SOCA Warriors head coach Angus Eve defended his decision to make six changes to TT’s starting line-up against USA in Sunday’s final Concacaf Gold Cup Group A match, which saw the Americans clobber the Caribbean team 6-0.
USA’s resounding victory launched them into the Gold Cup quarter-finals, while TT’s loss eliminated all hopes of advancing.
This time, Eve started skipper and striker Kevin Molino, goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, midfielder Joevin Jones and defenders Luke Singh, Triston Hodge and Leland Archer – a huge change from last Wednesday’s match against Jamaica, which they also lost 4-1.
Young forward Real Gill and defender Kadeem Corbin also got substituted on in the second half, but also did not feature at the Jamaica match.
Eve said he chose such a crucial time to integrate these players into the starting line-up, for exposure.
“We brought 23 players (here) who start for their clubs. This is a process we’re going through: a rebuilding stage. If we don’t play the players…long time ago, when I was playing, we had Caribbean Cups and stuff like that, where we could expose players in competitions at a good level, and then bring them into Concacaf.
“Every single time there’s a window (FIFA), there’s a competition, so there’s no real room for us to give the players exposure. So I felt the guys should play and everybody should have an opportunity to show themselves in a competition format going forward.”
Eve said he did not start the match with his particular style of play, and wanted to try a different approach against the in-form US team. Despite few glimmers of hope in front of the US goal, his tactics in each half proved futile.
“We put on the more ‘ball-handlers.’ I went against my philosophies in how I like to play a bit by allowing the more skillful and ball-handler players to play in the first half and try to control the game by possession and play on the counter – and a couple of times we got it,” he added.
Asked if there was any real solution to helping TT players get more exposure on bigger stages, he said domestic clubs have a part to play.
Eve also reiterated that TT does not have the privilege that other nations do to source and sign players with grandparental heritage to play. Legally, TT can only register foreign-based players with direct parental relations.
“We need to have our players exposed at the highest level and consistently playing football. A national team coach’s job can’t get the players fit when they come here. They have to come from by the clubs with that fitness, and you put them into a formation that you would get them to play. A lot of the times you would see we’re lacking fitness.
“You have to remember, our league wasn’t played for about three years. It’s the first time we’ve had a league in a while. So all of those things put together.”
Eve added that Jamaica has “bridged the gap” since they can “bring in a lot of players who have grandparents and parents playing in the English league,” which allows them to “cut short that part of development by bringing in these types of players which we don’t have the laws back in our country to do it.”
Although disappointed, Eve was undeterred.
“We are progressing, small baby steps.”
Additionally, Molino said the loss was “difficult,” but wants the group of players to stick together and keep moving forward.
“I hold my hand up high and I should give more. The most important thing is, we have another opportunity as a footballer to go again. It’s a work in progress and we need to keep going.
“This group has been together for a little while, and we just need to keep focused, look in the mirror, go back to the drawing board and look forward to whatever games are coming up. But when we go to our clubs, we have to put in the work that is necessary to compete at this level.”
Molino said the team’s exit was a hard one to take, but called on his teammates to continue fighting.
“We gave everything necessary to play this game on our behalf, but sometimes it’s concentration and a little more quality. I think lack of...playing together for a quite a long time – but we need to keep going and fighting to get back to where we were at Concacaf and in the Caribbean. We just need to keep going.
“We don’t need to be pointing fingers at anybody. We need to get up, pick up everybody and look forward to the games. This is a job we chose to have. People are going to criticise, but we need to keep firm and focus on the tasks at hand. This group needs to stay closer.”