CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – In an encounter contested more like a final rather than one between sides having already earned quarterfinal berths, Trinidad & Tobago (2-1-0, 7 points) and Mexico (1-2-0, 5 points) battled to a 4-4 draw in the last game of the CONCACAF Gold Cup’s group stage on Wednesday at Bank of America Stadium.
The result clinched the top spot in Group C for the Trinidadians, while Mexico was forced to settle for second place. They will next meet Panama and Costa Rica, respectively, on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for places in the competition’s final four.
It looked like the Mexicans were on the way to a straightforward victory, owning a 2-0 lead shortly after the break.
Paul Aguilar struck for the first goal in the 32nd minute. A left-sided cross by Yasser Corona into the box found Carlos Vela, who back-headed the ball towards the far post. After breaking free from his marker, Aguilar somehow squeezed the ball between goalkeeper Marvin Phillip and the woodwork for his first career Gold Cup goal.
Six minutes into the second half, Vela etched his name onto the scoresheet with a brilliant individual effort. The 26-year-old dribbled into the left side of the box, cut the ball inside on defender Yohance Marshall to create separation and then took a right-footed shot that glanced off the near post, before crossing the line.
From that point, Kenwyne Jones grabbed hold of the game for Trinidad with a display strength, skill and cleverness that won’t soon be forgotten.
In the 55th minute, he dribbled 40 yards into the Mexican penalty area and drew defenders Francisco Javier Rodriguez and Diego Reyes towards him. Sensing an imbalance, Jones poked the ball left towards a racing Keron Cummings, who swooped in to finish with his left foot from nine-yards out.
Jones equalized three minutes later, making a brilliant off-the-ball run towards the left post, which allowed him to slot coolly Cordell Cato’s right-sided feed past goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
The Caribbean runner-up kept up the pressure and took a 3-2 lead in the 67th minute with an incredibly well-worked play off a right-sided throw-in by Aubrey David, who connected with Jones in the box. As Jones was chesting the ball down, two Trinidadians made planned runs in different directions, seemingly causing confusion in the Mexican defense. As a result, Cummings was left unattended, allowing him to lash beyond Ochoa into the far-side netting with his left foot from 12 yards.
With Mexico trying to regroup, Jones hit right post after using his strength to position himself for a potentially game-ending attempt.
The six-time CONCACAF champion, though, buckled down and netted twice to regain the lead.
Andres Guardado equalized in the 87th minute, half-volleying a short clearance that took a slight deflection off the head of Meckeil Williams and eluded Phillip’s desperate stretch.
Mexico thought first place was theirs one minute into stoppage time, when Miguel Layun – positioned on the left -- collected a ball punched in his direction by Phillip. The former Club America star dribbled into the box and sent what appeared to be a half shot-half pass in front of the net, where it deflected off Jones and into the goal.
Prior to anyone having time to catch their collective breaths, Trinidad was back on level terms. Joevin Jones’ in-swinging, left-side corner kick connected with Marshall, who headed home for the game’s final goal, completing the remarkable scoreline at 4-4.
Cuba 1 v Guatemala 0
Mexico 4 v T&T 4
Aguilar 31 Cummings 54
Vela 50 K.Jones 57
Gurdado 88 Cummings 54
K.Jones 90 OG Marshall 94
Trinidad and Tobago: 1.Marvin Phillip; 2.Aubrey David, 18.Yohance Marshall, 4.Sheldon Bateau, 17.Mekeil Williams (Yellow 75); 8.Khaleem Hyland (15.Dwane James 76th), 13.Cordell Cato, 19.Kevan George, 20.Keron Cummings (Yellow 59) (10.Willis Plaza 89th), 3.Joevin Jones; 9.Kenwyne Jones (capt).
Unused substitutes: 22.Adrian Foncette (GK), 5.Daneil Cyrus, 6.Radanfah Abu Bakr, 7.Jonathan Glenn, 11.Ataullah Guerra, 12.Kadeem Corbin, 16.Rundell Winchester, 23.Lester Peltier.
Coach: Stephen Hart.
Mexico: 13.Guillermo Ochoa; 5.Diego Reyes, 2.Francisco Rodriguez, 3.Yasser Corona (21.Carlos Esquivel 77th), 22.Paul Aguilar, 6.Hector Herrera (Yellow 65), 8.Jonathan Dos Santos (9.Jesus Corona 67th), 18.Andres Guardado (capt), 7.Miguel Layun, 10.Giovani Dos Santos (19.Oribe Peralta 46th), 11.Carlos Vela.
Unused substitutes: 1.Moises Munoz Rodriguez GK), 12.Jonathan Orozco (GK), 4.Miguel Herrera, 14.Javier Orozco, 15.Oswaldo Alanis, 16.Antonio Rios, 17.Jorge Torres Nilo, 20.Jesus Duenas, 23.Jose Vasquez.
Coach: Miguel Herrera.
P W D L F A Pts
T&T 3 2 1 0 9 5 7
Mexico 3 1 2 0 10 4 5
Cuba 3 1 0 1 1 8 3
Guatemala 3 0 1 2 1 4 1
VIDEO: - Mexico vs Trinidad And Tobago Highlights
July 18, 2015, 17:00, USA v Cuba, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore.
July 18, 2015, 20:00, Haiti v Jamaica, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore.
July 19, 2015, 16:30, T&T v Panama, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford.
July 19, 2015, 19:30, Mexico v Costa Rica, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford.
Thriller in Charlotte...
T&T top Group-C ahead of Mexico.
By Shaun Fuentes (TTFA).
In a thrilling night match, Yohance Marshall scored in the final seconds of injury time as Trinidad and Tobago rallied from a pair of second-half deficits to earn a 4-4 draw with Mexico in one of the wildest matches in tournament history.
Trinidad and Tobago had to come from behind twice in a furious second half Wednesday. They trailed 2-0 early in the half but then scored three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 lead in the 67th minute.
The sequence started with Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Joevin Jones taking a corner kick.
Despite being pelted with water bottles thrown by Mexican fans, he got the kick off and it eventually ended up in the middle of the penalty area where Marshall was able to get his head on it.
"This was bitter sweet. But we had the fighting spirit to come back in the end," said Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones.
Marshall`s equalizer gave Trinidad and Tobago first place in Group C with seven points. They advance to play Panama on Sunday in New Jersey.
The four goals was the most Mexico had ever given up in a Gold Cup game and it was also the highest scoring tie in tournament history.
Mexico finished second and will face Group B runner-up Costa Rica on Sunday.
Within a span of only four days, soccer fans in America were entertained by four teams playing two incredible matches in two completely different competitions.
Both games ended in 4-4 draws – now, what were the odds of that? -- but the real winner was the game of soccer.
On Sunday, New York City FC and Toronto FC battled to a 4-4 deadlock in a masterful Major League Soccer duel that included four penalty kicks alone in the first half. Both sides played attacking soccer and entertained the Yankee Stadium faithful and whoever watched on TV.
Need I say anything more?
On Wednesday, Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago went at it for the Group C crown at the CONCACAF Gold Cup as though they were playing in the final. Both sides left it on the field and more importantly, in the net in a game for the ages.
There was so much to digest. The Mexicans, who entered the competition as one of the favorites, found themselves in second place behind the surprising Soca Warriors coming into the match. They needed a victory to take the group, Trinidad needed only a draw.
In front of a packed stadium and enthusiastic fans – mostly Mexican -- in Charlotte, N.C. – the teams put on a show and a half with plenty of lead changes and momentum shifts.
El Tri got off to a great start, grabbing a two-goal advantage.
Then T&T battled back with three unanswered goals to grab a 3-2 edge.
Then it was Mexico's turn for yet another comeback, striking twice, which included a stoppage-time own goal by Trinidad's Kenwyne Jones.
It looked like the end for the Soca Warriors, but Yohance Marshall tallied deep into injury time for a stunning 4-4 deadlock. T&T won the title.
At first I tweeted out it was the best group stage match I had ever seen in the Gold Cup. I would like to think I have a right to say that. I have been covering the competition since 1998.
In fact, after thinking about that statement for several minutes, I changed my mind. It was the greatest Gold Cup game ever.
That included some great performances and matches, including goalkeeper Kasey Keller standing on his head to deny Brazil in the 1998 semifinals, Panama's 2-1 upset of the USA in 2011, Guadeloupe's incredible march to the semifinals in 2007 and Cuba's stoppage-time win that boosted the Caribbean side into the 2013 quarterfinals, among other memorable matches.
BTW, in case you're interested, here is a list of 10 memorable Gold Cup matches in the previous 12 editions of the competition:
Hopefully, the 2015 knockout round will have some of the excitement that we witnessed on Wednesday night.
Of course, the Soca Warriors and El Tri might have spoiled us.
Just how do you top that incredible tussle? (MICHAEL LEWIS, BIGAPPLESOCCER.COM)
THRILLING 4-4 DRAW
Two goals in stoppage time led to a 4-4 draw between Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday night in their final group match at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Tied 3-3 through regulation, Mexico pulled ahead on an own goal by Kenwyne Jones in the first minute of extra play. With less than a minute left, Trinidad and Tobago's Yohance Marshall headed in a corner kick to tie the match.
"We had a plan for the corner kicks, but I picked up the flight of the ball late," said Marshall, who did not play in the first two Gold Cup games. "But I wound up in the right place. We got a good result.
"I've never gone through a final five minutes like that with the national team; with my club teams and school teams, yes. The emotions are high — they go up, they go down. You can be disappointed, but at the end, we were elated. We could have lost, but we could have easily won also."
Trinidad and Tobago (2-0-1, 7 points) took Group C's top seed into the quarterfinals, and will face Panama on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.
"It was a good game for spectators — not my heart," said Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart, whose team is making its best Gold Cup run since reaching the semifinals in 2000.
"We had an objective to get to the quarterfinals. We wanted to win the first game and get the result from Cuba (a 2-0 win on July 12), and not have to play Mexico to get to the quarterfinals."
Mexico (1-0-2, 5 points) will play Costa Rica in the second quarterfinal game Sunday.
"We didn't do what we were doing before, especially in the second half," Mexico coach Miguel Herrera said through an interpreter. "There were a lot of mistakes. We committed a lot of mistakes in the second half."
Mexico, which has won six Gold Cup titles, took a 1-0 halftime lead on Paul Aguilar's goal in the 32nd minute, and pulled ahead 2-0 on Carlos Vega's shot off the left post in the 51st minute.
"We didn't manage the game well . but we were doing it in the first half," Herrera said. "After the second goal, we stopped playing. We made careless mistakes."
Trinidad and Tobago's Keron Cummings and Kenwyne Jones scored in a 3-minute span to tie the match in the 58th minute. Cummings' second goal, in the 67th minute, put Trinidad and Tobago ahead 3-2.
"The players, we believe in one another," said Cummings, who was making his first start in the Gold Cup. "We knew we can come back. Once we dug deep, we came back."
Mexico made it 3-3 on Andres Guardado's 25-yarder in the 88th minute.
"The last goal, it was a ball in the corner," Herrera said. "If you just take the ball to the corner, the clock probably runs out. But it was a little bit of bad luck because the ball could have gone anywhere."
T&T: Soca Warriors earn slice of Gold Cup history
By Ashley Mahoney (thecharlottepost.com).
In order to play soccer, one must have the ball.
With a 4-4 draw with Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago won Group C of the CONCACAF Gold Cup to advance to the quarterfinals against Panama on July 19 at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey.
“It’s a good game for spectators, but not for my heart,” said Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart. “We gave away chances. As a matter of fact, all the goals except for one, [Andres] Guardado’s goal, we gave to Mexico. We lost concentration on the back post. We made little mistakes.
“We had an objective to get to the quarterfinal,” said Hart. “We wanted to win the first game—get a result from Cuba, and not have to play Mexico to get to the quarterfinal. That was what we talked about.”
Trinidad and Tobago leaves the group stage as the only team to score in every match in Group C. Having gone only as far as the semifinals in 2000, the Soca Warriors are riding a wave of momentum into the next round.
“We started off the tournament really well,” said defender Yohance Marshall, who scored the 94th-minute equalizer against Mexico. “We just continued. At the beginning of the game, both teams were just feeling each other out. I think we realized that we could play just as good as them and even better. We’re taking it one step at a time. We have the quarterfinal on Sunday, and we’ll go from there.”
After what looked like Mexico had won the group with an own goal from Trinidad and Tobago striker Kenwyne Jones in the 91st minute, the Soca Warriors defied expectations again to make history by winning in Gold Cup group play for the first time.
“The game was filled with up and downs,” said Jones. “They went 2-nil up, then coming back and going on top, they going back on top, us tying the game—I think it’s something that fans dream of. I don’t think there was a game like that in the Gold Cup so far. I’m pretty sure it’s going to attract quite a few more people to watch it.”
In order to create scoring opportunities, Mexico shifted to three players up top and eventually went up 2-0.
“Sometimes players respond differently, when you go up or when you go down,” said Hart. “In the first half I thought we were defending too deep. When we got the ball we were possessing it, but we weren’t pushing up quickly and getting support, but when we went on top, I was trying to get the team to play high up the pitch. It was very difficult to get them to play high up.
"When Mexico went to three on top, I felt we had to take away the pass and move game through the central area. So I pulled back one, but that’s all I asked of them. I was more concerned with us not using the width of the pitch enough. We were moving the ball too slow to off-balance Mexico in the wide areas.”
Since Hart’s arrival in 2013, the Soca Warriors style of play has gradually taken on a more tactics-oriented tone.
“I said to the players that you cannot play football without the ball,” said Hart. “You have to get the ball and look to penetrate and put Mexico under pressure, because we have good team speed, so play faster. And they did.”
Rather than risk their chances with overly aggressive challenges, the Soca Warriors play smarter by reading the game better.
“I think it’s something we try to work on,” explained Hart. “To defend smarter and not be reckless—especially against the teams like Mexico, they are evasive. They play very smart, very quick. They try to make you run, and it is something that we have been working on, on the field—nothing culturally—it’s just practice.”
While many doubted whether Trinidad and Tobago would even make it out of the group stage, they hope to continue to defy expectations in the knockout round.
“I think in football you have moments,” said Hart. “If your team is in a good moment and eight of your 11 are playing good football, then you can get a result. If your team is in a bad moment, mistakes happen and you lose.”