‘Warriors’ tangle with Mexico in Utah

Yohance Marshall

Trinidad and Tobago’s Soca Warriors will be part of an event that saw the fastest sellout in Rio Tinto Stadium history setting the stage for a hopefully action filled International Friendly with Mexico on Friday at 8pm (10pm TT time) in Salt Lake City.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Soca Warriors will be part of an event that saw the fastest sellout in Rio Tinto Stadium history setting the stage
The game will serve as a World Cup qualifier warm up for both teams but the significance is high as “El Tri” will be playing for the first time under new manager Ricardo Ferretti  and the “Soca Warriors” will be looking to push on from their strong Gold Cup showing and build upon their performances which included a spirited comeback in the 4-4 draw with their opponents in Charlotte.There were some initial fears that the game might get lost in the haze of Labor Day weekend here but the game’s sell out in a flash proved otherwise. Soccer United Marketing (SUM) and Real Salt Lake reported that just  tickets sold out  within 48 hours for the venue which holds just under 22,000.

“I just don’t think anybody thought we would do it in 48 hours,” said Trey Fitz-Gerald, Real Salt Lake’s vice president of media and communications.

“It’s really fun to be able to bring other kinds of sports and teams that otherwise you normally wouldn’t be able to see here,” Jeff Robbins, president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission added.

There is no Kenwyne Jones, Kevin Molino nor Sheldon Bateau in the T&T squad but Keron Cummings is a name that the Mexicans will remember and the likes of Cordell Cato, Joevin Jones, Kevan George, Andre Boucaud, Yohance Marshall and Khaleem Hyland are notable faces. The incoming Trevin Caesar and Marcus Joseph will be looking to make an impression as well.

The competition for the goalkeeping spot is stiff with Jan Michael Williams back to full fitness and Marvin Phillip, who saved in the 4-4 draw with Mexico in July also in good form.  Forward Jonathan Glenn will be hoping he gets a chance to shoulder some of T&T’s attacking responsibilities while defenders Daneil Cyrus, Aubrey David  Radanfah Abu Bakr, Mekeil Williams, forwards Rundell Winchester and  Willis Plaza will look to add more to the T&T line up.

“There is no number two at the moment,” Hart said.  “They are both fighting very hard for that position in goal and that’s how it should be. The other positions are also up for grabs and I think the players all realize this. This game will be a good one to see how much they respond and of course it’s all in relation to our preparation for the World Cup qualification.”

Williams has been made captain on this trip and he is anticipating a tough encounter.

“We all know what Mexico are capable of. I think the result in the last game and the way we showed up against them, in a way spoiling it for them, will make them more aware of us and they will want to show their class. But we have been making good progress and we will be looking to continue that in this game. We will not be intimidated and I think this is where matches like this ply a vital role in preparing us for the games we will play in the qualifiers. We have to be able to stand strongly against any opponent under any conditions,” he said.
T&T team trained on Thursday morning and also had a light session later in the day at the match venue which was once home to former T&T players Leslie Fitzpatrick and Marlon Rojas.

The Mexicans will look to starboy Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who signed with German side Bayer Leverkusen from Manchester United on Tuesday. But it is uncertain how much of a role he will play as he was scheduled to arrive in Utah only on Thursday.  Club America striker Oribe Peralta and Leon midfielder Luis Montes dropped out of the original squad after picking up injuries in Liga MX matches last weekend. They were replaced by Tigres right-back Israel Jimenez and Club Tijuana youngster Henry Martin.

Carlos Vela, PSV midfielder Andres Guardado and veteran Rafa Marquez are the other players to look out for in the Mexican team. Jesus Corona was also withdrawn due to visa issues. He signed for Dutch club FC Twente earlier this week.

Guardado said the Mexicans were aiming to start well under Ferretti.  “We are hoping to start well under the new coach. Our intention is to prepare well and also go onto qualify for the Confederations Cup so these games are important for us,” he said, looking ahead to Friday’s game and their next friendly with Argentina in Dallas on Tuesday.

Both teams have met 20 times with Mexico leading the series with 12 wins, four draws and three wins for T&T.The game will be shown live on ESPN 3, Fox Sports GO, Univision Deportes USA, UniMas, Azteca 7, Planea Fútbol, Gala TV and on DirecTV.