Mon, Feb

Lawrence concerned about fitness; only seven Soca Warriors active with Wales looming.

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence admitted to concerns about match fitness, as he prepares to selects his final squad to face Wales in a friendly international on 20 March in Wrexham.

Lawrence, whose contract was recently extended to mid-2021, identified the fitness—or lack there of—of his players as his major worry leading into the high profile encounter. Wales currently sit 74 places above the Soca Warriors outfit in the FIFA ranking and boast household names like Real Madrid star Gareth Bale and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey in their ranks.

“I think we all understand how difficult it is because we have been out for a long period of time without any competitive games,” Lawrence told the media. “So the idea was to try and start a training programme as quick as possible to try and get them up to any level.

“The emphasis over the last week has been to get them some sort of fitness…. so we are still a little bit in the volume stage but we have to get them integrated with the football as quick as possible; because we are going to play against players that have had twenty five games in the English Premier League plus.

“It’s not going to be easy.”

Lawrence said the players who are in active competition at the moment would be the first names in the squad for the upcoming affair. But that list is not as extensive as it was when he was a player.

“[Players in season] are going to be one of the main contributors in the squad selection,” said Lawrence. “I don’t think we got too many who are in season and I think, if we take away the boys who are in Saudi Arabia, [we have] Joevin [Jones] who is involved in Germany [and] Levi [Garcia] who is in Israel.

“Apart from that I think everyone else is in pre-season [or] off season.”

From the 21-man squad that lost 1-0 to Iran in the friendly on 15 November, only Daneil Cyrus, Lester Peltier (both Al-Orobah FC—Saudi Arabia), Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica), Khaleem Hyland (Al Faisaly FC—Saudi Arabia) and Joevin Jones (Darmstadt 98—Germany) are active at the moment. Keston Julien has not played for Slovakian club AS Trencin FC in 2019 while uncapped goalkeeper Nicklas Frenderup only recently joined HB Koge in Denmark.

Police FC goalkeeper Adrian Foncette admitted that trying to regain the required fitness level for the game has been difficult.

“It’s been rough for the first few days but we getting into the groove of things,” said Foncette. “It’s really important to have games like this leading up to the Gold Cup. It’s one of the biggest tournaments that we in the Caribbean here play in outside of the World Cup.”

And while they may not be spending happy time on the savannah grass during the Carnival season, Foncette believes it’s worth the sacrifice in the long run.

“It’s always a bit tough [training through Carnival] but I think that we have a common goal, which is first off the Wales game and then the bigger picture which is the Gold Cup in June,” he said. “So as hard as it might be—yeah we are home and around everything that is going on right now—but we just need to buckle down.”

Lawrence spoke of his pleasure at his contract renewal, which he felt maintains continuity as the Warriors go into the second phase of his two tier plan of progression and development. The 2022 Qatar World Cup is the ultimate goal.

United States-based attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra, who returned to the team last September after a three-year absence, is happy with his part in the current set up.

“Preparation wise, we have been working hard, very hard,” said Guerra. “The coach has a certain philosophy that he wants us to work on and we have been trying hard to get that in our game and try to work on our defensive game.

“We have been trying to keep the ball a lot and put that into our game. They let me play my football, give me an opportunity to play forward and don’t try to stifle my game in any aspect.

“If I can go forward, he gives me the privilege to go and to come back and help the defence. It’s a free role and I enjoy playing that football for coach Lawrence and [Charleston Battery] coach Michael Anhaeuser.”

Guerra expects an intense test in Wales.

“[It] is a big challenge for us like the Iran game,” he said. “It’s a team that we expect to be very physical and [play] a high intensity, fast paced football game. We need to get a result.”

Lawrence said he will select his final squad closer to 20 March.