Former Trinidad and Tobago forward Stern John, this country’s leading goalscorer in international football, said the current senior men’s team deserves credit for their resolute display against the US on Thursday in Austin, Texas.
Despite TT losing 3-0 to the hosts in their first Concacaf Nations League quarterfinal, the visitors staved off waves of attacks from the US for 80 minutes, until they broke the deadlock in the final moments of the game.
Additionally, TT played with ten men from the 37th minute as midfielder Noah Powder was sent off after receiving two yellow cards.
The second quarterfinal kicks off at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo on Monday at 8pm.
John, head coach of St Lucia, took charge in his team’s 0-0 draw with St Kitts/Nevis in Concacaf Nations League League B action on Thursday and then watched the TT match on television.
“The team deserves a lot of credit for the way they held themselves together for such a long period in the match. To go that distance with ten men for 50-plus minutes away to a US team decorated with quality players as they possess now is no easy thing to do. That takes a lot more than luck, ”John told TT Football Association media.
John made seven appearances against the US in his 150 matches at senior international level during which he scored 70 goals for TT.
He credited TT head coach Angus Eve for a brazen display against the defending Nations League champions.
“It’s not easy. If you open up against a team like the US, they will batter you. They been giving teams like Mexico and Canada problems and their rise and the quality they have on the park has to be respected. (The US) are always so organised. Now they have the organisation as well as quality in their team.
“No disrespect to our players. We are growing but when you compare the two squads and assess the caliber of clubs the US players are playing with and the level of the leagues, and then you watch our roster, you have to admit that it’s going to be a challenge.”
John played against the US during a 2010 World Cup qualifier. He wants TT to play high-intensity football on Monday in search of an unlikely, but possible comeback.
“Now we have to keep that same energy and belief when we play them at home. We cannot lose our discipline because they will punish you,” John said.
Additionally, former TT midfielder Densill Theobald, who had the assist on Angus Eve’s goal in the 2-1 defeat to the US in a World Cup qualifier at the Queen’s Park Oval in 2005, said he was far from upset on Thursday night.
Theobald said he slept comfortably after viewing the TT versus USA clash.
“Because I felt the boys gave such a gritty performance. They played with conviction. That’s what we want…to see them fight and show that 100 percent commitment on the pitch and we saw that from them. It was unfortunate to concede two goals on deflections but that’s the game sometimes.”
He added that, usually, after such a loss, players tend to be very disappointed and upset with the manner of the performance but this time it was different. There was nothing to feel ugly or shamed about.
“We almost completed a remarkable fight with a result but it was surely going to be hard to hold them off with ten men for that long. Denzil (Smith/goalkeeper) was excellent, Andre Raymond and Shannon Gomez were so solid and Andre Rampersad was a light for us in the middle with his composure and fight. Malcolm Shaw did a hell of a job for us as well. The effort was something we must commend,” Theobald said.
He also reminded fans that almost 90 per cent of TT’s players finished their season almost a month ago while America’s squad comprised of players still in season. These things cannot go unnoticed, he said.
“I would even go as far as to say that had we pulled off a draw, this would have ranked right up there with the World Cup draw against Sweden. And this is considering different factors now in terms of the nature of this match and the way the US team is set up as a top ten nation in world football. And we are still going through a difficult period in our football in general terms along with fact that we played with ten men,” Theobald added.
TT will train at 5pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Sunday while the US team, which arrives on Saturday evening, will train at midday.
There are three changes in the TT squad with midfielders Duane Muckette and Kevon Goddard coming in for the suspended Noah Powder and Neveal Hackshaw, who is also out on two yellow cards. Goalkeeper Jabari St Hillaire comes back into the squad in place of Rushon Sandy.
Early bird tickets for Monday’s match are sold out. Tickets now cost $150 (covered) and $80 (uncovered). Children under 12 are free.
Tickets are available at all Haagen-Dazs outlets, Fan Club Trincity Mall, Fan Zone (Movietowne Pos and Price Plaza), Online at Eboxtickets.com and at the Stadium on Monday.