Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart has asked spectators to push his team on to success, as the “Soca Warriors” face the United States from 7.36 pm tomorrow, on Tuesday November 17, in their first home fixture of the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
The Warriors faced a cacophony of jeers and worse in Guatemala City last Friday but were able to pull off a 2-1 win over Guatemala. Now, Hart wants the Trinidad and Tobago team to be the beneficiaries of unstinting support as they try to outdo one of CONCACAF’s most powerful football nations at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
“I don’t want fans, I want genuine support,” Hart told Wired868. “I want them to push us. I don’t want them to depend on the rhythm section to do that.
“The Guatemalan fans, even when they were 2-0 down, I think they pushed them all the way to try to get a goal and that is what you want supporters to do.”
The US outfit, coached by former Germany World Cup winner Jurgen Klinsmann, had lost five of their six matches—including a penalty shoot out defeat against Panama in the CONCACAF Gold Cup third place play off—before they mauled St Vincent and the Grenadines 6-1 in St Louis last Friday.
And Klinsmann suggested that a draw against the Warriors could be a satisfactory result. It could feasibly lead to another cagey affair between the two nations tomorrow.
“With Trinidad and Tobago, the history shows you all the games that have happened in the past down here were very tight games,” said Klinsmann, in a pre-match briefing. “They were all decided by a maximum of one goal or they were ties. We’re prepared for that. We respect them. They’re a good team, but our team is good as well.
“We want to come here and show them that we’re able to get three points or at least a tie and move on out of our group.”
Hart feels fairly confident about where the United States will try to make the biggest impact.
The North American team scored three times from set pieces against the Vincentians while the Warriors scored at least goal from a dead ball situation for six successive matches between July and October—although that sequence was broken against Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Hart has warned his players to be careful about conceding cheap free kicks and corner kicks, which German-born utility player Fabian Johnson would be expected to take.
“(The United States) focus more on getting into situations that will give them set plays and then trying to take advantage of that,” said Hart. “I think that is a very serious strength of theirs… We have been doing well (at defending and attacking set pieces) but it is a matter of how much we can endure.
“Against Guatemala, we went through a spell there (with successive corner kicks) where we did quite well but it is not something I would like to see often.
“I would hope we don’t give up as many corners and free kicks in bad positions.”
Klinsmann will use Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard between the uprights tomorrow, which, as Hart explained in a previous interview, tends to make the US more dangerous as their outfield players press higher up the pitch.
Hart admitted that he was happy Klinsmann did not travel with versatile attacker Clint Dempsey, who has 48 goals from 120 international caps.
Dempsey, who was one of the US’ best performers at the Gold Cup, has apparently paid the price for a mediocre showing in last month’s play off defeat to Mexico, which cost his team a place at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup tournament in Russia.
“Clint Dempsey is one of those players who can change a game at any time,” said Hart. “When you have somebody like Clint Dempsey around, it occupies the minds of your players. I would not say it is a relief (that he isn’t there) but it is one of those things where the player’s history can cause you to be a bit apprehensive.
“With him not there, you just have to focus on somebody else though.”
Hart will consider inserting some fresh legs into the team tomorrow, although he preferred not to give anything away.
The T&T coach admitted that he was dissatisfied with playmaker Keron “Ball Pest” Cummings’ showing against Guatemala but said he is confident that the North East Stars players understands his job description.
“I thought he played too slow (against Guatemala and) he was back playing around the centre circle too much,” said Hart, who likes his attacking midfielder to get close to striker and captain Kenwyne Jones. “But we’ve discussed it and he understands. We showed him the video today and watched the whole game in its entirety and I think he understands what we are talking about.”
Hart could have no complaints with his captain, Jones, who has scored four times in his last five international outings including a superb volley against Guatemala.
Tomorrow’s qualifier will feature an interesting match-up for Jones against his former Stoke City teammate, Geoff Cameron, who plays in the heart of the US defence.
Jones apart, Hart should be pleased too by the contributions from his defensive spine of goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, stoppers Sheldon Bateau and Radanfah Abu Bakr and midfielder Andre Boucaud while Khaleem Hyland chipped in with a crucial goal at the Estadio Mateo Flores.
The Warriors have five United States-based players in their squad, Kevan George (Columbus Crew), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes), Trevin Caesar (Austin Aztex), Daneil Cyrus and Joevin Jones (both Chicago Fire).
South Korea-based defender Carlyle Mitchell is familiar with the US game too, after spending three seasons in the MLS with Vancouver Whitecaps.
From 7.36 pm tomorrow, though, Hart wants the United States visitors to have no doubt that they are on enemy soil.
(Trinidad and Tobago team)
Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC), Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United);
Defenders: Daneil Cyrus (Chicago Fire—USA), Justin Hoyte (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E-Land—South Korea), Sheldon Bateau (FC Krylia Samara—Russia), Radanfah Abu Bakr (HB Koge—Denmark), Yohance Marshall (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Mekeil Williams (Antigua GFC—Guatemala), Aubrey David (Shakhter Karagandy—Kazakhstan);
Midfielders: Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Khaleem Hyland (KV Westerlo—Belgium), Kevan George (Columbus Crew—USA), Neveal Hackshaw (North East Stars);
Attacking Midfielders: Trevin Caesar (Austin Aztex—USA), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes—USA), Joevin Jones (Chicago Fire—USA), Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava—Slovakia), Keron Cummings (North East Stars);
Forwards: Kenwyne Jones (Cardiff City—Wales), Willis Plaza (Central FC), Jonathan Glenn (Breioablik—Iceland).