Head coach Dennis Lawrence (pictured) guided Trinidad & Tobago to its first points of the CONCACAF Hexagonal, with a 1-0 victory over visiting Panama on March 24, 2017, in Port of Spain. (Photo: CA-Images)
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago – On Friday night, Trinidad & Tobago’s Kevin Molino received the ball inside the Panama half, turned and accelerated towards goal.
Realizing that the Panamanians were down a man with central defender Roman Torres off the field, Dennis Lawrence – in his first competitive game as T&T’s head coach -- implored the Minnesota United star to act urgently.
Molino followed the instructions wholly, ultimately beating goalkeeper Jaime Penedo in the 37th minute with a low shot from outside the box for the game’s only goal, giving the host Soca Warriors their first points of the CONCACAF Hexagonal after three games.
“It was just a bit of recognition that, look, there was an opportunity. They had one player off the pitch,” Lawrence said in the post-match press conference about the sequence. “I thought we needed to take advantage of it, so I just tried to get him to get the ball forward as quickly as possible. Fortunately, the boys responded to it and we got the goal.”
With now first-place Mexico scheduled to visit Hasely Crawford Stadium on Tuesday, Lawrence was in no mood to celebrate. He was willing, however, to give his squad some time – very little time – to appreciate the taste of victory.
“We can enjoy it only for five minutes because the focus goes immediately onto Mexico,” stressed the former T&T international, who was an assistant under Roberto Martinez at Wigan, Everton and Belgium. “We have to start preparing. We have to try and take advantage of the situation that we are in. The boys are on a high at the moment, but we have to start immediately focusing on Mexico.”
The Mexicans (2W-1D-0L, 7 points) sit atop the table on seven points, four more than Trinidad (1-0-2, 3). Lawrence, though, is undaunted about the task ahead. In fact, he’s feeling good about the matchup.
“Exactly the same as I felt going into the Panama game…optimistic, encouraged, but obviously understanding that it’s not going to be easy by any means whatsoever,” he said when asked about his outlook on facing the seven-time Gold Cup champion. “I’d like to think that the boys are going into it with a little bit more confidence.
“The work is to be confident in what we’re going to do. We have direction. We know exactly what we’re going to do. Be confident, be brave and go out and do it. You’ve got nothing to lose. We’re in a situation now where we have to believe in the work that we’re going to do.”
It is indeed a new chapter being written by Lawrence for T&T.