It’s thanks to soccer that Kevan George and his teammates can view having trash thrown at them as a sincere compliment.
When the final whistle blew for Wednesday night’s Gold Cup game between Mexico and George’s Trinidad & Tobago team, fans of Mexico’s team threw garbage onto the field as their opponents lined up the final corner kick of the night. Trinidad & Tobago scored on the corner, securing a 4-4 tie and the top spot in the group stage.
Two days later, George was still in awe of a game that saw Mexico jump ahead 2-0, Trinidad & Tobago rally for a 3-2 lead and Mexico score two consecutive goals before the final theatrics in Charlotte.
“It was one of the happiest moments of my life, to be honest, just to see the shared joy my teammates faces, the coaching staff, because we’ve been faced with many, many challenges not soccer-related,” he said on a teleconference. “To go out there and beat the odds and get a result against Mexico and top the group, it was a culmination of everything. It meant a lot to us to go this far. For me personally, it was one of the happiest moments of my life so far.
“It felt like a blur, to be honest. When you’re in the midst of battle you don’t really observe everything that’s going on around it, but it was a great experience, a really cool thing to be a part of. The fans were going absolutely crazy. We couldn’t even hear ourselves on the field, and for me that’s what it’s all about.”
That was in spite of having trash thrown at him and his teammates.
“I think we all took that as a compliment because that means we were doing something to obstruct the Mexicans’ game plan all day,” he said. “If they were beating us by three goals, I highly doubt the fans would be troubled to throw things at us. We saw it as passionate fans trying to rile their team, even though it’s not the right thing to do. The most important thing is we got out of there with a point and atop the group.”
Trinidad & Tobago advanced to the knockout stage thanks to a 3-1 win against Guatemala and a 2-0 win against Cuba prior to the tie with Mexico. George has played every minute of every game along the way.
He now has 13 appearances for the national team.
“He’s done a good job,” Crew SC coach Gregg Berhalter said. “He’s been solid there in the middle of the field. It’s great to see Trinidad win the group. They were excited and we wish them nothing but the best for the next round.”
George declined to expand on the challenges his team has faced, saying that he would prefer to keep that within the locker room.
Although they didn’t get to meet up, George had a Crew teammate in the stands for the Mexico game. Goalkeeper Matt Lampson, currently on loan to the USL team in Charlotte, was given tickets by George and tweeted out a photo from the stands before the game.
“My Crew teammates, I’ve texted with a few, not a lot of them, just catching up with what’s going on at training in Columbus, talking about the games we’ve played so far,” George said. “With the coaching staff, Gregg has texted me every game showing support for our team. He’s happy that we’ve been getting some results and progressing to the next round.”
After being selected in the second round of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, George has made 27 appearances including 11 starts for the Crew during his four seasons. He is hoping to assume a larger role with Trinidad & Tobago post-Gold Cup and help the team through World Cup qualifying.
“It’s very important because it gives me confidence to go out there and play, to get to know my teammates better because it’s different coming off the bench playing 10-15 minutes,” he said. “You don’t develop chemistry that way. To play this many minutes the last few games is crucial. Toing into World Cup qualifiers, I think it’s going to help us a lot. It goes to show that with limited resources we’re able to have some decent performances and get some results. This will give us some momentum.”
Up next is Sunday’s game against Panama. The winner will face the winner of a quarterfinal between Costa Rica and, interestingly, Mexico.
“Obviously we’re just going to take it one game at a time,” George said. “Our ultimate goal is to make it to the finals, but our first milestone was to make it to the semis and we’re almost there. We face a good Panamanian time. We’re not trying to think too far ahead. That might obstruct us or make us lose our focus. Our main goal is to get to the final, but we’re only halfway.”