Trinidad and Tobago will be looking to open their Gold Cup account on a winning note when they play El Salvador at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey tonight from 7pm T&T time.
New coach Stephen Hart, speaking with the Express during the team’s first training session at Tidelands Athletic Complex in Jersey City on Saturday evening, was optimistic about the Soca Warriors’ chances of progressing out of the group which also comprises Haiti and Honduras.
“I think we can play with anybody in the group, it is just a matter of how we put our ideas together and how well the relationships work,” he said.
Ironically, at T&T’s last appearance at the Gold Cup some six years ago, their opening game was against El Salvador under captain Densill Theobald, which they lost 2-1.
Theobald will again be leading out the team, but Hart is certain they can erase that memory and come away with a victory. He was however, holding his tactics close to his chest.
“I am not going to really reveal our plans,but we have seen El Salvador and we’ll sit down as a team and watch some of the things they do,that they like to do and probably some of their weaknesses and discuss it as a team and put it into our final practice.”
That final practice took place late yesterday evening at the Red Bull Arena.
Hart knows that they will have their work cut out against the El Salvadorians, who have beaten them twice previously in Gold Cup outings, but takes heart (no pun intended) that the Soca Warriors have the upper hand when it comes to World Cup qualifiers.
During the training session, also observed by Trinidad and Tobago’s director of football Leo Beenhakker, the squad focused their attention mainly on attack, explained Hart.
“We came here with the intention of working on some of our movement in the final part of the pitch. The pitch was not the best for practice but we made the best of it and hopefully we can transfer those ideas on game day.”
For today’s game, Racing Genk midfielder Khaleem Hyland is expected to marshal the T&T midfield with Theobald while Seon Power, Carlyle Mitchell and Justin Hoyte are expected to shore up the defence with the duo of Joevin Jones and Daneil Cyrus also expected to be called upon.
The striking trio of Kenwyne Jones, Cornell Glen and Jamal Gay rotated that position during Saturday’s session and looked equally sharp.
Coached by Peruvian ex-player Augustin Castillo, El Salvador will have about 5,000 or more fans backing them. The El Salvador squad also contains five players born and raised in the United States, including Derby Carrillo, Steven Purdy, Gerson Mayen, Richard Menjivar and former US Under-17 player Dustin Corea.
The Soca Warriors however, will be expecting huge supporting from thousands of Trinidadians and Tobagonians living in New York.
T&T’s fellow first round opponents Honduras and Haiti will play in the second match of the doubleheader from 9pm.
Warriors, El Salvador clash in Gold Cup opener.
T&T Guardian Reports.
T&T will aim to defy the odds and make its first winning start to a Concacaf Gold Cup in 15 years when they face off with El Salvador in both teams’ opening encounter at the Red Bull Arena, New Jersey, from 7 o’clock tonight.
Not since 1998, when T&T defeated Honduras 3–1 through a Stern John brace and a lone goal by Jerren Nixon, have the Soca Warriors made a victorious start to the Gold Cup. In 1996, in its opening clash, despite a Russell Latapy double which levelled the scores at 2–2 in the second half, T&T lost out 3–2 to El Salvador. The same El Salvador defeated T&T 2–1 in the 2007 opener.
Skipper Densill Theobald and company are aiming to change the record this time around.
“Why can’t we believe we can start the Gold Cup with a victory?” Theobald asked.
“We’re not outright favourites because we’ve been facing an uphill task to get our football back in order but we’ve reached the Gold Cup. We’ve prepared well and we’re able to compete against teams like El Salvador. We want to be off to a flyer even though it’s not going to be easy,” Theobald said prior to the team’s official one-hour training session at the Red Bull Arena, on Sunday.
“We’ve got to believe, and I think right now we are doing that. The coaches Stephen Hart and of course Leo Beenhakker have been instilling into the back of our minds that we can compete and be just as good or better than these countries. Now we will try to go out there and show it,” said Theobald who will captain the team.
At the start of Saturday’s training at the Jersey City University Ground, head coach Stephen Hart stressed on concentration straight into match-time.
“We need complete concentration all the time guys. Let’s do it,” Hart said following the team prayer. Beenhakker seconds later added “Quality... Quality. Let’s show it.”
Hart has carried the sessions with assistants Hutson Charles and Derek King and Beenhakker has had his input at various intervals.
“It’s been a really good effort on the part of the staff so far. To communicate with the players and to get their ideas over. I think coach Hart and Beenhakker have worked well so far,” Ipswich Town midfielder, Carlos Edwards noted.
Beenhakker in particular had one on ones with the younger faces during the sessions.
“That’s good Kevin. You can talk with your eyes on the pitch. You don’t need to know English. You can talk with your eyes,” he could be heard telling Molino after the Orlando City midfielder had whipped in a cross moments earlier.
Racing Genk midfielder, Khaleem Hyland is expected to marshal the T&T midfield with Theobald while Seon Power, Carlyle Mitchell and Justin Hoyte will surely carry the responsibilities at the back with young duo Joevin Jones and Daneil Cyrus also expected to be called upon.
T&T striking trio Kenwyne Jones, Cornell Glen and Jamal Gay rotated that position during Saturday’s session and looked equally sharp.
“We’ve done well in the build-up to the game and these next few hours will be used to mentally prepare ourselves for the match.
Today we would have had a review of the opponent and the relevant information will be discussed about how we will approach the match. It’s all down to how well we start and settle into our rhythm. That will determine how we finish this opening match,” Hart stated.
Coached by Peruvian ex-player Augustin Castillo, El Salvador will have a strong 12th man with at least five thousand or more fans expected to be in support for the blub-clad team.
El Salvador has a heavy American accent to its squad with five players born and raised in the US including Derby Carrillo, Steven Purdy, Gerson Mayen, Richard Menjivar and former US Under-17 player Dustin Corea.
T&T will play in white, donning their new Joma kit while El Salvador will take the field in blue. The match referee is Marco Rodriguez of Mexico.
Competition rules allows T&T to have 12 players on the substitutes bench which means Hart will have access to his full 23-man squad.
The game will be aired live on Fox Soccer. T&T’s fellow first round opponents Honduras and Haiti will face off in the second match of the double header from 9 pm.