In the first of a two part series, Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart discusses his team’s Gold Cup chances, the Khaleem Hyland gamble, Kenwyne Jones’ tactical adjustments and the extent of Kevin Molino’s absence to the Warriors:
Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart declared that he is “cautiously optimistic” about taking the “Soca Warriors” into the CONCACAF Gold Cup’s knockout round for the second consecutive tournament, despite the myriad of problems that have affected the team.
“I think we can be cautiously optimistic,” Hart told Wired868. “If we stay as a unit and everyone looks out for each other and cover each other’s back, we have a good chance to advance to the quarter finals.
“And, once you get there, anything can happen.”
The Warriors open their 2015 Gold Cup campaign against Guatemala in Chicago on July 9 before playing Cuba and Mexico on July 12 and 15 respectively. The two group winners advance automatically along with the two best third place teams from the three groups.
Mexico have registered a strong squad, which includes Manchester United striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Real Sociedad attacker Carlos Vela, PSV playmaker Andrés Guardado and brothers Giovani and Jonathan Dos Santos.
However, Hart said their opener against Guatemala will probably be the toughest game of the Warriors’ campaign.
“The opening game sets the tone for the tournament and it is always your most difficult game,” said Hart. “The last time, the final game in the group was the most important because we slipped up in the second game (of the 2013 Gold Cup). But the most difficult game is always the first game.”
Hart spent yesterday in Tobago preparing for the funeral of his mother, Monica Hart, who passed away at the age of 92 at the Scarborough General Hospital on June 24. She will be buried in Tobago today.
The Warriors leave Trinidad tomorrow for a pre-Gold Cup camp in Fort Lauderdale.
The senior coaching staff, according to a team member, has not been paid since February while they are still owed match fees from the 2014 Caribbean Cup final against Jamaica.
Hart has been partially paid up by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) since he is the only national coach with a job contract from the local football body.
On May 22, Sport Minister Brent Sancho promised to resume payments to the Senior Team coaches, leading up to the Gold Cup: “with an initial release to cover two months outstanding salaries for coaches and technical staff of the senior men’s programme.”
Last night, Sancho reiterated that a directive was given to pay the coaches and promised to give more information today.
“We gave an order to pay the funds,” Sancho told Wired868. “But I have no info in front of me, so I can’t give a comment.”
The Warriors face a big challenge already on the playing field, as Hart needs to turn around a team that lost all three outings this year without scoring a single goal against Panama, Curaçao and Jordan.
Hart suggested that he is not reading too much into those results, though.
“I can’t say it worries me because those were exhibition games and there was a lot of experimenting,” he said. “We created a lot of chances against Curaçao and had chances to do something against Jordan, although we didn’t play well.”
After the Warriors’ 3-0 loss to Jordan, Hart described his team’s performance as “awful” while he claimed that several players didn’t deserve the national shirt on the day.
There were few surprises in his final 23-man Gold Cup roster, though, and all 11 players who started against Jordan will travel to Fort Lauderdale. Hart said his squad needed a verbal shake-up at the time. But he remains confident in his troops.
“I spoke to them in the dressing room right after the game, which I never do, and I told them exactly what I told the press,” said Hart. “I love my players but I am not in love with them. I will protect them once I think they have done everything in their power to fulfil their role. But if they don’t, I will be critical.
“Sometimes what I say in the dressing room, I don’t say in the media. But I saw certain things setting in that were a major issue for me.”
Hart admitted for the first time that central midfielder Khaleem Hyland, who was a spectator for much of last season after being frozen out by former Belgium employer Racing Genk, is playing for his squad place after a string of sub-par performances.
“He knows that (he hasn’t played well) and that is the gamble right now,” said Hart. “He and (Andre) Boucaud are playing for their positions and they know that. I was very impressed with how they trained (last week). They give 100 percent all the time.
“I think once they get the pre-tournament camp under their belts and get to the right playing weight, they should come good.”
And what about skipper Kenwyne Jones, whose goal slump coincides with the Warriors’ inability to find the back of the net for five successive games?
Hart said he was encouraged with the Cardiff City forward’s work rate for his last two internationals. And he believes Jones is missing the productive partnership he formed with injured Orlando City playmaker Kevin Molino.
“I thought he worked hard against Curaçao and was unlucky not to come away with a goal or two,” said Hart, “and he did some very good things against Jordan. Like every other striker, he needs to get the right final pass and he needs players to get up to support him.
“He has been isolated too often and I have been talking to Ataulla Guerra about that and trying to get him to play higher up the pitch, so he can get the ball closer to the penalty box.
“Once Kenwyne has someone close to him giving him support, he cannot be double teamed as easily.”
Hart tried to explain the hole left in his squad by the absence of Molino, who was the TTFA’s 2014 Player of the Year.
“I don’t think we have any player who plays like Molino on the squad,” he said. “He has unbelievable ball sense in the speed that he does things, and he plays with a lot of (passing) combinations and is always moving forward.
“He was a player who knew when to plunge (or sprint behind defenders) and lot of my players like to play in front of the opposition rather than try get behind them.
“We want to our players to be more dynamic so they make opposing teams defend by turning around (to face their own goals).”
Hart is trying to compensate by a tactical alteration that will see the Warriors abandon their customary 4-2-3-1 system for something closer resembling 4-3-3. Jones will probably be asked to link up play more often than before.
“I asked him to mix his game up more,” said Hart, “so I want him to run behind the defence as before. But I also want him to come off and get the ball and look to get turns and get the wide players into it.
“I think he did it well against Jordan.”
The Warriors have adapted slowly to the new system so far. Hart spent most of their Trinidad camp working on fitness but there will be much more tactical work in Florida.
Against Jordan, he said the Warriors were most vulnerable when they lost possession because of poor positioning. He intends to tighten up that aspect of their game while also encouraging players to join the attack when possible.
“I haven’t used (the new system) as I would like because they are taking a little while to adapt to it and I don’t want them to be too confused,” said Hart.
The former Canada coach has been here before. He was hired with roughly six weeks to go before the 2013 Gold Cup and managed to steer the Warriors through a group that included Honduras, Haiti and El Salvador.
This time, coach and players know each other better while, unlike two years ago, he also has a pre-tournament practice match against Haiti to further assess their progress.
He explained that Trinidad and Tobago’s players are sometimes thrown off their game too easily and he must make his philosophy sink in before July 9.
“Our confidence is easily shaken when things don’t go our way,” said Hart. “We have mostly done fitness work so far but we will focus more on elements of attacking and collective play now. And hopefully we will get it right when it matters most…
“Once they collectively buy in and do some serious work, they can get to the knockout stage of the Gold Cup.”
Editor’s Note: Click HERE for Part Two as Stephen Hart discusses Devorn Jorsling’s retirement, why T&T football is stuck in the dark ages and what he expects from his Warriors at the Gold Cup.
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Saw him over the week end and he is still scoring goals for his Tobago over 40 team yes in our league.
Hutchinson was skillful like Ricardo Aleong
And like Andre Legendre who was suppose to be the next Magician eh, following Lattas footstep eh, if he himself didn’t migrate when there was an exodus of great school players in the late 80’s early 90’s to the America eh, and another great midfield play maker was Hutchinson from Tobago who also had great potential to one day be another great player . We really had alot of good players back in the days yes but again and it is still continuing today.eh, that corrupted TTFA never and still isn’t putting the right settings in place for our sweet country to once more rise again. Them really good yes.
Two of the very best Wingers in my generation
Clint marcel was real fast boy
Unfair to mention Latas
Let me pick! Latas, Latas and Latas! My 3 never lose lol
I pick my trio over that trio Kurt. More fantasy in mine I think 🙂
Colin rocke,Clint Marcelle and Leonson Lewis
Oliver was a really top youth player. I saw him play on an U-23 team just behind Arnold Dwarika and Jerren Nixon. I believe that team also had Lyndon Andrews, Marvin Andrews, Avery John… I know Shawn Garcia, Shurland David and Evans Wise were in that era too. Great era.
Let me repeat that front three again. Arnold Dwarika and Jerren Nixon with Marvin Oliver right behind.
Anyone has a time machine?
But D Boss favoritism it still going on
Kion S Williams I only mentioned Oliver’s name because yes he represented our youth teams and was also a great prolific goalscorer in his school days that was destined to make it big one day and of course he did in the Pro league in Staten island but was cut short because when the owner died the team folded, and also because of circumstances beyond his control he returned to our sweet country and again never was given a real chance for whatever reasons and I could’ve also mentioned other names that was capable of representing our National teams but was never given their chances and that was because of favouritism and other reasons. Them really good yes
Well, it easier to get out of your group now. Do you know that T&T has never failed to win a Gold Cup match against North or Central American opposition with a local coach at the helm? Never.
We did it with Vidale, St Clair and Hart… Anyway, we were never whipping boys but were often not good enough to come out of the group. But then in 2000 we were one of the last CONCACAF teams standing.
And guess what happened next? Warner promptly sacked St Clair.
Whatever our players achieved has always been with their own administration conspiring to bring them down.
Ok I would agree that the player’s of the 70’s,80’s and 90’s were more skillful,feared and a joy to watch play but apart from the Shell Caribbean cups and our 1989 fairytale run nothing to show in the Gold Cup,my main point was only to highlight the foolery of our expectations in this tournament when it was even a struggle for our past legends as they are known in their prime
Apart from Latas, Stern and Dwarika…none of the other players called did anything more special locally than the ones we have now. Oliver was never even a regular national so I not sure what Mango comparing them based on. That being said, Hyland and Kenwyne not pulling their weight at all and we need them to play like “big”players in order to drag the standard of the local based players up.
Kurtwyn Baird, none of the players Mango mentioned were around really after 2006 or pushing 40 at the time. So I think Mango’s point is still valid.
Jones still can make we TnT Soca Warriors Team ??
Tell Hart to take a trip to Africa, Brazil and England ..Naturalize some key players
There has been talk about eligible players who can represent T&T. But they all have the internet and know about the mess our administration is in. And they don’t want to be a part of that.
Honestly i think the people that care do not want the hot seat it’s easier to criticize,it takes us including myself a lot to sacrifice or lose for the uncertainty that football brings!
Well then our football will continue to be in a mess until the right folks cannot stand the madness any more and want ot make some serious changes yes the same like what happened to Venezuela football. Them really good yes.
Good point Earl Mango Pierre but why?We hosted so many tournaments and never raised our level,the players still did not get any professional treatment,monies will still be stolen again etc!
And the next thing why the CONCACAF Gold Cup must always be in the America eh, why can’t the tournament be played in the other CONCACAF nations eh, let them bonce their heads and bring it to our sweet country to nah, we have the stadiums in order to do so. Them really good yes.
I am solely basing this views on the Gold cup level not Caribbean football,which we are or was known to be the Caribbean kings,
Lasana Liburd the World Cup was in 2006 and you can tell me how many appearances in the Gold cup since then and our highest achievement was a semi final back then great and how many years later we begging to get out a group stage
Kurtwyn Baird I know that eh, and the reason that we had underachieved also was because of the corrupted TTFA with the lack of really putting the right things in place instead of only stealing the monies, you really think that our football couldn’t be on the level as the Americans today eh, look at what was just finished built for the cyclists in our sweet country in Central next to Ato Boldin stadium eh, and football is the number 1 sport in our sweet country eh and the footballers don’t have a place to call home for all the national teams men/ women with training equipment, fields, and sleeping quarters eh, and you know that I love meh sweet country real bad but I really cannot deal with mediocrity after coming to my second sweetest country the America at the age of 15 yrs old and seeing how it is done on a real professional level in everything that they do and I know that you have seen and is also involve in how things are being done in the America with regards to the sports. Them really good yes.
Kurtwyn Baird, we made a CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal with some of those player Earl mentioned, we won several Caribbean Cups and we got to a World Cup. We could have done even better but I don’t think that was too shabby.
we need ah new formation an new blood look at players like willis plaza an these young blood
D Boss remember with all those players mentioned in almost 2 decades we underachieved also
What are the previous good performances that we are expecting to realistically come out of the group stage? too many misleading realistic expectations are been place on this present team giving all the problems,we should just ask for a high level of play tactically and technically and give the more experienced players that chance to create future higher level opposition friendly games so the younger players can benefit from.
As I said before if we don’t have a real professional mid field play makers/ goal scorers like the “Magician” Laterpy, Hudson “Barber” Charles” Aurtis Whitley, Marvin Oliver, and I can call a few other names, eh, and real prolific goalscorers like Arnold Dwarika, Irasto Knights, Cornell Glen, Devon Jorsling, Angus Eve, and I can call some more names. The Soca Worries will not be successful especially that the one player that we depend on is Kevin Nash Molino and he is injured and football is a team sport not a one man sport and for the years I have been watching Hyland and K. Jones they both don’t ever pull their weight as real professionals and they need to hang up their boots once and for all. Them really good yes.
Well I guess this is all a development process for the next world cup. Building that unit and these tournaments serve that purpose.
With the best third place team going through, it is possible to squeeze in three points. Maybe. Four points would definitely do.
Even a draw against Guatemala will be enough.
But we can’t be complacent because our record against Cuba hasn’t been great recently. History suggests we are about even at the moment, although I think we have more offensive weapons than they do.
Btw this crap with payment for technical staff still exist. Geez san ages.
I think we are seriously under prepared and I am cautious about that Guatemala game. A bad start, we can recover. A disastrous start and the tournament over before it began from a mental perspective. Molino missing is big big boot to fill. Goals win matches. Need to finish.
I think the competition is stiffer than two years ago as all the teams are now full strength. But good luck to the Warriors.
There will be some feverish blackboard sessions over the next nine days.
What impresses me most about Hart is he has very clear ideas that he is able to articulate.
Even when I disagree, I can see where he is coming from. But I do think this tournament is more difficult than two years ago.
It is a hell of a test for the players and coaching staff.
Yes Lasana Liburd the focus at this point should be tactics. But I understand why based on what he has said.
But then every team does fitness work at some point. True our time probably started in worse condition than most. But I think some fitness work is expected.
Did someone say work on fitness. That’s a professional job to stay fit
He said the right things in the interview and I understand what he means re: Kenwyne. He is actually making him the target to draw the double team for the 2 wide men to find space behind the defense…they not really wingers
I actually thought that we would have had a proper system in place as to how we play and the personnel involved. Having said dat there are too many distractions off of the field to deal with. I’ve a strong feeling that Brent hands are tied. Yes we are without our key player so it comes like any other team losing their main source of comfort and confidence but someone must step up and they must play as a unit in order to achieve anything going forward.
Good luck to them. It will be tough.. Hoping they can spring a surprise or two..
I have faith in Hart’s ability to lift the morale of the team and get them to lift their performance sufficiently to get out of the group. I agree with the Coach as well when he says that FIRST game vs Guatemala is key…if we can take something from that game, win vs Cuba and contain Mexico then finishing 2nd or as a best placed 3rd is not beyond us.
I commend him for his efforts especially for wht he has to work with off the field but and i support my country 1000% but wht he asking K.Jones to do he can’t do it if your asking a play to come short and face the defence he has to have a great first touch and must b able to take on and go past players and he can’t do tht so we should play to his strengths and go wide and try getting it across so he can challenge for it in the air witch 8/10 times he would win it and the coach said it he needs tht final pass to him in order for him to score but i think this tournament my East Dry River Ataulla Guerra who sho his worth
If you have to spend valuable time working primarily on fitness at this stage, something is very wrong already. I thought his comments regarding players being at the right weight telling.
The group is far tougher than the first time and I don’t expect them to advance.
At senior national team level he has to do more fitness work than tactical training, sad but I still believe they will give their all once the Cup begins.
Stephen knows what he wants and very seldom deviates from that style or tactical approach. He is concerted in his belief and has accepted that he’ll live by that sword and knows, he’ll die by it too. That is what I like about him – he is self-confident and driven by that resolve. He listens well and accepts quietly the suggestions and parlays and adds to his thinking or rejects as he sees fit. Good luck Coach Hart, no one in T&T knows better than you the challenges that are ahead.
He’s done an ok a job with what he has at his disposal
Yep. And people will be sympathetic until the tournament starts. And then everyone will wants results regardless.
It is a tough job. But that is what it means to be T&T coach unfortunately.
Ahhh, big ask from him. No practice games to work on the proposed formation, and our stronger players haven’t been playing often. Tough tough ask against good opposition.