Football! Bloody hell!
Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico set the CONCACAF Gold Cup alight tonight with an eight goal thriller in Charlotte to end the group stage of the 2015 tournament.
And, when the dust settled, both nations were locked at four-goals apiece and the “Soca Warriors” were atop Group C.
“It was a good game for spectators—not my heart,” Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart told the TTFA Media. “We had an objective to get to the quarterfinals. We wanted to win the first game and get the result from Cuba and not have to play Mexico to get to the quarterfinals.”
Somewhere in a hotel lounge, Panama coach Hernan Dario Gomez must have mumbled an expletive under his breath.
Earlier this year, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago arranged a friendly home and away series between the two nations. The Central American team travelled to Trinidad in March, where they were housed at taxpayers expense, won 1-0 in Couva and then reneged on the deal to host the Warriors in June.
Instead, the Panamanian Football Federation offered to let their National Under-23 Team face Trinidad and Tobago to complete the series. And the feeling was that Gomez did not think the Warriors were suitable match practice.
It is a perceived slight that the Warriors would probably remember when the two nations meet from 4.30 pm on Sunday in a quarterfinal fixture in New Jersey.
Panama drew all three group matches so far against Haiti, Honduras and the United States and eked through among the best third placed teams.
And the Warriors?
They didn’t just barge through the door; they ripped the damn thing off its hinges.
“It was a bit bittersweet knowing that we were on top and then conceded,” said the composed Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones, in the post-match interview.
He would probably have said something quite different if the question was posed as the final whistle blew.
At the time, Jones was lying down, just outside the Mexican penalty area, and embracing Trinidad and Tobago’s final goal scorer Yohance Marshall so tenderly that Mrs Marshall must have been blushing.
“We had a plan for the corner kicks, but I picked up the flight of the ball late,” said Marshall. “But I wound up in the right place. We could have lost, but we could have easily won also.”
For the first time, the Warriors went into a Gold Cup without a negotiated bonus scheme for wins or advancing past the group stage. And Sport Minister Brent Sancho, a former 2006 World Cup player, has not been in a particularly generous mood towards the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) of late.
There will be pressure on Sancho now to loosen the purse strings for the national players and staff at least.
The Mexico Football Federation’s annual budget is believed to be in the region of US$150. The Warriors make by with whatever former Sport Minister Anil Roberts left behind, which was roughly TT$5 million or US$0.8million.
Imagine what Warriors coach Stephen Hart could do with a properly functioning football body behind him?
This is a night for dreaming, after all. Trinidad and Tobago made six changes to a winning team and still managed to hold a Mexican side that advanced to the knockout stage of the Brazil 2014 World Cup.
Goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and midfielder Andre Boucaud were both unavailable through injury and suspension respectively. But Hart went further as he replaced Radanfah Abu Bakr, Daneil Cyrus, Lester Peltier and Ataulla Guerra with Marshall, Aubrey David, Cordell Cato and Keron Cummings respectively.
Perhaps the coach wanted fresh legs against Mexico. Or maybe he was saving players for the weekend knockout fixture.
Either way, it was a gamble; and not one that always looked like reaping rewards.
Trinidad and Tobago created the first moment of concern in the match, after nine minutes, as Jones chased a weak Mexican back pass and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was forced into a rushed clearance for a throw.
But such proactive play was rare from the Warriors in the first 45 minutes and they were soon defending inside their own half of the field as “El Tricolour” built momentum.
By the time the opening goal came, in the 31st minute, a Mexican item seemed an inevitability.
Miguel Layun whipped in a cross from the left flank that came off the head of striker Carlos Vela and into the path of right wing back Paul Aguilar who buried between the legs of Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Marvin Phillip.
Mekeil Williams, who was making his fifth international senior appearance, was a fraction late in spotting the danger.
At that stage, Mexico had 62 percent ball possession.
The Mexicans should have doubled their lead in the 47th minute as substitute Oribe Peralta missed a free header. But they were not as wasteful, three minutes later, when Jones conceded possession with a wayward pass at the half-line.
Carlos Vela, the former Arsenal striker, peeled away to collect in space, and stepped inside Marshall before squeezing his shot past Phillip for Mexico’s second.
But Jones atoned quickly. In the 54th minute, the muscular Cardiff City striker muscled past one Mexican defender and held off another before slipping a neat pass into the path of midfielder Keron “Ball Pest” Cummings. And the North East Stars’ attacker produced a cool finish.
It was the first time a Trinidad Pro League player had scored at the Gold Cup since St Ann’s Rangers striker Errol McFarlane’s item against Guatemala, eight years ago.
Vela should have restored Mexico’s two-goal lead within seconds as he snuck away from Marshall and, clean through on goal, flicked over Phillip but wide of the far post.
From here on, the football fixture began to resemble a table tennis match.
The Warriors stole possession at the half-line in the 57th minute and cut through the Mexico side like a police car dissects traffic on the highway.
Hyland to Cummings wide to Cato back inside to Jones who steered the low cross past Ochoa before he somersaulted away to celebrate his first goal in seven international matches. Flipping brilliant!
It got even better in the 67th minute as Cummings put the Warriors ahead with a thunderous, angled left footed strike into the far corner after Jones chested down a David throw for him in the area.
What a moment for Ball Pest! Five years ago, Cummings made his international debut under then coach Russell Latapy. Since then, he has played at more local clubs than soca star, Benjai, as his fondness for minor league football and poor training record saw him bounce all around the Pro League before he decided to buckle down at Stars.
Last night was only Cummings’ eighth international appearance and even that owed much to the absences of the injured pair of Kevin Molino and Hughtun Hector and a disciplinary incident with Marcus Joseph.
But Hart will be hard pressed to leave him out now. Trinidad and Tobago, it seems, has still got talent.
The Warriors might have gone two goals clear in the 78th minute as Jones roughed up opposing defender Diego Reyes before spanking a shot that ricocheted off the upright.
“We believe in one another,” said Cummings. “We knew we (could) come back, once we dug deep.”
But, for the final ten minutes, Trinidad and Tobago decided to drop deep and wait for the final whistle. And it was a nearly disastrous decision.
In the 88th minute, Mexico captain Andres Guardado spanked a speculative effort from outside of the area and Phillip, blinded by his own teammates, only saw the ball as it whizzed past him.
And, one minute into stoppage time, it got worse.
Mexico midfielder Hector Herrera wriggled free of his marker and drove a cross into Trinidad and Tobago’s six yard box where Jones inadvertently sliced his clearance into the back of his own net.
He looked stunned as Mexican players celebrated what was surely the last goal of the game.
Presumably, Hart was being resuscitated on the touchline at the time. This was not about tactics anymore. Just guts and composure.
Four minutes into stoppage time, the Warriors won only their second corner kick of the match. As Joevin Jones prepared to take it, Mexican fans showered him with water bottles, beer cans and anything else they could get their hands on.
Jones (J) looked imploringly at United States referee Mark Geiger who waved impatiently at him to kick the bleeding thing and get it over with.
And Jones (J) marched bravely through falling objects to put a precise set piece on the head of Marshall who arched his back to steer his header into the far corner.
It was the most exhilarating escape from Mexican guards since “El Chapo.”
Football, as former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson once famously remarked, bloody hell.
The Warriors had not scored in 470 minutes before they showed up in the United States. They now have nine goals in three matches.
Gomez should soon discover that the Warriors are not quite as poor opposition as he may have thought. Hopefully, he will appreciate the irony.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-1-4-1): 1.Marvin Phillip (GK); 2.Aubrey David, 18.Yohance Marshall, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 17.Mekeil Williams; 8.Khaleem Hyland (15.Dwane James 76); 13.Cordell Cato, 19.Kevan George, 20.Keron Cummings (10.Willis Plaza 89), 3.Joevin Jones; 9.Kenwyne Jones (captain).
Unused substitutes: 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 5.Daneil Cyrus, 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 7.Jonathan Glenn, 11.Ataulla Guerra, 12.Kadeem Corbin, 16.Rundell Winchester, 23.Lester Peltier,
Injured: 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK)
Suspended: 14.Andre Boucaud
Coach: Stephen Hart
Mexico (3-5-2): 13.Guillermo Ochoa (GK); 5.Diego Reyes, 2.Francisco Rodriguez, 3.Yasser Corona (21.Carlos Esquivel 77); 22.Paul Aguilar, 6.Hector Herrera, 8.Jonathan Dos Santos (9.Jesus Corona 67), 18.Andres Guardado (captain), 7.Miguel Layun; 10.Giovani Dos Santos (19.Oribe Peralta 46), 11.Carlos Vela.
Unused substitutes: 1.Moises Munoz Rodriguez GK), 12.Jonathan Orozco (GK), 4.Miguel Herrera, 14.Javier Orozco, 15.Oswaldo Alanis, 16.Antonio Rios, 17.Jorge Torres Nilo, 20.Jesus Duenas, 23.Jose Vasquez,
Coach: Miguel Herrera
CONCACAF Gold Cup results
(Wed July 15)
Cuba 1 (Maikel Reyes 72), Guatemala 0 in Charlotte;
Mexico 4 (Paul Aguilar 31, Carlos Vela 50, Andre Gurdado 88, Kenwyne Jones 90+1 OG), Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Keron Cummings 54, 66, Kenwyne Jones 57, Yohance Marshall 90+4) in Charlotte.
(Sun July 19)
Trinidad and Tobago v Panama, 4.30 pm, New Jersey.
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Good game but poor defending by tt. They might not be so lucky next time.
Coach has to work on his defense.
Luv it… pride!!!
I think the Mexican football association needs to apologize for their fans misbehavior
Well, well, well! What was the Spark saying all along? I hope you readers now understand what he has been preaching all along. This Trinidad and Tobago team is better than the St.Clair Gold Cup Team. This Trinidad and Tobago is a World top ten team. Liburd, eat your heart out. You didn’t even think it did you and didn’t write it in a post either. You wanted crossers of the ball and you got a come from behind twice performance which was internationally touted as the best Gold Cup Game. Well in all my years of watching good games, they usually involve great teams or relegation teams. The Mexicans aren’t relegation material in Concacaf’s books. When T&T is confident, they are dangerous in any sport. This team can put some licks on some of your beloved Brazil and Argentina teams. Look at the changes Coach Hart made. The Spark always said that he will deserve credit for his management. The Panama game does not matter after this performance. And thank God that the administrators are busy fighting and nowhere around to put them in a maxi and drive them around Trinidad before the next game. On another note, The Spark is not rich but will donate $500TT of his hard earned salary to the first T&T player who scores a hatrick at the Gold Cup 2015. If nobody gets it, then it will go to the player with the most number of assists in the entire tournament. I hope that Lasana will be the first to match my 500 and provide the statistics.
I think this actually worked in our favour as the Referee didn’t break the momentum. Who knows. Still a shame though.
Normally, behaviours like that don’t go unpunished. The player coulda been harmed.
Believe you me, none will be taken Garvin Walters after all they weren’t playing the US just a piss meh tail lil TnT side.
But what actions can be taken against the Mexican team for their behaviour towards J. Jones, who was about to take the last corner kick?
Cummings starts now? We are bigger and stronger than most of these South American countries
Amazing again!!!! 🙂
Amazing again!!!! 🙂
I gotcha Kirwin Weston. Lol.
Thanks for recognizing Kenwyn Jones imput last night Lasana Liburd. Many, including myself, have questioned the Coach’s insistence on keeping him on the team. He showed us why last night. Played like a true captain last night. I remember once asking Stephen what Jones still doing there and he responded” don’t go there, he’s my biggest asset”
I watched till the very end. Excitement fuh so
Lasana, Kenwyne had three assists and two goals after all 🙂
Debbie Espinal, I remember Lyndon Andrews telling me about his first Gold Cup when they played the US. And at corner kicks, guys like Alexi Lalas were punching players in the stomach, pulling their hair and so on.
T&T was terrified every time there was a set piece. Then our players were much smaller. The likes of Latapy, Lyndon, Eve, Dwarika and so on.
It is great to see us get to the point where teams are scared to face us at set pieces. Mexico only gave up two corners for the entire game. And we still scored from one!
Well said Cool Droggy. Cummings is representing well.
Remember to credit Kenwyne Jones too who put in a captain’s shift and troubled the Mexico defence all night long. He used his strengths well.
We always knew fitness would be an issue for our players and particularly our local based ones. It can be addressed with more camps and international games.
I meant we already qualified for quarters Debbie Espinal they didn’t have to show all that gut and determination under the conditions, but the still persevered and got a result. That type of spirit and fight is a rarely found in Caribbean sport teams.
And like d referee was on vacation. Like how d neck he didn’t see that nonsense happening?
No pressure Kirwin Weston? What would you consider pressure with ppl pelting bottles at you while undertaking a crucial corner kick?
He wasn’t as bad as people made him out to be he made mistakes but he also made some important clearances and last ditch tackles …. i can also tell you when the mexicans were attacking him they overloaded his side a guy would size him up then a player overlap him and get the ball played to him …Jovin jones left him out to dry quite a few times. One v one he’s imposing and strong …but his fitness lagged a bit towards the end
This was only Mekeil Williams’ fifth cap though and his first against a team of this level.
I agree his clearances were risky and there were times he should have given up the corner instead. But he has a future at this level i think.
He has to work on that.
My heart was full, my mind was ablaze…the fight was real…soca warriors we believe!
Stephen Hart must be so very proud…he had done an amazing job as coach…
Wish the best in other games for guys. But who is the people that would or help them in to future games.?
Am proud and happy for the. guys and wish the for them in other games
I beg to reserve bragging rights. Lol.
Ball is life #thatisall
So proud of these guys hope Sanco and Timmy don’t mess with them.
Mi glad bag busss!!! Mi proud so till……
But we know that Warriors NEVER give up. ……..
And so they are ALWAYS winners – no matter what.
I think panama should send their under 23 team now!!
I thoroughly enjoyed this piece . I missed the game but Lasana Liburd took me through every exciting moment of the match. Absolutely brilliant! Looking forward to the following articles. Congratulations to both the #TTSW/#TTWSW #RESPECT #forcetobereckonedwith
We talking bout winning the cup? Take it game at a time. Let’s play panama first
Where is Earl mango Pierre?
I am hoping that winning the group does equate winning the Cup. The hard work now starts. The other teams in the quarters have no intention of going to lose to TnT. Let’s hope the desire to win remains strong within the team and that the group stage is behind us. Onwards towards the cup as Soca WARRIORS.
Fantastic story, makes a supporter feel the game.
Best Gold Cup game ever!!!!!!
Fantastic result! I await appropriate action to be taken against the Mexican fans who behaved so disgracefully during Marshall’s corner kick, karma is a bitch!
Well done guys.ball pest well done you represent the pro league who say pro league players can’t shine at this level
That tongue lashing after the Jordan game work wonders oui
I like that point you raised about Joevin Lasana .Typically our athletes are mentally fragile, we lack that comeback component. For whatever reason, this group of Warriors looked confident and motivated to represent. Long time we haven’t seen fight and spirit like that, albeit under no real pressure, still commendable.
Amazing advertisement for Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warriors . You showed heart , spirit and love for the game.
We should not be complacent but be resolute moving forward to our next game Vs Panama. There were mistakes made against Mexico. The main positive was the never say die attitude which was a quality we lacked for a very long time and I for one think that this comes with Hart being the man at the helm.
Well done Warriors, hopefully the bandwagonism that is likely to start this morning will get them some sponsorship dollars. ‘Irregardless’ 🙂 of the crap off the pitch, Mr Hart has made some giant strides forward on the pitch.
Say what you want the Soca Warriors are back!!!!!!!
wo ooh wo oh oh!!!