El Salvador grabbed two late goals last night against Guatemala to take all three points in their opening 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup Group A affair and set up a fascinating contest with Trinidad and Tobago at the Toyota Stadium in Frisco from 7.30pm (TT time) on Wednesday.
At present, El Salvador lead the group with three points, followed by Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago with one point apiece. Guatemala are the lowest ranked team in the group and are only in the competition due to the late withdrawal by Curaçao, over Covid-19 concerns.
Mexico, the defending champions, are expected to bounce back from Saturday’s goalless draw to advance from the group and they would be gunning for wins over Guatemala and El Salvador to do so. ‘El Tricolor’ are heavy favourites to do just that.
However, the Soca Warriors are in a pretty good position now with their last game against a Guatemalan team which would probably be already eliminated by the time that they face Trinidad and Tobago in Frisco on Sunday.
If interim head coach Angus Eve can lead Trinidad and Tobago to a win on Wednesday, his troops will have one foot in the Gold Cup quarterfinal—barring an upset defeat on the weekend. And, thanks to the point against Mexico, even a draw will not be detrimental.
If the Warriors can only tie in midweek, they could still advance on goal difference once Mexico triumphs over El Salvador and they defeat Guatemala. The twin island republic would either need a win by two clear goals against Guatemala, or for El Tricolor to manage that margin of victory over El Salvador.
One word of caution though, there is a considerable lack of goodwill from the Mexico camp towards Trinidad and Tobago at present. Yesterday, the vitriol from Mexican supporters was so blinding that even the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee’s (TTOC) page was subjected to racist tirades by ‘supporters’ who accused the Warriors of either bribing Costa Rican referee Ricardo Montero or playing to intentionally injure the Mexico players.
As such, Trinidad and Tobago attacker Kevin Molino might want to finish off El Salvador on Wednesday and keep his team’s fate in their own hands.
If the Warriors can pull it off, it would be their fourth trip to the knockout stage of the tournament on the 11th time of asking. Eve, Trinidad and Tobago’s most capped player of all time, was a bustling attacking midfielder when the twin island republic had its best ever Gold Cup finish as runners-up in 2000 under coach Bertille St Clair.
Of course, there is still a considerable distance to go before Eve can match that high mark.
Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper and stand-in captain Marvin Phillip enjoyed a piece of personal history on Saturday though. He is now the second Soca Warriors goalkeeper to manage two clean sheets in Gold Cup competition, alongside former 2001 Under-17 World Cup teammate Jan-Michael Williams.
Williams enjoyed a shut-out against Honduras at the 2013 Gold Cup while Williams and Phillip shared a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Cuba at the 2015 edition.
“I can put it as one of my best performances,” Phillip told Concacaf, after his seven vital saves against Mexico. “I’ve had some good performances before, but definitely in this tournament this is one of the best.
“I must give credit to our team. We had a plan and we stuck to it for the 90 minutes. The team showed heart, grit, played very hard and when I was called upon, I just helped. It’s my job to keep a clean sheet and that went good for us tonight.”
Phillip is also Trinidad and Tobago’s 10th most capped senior international of all-time after making his 81st appearance on Saturday, which is again level with J-M Williams and six shy of his former coach Dennis Lawrence. Eve leads the roost with 117 appearances.
Gold Cup Group B action started last night as Canada rebounded from a one goal deficit to trounce Martinique 4-1 while United States edged Haiti 1-0 in a Kansas City double header.
Former Soca Warriors target Shaquille Moore, whose dad Wendell Moore represented Trinidad and Tobago in the 1980s, made his competitive senior international debut for USA at right back yesterday. Haiti were without five players and an assistant coach who all tested positive for Covid-19.
Gold Cup action continues tonight in Orlando as Jamaica face Suriname and Costa Rica tackle Guadeloupe in an intriguing double header.
Concacaf Gold Cup
Trinidad and Tobago 0, Mexico 0 at AT&T Stadium, Arlington;
El Salvador 2 (Alexander Roldan 81, Joaquin Rivas 90+6), Guatemala 0 at Toyota Stadium, Frisco;
Canada 4 (Clye Larin 16, Jonathan Osorio 20, Stephen Eustaquio 26, Theodor Corbeanu 89), Martinique 1 (Emmanuel Riviere 10) at Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City;
United States 1 (Sam Vines 8), Haiti 0 at Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City.
Trinidad and Tobago v El Salvador at Toyota Stadium, Frisco;
Guatemala v Mexico at Cotton Bowl, Dallas;
Mexico v El Salvador at Cotton Bowl, Dallas;
Guatemala v Trinidad and Tobago at Toyota Stadium, Frisco.
Editor’s Note: Wired868 records former Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams as having 80 national caps and not 81.
Wired868 does not credit Williams with a cap for an appearance against Antigua and Barbuda on 12 January 2005, as the game featured more than the permitted number of substitutes and Trinidad and Tobago player Anthony Rougier even re-entered the match after already being subbed.