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Spaniard Pako Ayestaran, the Spanish-born head coach of Mexican champion club Santos Laguna, believes the recent performances of the national team and the local clubs in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League is proving that the gap is narrowing within the confederation.

Ayestaran, speaking after his team’s 1-0 win over DirecTV W Connection in Tuesday’s Champions League fixture in Port of Spain, applauded Connection for their brave display. “I think you can see it out there today. The game was not easy for us and this is a sign that in Concacaf there is no real difference anymore. The gap is narrowing. A lot of the teams in the region now are showing up well,” Ayesteran said.

 Commenting on the Soca Warriors, Ayesteran said he was very much aware of the recent 4-4 and 3-3 draws between T&T and Mexico.  “I think this is credit to countries like Trinidad (and Tobago). They have been getting better. I think the results in the two matches shows you this,” he said.  Ayestaran recently took over the top job at Laguna and is hoping to lead them to a win over Costa Rica can club Deportivo Saprissa as they try to progress in the Champions League.  Ayestaran was assistant to Rafa Benitez in his successful stints in winning La Liga with Valencia and the Champions League at Liverpool.

Glenn: Warriors prepared for tough World Cup quest

Just like Stern John did on his starting debut for T&T, newly installed “Soca Warriors” striker Jonathan Glenn netted in his first appearance in T&T’s recent 3-3 draw with Mexico in Salt Lake City.  Glenn, who plies his trade in the Iceland premier division, waited patiently on the opportunity from Stephen Hart to take the pitch after looking on from the sidelines during all of T&T’s matches at the 2015 Concacaf Gold Cup. He also saw just a few minutes on the field in the 2014 Caribbean Cup Finals in Jamaica.

But his patience and persistence paid off as his opening goal and his determination in the box which led to T&T’s second goal by Keron Cummings, has certainly brought him around as valuable addition to Hart’s attacking options.  “He’s done well. Actually he was very good for us in the Mexico game. His work rate was ideal and he came in to the team and showed us that he really wants to be part of the effort going forward which is a plus for the team,” Hart said.

T&T faces Panama on October 8 in Panama City in a training match ahead of the November 13 opening World Cup qualifier against Guatemala. Glenn was thrilled to play his part against “El Tri” earlier this month but he knows that the battle will only intensify from here on.  “It was great to start and help the team do well against Mexico. We knew we had to keep playing because they are a team that would come right back at you. And this is something that I think is good for us in terms of developing that habit of playing because we will have more games like these in the qualifiers,” Glenn said.

“It’s a long campaign ahead and we’ll be needing to get results on the road as well if we are to stand a chance of qualifying.  The upcoming games are crucial but I think each player is understanding his role more and the chemistry in the squad is developing more every time we come together.  “I think once we can take care of things off the field and get the right kind of preparation, then we as players in the team will have all the reasons to know our efforts will need to be big on the pitch. I have no fears or doubts that we will prove to be strong in the qualifiers and push on for the duration of the campaign.”

Panama calls up two MLS players for T&T friendly

Panama head coach Hernan Dario Gomez has called up two MLS-based players for next month's international friendly with T&T’s senior men’s team in Panama City.  San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Anibal Godoy and Colorado Rapids forward Gabriel Torres have been listed by Gomez for the upcoming friendly on October 8 which both countries are using as preparation for 2018 World Cup qualification. Panama will also face Mexico on October 13.

T&T head coach Stephen Hart is expected to name his squad later this month as he prepares the “Soca Warriors” for its opening 2018 World Cup qualifier away to Guatemala.

“We’ll go into the game knowing fully well that it’s another important game in preparation for the World Cup qualifiers. Playing Guatemala in Guatemala is always a very tough assignment and we need to be at our best. It will be an important period for us in October as we prepare for the start of the campaign,” Hart said.

• Shaun Fuentes is the director of communications of the TTFA. shaunfuentes@yahoo.com

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