By Kevin Minkus (@kevinminkus)
I have pretty fond memories of watching Trinidad and Tobago's 2006 World Cup team. I remember their two spirited showings against England and Paraguay, but mostly I remember Shaka Hislop and the Soca Warriors CONCACAFing Henrik Larsson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Freddy Ljunberg, and Sweden while down a man.
It's definitely unfair to expect it, but this iteration of the T&T national team is not a breathtaking one. This iteration enters the Gold Cup having suffered losses to Jordan, Curacao, and Panama in the last three months. They currently sit 67th in the FIFA World Rankings, and 88th in the World Football Elo Ratings, their worst Elo rank since 2013. In order to have a successful tournament, they will need to recapture the form that saw them advance to the final of the 2014 Caribbean Cup (played last November), where they lost to Jamaica on penalty kicks.
|Country||Avg Age||Avg Caps||ELOrank||FIFArank|
What Group are they in?
They are in group C, along with Guatemala, Cuba, and Mexico. The group winner will play the 3rd place team of either group A or B. The runner-up will play Group B runner up (probably Canada or Jamaica), and if the 3rd place team qualifies for the knockout round, they will play the group A winner (probably the USA).
Who is their Head Coach?
Stephen Hart was capped by T&T seven times as a player, and has twice been the interim coach for the Canadian national team. He was finally named the permanent head coach in December 2009, but resigned two days later after Canada was eliminated from World Cup qualification by losing 8-1 to Honduras. He has managed T&T since June 2013 to a record of nine wins, four losses, and six ties.
|Marvin Phillip||GK||Point Fortin Civic||T+T||30||47|
|Radanfah Abu Bakr||D||Køge||Norway||28||19|
|Daneil Cyrus||D||Hà Nội T&T||Vietnam||24||41|
|Yohance Marshall||D||Juventud Independiente||El Salvador||29||9|
|Mekeil Williams||D||W Connection||T+T||24||3|
|Andre Boucaud||M||Dagenham & Redbridge||England||30||24|
|Cordell Cato||M||San Jose Earthquakes||USA||22||7|
|Keron Cummings||M||North East Stars||T+T||27||5|
|Kevan George||M||Columbus Crew||USA||25||11|
|Khaleem Hyland||M||Racing Genk||Belgium||26||47|
|Dwane James||M||North East Stars||T+T||23||2|
|Joevin Jones||M||Chicago Fire||USA||23||40|
|Lester Peltier||M||Slovan Bratislava||Slovakia||26||30|
|Kadeem Corbin||F||St. Ann's Rangers||T+T||19||1|
|Rundell Winchester||F||Portland Timbers 2||USA||21||4|
Who are the important players that I should know?
Jan-Michael Williams (GK) - Head coach Stephen Hart appears to favor Williams in goal, though his recent rough performances against Curacao and Jordan could change that. He's made 49 appearances for the senior team since 2003. Williams currently plays for Central FC, the top team of the TT Pro League, where last season he allowed only 19 goals in 24 games.
Daneil Cyrus (DEF) - Former Sporting Kansas City player Cyrus now plays for Hanoi T&T FC in the V.League 1 of Vietnam. As a center back he will be expected to anchor the defense, but he's not particularly mobile. He does have a strong aerial presence, so look for him to get forward on set pieces, especially against a shorter team like Guatemala.
Joevin Jones (MID) - Hart generally likes to slot Chicago Fire defender Jones at left back, so it's interesting to see him listed as a midfielder on the official roster. As a defender he typically likes to get forward in the attack, so it's not completely surprising, but it is strange to see him change course with only a closed doors friendly against Haiti to test things out.
Khaleem Hyland (MID) - The most capped player in the group, Hyland will be expected to bring some stability to the center of the field. Hyland is excellent at breaking up attacks, but is also quite good in distribution, and frequently starts the team's counters after winning the ball. He plays for Belgian club Genk, and has three goals in 48 appearances for the national team.
|12-Jul||6:30PM||Phoenix||U. of Phoenix Stadium||TNT||CUB|
|15-Jul||8:30PM||Charlotte||Bank of America Stadium||MEX||TNT|
The biggest story among Trinidad and Tobago's forwards may be who is absent from the list. Orlando City SC forward and Soca Warrior Kevin Molino tore his ACL in May, ruling him out for the Gold Cup. Molino shared the Golden Boot at the 2014 Caribbean Cup with three goals, and has been one of T&T's most consistent threats since he joined the senior team in 2010.
Without Molino, the team will rely on captain Kenwyne Jones to shoulder a great part of the offensive load. Jones, a Cardiff City striker who spent time at Southampton, Sunderland, and Stoke, has 18 goals in 68 appearances for Trinidad and Tobago, though his last international goal against non-Caribbean competition came almost two years ago against Saudi Arabia. He is an imposing presence, and plays as a traditional target forward, but without his combination play with Molino the team will be lacking inventiveness in the final third.
What have they done in the past?
2013: Lost to Mexico 1-0 in the quarterfinals 2011: Did not qualify
2009: Did not qualify
2007: Did not make it out of group play (1 point, tied Guatemala 1-1)
What do we expect from them this go around?
T&T have the advantage of avoiding Mexico until the final group play game, meaning that they get to avoid falling behind the rest of the group early. Thus, while the Soca Warriors recent poor form and the absence of Molino don't bode well for the team, they should be able to find the results they need against Guatemala and Cuba. In the best case scenario, they do that and scrape together a second place finish in Group C, and then play the Group B runner-up – likely either El Salvador, Jamaica, or Canada (your guess is as good as mine) - in the quarterfinals. Each of those teams is probably half a step ahead of Trinidad and Tobago right now, but if they do manage a win, they'll be into the semifinals for the first time since
2000, making the tournament a definite success. More likely, though, their inexperience and their inability to consistently score means they bow out in the quarterfinals.