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Photo: Trinidad and Tobago flanker Levi Garcia (front) is watched closely by a Puerto Rico defender during their 2022 World Cup qualifying contest at the Estadio Centroamericano in Mayaguez on 28 March 2021. (via TTFA Media)
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A combination of excellent acrobatics inside the goal by T&T's Danish goalkeeper Nicklas Frenderup and a goal from speedy T&T over-lapping defender Joevin Jones earned the Soca Warriors a hard-fought 1-1 tie with Puerto Rico in their second match of the 2022 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers on Sunday at the Estadio Jose Antonio Figueroa in Mayaquez, Puerto Rico.

However, Jones, who teased the Puerto Ricans for most of his stay on the pitch, could have sealed the winner two minutes after his opening goal, when striker Ryan Telfer took the ball down the byline and pulled it back for him in the 57th minute.

Jones with the goal at his mercy fired his effort high and wide of the post.

The game was billed the Warriors' first real test by analysts, firstly because of the perceived lack of quality by the Guyanese team in their opening match, and secondly, because the home team needed a win to stay alive in the qualifiers. The Puerto Ricans expectedly settled in quickly and could have had the opener in the 17th minute, from a right-side cross which found the head of Sidney Rivera, but goalkeeper Nicklas Frenderup pushed it wide.

Later Frenderup again spoiled the home team's attempt to score in the 26th minute. This time from a free-kick on top of the T&T area after Wilfredo Rivera was bundled off the ball by Neveal Hackshaw, to the dislike of the referee. But again Frenderup shuffled quickly to his right side to push wide a well-driven shot through the wall by Isaac Angking.

Eight minutes later the home team was gifted another chance from a defensive blunder by Robert Primus. Still, with the goal at his mercy, Devin Vega who intercepted a sloppy Primus back-pass, shot straight to Frenderup in the T&T goal.

The Soca Warriors opted for possession-play in the early stages but it was the Puerto Ricans who lost their opening game to St Kitts/Nevis 0-1 and faced an early exit from the qualifiers that looked the more likely team to score.

Yet they squandered their best opportunity to score in the 40th minute. Another build-up down the left-side ended in a cross by Juan O'Neill for Angking, who quickly released to the open Vega. The latter however drove his shot against an opposing player with two unmarked players better positioned.

T&T's lone chance of the half came from a snap-shot by midfielder Daniel Phillips midway in the first half, which went straight to goalkeeper Cody Laurendi.

Both teams went to the interval with the score locked at 0-0 and when they resumed the Warriors broke the deadlock. Telfer with a dangerous run down the left-side delivered a cross to Levi Garcia who headed down for Jones to meet sweetly on the volley, past Laurendi in the 55th minute.

Two minutes later Jones did everything right from Telfer's right-side centre but put the ball high over the crossbar.

Fenwick brought on central midfielder Duane Muckette to set the T&T pace in the match, but it did not prevent the surge expected from the Puerto Ricans who got the equaliser in the 72nd minute. Substitute Ricardo Rivera swooped into the box to head home a left-side cross by Alec Diaz.

Meanwhile, substitute Willis Plaza who came on for Telfer in the 69th minute almost snatched the winner for T&T late in the game, with a thunderous attempt from the right boot that just whisked past the Puerto Rican goal.

Joevin strikes first but Puerto Rico tie T&T 1-1, Warriors trail St Kitts by two points.
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868).

Trinidad and Tobago will need to come from behind to advance from their Concacaf preliminary group, after dropping two points today in a 1-1 draw away to Puerto Rico at the Mayaguez Athletics Stadium in Mayaguez.

Flanker Joevin Jones got the opening goal in the 55th minute, only for the hosts to equalise through substitute Ricardo Rivera in the 71st minute.

The result left the Soca Warriors two points shy of Group F leaders St Kitts and Nevis, who defeated the Bahamas 4-0 on Saturday night. It is a must-win scenario now for Trinidad and Tobago, who play table proppers Bahamas in Nassau on 5 June before hosting St Kitts and Nevis on 8 June.

There is no venue listed yet for Trinidad and Tobago’s clash with the ‘Sugar Boyz’ but, if the current Covid-19 protocols stand, they may again play in the Dominican Republic. 

If St Kitts and Nevis defeat Guyana on 4 June, they would only need a draw in the final match of Group F. 

For Puerto Rico, their World Cup ambitions ended today as they have one point from two games—after losing 1-0 to the Sugar Boyz last Wednesday. But then was the Puerto Rican Football Federation ever serious about the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign?

The Puerto Rican administrators only hired Dave Sarachan to lead the ‘Huracán Azul’ on 24 February 2021 and the new coach was still holding screening sessions in the middle of this month. 

Arguably, Puerto Rico’s elimination was no worse than they deserved. But what does it say that they created so many problems for the Soca Warriors?

Trinidad and Tobago’s World Cup dreams remain in their own hands, but that did not always look like being the final outcome today. At the interval, Puerto Rico had outshot the Warriors by seven attempts to one with 17-year-old Wilfredo Rivera shining brightly in his first senior international start.

Wilfredo, who has just agreed professional terms with MLS team Orlando City, terrorised Trinidad and Tobago left back Neveal Hackshaw all evening, with the defender eventually being booked in the 51st minute after the winger’s flawless ‘Cruyff turn’ momentarily left him chasing shadows.

Of course, the Warriors also had a gifted flanker who liked to tuck in off the right flank: Levi Garcia.

But while Sarachan’s players, so assured in possession, was able to get the ball to Rivera in areas of the field where he could be dangerous, T&T struggled to offer Garcia a similar platform in the first 50 minutes of the contest.

And instead, Terry Fenwick would be grateful to Warriors goalkeeper Nicklas Frenderup, who was his best performer in the first half. 

The 28-year-old Frenderup, who was born in Copenhagen, made a terrific low save in the 18th minute to deny a header from opposing captain Sidney Rivera, off a free kick from his namesake, Wilfredo. And, 10 minutes later, Frenderup dived to his right to keep out a free kick from Isaac Angking, after Wilfredo was tripped by T&T captain Khaleem Hyland.

Frenderup was just a spectator in the 41st minute but the visitors were let off the hook as opposing midfielder Devin Vega made a horrible slice of his shot from 10 yards. It was the last action of the first half.

Trinidad and Tobago had just one shot by that stage, which was struck by midfielder Daniel Phillips but comfortably held by custodian Codi Laurendi.

Fenwick replaced Phillips with Duane Muckette for the start of the second half and the Warriors immediately looked more assured in possession.

A cross-cum-shot from Garcia, off his own free kick, needed a flying save from Laurendi in the 48th minute. And, seven minutes later, the Warriors opened the scoring, as the Puerto Rico defence failed to deal with a left side Ryan Telfer cross and Jones made no mistake with the loose ball from close range.

It was Jones’ fifth career World Cup qualifying goal, which put him joint 12th on Trinidad and Tobago’s all-time scoring chart alongside Warren Archibald, Arnold Dwarika, Marvin Andrews and Keon Daniel.

The hosts were stunned and Trinidad and Tobago had two chances to increase the lead, within a storming 10 minute spell. Jones shot wide from on top of the opposing box in the 57th minute, while a devilishly inswinging Garcia corner kick in the 66th minute stuck the far upright before rebounding into play.

Jones was off by then, as he was replaced with an apparent thigh injury in the 63rd minute. The 29-year-old is due to meet up with David Beckham and his new MLS employers, InterMiami CF, later this week. Sadly, he might have to head straight for the treatment room.

His mood would have darkened further when Puerto Rico equalised in the 71st minute, as substitute Ricardo Rivera—yes, a third Rivera!—headed in from close range off a left side Raúl Gonzáles III cross.

It was a maiden international goal for Ricardo, who plays in Spain’s sixth division with Vilamarxant CF.

The game swung wide open, as Puerto Rico chased the second goal needed to keep their own World Cup dreams alive, while, at the other end, Trinidad and Tobago substitute Willis Plaza twice came within a whisker of snatching all three points on the break.

But the eventual draw was a fair result on the balance of play—and certainly the Warriors could scarcely deserve better.

At the final whistle, Puerto Rico had four teenagers on the field and just one player over 25 years of age: 32-year-old goalkeeper Cody Laurendi. They are ranked 179th in the world and 25th from 35 Concacaf countries, but there is no reason why, with Sarachan, they cannot aim for more respect within the region.

For all of his early claims of promoting youth and criticism of his predecessor Dennis Lawrence’s ‘old guard’, Fenwick ended the match with just three players under 25 years of age on the field: Garcia (23), Jabari Mitchell (23), and Michel Poon-Angeron (19).

And, when Hyland limped off in the 85th minute, Fenwick opted for the experience of 36-year-old veteran Andre Boucaud ahead of the more dynamic 20-year-old Judah Garcia.

Twenty-four-year-old attacker Sean Bonval, who started in Trinidad and Tobago’s 7-0 loss to USA in January, has fared even worse as he failed to make the bench for either qualifier so far.

Trinidad and Tobago need six points from their final two outings and a high-scoring win over Bahamas on 5 June would do nicely. Fenwick will hope to have ace attacking midfielder, Kevin Molino, back in his fold by then.

St Kitts and Nevis could be stronger in the next match window too, should West Brom midfielder Romain Sawyers be included. Bizarrely, Sawyers was not called up in this match window because, according to a reliable source on the island, the Sugar Boyz felt he was not needed against Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

From their perch at the top of the table, it is hard to criticise the judgment of their rookie Argentine coach Claudio Caimi.

But let’s see which coach gets it right in June.


Full Results

Puerto Rico 1 (Ricardo Rivera 71) v Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Joevin Jones 55), Mayaguez Athletics Stadium, Mayaguez.

(Teams)

Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-1-3): 21.Nicklas Frenderup (GK); 2.Aubrey David, 12.Robert Primus, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 15.Neveal Hackshaw (Yellow 51); 18.Michel Poon-Angeron, 8.Khaleem Hyland (captain) (14.Andre Boucaud 85); 19.Daniel Phillips (10.Duane Muckette 46); 11.Levi Garcia, 7.Ryan Telfer (9.Willis Plaza 72), 3.Joevin Jones (23.Jabari Mitchell 65).

Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 5.Leland Archer, 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 13.Brent Sam, 16.Marcus Joseph Jr, 17.Justin Garcia, 20.Judah Garcia, 23.Jabari Mitchell.

Standbys: Denzil Smith (GK), Sean Bonval.

Coach: Terry Fenwick

Puerto Rico (4-1-4-1): 12.Codi Laurendi (GK); 2.Darren Ríos, 21.Daniel Rosario, 3.Nicolás Cardona, 4.Raúl Gonzáles III (22.Eli Carr 87); 6.Juan O’Neill; 7.Wilfredo Rivera, 11.Devin Vega (16.Giovanni Padron 87), 10.Isaac Angking (8.Alec Diaz 70), 23.Gerald Diaz (19.Jaden Servania 61); 9.Sidney Rivera (captain) (5.Ricardo Rivera 61).

Unused substitutes: 1.Angel Molinari (GK), 18.Joel Serrano (GK), 13.Jordan Saling, 14.Jan Mateo, 15.Rodolfo Sulia, 17.Kevin Hernández, 20.Joshua Calderon.

Coach: Dave Sarachan.

Standings - Group F

P  W  D  L  F  A  GD Pts
St. Kitts and Nevis  2  2  0  0  5  0  +5  6
Trinidad and Tobago  2  1  1  0  4  1  +3  4
Puerto Rico  2  0  1  1  1  2  -1  1
Guyana  1  0  0  1  0  3  -3  0
Bahamas  1  0  0  1  0  4  -4  0

Watch Puerto Rico vs. Trinidad y Tobago 1-1 | Rumbo al Mundial | Telemundo Deportes

Watch Fenwick's Post-Game Reactions following 1-1 draw with Puerto Rico

Watch Post-match comments, Puerto Rico head coach Dave Sarachan: "We are not happy that we tied."

Watch Puerto Rico vs. Trinidad & Tobago | Full Match