Interim head coach Angus Eve tasted defeat for the first time at the helm of the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team last night, and it was a costly one. One goal in either half saw El Salvador secure a 2-0 win at the Toyota Stadium in Frisco, which guarantees the Central American team a spot in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup quarterfinal round.
For the Soca Warriors, the future is far bleaker. The twin island republic can get to four points with a win over Guatemala on Sunday night; but even then their fate is out of their hands.
Mexico defeated Guatemala 3-0 in Dallas last night and only need a draw against El Salvador on the weekend to follow them into the knockout stage.
Disciplined and resolute in defence during Saturday’s goalless draw against Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago needed to shine in attack yesterday. Arguably, the Warriors were not quite good enough at either end.
El Salvador’s opening goal by Jairo Henriquez was well-taken but avoidable, while the less said about the scrappy second item by substitute Walmer Martinez, the better.
And, on the offence, Trinidad and Tobago were blunt for the opening 45 minutes while, even as Eve threw numbers forward in the second half, the twin island republic only stretched their opponents on three occasions.
Substitute forward Marcus Joseph came closest as he flung himself at a cross from Reon Moore, which was diverted on to the El Salvador bar before being cleared. But the Soca Warriors could not get on the score card.
“I’m absolutely gutted,” said Trinidad and Tobago left back Noah Powder, after the contest. “We came out there and gave everything we can give; but in the end it wasn’t enough for our country and our communities.”
Trinidad and Tobago have now faced El Salvador on four occasions in the Gold Cup, with one draw and three defeats. However, their last loss to the Central Americans before tonight came 14 years ago at the 2007 tournament. Trinidad and Tobago managed three wins and three draws against ‘Los Cuscatlecos’ since then.
Eve made seven changes to his starting team tonight, for the second successive match running. But it did not mean a total tactical reset from the ultra-defensive approach that served them well against Mexico. On Saturday, Eve started eight defenders; last night, he went with seven.
Trinidad and Tobago lined up in a 5-3-2 formation with Ryan Telfer and Kevin Molino upfront and Powder in midfield, alongside Duane Muckette and Hackshaw.
El Salvador head coach Hugo Perez said he was surprised by Eve’s tentative approach at kick off.
“I thought Trinidad and Tobago would be a little more offensive but I realised they were playing with a line of five, like they did against Mexico,” said Perez. “We [told the players that] Trinidad and Tobago would start with 5-4-1 or 4-3-3 from analysing the game against Mexico. But I thought they would be more offensive, I never thought they would be that defensive.
“Their goal [appeared to be] to obtain a draw.”
At one point in the first half, El Salvador had 65 percent possession. Like against Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago generally avoided being penetrated by their Latin opponents. But, unlike last weekend’s game, El Salvador were able to take a half chance.
T&T defender Jelani Peters stepped out from the back to intercept a pass from opposing right back Bryan Tamacas and missed. And, in one clever move, Henriquez spun to face the opposing goal before beating custodian Nicklas Frenderup from 22 yards with a fine low strike that zipped into the far corner.
For the Warriors, Molino saw plenty of the ball in the first half; but lacked passing options and never looked like hurting El Salvador.
“We wanted to break through Molino and Telfer,” said Hackshaw, in the post-match press conference.
Eve’s offensive tactic did not work then. And Henriquez almost doubled El Salvador’s advantage with an outrageous cross-cum-shot off the outside of his right boot, which hit the far post.
There was another El Salvadorian chance in first half stoppage time too as Henriquez stole the ball from Mekeil Williams and forced a sharp low save from Frenderup. And the Warriors might have been relieved to hear the whistle for half-time.
At the interval, Eve immediately set about trying to retrieve the situation as he introduced Joseph and Moore for Peters and midfielder Duane Muckette. The tactical plan, Hackshaw revealed later, was to get both full backs forward so as to create more attacking opportunities for the young men in red, black and white.
Peters was actually the second defender to exit. Left back Triston Hodge was replaced in the 15th minute with a suspected concussion, following a clash of heads with Tamacas. Midfielder Andre Fortune II took Hodge’s place.
Moore was a handful again tonight. The Warriors shuffled the ball around, just inside the opposing half, before Hackshaw released Moore down the left flank in the 63rd minute. And the soldier tied Tamacas up in knots before driving towards goal.
Only a desperate lunge from El Salvador defender Eriq Zavaleta prevented what might have been the equaliser.
Two minutes later, Moore was on the charge again down the same wing as he sent a pinpoint cross into the box. Joseph stretched to make contact although it appeared that the ball came off opposing left back Alexander Larin before striking the bar.
There was no doubt about Joseph’s contact with Trinidad and Tobago’s next attempt at goal, as his powerful angled drive in the 70th minute was fended away by El Salvador goalkeeper Mario Gonzales as a matter of self-preservation.
“In the second half, they made some changes and played more vertically,” said Perez. “[…] I think we played better when they had a line of five in defence.”
The El Salvador coach was not prepared to offer Trinidad and Tobago any credit for the busier second half though.
“It is not that Trinidad and Tobago took [control of] the ball, we gave them the ball!” Perez said. “We started forcing things that we didn’t have to do. They were just attacking more in the second half.”
And, just to rub it in, Perez suggested that Trinidad and Tobago were not particularly impressive against Mexico either.
“I saw the media gave Mexico a hard time but I would say that Mexico had bad luck [against T&T],” said Perez, a former USA international between 1984 and 1994. “Not only for the injury [to star attacker Hirving Lozano] but because they created a number of chances but didn’t score. Mexico could have scored four goals.”
There was no doubt that Trinidad and Tobago did not have much go their way last night. In the 54th minute, Larin grabbed Alvin Jones’ leg and dragged the Trinidad and Tobago right back to the ground in a desperate bid to stop a counter attacking opportunity. Honduran referee Selwyn Brown did not caution the El Salvadorian for it.
But in the 78th minute, Moore instinctively reached his hand out at Tamacas’ chest as the right back tried to sprint behind him and was promptly booked.
In the 74th minute, Larin went down clutching his face after a tussle with Telfer and Perez motioned that the Trinidadian floored his player with a forearm. Replays showed that the claim was untrue.
Yet, in the 82nd minute, El Salvador substitute Alexander Roldan whacked Fortune II across his head with his forearm and Brown did not give so much as a free kick.
Perez explained why fourth official Oshane Nation allowed El Salvador a sixth substitution.
“It was because of a concussion and right now our defender is in the hospital,” said the El Salvador coach. “We took a look at the Fifa rulebook [which allows a sixth substitution in cases of concussion] and we talked to the fourth official who said we could do it.”
So just to be clear, Tamacas had a clash of heads with Hodge in the 11th minute. And while the Trinidadian was immediately replaced, Perez left his player on for an additional 77 minutes—during which time he helped create the first goal—and made five other substitutions, before deciding the player needed medical attention?
More on that later.
As the game entered stoppage time, Trinidad and Tobago made things considerably harder for themselves with a touch of farce.
El Salvador worked their way into the opposing penalty area and Frenderup got a hand to Martinez’s low effort which hit one post and rebounded to smack the other, with the goalkeeper in desperate pursuit. El Salvador substitute Juan Portillo lunged at the rebound but did not make true contact and instead sent the ball back across the goal.
And there was Martinez, who could scarcely believe his luck as he tucked away his second international goal. As the entire scene unfolded, the Trinidad and Tobago back four looked on as though they were patrons at Movie Towne.
The El Salvadorian goal scorer was Perez’s sixth substitution, while the Warriors made just four changes.
Did Perez benefit from Eve’s concussion sub or his own? Was Hodge even a concussion change, since Trinidad and Tobago never used their full allotment in any case?
It was a moot point by the end.
“It was a disappointing result for us,” said central defender Aubrey David, who has been in fine form at the Gold Cup—notwithstanding El Salvador’s second goal. “We went with the aim to get three points [and] I think we could have gotten more [out of the game]. We played in the second half more than in the first half, so we have to go back to the drawing board and try to get a result in the next game.
“[…] We were very close to scoring a goal but we couldn’t; and the second goal killed the game.”
Perez brushed off the suggestion that El Salvador might take it easy against Mexico on Sunday. If his team defeat Mexico, then Trinidad and Tobago can squeeze into the next stage with a triumph over Guatemala.
But if your path to the second round relies on the defending champions being eliminated in the group stage, it might be time to be honest with yourself.
Has a straw ever actually saved a drowning man?
Eve and his Warriors played with passion, determination and tactical discipline at the Gold Cup. But they could not find the right formula against El Salvador last night.
It would take something extraordinary for their Gold Cup tournament to continue beyond Sunday’s game at Frisco.
Trinidad and Tobago (5-3-2): 21.Nicklas Frenderup (GK); 16.Alvin Jones, 2.Aubrey David, 8.Mekeil Williams, 4.Jelani Peters (13.Reon Moore 46), 18.Triston Hodge (14.Andre Fortune II 16); 20.Duane Muckette (9.Marcus Joseph 46), 15.Neveal Hackshaw, 11.Noah Powder; 7.Ryan Telfer (3.Hashim Arcia 76), 10.Kevin Molino (captain).
Unused substitutes: 1.Marvin Phillip (GK), 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 5.Curtis Gonzales, 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 12.Isaiah Lee, 17.Justin Garcia, 19.Ross Russell Jr, 23.Jesse Williams.
Coach: Angus Eve
El Salvador (4-1-4-1): 1.Mario Gonzales (GK), 21.Bryan Tamacas (9.Walmer Martinez 88), 4.Eriq Zavaleta, 5.Ronald Gomez, 13.Alexander Larin; 6.Narcisco Orellana; 8.Joshua Perez (11.Juan Portillo 59), 12.Marvin Monterroza (captain) (10.Amando Moreno 59), 7.Darwin Ceren (20.Isaac Portillo 83), 17.Jairo Henriquez (15.Alexander Roldan 68), 14.Joaquin Rivas (23.Marvin Marquez 82).
Unused substitutes: 18.Oscar Pleitez (GK), 22.Kevin Carabantes (GK), 2.Julio Sibrian, 3.Roberto Dominguez, 19.Alexis Montes.
Coach: Hugo Perez
Concacaf Gold Cup results
Trinidad and Tobago 0, El Salvador 2 (Jairo Henriquez 30, Walmer Martinez 90) at Toyota Stadium, Frisco;
Guatemala 0, Mexico 3 (Rogelio Funes Mori 29, 55, Orbelin Pineda 79) at Cotton Bowl, Dallas.
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