“We let them off the hook.” This is how national coach Stephen Hart feels about Tuesday’s key World Cup Qualifying encounter against the United States at the Hasely Crawford Stadium which ended in a goalless draw.
The T&T team enjoyed almost total domination of the game, particularly in the first half of the game, much to the delight of the sold-out crowd that made their way to the venue. Football pundits have described it as a display unlike any other by a T&T team against USA, but Hart said the team played to its potential.
Hart, who is responsible for a string of excellent performances by the T&T over the past months, in the midst of a turbulent time in the sport’s administration, did not sound worried about the result but impressed upon the need to convert opportunities when they come.
In front of the proverbial “Sea of Red” the Soca Warriors were expected to score at least once. And Hart in pointing out some of the clear cut chances the team enjoyed, also singled out Cato’s missed header in the 64th minute of the match.
From this play, Jones (Joevin) raced clear down the right flank and centred for an unmarked Cato who was thrown off by a US defender’s attempt to challenge for the ball. Hart said an international player such as Cato should never have missed such an opportunity.
He also pointed out that despite the US having more of the possession in the second half of play the T&T was not penetrated and congratulated them for holding their own against their counterparts. After back pedalling for the entire first period, Jurgen Klinsmann’s men looked a renewed team after the resumption and created a number of chances.
“They definitely could have scored but had we scored at least the two goals, we would have had them against the ropes,” Hart said. He made it clear that though they were outplayed, his team was not penetrated by the US and congratulated them for the manner in which they were able to contain them and still create opportunities.
TT coach heartened
By COLIN BENJAMIN (NEWSDAY).
Head coaches of the Trinidad and Tobago and United States teams Stephen Hart and Jurgen Klinsmann have both stated their satisfaction at securing a draw in their Group C, 2018 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday evening at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.
After both sides defeated Guatemala and St Vincent & Grenadines in respective opening matches, the 0-0 draw leaves both teams in pole position to qualify for the “Hex” Hexagonal stage.
However, speaking at the post match press conference on Tuesday, both coaches interpreted how the proceedings went differently.
“To be honest I think we let them off the hook”, stated TT coach Hart, who was quite animated on the touchline in the second half as the Americans put their hosts under some pressure.
“I was pleased with our overall performance and I thought we controlled the game. Even in the second half when it seemed like they were controlling the game, they didn’t penetrate us with anything significant plays,” he added.
“It was a very tricky game,” said Klinsmann, “I think Trinidad and Tobago started well and played the physical game we expected of them as an improving CONCACAF side and in general what we expect to deal with versus such teams on the road in these qualifiers.”
The former Germany striker and coach continued: “However after 25 minutes, we took over and there were chances on both sides and I think we had the clearest one with Gyasi (Zardes) and Jermaine (Jones) hitting the post. But a tie is alright and it keeps us first in the group on goal difference.” Klinsmann chose to controversially leave out star forward Clint Dempsey for their two qualifiers and when questioned by media about that, the German defended Dempsey’s replacement Zardes.
“He has the smell for it, the fact that he is making those runs and getting into right positions means that he is on the right track as an attacker.” Meanwhile, Hart revealed that he had been planning for a while to play the midfield trio of Kevan George, Andre Boucaud and Khaleem Hyland together with Hyland further advanced. He also thanked the fans for coming out in large numbers.
“We have been working on playing that trio in this game for a while, but of course we didn’t want to make it obvious in friendly matches. They have a great understanding and move the ball around crisply. When Khaleem was high up the pitch, their two centre backs (Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler) struggled.
We started playing in front of them and it was possession for possession’s sake.
“I felt we should have put them under a little more pressure. The turnout and support was fantastic.
When they began singing the national anthem, it was very emotional and I thank them for that,” Hart concluded.
Before the next home and away qualifiers versus St Vincent and Grenadines in March 25th and 29th, the “Warriors” play Haiti on January 8 in Panama in a Copa America 2016 play-off.
Hart revealed he will hope to have camp starting on Boxing Day and hopes to have discussions with the Pro League clubs for usage of players and other matters.