Trinidad and Tobago’s adventure at the 2022 Concacaf Under-20 Championship came to an end this afternoon as they were trounced 4-1 by Costa Rica in the opening Round of 16 fixture at the Estadio Yankel Rosenthal in San Pedro Sula.
Costa Rica now face the United States in the quarterfinal round on Tuesday with the winner advancing to the Indonesia 2023 World Cup. The Junior Soca Warriors did not lack effort and desire but were simply not good enough to keep going.
In three matches against Haiti, Mexico and Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago conceded 13 goals. (They registered a clean sheet in a 3-0 win over Suriname.)
Defensively, head coach Angus Eve’s team lacked the organisation with which to compete consistently at this level. Eve’s response today was to simply pick more defenders.
There were seven players listed as defenders in Trinidad and Tobago’s starting line-up along with a defensive midfielder, Kassidy Davidson, and one natural winger, Micah Cain, while captain and midfielder Molik Khan started alone upfront.
Almost certainly, the idea was to hold Costa Rica off until the second half—at which time, they could turn to Nathaniel James and Real Gill off the bench.
In retrospect, would Trinidad and Tobago have been better off playing to their strengths rather than trying to camouflage weaknesses? Would it have mattered much against a superior opponent?
Costa Rica never seemed put off, though, as their crisp ball movement tested the Trinidad and Tobago backline from virtually the opening whistle. And they were ahead after 17 minutes.
Flanker Josimar Alcócer rolled the ball through the legs of Trinidad and Tobago left back Noah Roka before his cross was handled by centre back Jahiem Joseph. And Alcócer converted from the resulting penalty kick.
Eve responded after 29 minutes, as he replaced Marvin Waldrop—a left back by trade but used today on the left wing—with orthodox midfielder Kaihim Thomas, although the swap appeared injury-enforced.
More attacking changes came at the interval as James replaced defender Jaheim Joseph while Gill subbed in for Cain.
Trinidad and Tobago were still defending with five players but their improved offensive quality initially troubled Costa Rica, who were pegged back for a frenetic five minute spell.
Then, Costa Rica coach Vladimir Quesada turned to his own bench with Brandon Aguilera, Shawn Johnson and Dorian Rodriguez replacing three of their attacking quartet. The response was almost immediate.
In the 62nd minute, Khan lost possession near the halfline and, in a sweeping move, Alcócer crossed for Johnson to score from close range. And, five minutes later, Costa Rica had a third as Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Tristan Edwards dived low to his left to keep out Aguilera—only for Rodriguez to convert the rebound.
Costa Rica might have scored a third second half goal within 10 minutes, as Rodriguez headed against the upright from an Aguilera cross. But that goal, the fourth for the “Ticos”, inevitably came in the 78th minute as Rodriguez drilled home off a Creichel Pérez assist.
Trinidad and Tobago never stopped attacking, though. Gill forced an excellent low save by opposing goalkeeper Bayron Mora in the 81st minute before Khan got a consolation item in the 86th minute, off a James cross.
The Junior Warriors managed nine goals in four games at the 2022 Concacaf Under-20 Championship. James scored four of them, assisted another four and won the free kick for the ninth.
There can be no doubt about which Trinidad and Tobago player had the biggest impact at the tournament.
Edwards, who was not selected in the initial 20-man squad, performed credibly between the uprights when his chance came too. Central defender Jaron Pascall and Khan did not lack intensity while Gill was a handful throughout.
But they had met their ceiling—again. Their 3-0 win over Suriname apart, the Warriors drew 4-4 with Haiti and lost 5-0 to Mexico and 4-1 to Costa Rica.
Trinidad and Tobago are well off the pace from Concacaf’s top football nations. It is a situation that pre-dates Eve’s involvement—and we have not started to narrow the gap yet.
Trinidad and Tobago (5-4-1): 18.Tristan Edwards (GK); 2.Christian Bailey (17.Andrew De Gannes 75), 5.Jaron Pascall, 4.Jaheim Joseph (11.Nathaniel James 46), 14.Josiah Cooper, 13.Noah Roka; 15.Micah Cain (9.Real Gill 46), 16.Tyrik Trotman, 6.Kassidy Davidson (8.Luke Phillip 75), 3.Marvin Waldrop (7.Kaihim Thomas 29); 10.Molik Jesse Khan (captain).
Unused substitutes: 1.Jahiem Wickham (GK), 12.Josiah Wilson, 19.Isaiah Thompson, 20.Tarik Lee.
Coach: Angus Eve
Costa Rica (4-2-3-1): 18.Bayron Mora (GK); 13.Keral Ríos (21.Kendrick Enríquez 76), 4.Brandon Calderón, 5.Santiago Van Der Putten (captain), 3.Douglas Sequeira, 14.Timothy Arias, 8.Creichel Pérez, 11.Josimar Alcócer (15.Jostin Telleria 76), 16.Andrey Salmerón (10.Brandon Aguilera 56), 7.Andrey Soto (12.Shawn Johnson 56), 20.Enyel Escoe (9.Dorian Rodriguez 56)
Unused substitutes: 1.Abraham Madriz (GK), 19.Johel Alemán, 22.Denilson Vargas.
Coach: Vladimir Quesada
Referee: Jose Torres (Puerto Rico)
Concacaf U-20 Championship result
(25 June 2022)
Costa Rica 4 (Josimar Alcócer 17, Shawn Johnson 62, Dorian Rodriguez 67, 78), Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Molik Khan 86) at the Estadio Yankel Rosenthal, San Pedro Sula.