T&T's Under-17 men will have to sharpen up on a few areas first, to have a chance of progressing against El Salvador when the teams meet in the round of 16s of the CONCACAF U-17 Championships in Antigua, Guatemala, tonight at 9 pm at the Estadio Pensativo.
Coach Shawn Cooper's team has been battling a few niggling injuries, in addition to, the improvement needed in the defensive department, which Cooper admitted in an interview with Guardian Media Sports yesterday.
Instrumental striker Derrel Garcia, who scored in their team's opening two matches of the tournament, will be doubtful after picking up an instep injury in the game against the USA.
Apart from that, Cooper said his players have been struggling with proper decision-making, while his defence has also struggled to keep the line. He described the El Salvadorians as a decent team with a few quality players.
"It's a ball game, there's no result to the game as yet. It's just about us settling down early and getting into their faces and playing on the transition. When we win the ball we have to make the best use of it and I don't think we have been making the best choices.
"A lot of people are complaining that we're not building out of the back and we're playing long balls, but at this point in time, if we're having certain issues, we have to play a certain way and then we go forward. It's not about looking nice, it's about playing to the team's strengths.
"It's a tactical game, it's a chess game so you will play some long and you will play some short, you invite them you get in the back etc," Cooper explained.
"El Salvador is a decent-playing team, they are very strong going down their right side, they have a few quality players, but they can be scored on. The problem is that we're trying to deal with our defensive organisation, getting the players not to break the lines, the discipline in holding the lines and closing down people and seeing people moving into the spaces behind our backs.
"It will take some time but we will get it.
"Another issue we're having is when we're coming out of the park, it's making the proper decisions such as the selection of passes, so sometimes we tend to go down one side when we could change it up and be a bit more patient in the build-up," Cooper explained.
The T&T team lost their opening two matches against Canada (3-2) and the United States (3-1), however, they played to a 1-1 tie with Barbados to advance to the round of 16s as the third team in Group F.
A victory tonight can put them on a path to a clash with regional giant Mexico.
Cooper said he believes in his players and his team but their preparation has put them in a position now where they are punching above their weight, in relation to, the preparation of their opponents.
He said, however, that the offensive power that his team possesses, can be a game-changer for them.
SOURCE: T&T Guardian