Wed, Jun

#17 Kenwyne Jones being marked by 3 Guadeloupe defenders.Maturana and Mr Jones.

Honduras coach Reynaldo Rueda had calculated that Trinidad and Tobago would start without their most high profile striker Kenwyne Jones, and creative midfielder, Russell Latapy, long before he received a copy of his opponent's team sheet.
"It wasn't really a surprise," said Rueda at the post-game press conference on Saturday night, after Honduras' 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with the "Soca Warriors" at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.

Rueda did not reveal the weekend's winning lottery ticket number or, at the very least, the identity of the three or, possibly, four CONCACAF teams that will participate at the 2010 World Cup.

But like Trinidad and Tobago's Francisco Maturana, Rueda is Colombian. He also either bugged Maturana's phones, has psychic powers or was not telling the truth. Not even a genius could have predicted Trinidad and Tobago's starting line-up on Saturday night-for several reasons.

Maturana, despite playing 4-5-1 in his lone warm-up match against Panama on March 18, reverted to the 4-4-2 system that, for the most part, served him well in their opening 2-2 draw with El Salvador. It meant the 40-year-old Russell Latapy was kept in reserve.

Teenaged starlet Khaleem Hyland, who appears to be in full flight at Belgium top flight club SV Zulte Waregem, also started on the bench although three of his midfield rivals, Densill Theobald, Keon Daniel and Clyde Leon, are in their off season.

But the biggest surprise was the demotion of Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones to the sidelines for the first time since the 2006 World Cup.

"I think you have heard the coach of Sunderland made a comment on the (physical) state of Kenwyne," said Maturana, as he referred to Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia's recent assertion that Jones needs a rest. "We have two important games and we thought it was a good opportunity to give (Jason) Scotland a game and give Kenwyne a rest."

Maturana is in a much better position to gauge Jones' physical condition than anyone in the stands including the media.

Yet, Jones did have six days' rest since his last outing for Sunderland, while the Honduras fixture surely represented a better chance at three points than away to the United States on Wednesday.

One reporter was irked at the suggestion that Maturana might be offering favours to Sunderland and pointed out that Jones had insisted during the week, he was fresh enough for battle.

Maturana, who appeared offended, insisted he was his own man.

"I am not a coach who is motivated by rumours," said Maturana. "I have all the statistics from the El Salvador game on each player I can tell you how many balls they touched, how many balls they lost, how many shots on goal "

So, then was Jones rested or dropped because of a less than impressive performance in his last international?

Perhaps Maturana had said too much. He was back to his usual economical self when asked why Scotland, the TTFF 2008 Player of the Year and arguably the

most threatening Warrior in the first hour, was the one replaced when Jones was introduced in the 62nd minute. "When a coach makes a decision he has to sometimes limit his explanation," said the Trinidad and Tobago coach, "because there is sometimes a feeling of injustice." Maturana can be creative with his reasons for excluding players. Theobald was famously dropped for six months for supposedly passing over the captain's armband in an international friendly.

Goalkeeper Clayton Ince was supposedly told that Bermuda were unlikely to attack in the crucial second leg clash and then found himself omitted for subsequent qualifiers against Cuba, Guatemala and the United States as well before he was recalled.

And Maturana was said to have told Dennis Lawrence, who wore the armband on Saturday in Dwight Yorke's absence, that he was benched for their last trip to the United States-which ended in a 3-0 loss-because he was not playing enough for Swansea, although he started, three days earlier, against Guatemala.

No one can be certain about Maturana's selection policy-except perhaps his compatriot and Honduras boss, Rueda, who is surely wasting his astounding powers of deduction in a tracksuit. On the field, the Warriors fared well enough and were marginally better in the first half.

But Maturana's troops were anonymous in central midfield where Leon and Theobald looked like strangers, while Honduran man-mountain, Wilson Palacios, did not have his authority challenged until Latapy's introduction. "We found it difficult to counter what they were doing," said Lawrence.

"They were very disciplined and organised We needed that little bit of magic to create chances." Maturana explained that some of his starting team lost their nerve and admitted that they were fortunate to snatch a point. "In practice, they were doing the movements very well," said the Colombian, "but, in the game, the atmosphere was probably too much for them We didn't have the dynamism we need for these kind of games.

"It is with heart more than football (that) we were able to get one point." Hyland's late equaliser, after a shocking error by veteran Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares, stretched Trinidad and Tobago's unbeaten World Cup qualifying run to five matches, while the Warriors are yet to lose in Port of Spain in the 2010 campaign-their sole loss on home soil came against Bermuda at the Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya.

Maturana countered pessimism about Trinidad and Tobago's opening results by pointing out that, if the bell sounded on Saturday, the Warriors would be on the way to South Africa. (The Warriors eventually dropped from fourth to fifth place on goal difference when El Salvador tied the US at San Salvador).

Maturana's troops have managed results on the road before and would be encouraged by a stutter by the United States who trailed El Salvador by two goals at one point. The Warriors' failure to win thus far, means they may need one away win plus maximum points from their remaining home matches against Costa Rica, Mexico, El Salvador and the United States to qualify automatically.

April Fool's Day is as good a time as any for a shocker and maybe Jones would be restored to the starting line-up to help provide it. Perhaps there might be more changes too. Strangely, no one thought to ask Rueda.