We are on the eve of the first game of the final round of World Cup Qualifying and the adrenalin is pumping! All of our preparation and hard work over the past two-and-a-half years comes down to these final 10 games of qualifying. We are thankful to have our full squad at our disposal and we’re ready for a great match-up tomorrow afternoon at the Queens Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
The weather will be a huge factor in tomorrow’s game as it is the hot/dry season here in Port of Spain and we expect the temperature to be around 90 degrees at the time of kickoff. Most of the Trinidadian players have been training together for the past several months and their European based players – with the exception of Kenwyne Jones, Marvin Andrews and Dwight Yorke – have been in town for more than a week. The three players I just mentioned arrived on Saturday after playing matches in Europe over the weekend. Therefore, we expect Trinidad and Tobago will definitely have a huge advantage in terms of being acclimated to the hot temperature. We will certainly not use this as an excuse as we know it is never easy and this is all part of playing on the road during World Cup qualifiers. We are expecting a capacity crowd, but similar to Jamaica we do not expect it to be a hostile environment like we will encounter when we visit Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama and Mexico City later this year. T&T are coming off of their Carnival and we expect them to be in their festive Caribbean mood.
Trinidad and Tobago has a much more experienced team than in the past. Dwight Yorke (No. 19) has rejoined the team after almost a four-year absence. He is not the same player that tore it up for Manchester United in the Premiership of years past, but he still has tremendous skill and we expect much of T&T’s attack to go through him. His touch, vision and passing are still very good at the age of 34. Up front, T&T has several explosive options. Stern John (No. 14), who you may remember from his Columbus Crew days, is probably their best forward. He is very good at holding the ball with his back to goal and is a proven goal scorer at every level. He is currently playing for Coventry City in England. Scott Sealy (No. 9), a recent signing of the Kansas City Wizards, is also another forward that we will need to watch closely. He is explosive over five yards, gets the ball off his feet quickly, makes good runs off the ball and is opportunistic around the goal. Furthermore, forward Cornel Glenn (No. 13) has speed to burn, loves to take players one-on-one and has the ability to change the outcome of the game at any moment. He will be playing this year for FC Dallas after being traded from the MetroStars in the off-season. If he doesn’t start up front with John he is a certainly a good option off the bench for T&T.
In the midfield, T&T will look to Kenwyne Jones (No. 11) on the right side and Marlon Rojas (No. 3), who recently signed with Real Salt Lake, on the left, assuming he recovers in time from a slight hamstring injury. Jones was on loan from Southampton for the first half of the English league with Sheffield Wednesday, where he found excellent form and scored a slew of goals. During the January transfer window he was called back by Southampton and is currently being used as a reserve in the forward position, where I believe he is better suited to play because of his 6-foot-2 frame and athleticism. Nonetheless, he can be dangerous on the right side of midfield for T&T, getting open at the back post for service into the box. He also has the ability to take players one-on-one and get to the end line. On the left, Marlon Rojas does a solid job defending and serves in good early balls into the box to the T&T forwards. He is left footed and very quick.
In the back for T&T, expect to see Brent Sancho (No. 5) and Marvin Andrews (No. 4) as marking backs in a back three. Brent is very athletic, a strong one-on-one defender and excellent in the air both defensively and offensively. He plays his professional ball for struggling Dundee of the Scottish Premiership. Marvin Andrews is 6-foot-2 and plays professionally for Glasgow Rangers of the Scottish Premiership. He is a handful on attacking corners and wide free kicks as he is a major target for T&T on those occasions. Additionally, he is a solid one-one-one defender and very good in the air defensively. Both of these experienced pros make the T&T defense very solid and hard to break down.
In goal we expect Shaka Hislop (No. 1) to start. Hislop is a very experienced goalkeeper and at the age of 35 he plies his trade for Portsmouth of the EPL. His 6-foot-3 frame enables him to own the penalty box on crosses and his reactions are still very sound. If there is a knock on Hislop’s game it is the fact that he frequently gives up rebounds. Our forwards will need to follow up every shot.
I played against Hislop back in 1990 when he played for Howard University and I was playing for the University of Virginia. Hopefully, this time the result will be in our favor!