Trinidad & Tobago: Soca Warriors look to kick-start program inactive for 14 months

The USA will play its first men's international match of 2021 on Jan. 31 when it faces Trinidad & Tobago in Orlando to close out the January camp for the senior and under-23 teams.

While the USA only played four games in 2020 because the national team was shut down for four windows due to the COVID-19, Trinidad & Tobago didn't play a single game.

The Soca Warriors, who haven't played a game in 14 months, have struggled since they beat the USA, 2-1, in Couva in October 2017 and knocked it out of the 2018 World Cup.

Its Concacaf ranking has dropped to 11th, forcing it into the preliminary round of World Cup 2022 qualifying, where it will need to win its group and then beat the winner of a group headed by El Salvador to advance to the Hexagonal, which begins in September with an opening match against the USA.

T&T is not yet even qualified for the 16-team Gold Cup and will need to win two games in early July to advance to the 2021 regional championship.

The T&T Pro League did not play in 2020 and isn't scheduled to restart until July. On top of COVID-19 issues, which forced the cancellation of a pair of  men's friendly matches against Canada in March 2020, T&T was suspended from all international activity for seven weeks, covering the October and November 2020 windows, while control of the notoriously mismanaged T&T Football Association, now overseen by a FIFA normalization committee, was disputed in the courts.

Englishman Terry Fenwick was hired as T&T head coach in December 2019. He is familiar with the T&T scene, having coached T&T clubs San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC, and brought a team of 23 players into his first formal camp, which opened on Tuesday.

Training began in late fall, but Fenwick said he couldn't do much because the national team program had not been funded. Most of the players in the camp to prepare for the match against the USA are local-based. The squad includes three players who started against the USA in the Couva match: Adrian Foncette, Daneil Cyrus and Alvin Jones, who scored the second goal.

The team Fenwick will be take into qualifying, though, will likely be dominated by foreign-based players like Kevin Molino and Joevin Jones, who play in MLS.

Fenwick acknowledged the challenge of facing the USA, a team that he told TTFA Media has been "battering teams within our region" and admitted the game might come too early for the Soca Warriors, but he hopes it will kick-start the national team program in 2021.

Trinidad & Tobago:

Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip, Adrian Foncette, Denzil Smith.
Defenders: Alvin Jones, Shannon Gomez, Justin Garcia, Jamal Jack, Daniel Cyrus, Jesse Williams, Josiah Trimmingham, Jelani Peters, Triston Hodge.
Midfielders: Michel Poon-Angeron, Matthew Woo Ling, Duane Muckette, Justin Sadoo, Jabari Mitchell.
Forwards: Hashim Arcia, Gary Griffith III, Sean Bonval, Shackiel Henry, Brent Sam, Marcus Joseph.

Photo: T&T celebrates Alvin Jones' goal against USA in 2017. John Todd/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

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