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My ball! Hart gets possessive for Warriors’ knock out clash with Panama

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart is appealing to the possessive nature of the “Soca Warriors” as they prepare for their CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal fixture in New Jersey this afternoon.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Daneil Cyrus controls the ball during 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup action against Cuba. (Courtesy: Arianna Grainey)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Daneil Cyrus controls the ball during 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup action against Cuba.
(Courtesy: Arianna Grainey)

The Warriors face Panama from 4.30 pm at the Metlife Stadium and Hart is hoping for a more serene outing than their exhilarating 4-4 group stage draw with Mexico.

More crucially, Hart wants to keep hold of the ball to try to neutralise Panama’s advantage of an extra 48 hours rest since their last competitive match.

Panama played its final group fixture on Monday July 13, which was a 1-1 tie with the United States, while Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago traded blows on Wednesday July 15.

“Panama got two more rest days than us and that is significant at international level,” Hart told Wired868. “The recovery of players is very important. So we will need to try and keep the ball for long periods.”

It could mean a fairly noteworthy switch in tactics from the Warriors, who have so far preferred long balls out of the back to giant forward Kenwyne Jones rather than slick passing triangles.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones (left) holds off Guatemala midfielder Jorge Aparicio in 2015 Gold Cup action. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones (left) holds off Guatemala midfielder Jorge Aparicio in 2015 Gold Cup action.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

Trinidad and Tobago enjoyed a mammoth 61 percent ball possession in a 2-0 win over Cuba but only saw the ball 39 percent and 45 percent of the time against Mexico and Guatemala respectively.

Yet Panama, the 2013 Gold Cup finalist, has not been much better on the ball so far.

“Los Canaleros” have attempted an average of 279 passes per game at the 2015 Gold Cup with a 77.6 percent accuracy. The Warriors attempted 219 passes per game with a 77.3 percent accuracy rate.

It is conceivable that one or more of the Warriors’ used against Mexico, such as Keron Cummings, Yohance Marshall, Cordell Cato, Aubrey David, Mekeil Williams and Khaleem Hyland, gives way this afternoon as Hart is expected to freshen up his squad where possible.

Panama defeated Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 in Couva on 27 March 2015, although the friendly match was much more comfortable for the visitors than the scoreline suggests.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago teenagers Neveal Hackshaw (centre) and Shannon Gomez (left) track down Panama playmaker Anibal Godoy during senior international action at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago teenagers Neveal Hackshaw (centre) and Shannon Gomez (left) track down Panama playmaker Anibal Godoy during senior international action at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The Central American nation promised to host a return leg in June but snubbed Trinidad and Tobago to play Ecuador instead. They should discover a significantly different opponent in New Jersey.

Only goalkeeper Marvin Phillip and Sheldon Bateau seem certain to keep their positions from that night in Couva while Los Canaleros have retained the same goalkeeper and central defensive and midfield pairings.

Panama’s deep-lying playmaker, Anibal Godoy, strode around the Ato Boldon Stadium as though he was the Minister of Sport when these teams met last. Hart must decide whether to trust Cummings or Ataulla Guerra to pick him up, or use Kevan George in an advanced role to do the job.

If Godoy gets going, the Warriors will have to the ball.

But how important is an extra two days rest?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Keron Cummings (third from right) celebrates his second strike against Mexico with teammates (from right) Khaleem Hyland, Kenwyne Jones and Kevan George at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Copyright Nicholas Kamm/AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Keron Cummings (third from right) celebrates his second strike against Mexico with teammates (from right) Khaleem Hyland, Kenwyne Jones and Kevan George at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
(Copyright Nicholas Kamm/AFP 2015)

At the FIFA World Cup, fixtures have been synchronised since the 2006 tournament so that knock out opponents always play their previous games on the same day.

Of course, that is impossible for the World Cup final, since the two semi-final games are played on separate days. And, in the 2006 and 2014 tournaments, the team with an extra day’s rest before the final went on to win the competition.

The exception is Spain in 2010, a team that treated possession as both an offensive and defensive tool and kept the ball for so long that even some neutrals complained of boredom.

Can Andre Boucaud or Hyland ape Xavi in New Jersey?

Hart wants the Warriors to steal the ball and hold on to it today. Possession, as we all know, is nine-tenths of the law.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Andre Boucaud volleys home the second goal in their 2-0 win over Cuba in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Copyright Christian Peterson/AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Andre Boucaud volleys home the second goal in their 2-0 win over Cuba in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
(Copyright Christian Peterson/AFP 2015)

(Trinidad and Tobago Gold Cup Team)

Goalkeepers: 1.Marvin Phillip, 22.Adrian Foncette;

Defenders: 2.Aubrey David, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 5.Daneil Cyrus, 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 17.Mekeil Williams, 18.Yohance Marshall;

Midfielders: 8.Khaleem Hyland, 14.Andre Boucaud, 15.Dwane James, 19.Kevan George;

Attacking midfielders: 3.Joevin Jones, 11.Ataulla Guerra, 12.Kadeem Corbin, 13.Cordell Cato, 20.Keron Cummings, 23.Lester Peltier;

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevan George (left) keeps an eye on Mexico captain Andres Guardado in 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup action. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Kevan George (left) keeps an eye on Mexico captain Andres Guardado in 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup action.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

Forwards: 7.Jonathan Glenn, 9.Kenwyne Jones, 10.Willis Plaza, 16.Rundell Winchester;

Injured: 21.Jan-Michael Williams (GK).

Coach: Stephen Hart

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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23 comments

  1. Well, a 4-4 draw with a last second equaliser isn’t exactly a flawless display eh. But the coach tried to explain why he thought it necessary.

  2. They were brilliant against Mexico. So much so when the Mexico game was playing yesterday the commentator kept referring to it over and over. Why would you now change the game plan for a lower grade team. He has not heard the term “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”?

  3. This game will be anything but serene…the players need to go out and battle from start to end……The stats show it Panama has completed more passes than us…we need to pass the ball more and play quicker…..Panama drew 1-1 against the US…..this will be no easy game….the players need to go out and run harder and press more and focus more than all of the previous game…..they need to be mentally prepared to do so for potentially +120 mins…

  4. Particularly set pieces Richard Zen O’Brien, Mexico was terrified to give us any. We got just two corners and scored from one. We even scored from a long throw.

  5. There’s a huge difference with this TnT team tho..they are SCORING. They had 5 chances against Mexico and scored 4 (Jones hit the post). And they were practically half chances. Same thing against Cuba. (We did miss a couple against Guatemala in the 1st half, but we still scored 3!!)
    We’ve all seen too many games where we get dozens of chances and score one or none. Taking those half chances puts the other team on the defensive- even thought they are dominating possession-because our ability to score is real.

  6. You can’t allow possession without a counterplan ….the boys were suppose to hit them on the break …but sat back and didn’t only with their backs to the wall were they forced to come out of their shell and play ball.

  7. Yeah. We were defending too deep. It is usually best to defend higher up the pitch. Unless the team team has guys like Gareth Bale to run on to long balls.
    Then you have no choice but to defend deeper.

  8. Well I’ve noticed that when the Soca Warriors allow the opposing team too much possession that team invariably scores!

  9. Richard Zen O’Brien has a point too. It is modern football. Many teams have shown that ball possession can be a negative if your team is fit and has an awesome counter attacking game.
    But then the challenge is for teams with the ball to be virtually flawless. If you manage that, you won’t be beaten. Like Pep’s Barcelona was at one point when Xavi was at his peak.

  10. Sometimes possession isn’t a weapon but just a chance to take a breather too. If we try that, it could prompt Panama to try to press high up the pitch.
    Should be interesting. But it is unfair that they have such an advantage of two extra days rest at this stage when players are starting to tire.

  11. I guess we need our better ball handlers in the midfield. Maybe Guerra will come good.

  12. Ok where can I watch the game! ?

  13. There will be exceptions to any rule Malik Johnson. During the Mexico v T&T game I predicted every Mexican goal minutes before they were scored and it’s not because I’m psychic.
    T&T essentially allowed Mexico too large a share of the game’s lottery tickets increasing Mexico’s chances of cashing in over Trinidad’s. Had that not happened we would have won.

    Even the shittiest team if it could manage to retain the majority of ball possession has an excellent chance of winning by either their opponents becoming frustrated thereby making foolish errors or the ball rolling into the opposing team’s goal by complete accident as was the case with Kenwyne’s own-goal via deflection.

  14. I don’t think we’ve got players who can do that but he’s the boss.

  15. Logic only dictates more possession as a weapon if its smart possession. Guatemala had 55% against us lost 3-1 Mexico had 61% against us drew 4-4. Quality of possession ….where and when and as a platform to launch attacks.

  16. True Vernal, but the new theory- drafted by the guy from Chelsea- is the less possession you have , the less likely you are to make mistakes :-). (Doe take me on eh, is Sunday morning and ah making mischief.)

  17. Logic dictates the more one team possess the ball the less likely the opposing team is to score!

  18. Is Keron Cummings related to Gally?