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Hart-break! Gutsy Warriors run out of gas in Mexico defeat

In the end, the “Soca Warriors” just did not have the legs. And the result was cruel but inevitable as Trinidad and Tobago was eliminated from the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup tonight 1-0 by Mexico after a 84th minute goal from striker Raul Jimenez.

Photo: Mexico striker Raul Jimenez celebrates the winning goal against Trinidad and Tobago. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Mexico striker Raul Jimenez celebrates the winning goal against Trinidad and Tobago.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

Goalless for the first hour, Mexico enjoyed more possession and double as many completed passes. But Trinidad and Tobago looked just as threatening and there was no sign of a stage fright in front of 54,299 supporters, which was a record for Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.

However, as the knockout affair headed into the final 25 minutes, Mexico coach Jose Manuel De La Torre introduced two fresh attacking players to maintain his team’s impetus. And, on the opposite bench, Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart might have crossed his fingers and said a silent prayer.

Hart was denied the services of Finland-based attacking midfielder Ataullah Guerra and versatile Belgium-based defender Sheldon Bateau at the Gold Cup due to the failure of his management team to handle Guerra’s visa request or notify Bateau’s employer in time.

The summons for midfielder Khaleem Hyland was also made after the deadline and, although Racing Genk allowed the Warriors to use him for the group stage, he was not permitted to play tonight.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (centre) was a combination of strength and composure for the "Soca Warriors" in the 2013 Gold Cup group stages. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Khaleem Hyland (centre) was a combination of strength and composure for the “Soca Warriors” in the 2013 Gold Cup group stages.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

Throw in the suspension of clever attacking midfielder Kevin Molino and injuries to central defender Carlyle Mitchell, right back Justin Hoyte and utility player as well as starting left back Joevin Jones and there was arguably too much missing talent for Hart to compensate for.

Speedy winger Kevon Carter was on the bench as well as captain and tidy midfielder Densill Theobald and the spiky Chris Birchall. But Hart clearly did not trust any of them enough while the game was poised at 0-0.

Cornell Glen’s body usually cannot manage 90 minutes even in the more sedate local Pro League. Yet, he was left on tonight in the hope that he could conjure up an unlikely win.

Hope and prayers are rarely enough at this level against nations as experienced as Mexico, though.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago players (from left) Daneil Cyrus, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Kenwyne Jones, Seon Power and Andre Boucaud try to keep out a Mexico free kick. (Courtesy YahooSports)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago players (from left) Daneil Cyrus, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Kenwyne Jones, Seon Power and Andre Boucaud try to keep out a Mexico free kick.
(Courtesy YahooSports)

And so, four minutes from time, Mexico’s right back Miguel Layun finally put his low cross in the right place and Jimenez stuck out a right boot to divert it past the gallant Trinidad and Tobago custodian Jan-Michael Williams.

The Warriors were beaten but not disgraced.

It seemed to be anyone’s game at one point.

Mexico passed the ball from side to side but almost always in front of rather than behind the Trinidad and Tobago defence. At the other end, captain Kenwyne Jones and his strike partner Cornell Glen were getting on the end of each other’s flicks like an old married couple. And the Mexican defence just did not know how to stop Glen without fouling him.

In Trinidad and Tobago’s only win of the tournament, the match swung on a red card shown to Honduran defender Jose Velasquez for a rash challenge on Glen swung. Velasquez had almost chopped Glen in half. The Mexican fouling was less dramatic but certainly incessant and deliberate.

But El Salvador referee Joel Aguilera did nothing to protect the talented Trinidad and Tobago striker.

Just as relevant, though, was the fact that the Warriors did little from seven corner kicks and more than double that number of free kicks and long throws in threatening positions.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Andre Boucaud (right) hustles Mexico attacker Rafael Marquez Lugo off the ball.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Andre Boucaud (right) hustles Mexico attacker Rafael Marquez Lugo off the ball.

England-based midfield hardman Andre Boucaud came closest for T&T with a stinging volley in the ninth minute that was pushed away for a corner by Mexican goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco after his defence failed to deal with a Daneil Cyrus long throw.

Jones also flashed a header wide from a floating Keon Daniel cross in the 71st minute. Beyond that, the Warriors failed to make the necessary impact from their aerial bombardment with, when long throws are factored in, close to two dozen set pieces.

Mexico was only marginally better despite their statistical superiority and 250 completed passes to 126 from the Warriors.

Jimenez had a free header in the 35th minute, after he lost his marker Radanfah Abu Bakr, but failed to hit the target. Otherwise, it was not until the 62nd minute that Williams was really threatened in goal when he had to react quickly to keep out an angled Jimenez drive.

It was the first time since 2003 that Mexico had failed to score a first half goal. Although it is worth mentioning that “El Tricolor” was without its first team players who were rested due to their service at last month’s FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.

De La Torres had just about enough strength in depth though. He sent on midfielder Jose Cardenas in the 68th minute and then, six minutes later, introduced attacker Javier Orozco.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams goes full stretch to successfully thwart a Mexican effort at goal. (Courtesy Mysanantonio.com)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams goes full stretch to successfully thwart a Mexican effort at goal.
(Courtesy Mysanantonio.com)

An exhausted Glen was running on fumes by then. Wingers Darryl Roberts and Carlos Edwards were not getting up quickly enough to benefit from Jones’ headed flicks and offered little penetration while Cyrus’ defensive duties might have also taxed his energy; not to mention the fact that an opponent nearly booted his ankle into the stands.

And, as the Warriors lost sight of the opposing goal and began to pray for the final whistle, Mexico struck.

Aubrey David, who deputised for Jones (J) at left back, failed to cut out a Layun cross into the area and this time, Jimenez, who also clipped the outside of a post earlier, made no mistake.

The Mexicans responded to the goal with smiles of relief rather than triumphant roars.

Hart immediately introduced Birchall and Carter for Boucaud and Edwards respectively. But there wasn’t time for either to make an impact.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Chris Birchall. (Courtesy theoffside.com)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Chris Birchall.
(Courtesy theoffside.com)

And Trinidad and Tobago was out.

Drawn in a group with El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras from which only one team was sure to be eliminated, Trinidad and Tobago football fans always felt that a quarterfinal berth was the least the team should do. And that’s what they got.

The results show one win, one draw and two losses from the Warriors’ Gold Cup adventure with four goals scored and six conceded. There was plenty of effort and bravado. But then this team proved its resilience and commitment during the Caribbean qualifying stages when it was being mocked by the Sport Ministry and barely had the funds to do its own laundry or buy dinner.

It is easy to overstate the Warriors’ progress when they have just pressed Mexico close. Hopefully, emotion will give way to sober analysis as the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) looks for ways to improve upon this showing.

But, after six years in the wilderness, the Warriors are back among the cream of CONCACAF.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago celebrates its first Gold Cup win in 13 years against Honduras. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago celebrates its first Gold Cup win in 13 years against Honduras.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

Tonight, the players represented Trinidad and Tobago with all the pride, poise and passion you could hope to see from Soca Warriors.

Unfortunately, at the ‘Las Lap’, the revelers were in urgent need of fresh legs and none came. And, tactically, Mexico seized the initiative at the death.

(Teams)

Trinidad and Tobago (4-4-2): 21.Jan-Michael Williams; 6.Daneil Cyrus, 32.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 20.Seon Power, 25.Aubrey David; 12.Darryl Roberts, 19.Keon Daniel, 14.Andre Boucaud (7.Chris Birchall 88), 11.Carlos Edwards (16.Kevon Carter 89); 9.Kenwyne Jones (Captain), 13.Cornell Glen.

Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip, 3.Joevin Jones, 18.Densill Theobald, 22.Cleon John, 23.Jamal Gay, 26.Curtis Gonzales, 27.Kevan George.

Injured: 17.Justin Hoyte, 5.Carlyle Mitchell.

Suspended: 10.Kevin Molino.

Coach: Stephen Hart

 

Mexico (4-3-3): 1.Jonathan Orozco; 19.Miguel Layun, 3.Joel Huiqui (Captain), 18.Juan Valenzuela, 13.Adrian Aldrete; 22.Alejandro Costa, 6.Carlos Pena (24.Jose Cardenas 68), 8.Luis Montes (15.Efrain Velarde 89); 11.Rafael Luga Marquez (21.Javier Orozco 74), 9.Raul Jimenez, 10.Marco Fabian.

Coach: Jose Manuel De La Torre

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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4 comments

  1. I must say GOOD EFFORT guys and not a bad job Mr Hart. Jan had a really good game, solid in the goal….but that’s football, it takes just one opportunity to change the outcome. However how is it that our players’ fitness is so terrible? The Honduras game was a clear indication as well to where their fitness for the Mexico game would have been. After 35 mins in that game (vs Honduras) we were walking around the field. I’m glad we managed to hold out against Mexico that long though considering the tempo they play at.
    It really broke my heart as well as the TRUE WARRIORS’ hearts, i’m sure, that we didn’t go further. But I am VERY PROUD of our guys and their effort. TTFA we are grateful for the support you’re giving the team and the coach….i think Mr Hart will give us renewed enthusiasm for our team.

    TnT player of the Tornament….. Jan
    Most Promising Players…………….Kevin Molino/ Joevin Jones
    Most Promising Defender…………Daniel Cyrus

    After watching the CFU and recent games it’s clear that Kevon Carter isn’t ready for the International level. I think the decision to leave out Devon Jorsling and carry Jamal Gay was poor as well. The Pro League’s 2012-2013 Most Valuable Player (joint with Richard Roy) should have been one of the first strikers chosen to go….but we’re not part of the selection committee.

  2. Cyrus was easily the stand out player for me. Technique, pace, strength & composure on the ball reminded me of a young Rio Ferdinand. He probably wouldn’t even look out of place if he played in a advanced defensive-midfield role, they way Marcel Desailly did

    W Connection will be lucky to still have him on their roster come January. He seems destined to play in a major European league & not just anywhere in Europe.

    Before thoughts go towards to 2018 WCQs, the 2015 Gold Cup could & should be the next major tournament that the Soca Warriors should look to enhance their reputation.

  3. I agree 100% with the article. I was really glad for the thrills and the improvement in the confidence of the defense. Cyrus is a real talent tall, fast and has some skill too totally locked his side whole game. Edwards was disappointing and especially on the right hand side.Roberts does a lot of running but never impacts any game from the midfield. I’m not sure I ever saw him cross a ball ever but he is playing on the right and left midfield. Birchall should have probably started because Jones deserves better service. So many set pieces we had in all those games and not a goal to show for it. No fresh attacking options to bring a different dimension to attack and creativity. Kenwyne Jones and Jamal Gay are interchangeable and you are not going to take Jones off but who could come in for Glen to bring some pace and counterattacking ability. Probably Roberts but he is playing out of position in the midfield so what kind of cover do we really have for the midfield. It was really poor squad selection but big up to coach Hart job well done with the limited resources hope that they give him a fair chance and don’t fire him, The team was too defensively geared and had too much central midfielders and limited wingers and attacking options. Hope that we can learn from our mistakes and select some fresh faces too.

  4. As Usual , What happened in the Game and what is written in Trinidad Media are two different things. Mexico should have scored at least 10 goals excluding the superb saves made by Goalkeeper Williams and the two balls that hit the Trinidad goalpost. Mexico played 8 players from their 2012 London Olympics team and their finishing in this game was “criminal”.