The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team have received 24-hour protection from the Frisco Police Department since Monday, according to a release from the TTFA Media. The Soca Warriors will also be accompanied by Consul security, Inspector Peter Fraser, for the remainder of their time at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup tournament.
Fraser’s inclusion to the team camp follows ‘a meeting with team management, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith and representatives of the Charge d’affaires and Defence and Military Attache in Washington, Consul Security in Miami and Honorary Consul in Texas’.
Trinidad and Tobago face El Salvador from 7.30pm tomorrow at the Toyota Stadium in Frisco in a crucial encounter for the team, if they are to become one of the two nations to advance from Group A. But the Soca Warriors have not quite been able to put Mexico behind them, even if they wanted to.
The players and officials were bombarded with abusive messages, death threats and racist taunts by Mexican supporters, who blamed the T&T players for a serious injury to their star attacker Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano as well as for influencing Costa Rican referee Ricardo Montero—although they remain unable to say how—in their goalless draw on Saturday night.
“It is a bit tense but I can’t talk about the [the decision-making process and specific incidents that led to the police presence] for security reasons,” said interim head coach Angus Eve, who opened today’s virtual media briefing by reiterating his best wishes for Lozano’s health and insisted that Trinidad and Tobago are not a dirty football team.
One Mexican reporter noted that the Mexican Football Federation (FMF), which has not apologised to the Trinidad and Tobago players or officials for the abuse, has asked Concacaf to expel Montero from the tournament. (Although Montero might have awarded all three points to the Soca Warriors due to persistent discriminatory chants by the Mexican fans but did not do so.)
Did Eve think, she asked, that Montero should be ejected? Or was the Warriors coach satisfied with the official’s work?
Eve, a former cricketer at schoolboy level, tried to meet the offering with a straight bat.
“I am not a referees’ assessor,” he said. “[…] I didn’t see any calls that he made [that might warrant expulsion]. But there was VAR; so if there was stuff that was happening on the pitch, they would have pointed it out to the referee.”
Trinidad and Tobago custodian Nicklas Frenderup did not feature against Mexico and refused to answer any questions related to the game. However, he admitted that the Mexican response on social media has had an impact.
“It is not good,” said Frenderup, who was born in Denmark and spoke in halting English at times. “I don’t want to have focus on that now but I don’t like the things that happened to my teammates and myself. But we can’t do anything about that.
“[…] We just have to concentrate on the game against El Salvador tomorrow.”
Was Frenderup’s presence at the press conference a sign that he might be reinstated between the uprights on Wednesday night?
Eve noted that goalkeeper Marvin Phillip suffered a ‘knock’ during the game against Mexico and still has some soreness. But he insisted that it was not serious and his 23 players are ‘raring to go’.
Beyond that point, he refused to give away anything about his own potential line-up or what he expected from El Salvador.
“[My technical staff] played whatever team that we believed was suited for the day since we’ve come in,” said Eve. “[…] The off-field stuff is stuff that you don’t want in the game. We are here to play football and rebuild our reputation in the zone; and that’s the only thing we are focused on.”
El Salvador have not defeated Trinidad and Tobago in 14 years, and even their last win over the ‘red, black and white’—a 2-1 triumph at the 2007 Gold Cup made memorable mostly by an astonishing Silvio Spann free kick—came against a second-string squad due to a TTFF blacklist against the 2006 World Cup players.
The two teams have met six times since then, with Trinidad and Tobago winning three games while the others finished in ties.
Eve suggested, though, that El Salvador are a ‘fantastic team’ at present and looked even more dynamic than Mexico in their movement off the ball during a 2-0 win over Guatemala on Sunday evening.
“We take [El Salvador] very seriously,” said Eve. “They qualified [for the Gold Cup] proper, we had to go through a qualifying series to get here. They are still in the World Cup [qualifying series], we are out…”
El Salvador have not lost a competitive match since their 1-0 defeat to Dominican Republic in a Concacaf Nations League’s affair on 10 September 2019. However, their opponents during that 11-match unbeaten run have not exactly been ‘A’ listers: Montserrat, St Lucia, Grenada, US Virgin Islands, and Antigua and Barbuda.
‘La Selecta’, as they are coined, have every reason to be as wary of Trinidad and Tobago as Eve appears to be about them.
In-form scorer David Rugamos, who scored eight of his 10 international goals during the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign, was an unused substitute for El Salvador on the weekend. It is left to be seen if he features tomorrow.
Their opening goal against Guatemala came from debutant midfielder Alexander Roldan, who was born in the United States and plays professionally for MLS outfit, Seattle Sounders FC.
Intriguingly, coach Hugo Perez once made the reverse choice as he was born in El Salvador but went on to play for USA. Perez, who has had less than a year on the job, was an unused substitute on 19 November 1989 when his adopted nation stunned the twin island republic.
Tomorrow, Perez will try to damage Trinidad and Tobago’s aspirations of a Gold Cup knockout berth for the benefit of the land of his birth. Eve will have his own plans.
“Every game is basically a final when you reach to this level,” said Eve. “[…] We want to continue to produce and make our country proud.”
In three games at the helm, Eve, who is simultaneously head coach at Club Sando FC and Naparima College, has used 24 different players and is yet to field the same line-up twice.
He is likely to tinker again tomorrow, with captain Kevin Molino, winger Ryan Telfer, forward Marcus Joseph, midfielder Neveal Hackshaw and Frenderup among the players pushing for reinstatement to the starting team.
Full back Noah Powder and defender Mekeil Williams, who joined the Warriors as replacement players on Saturday, also acquitted themselves well off the bench.
While the likes of Phillip, Alvin Jones, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Triston Hodge, Reon Moore and Jesse Williams (not an exhaustive list) left little doubt about their value against Mexico.
“We have a new coach and he comes with some new ideas and the boys responded very good to that,” said Frenderup. “He has a perfect plan and we follow that. So we are really happy. We have a good mood in the team and we are ready for the game tomorrow against El Salvador.”
Eve suggested that he is only just getting started.
“The first thing I wanted to do when I took the job was to build back the players’ mental attitude,” he said. “[…] The intensity was also too slow, I think, for the players that we have. I think all of those things are coming together.
“It has only been three weeks so there is still a lot of work to do… But to come out with a result like that against such a prestigious team, I think the fellahs are doing fantastic.”
One more ‘fantastic’ showing would almost certainly propel the Soca Warriors into the Gold Cup knockout stage for the first time since 2015. However, a dip in performance, similar to team’s showing against French Guiana, could virtually assure their elimination.
Sporting careers often hinge on such fine margins.
Trinidad and Tobago Team (Tabulated as club; age; caps/goals scored)
Goalkeepers: 1.Marvin Phillip (Unattached; 36; 81/0), 21.Nicklas Frenderup (Ranheim Il—Denmark; 28; 6/0), 22.Adrian Foncette (Police FC; 32; 17/0);
Defenders: 2.Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica; 30; 60/1), 4.Jelani Peters (Pittsburgh Riverhounds—USA; 27; 3/0), 5.Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force; 32; 39/0), 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr (Unattached; 34; 38/2), 8.Mekeil Williams (Pittsburgh Riverhounds—USA; 30; 31/1), 11.Noah Powder (Real Monarchs—USA; 22; 4/0), 16.Alvin Jones (Unattached; 26; 29/1), 17.Justin Garcia (Defence Force; 25; 6/0), 18.Triston Hodge (Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC—USA; 26; 19/0), 19.Ross Russell Jr (Terminix La Horquetta Rangers; 29; 8/0), 23.Jesse Williams (Unattached; 20; 2/0);
Midfielders: 3.Hashim Arcia (Defence Force; 32; 14/1), 15.Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven—USA; 25; 22/0), 20.Duane Muckette (Unattached; 25; 11/1);
Attacking midfielders: 7.Ryan Telfer (Atletico Ottawa—Canada; 27; 14/5), 10.Kevin Molino (Columbus Crew—USA; 31; 53/23), 13.Reon Moore (Defence Force; 24; 6/2), 14.Andre Fortune II (Memphis 901 FC—USA; 24; 7/0);
Forwards: 9.Marcus Joseph (Unattached; 30; 23/7), 12.Isaiah Lee (Terminix La Horquetta Rangers; 21; 3/0).
Editor’s Note: TTFA Media updated its statement at roughly 11am on 14 July to credit Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith for playing a role in its acquisition of a security detail—after a press release by the commissioner which took credit for same. Wired868 has also inserted Griffith into the story as a result.
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