The Trinidad and Tobago senior national football team is on the brink of an early exit from the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup after losing 2-0 to Haiti tonight at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens.
The “Soca Warriors”, who drew their Group B opener 2-2 against El Salvador on July 8, face Honduras from 9.30 pm on Monday July 14 at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. Only a victory would keep Trinidad and Tobago alive in the competition.
There are 12 participants in the CONCACAF tournament and only four of them go home after the first round. Yet, the Warriors are on the verge of spoiling their best ever chance to emulate Bertille St Clair’s team of 2000 by getting out of the group stage.
Having avoided Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States in the Gold Cup draw, the Warriors gave signs of ambition in a roller coaster 2-2 draw against El Salvador. But, against Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago did not muster a single shot on target apart from a second half Kenwyne Jones header that hit the foot of the post.
A predatory double by Haitian striker Jean Maurice, who scored in the 16th and 52nd minutes, settled the contest.
Maurice, who is on loan at French top division club Le Mans from Paris Saint Germain, pulled away from marker Seon Power to score from close range in the first half after Trinidad and Tobago custodian Jan-Michael Williams parried an angled drive from dynamic 20-year-old Haiti and Nancy midfielder Jeff Louis. And Maurice was in the right spot for his second too as Warriors defender Carlyle Mitchell’s lunging clearance from a Kim Jaggy cross cannoned off the striker and across the goal line.
At the other end, Keon Daniel headed wide from a fine Joevin Jones cross in the first half while Darryl Roberts volleyed over after Jones (K) had headed down a Carlos Edwards cross in the dying minutes. But that was as good as it got for Hart’s men.
“We have to be more decisive and more penetrative in the right areas in the field,” Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart told the TTFA Media, “and in general we have to show some more passion and desire to win the ball back and to be more dynamic overall.”
The Warriors were never short of effort and there were fleeting moments when they zipped the ball around on the outskirts of the Haitian box. But they lacked the fluidity necessary to keep Haiti on its back foot and there were questions to be asked about whether the coaches made the best use of available personnel.
A month from now, Hart would see Jones (J) play in an advanced role for DIRECTV W Connection and he might feel a bit silly about using him at left back when his midfield cried out for creativity. Even though, to be fair, it was the previous coaching duo of Hutson “Barber” Charles and Jamaal Shabazz that started playing the Connection starlet there in the first place.
Trinidad and Tobago most prolific strikers over the last year were Devorn Jorsling and Cornell Glen. But Glen, strong, quick and skillful, did not get off the bench tonight while Jorsling was not taken to the United States at all.
Daneil Cyrus’ sudden demotion to the substitutes’ bench is another surprise considering his encouraging and athletic performances alongside Mitchell in 2013.
Hart, who was hired three weeks before the Gold Cup and after the close of the Pro League, never saw these players in their natural environment. Director of football Leo Beenhakker never involved himself in the selection of the final 23-man squad and only joined the team in Florida a week before the opening game.
It was never going to be easy for Hart and Beenhakker to show their worth with such inadequate preparation and Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee’s decision to overhaul his technical staff at the last minute may come into focus again if the Warriors are eliminated.
Trinidad and Tobago held the bulk of this Haitian team—Louis and all—to a goalless draw at the Antigua and Barbuda 2012 Caribbean Cup finals last December. Tonight’s outing can hardly be seen as an improvement on that result.
After the 2-2 draw against El Salvador, Hart mentioned the phrase “ball possession” or “slack passing” 11 times in three minutes during the post-game press conference. It might have been particularly galling that his captain Densill Theobald lost possession in his own half for Haiti’s crucial second goal while the Warriors were often second best in the centre of the field.
“Haiti scored twice and we didn’t,” said Hart. “They possessed the ball at times better than us. We failed to press the ball and the shot came in and they got the rebound for the first goal.
“We played some better football in the second part of the first half but at times we were playing ball possession for ball possession sake and not to penetrate. We lacked penetration and any sort of movement in the final third to get behind them.”
Luck did not go Trinidad and Tobago’s way either as Jones (J) and Middlesbrough right back Justin Hoyte both limped off the field and might be doubtful for Monday’s decisive fixture. Aubrey David and Cyrus would probably deputise in either role while Edwards, who had a quieter time tonight, can also play either position.
Hart and Beenhakker must shuffle the pack and find the right combinations on the field to threaten a Honduran team that was devastating on the break in a 2-0 win against Haiti in its group opener and clinical at the death to edge El Salvador 1-0 tonight.
Hart, the former Canada national coach, must face his own emotional scars against Honduras. Two years ago, Hart took Canada to Honduras needing just a draw to get to the final CONCACAF World Cup 2014 qualifying round. But Honduras thrashed Canada 8-1 and Hart’s resignation was accepted by the North American football body.
Revenge will suit Trinidad and Tobago and Hart.
“Now we must have that desire to take the game to Honduras,” said Hart. “It’s quite simple now. We have to win on Monday to stay alive.”
Trinidad and Tobago football fans would hope that a flash of inspiration from coaches and players alike, married to the commitment already shown, can make the difference against Honduras and take the Warriors into the quarterfinal stage. It will have to be an emphatic revival.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1 formation): 21.Jan-Michael Williams; 17.Justin Hoyte (10.Kevin Molino 70), 20.Seon Power, 5.Carlyle Mitchell, 3.Joevin Jones (25.Aubrey David 60); 18.Densill Theobald (Captain), 8.Khaleem Hyland; 12.Darryl Roberts, 19.Keon Daniel (23.Jamal Gay 56), 11.Carlos Edwards; 9.Kenwyne Jones.
Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip, 6.Daneil Cyrus, 7.Chris Birchall, 13.Cornell Glen, 14.Andre Boucaud, 16.Kevon Carter, 22.Cleon John, 26.Curtis Gonzales, 32.Radanfah Abu Bakr.
Coach: Stephen Hart
Haiti (4-2-2-2 formation): 1.Frandy Montrevil; 2. Jean Sony Alcenat, 3. Mechak Jerome, 8. Judelin Aveska, 19. Kim Jaggy; 16. Jean Marc Alexandre (Captain), 13. Jean Monuma Constant; 7. Jeff Louis, 15. Yves Hadley Desmaret; 10. Jean Philippe Peguero (6.Kevin La France 63), 11. Jean Eudes Maurice (5.Jean Jacques Pierre 80).
Unused substitutes: 14.Jean Julien Jospy, 22.Ricardo Ade, 20. Olrish Saurel, 21.Wilde-Donald Guerrier, 4. Charles Herold Junior, 23.Pascal Millien, 12.Peterson Joseph, 9.Kervens Fils Belfort, 18.Leonel Saint Preux.
Coach: Israel Cantero
CONCACAF 2013 Gold Cup
Haiti 2 (Jean Maurice 16, 52), Trinidad and Tobago 0 at Miami Gardens
Honduras 1 (Jorge Claros 90+2, El Salvador 0 at Miami Gardens