LONG AFTER Panama’s Jaime Penedo saved Lester Peltier’s spot kick to win the shootout following Sunday’s 1-1 draw, the Trinidad and Tobago players and technical staff were still struggling to get over the disappointment of elimination from the Gold Cup at the quarter-final stage. While expressing regret, many of the key TT figures at the Met Life stadium in New Jersey also chose to look ahead.
Defender Daneil Cyrus apologised to his teammates and the country for missing a kick that would have taken them into the semi-finals. During the “sudden death” stage of the shootout, Marvin Phillip made a vital save to put TT in the driver’s seat, but Cyrus blasted the next kick over bar, thus bringing Panama back into it.
“I am sorry. I want to apologise to the nation and my team for that miss,” the tall Vietnam-based defender said. “I hope we made the country proud and that they can now support us when the next campaign starts for us. This whole experience was a really good one for us.
It brought us closer as a team and it made us believe more in our ability. It took a lot out of us but we have a lot to take from it. The entire team gave a lot of effort and was dedicated throughout. We would have liked to go all the way but we still can hold ourselves up and move on from here,” Cyrus ended.
Even in defeat, the Soca Warriors earned rave reviews in the international media, and news from the CONCACAF suggested there was a “strong likelihood” TT could move on to the 2016 Copa America Centenario — the South American championship which includes six CONCACAF teams.
Meanwhile, TT skipper Kenwyne Jones, though disappointed, said there was every reason for optimism. “It’s an ironic feeling really, because we lost on penalties in the Caribbean Cup,” said the Cardiff City striker. “And tonight I thought we had this one, but it wasn’t to be. But I think we have a lot to take from this as a team going forward.
“I want to thank the staff and the players for every bit of effort during this tournament. We got closer with every day, every session and every match that passed and this augurs very well for us going into the World Cup qualification.
“My hope and the hope of everyone in the team is that we can get the right preparations for the future. All along, we have been told that we needed to perform, and hopefully we would have done something now to warrant the kind of support that we deserve. If not, then we would be going back to square one and that is what makes the difference with the other countries moving ahead of us,” Jones concluded.
National coach Stephen Hart commended his players for the effort, saying he felt fatigue was a factor in their performance Sunday.
“I think at the end of the day the two days extra rest for Panama showed,” he reflected. “We were completely exhausted. But I have to give credit to my players. They gave me everything. I extracted every drop of juice out of that orange. But penalties are a cruel way to decide a game, but it’s how the game ends.
“I think fatigue was a big factor. We could not get up and down the field as a unit like we did against Mexico, and as the game went further and further forward, we just couldn’t keep possession of the ball. We ran out of legs,” Hart added, saying it was a different proposition kicking penalties in front of thousands, as compared to doing so in the quiet of practice. “Yesterday (Saturday) nobody missed (in practice) and today we had three chances to take it, and we missed.
“A lot of what we have to work on comes with experience and playing matches. A tournament like this would have done a lot for our young players, and hopefully with the right preparation, we can continue to grow and improve as a team,” Hart concluded.
Fourteen members of the squad were scheduled to arrive at Piarco International Airport at 9.00 pm yesterday.