Eve: We usually defend properly; T&T coach explains Curaçao defeat, praises CNL campaign

Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Angus Eve blamed a combination of tired legs, astroturf, TTPFL inactivity and refereeing decisions for their first defeat of the 2023/24 Concacaf Nations League A competition, as they fell 5-3 to Curaçao yesterday in Willemstad.

The Soca Warriors still advanced to the quarterfinal stage of the competition for the first time, thanks to El Salvador holding Martinique to a goalless draw. However, it means their next assignment will be either Mexico or the United States—rather than Costa Rica or Canada.

Trinidad and Tobago substitutes Kareem Moses (right) and Kristian Lee-Him got a goal each at the Ergilio Hato Stadium in Willemstad last night, but it was not enough to prevent a 5-3 loss to Curaçao in Concacaf Nations League action.
(Copyright Miguel Gutierrez/ Straffon Images)

Eve noted that his players have already exceeded expectations.

“I think the campaign was a huge success,” he told the TTFA Media. “Nobody expected us to be where we were coming into this final game and we qualified to play in the quarterfinals of the cup.

“This is a rebuilding process that we are going through, and you’re going to have days with ups and downs.”

Eve suggested that the defensive errors on display in Curaçao were out of character for his squad.

Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Angus Eve watches from the sidelines during his team’s clash with Curacao in Concacaf Nations League A action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 7 September 2023.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

“We still made a lot of simple mistakes […] in defence,” he said. “And that is basically what we are known for: defending properly. That part of it was lacking [last night].”

Eve’s claims about his team’s supposedly solid defensive spine have been a talking point ever since the Warriors’ goalless draw against Mexico at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.

Mexico had 30 shots with seven on target that night.

In the Nations League group stage, Trinidad and Tobago were outshot in every match but still managed to pick off victories. Ironically, the Warriors actually conceded less shots last night than in their previous two wins.

The tale of the tape in Trinidad and Tobago’s memorable 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup draw with Mexico.
  • Curaçao (12 shots with 8 on target; 1-0 to T&T);
  • El Salvador (26 shots with 11 on target; 3-2 to T&T);
  • Guatemala (24 shots with 11 on target; 3-2 to T&T);
  • Curaçao (23 shots with 10 on target; 5-3 to Curaçao).

Eve also moaned about the officiating by Honduran referee Said Martinez, who gave three penalties to Curaçao (two converted) while his assistant Christian Ramirez signalled for goal, after a header by forward Rangelo Janga looked to have crossed the line before it was clawed back by Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Denzil Smith.

“I thought there were a lot of questionable calls from the referee, [although] I haven’t seen the tape [of the match],” said Eve. “I’m not one of them to talk about the referee much but I thought today the three penalties—maybe one [was good]… And Denzil doesn’t feel [Janga’s header] crossed the line.”

Eve suggested too that the physical exertion of two games in five days was too much for some of his players.

“We looked a bit leggy and playing on turf seems to be a little bit too much for the guys’ legs; and the turf didn’t help at all,” he said. “[…] Our league isn’t going on right now and we played Ross [Russell] and Alvin [Jones]… They are not in season. Michel Poon-Angeron and Denzil [Smith] and [Duane] Muckette are not in season.”

Defence Force defender Justin Garcia (second from left) tries to brush off AC POS midfielder Michel Poon-Angeron during TTPFL action at the Arima Velodrome on 24 June 2023.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

The maiden Trinidad and Tobago Premier Football League (TTPFL) season ended in July and the start date for the next season has already been pushed back twice and is now an unspecified date in November.

Still, Eve had the option of calling up players who are in season.

Midfield anchor Leston Paul and winger Jomal Williams are two options who compete regularly in North and Central America, while defenders Jelani Peters and Tristan Hodge are also in the midst of their competitive seasons.

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Jomal Williams (centre) tries to accelerate past Costa Rica defenders Johnny Acosta (left) and Francisco Calvo during Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 11 November 2016.
Photo: Allan V Crane/ Wired868

Midfielder Noah Powder, who was an 87th minute substitute last night, is also in season for Northern Colorado Hailstorm at present.

Whatever the merit of Eve’s assorted explanations, there is no question that the results have been positive in the CNL group stage. In 2019, then head coach Dennis Lawrence was relegated without a single win. The current crop has done considerably better.

“All in all, we [had] a very good campaign—we are still alive when other people are going home,” said Eve. “[…] I think credit to the guys. We did brilliant to be where we are. I hope the country continues to support the boys.”

Trinidad and Tobago head coach Angus Eve (third from left) hugs forward Malcolm Shaw (second from left) after the latter’s goal against El Salvador in Nations League A action in San Salvador on 10 September 2023.
The Soca Warriors won 3-2.
Photo: TTFA Media
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