Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team captain Khaleem Hyland has urged fans to keep faith with the Soca Warriors, as they start their 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup campaign tomorrow evening against Panama in the first Group D double header at Allianz Field in Minnesota.
The Warriors face Panama from 7.30pm (TT time) while the United States take on Guyana from 9.00pm.
Trinidad and Tobago have four losses and one draw from their last five outings and failed to score a goal in a single one of them. But Hyland hopes to put their chequered form behind them tomorrow and says the Warriors will be going out for a win.
“It’s all up for grabs, so we have to take front before front takes us and hopefully we can get the three points,” Hyland told the TTFA Media. “The mood is great and everyone is gelling and doing their tasks that they have been asked to do by the head coach and the staff. In every major tournament your first game is one of the most important and in these tournaments you have to take it game by game.
“This game we know is going to be a difficult one. We know the strengths of Panama and we know they are a hardworking team but we have to match them throughout the game.”
Panama were gifted their first ever FIFA World Cup appearance by the Warriors, two years ago, when Trinidad and Tobago stunned the United States 2-1 in Couva to allow the Central American nation to progress.
The Panamanians shade the head-to-head meetings against Trinidad and Tobago with six wins from the last 10 clashes and three from the last five. Head coach Dennis Lawrence led the Warriors to a 1-0 win over Panama at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in his first competitive game on the job. However their subsequent two meetings finished as 3-0 and 1-0 losses away and home respectively.
Ace attacking midfielder Kevin Molino scored the winner in Port of Spain and his return from injury could not be better timed for the Warriors. Molino, whose MLS employers—Minnesota United—use the Allianz Field as their home ground, has 19 senior international goals from 44 appearances. The next best international scoring record in the team belongs to flanker Joevin Jones and is a less inspiring 7 items from 72 caps.
Lawrence only travelled to the US with one forward, W Connection’s Shahdon Winchester, and he looked to be out of form—not altogether surprising as the Pro League has been dormant since December 2018.
And, in recent friendlies, talented young flanker Levi Garcia was started at centre forward. Garcia scored a crucial double on his debut for Trinidad and Tobago against St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2017. He has not scored in 18 outings since.
It is not difficult to see then where Lawrence’s biggest headache lies. But Panama have similar issues.
‘Los Canaleros’ have just two players in their entire 23-man squad with 10 goals or more. One is 30-year old Chile-based forward Gabriel Torres, who has 15 items from 80 appearances; and the other is 30-year-old central defender Roman Torres who has 10 strikes from 111 matches.
Goals are likely to be at a premium tomorrow then, with two competitors who are strong, athletic and aggressive but goal shy.
Regardless, Hyland hopes the Warriors can eke out a result that would be a welcome boon before they face USA on Saturday 22 June.
“I just want the fans to keep faith in us; this is your team,” said Hyland. “We believe in ourselves and you have to believe in us and it will only happen if we come together as one country, one nation and that’s the only way things will get better; by supporting each other.”
Trinidad and Tobago will be strengthened by the return of Costa Rica-based full back Aubrey David, who belatedly received his US visa last Friday and has joined the squad.
Concacaf gave Trinidad and Tobago permission to bring David into their Gold Cup team and Lawrence will do so at the expense of former National Under-20 central defender Leland Archer.
Archer, who plays professionally for Charleston Battery, will leave the camp on Wednesday while David can play tomorrow if necessary. At present, the Warriors are desperately short of cover at full back due an injury to Triston Hodge, visa complications for Ross Russell Jr and Lawrence’s decision to overlook Keston Julien and Noah Powder.
Tomorrow’s Gold Cup contests will be aired on Fox Soccer Soccer Plus, Fox Sports 2, Univision and concacafgo.com.
(Trinidad and Tobago Gold Cup Team)
Goalkeepers: 1.Marvin Phillip, 21.Greg Ranjitsingh, 22.Adrian Foncette;
Defenders: 2.Aubrey David, 5.Daneil Cyrus (vice-captain), 12.Carlyle Mitchell, 15.Curtis Gonzales, 16.Alvin Jones, 17.Mekeil Williams;
Midfielders: 4.Neveal Hackshaw, 6.Duane Muckette, 8.Khaleem Hyland (captain), 14.Akeem Humphrey, 19.Kevan George, 23.Leston Paul;
Attacking midfielders: 3.Joevin Jones, 7.Cordell Cato, 10.Kevin Molino, 11.Levi Garcia, 13.Nathan Lewis, 18.Lester Peltier, 20.Jomal Williams;
Forward: 9.Shahdon Winchester.