last half-hour, Latapy admitted, “We’re playing against opponents who can also play football, and they didn’t allow us to maintain (possession).
“It’s very difficult to maintain that intensity for 90 minutes, especially if you don’t get possession of the ball,” he added. “We gave away the ball cheaply. That caused us some problems. “In the last half hour of the game, because they threw in attacking players, we were out-numbered in the midfield,” said Latapy. “That’s the cat-and-mouse game that you play because, if we had thrown on more defensive players, what would have happened is that the game would have played a bit closer to our goal.
“What I would have hoped for is that our players identified that they were leaving two (in the back) and we can play forward faster and punish them. It didn’t happen today but we were still to keep a clean sheet and that gave us victory.”
Latapy’s selections, before and during the game, raised a few eyebrows, noticeably the exclusion of the Joe Public pair of Hayden Tinto (who scored in the previous qualifier against Mexico) and Kerry Baptiste (who has netted 23 goals in the Pro League), and the recall of Defence Force’s Keston Williams in the troublesome left-back spot.
“Players are going to play based on form. The form that I see in training sessions, players are going to play based on that,” admitted Latapy. “And that is why the team is going to change on occasions.”
Regarding the inclusion of veteran Dwight Yorke in the second half, Latapy said, “Dwight came on because they were overloading the midfield and I thought we were playing two in the midfield, Trent (Noel) and Chris (Birchall), who were getting over-run in the midfield.
“I put in an extra one in midfield, take off one from the wing and use Carlos on the right side; just try to defend the left side as best as possible.”
Latapy made it clear that, “We’ll like to play a couple of games” before the September 5 qualifier away to second-placed Honduras. “We’re going to sit down with the Federation and try to see what’s the best opponents we can get. And then we’ll take it from there.”
Concerning the introduction of new players in the fold, Latapy said, “we have a lot of players will get (to) an age that we’ll start to get to breed young players.
“Once these players show that they’re capable and have the potential to play, I’ll like to give them the opportunity, in preparation for the future of the national team.” Latapy’s predecessor, Colombian-born Francisco Maturana, was in the crowd, having returned to Trinidad to follow-up on a medical check-up earlier in the week.
But Latapy insisted that the team can kick-start a late charge towards qualification for South Africa. “What (the result) did is that it keeps us in touching distance.
“We have four more games to go and we’re going to try to win all four of them. If we do, then I’ll suppose we stand a really good chance of qualifying.
“But we know it’s going to be four (more) ‘cup finals’,” he continued. “We got this one out the way. We’ll think about Honduras and start preparing for them. We’re going to go there and try to win as well.”