There were enough good signs to indicate the possibility of a good Trinidad and Tobago showing at this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, despite the Soca Warriors falling to a 2-0 defeat against Peru in Wednesday night's friendly international at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
Preparing for an upcoming World Cup qualifier against Chile, Peru brought their best team, and also a turnout of just over 4,000 fans to Couva. Afterwards, Peru coach Sergio Markarian said the match presented a good opportunity to get his team prepared for an upcoming World Cup qualifier against Chile, and gave him the opportunity to look at several players in a competitive setting.
The decisive moment came 30 minutes into the match, when Peru's Bayern Munich striker Claudio Pizzarro put in a rebound from four metres, after T&T goalie Marvin Phillip initially charged down a 22-metre stinger from Schalke midfielder Jefferson Farfan. Italy-based Chievo midfielder Rinaldo Cruzado then added a second for Peru in the 88th, when cutting inside and finding the back post with a curling shot from 20 metres, at a point in the match where the teams had already made five substitutions apiece.
The Soca Warriors also produced a couple scoring chances. The best of them saw Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones, who did not have the best of matches, missing a chance to give T&T the lead in the 18th minute. Swinging wildly and striking only wind, Jones fell down clumsily after failing to connect with Atualla Guerra's reverse pass, which put him clear with just Peru keeper Raul Fernandez to beat.
As the first half closed, Defence Force winger Kevon Carter set up Belgium-based Khaleem Hyland for a shot atop the penalty area which Peru's goalkeeper awkwardly fended off, while pacey wide midfielder Carter almost capped a powerful performance with a goal during a period of sustained early second half T&T pressure on the Peru goal. Penetrating through the right, Carter had a stab at goal, which was cleared off the goal-line.
Afterwards, co-Trinidad and Tobago head coaches Hutson Charles and Jamaal Shabazz both described the Soca Warriors' showing as positive, but a work in progress.
Returning to the T&T squad after a couple years were Jones, Ipswich City defender Carlos Edwards, Darryl Roberts and Hyland. The T&T coaches also gave Belgium-based former National Under-23 captain Sheldon Bateau his senior team debut, while North East Stars keeper Cleon John and Defence Force midfielder Jemel Sebro were among five second half changes.
Several of the local players stepped up big time. Winger Carter was powerful and penetrative, while Guerra looked a touch of class at times. Hyland, Daneil Cyrus, Edwards and Carlyle Mitchell also put in solid shifts. Shabazz's impression was that there was little difference between the local and foreign-based T&T players.
"I thought it was a work in progress. The game tonight answered a couple of questions for us in terms of the team and the work we have to do going forward," said Shabazz. "We had two days, but we did a lot of work to keep the team compact and keep the shape in defence, to try not to give a lot of space behind and to try and keep the ball, and I thought on both counts we achieved that. Sometimes, too much. Sometimes, we kept the ball and kept the ball and kept the ball, when we could have tried penetration. Generally, I thought the objective, except for the result, was met."
"I too am satisfied, to the point where we see where we're at and what we have to do as we aim towards preparation for the Gold Cup," said Charles. "The high point is that we kept the ball and we worked to our plan. That is something we worked on in training."