PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO – Sunday saw a quiet afternoon in the Caribbean country's largest city, with few signs pointing toward Tuesday evening's vital 2018 World Cup qualifier (6:30 pm ET; beIN Sports) between the home side and the United States men's national team.
On the streets, there wasn't a single Soca Warriors jersey in sight. Earlier in the day, a high school high jump squad practiced on the infield of the track around the soccer field at Hasely Crawford Stadium, the site of Tuesday's game. (If the team's hops were any indication of their fellow countryman's leaping ability, the Americans had better beware on set pieces.)
But the game is coming, and the Americans know it will be a stiffer test than the one they faced against St. Vincent & the Grenadines on Friday.
"There's going to be a lot more pressure on the back four," said Geoff Cameron, who will likely reprise his starting center back role next to Matt Besler, during an interview at the team hotel. "That means that, mentally, you have to make sure you're organized. Make sure that you're talking. The more you're talking, the more you're organizing, the easier it is for the team to defend and basically get the time on the ball. If we don't do that, it's going to be a hectic night."
Cameron knows the craziness of away World Cup qualifiers in CONCACAF, having played in losses at Jamaica, Honduras and Costa Rica during the 2014 cycle, but many of his less experienced teammates are getting their first look at a wild world where anything can happen. While the veterans are happy to answer questions that their younger compatriots have, some aren't going out of their way to give advice, which is an intentional decision.
"I think sometimes it's more about not telling them too much," said goalkeeper Tim Howard, who watched from the bench on Friday but stands to make his 30th qualifying start Tuesday night. "I think when you're young, you're impressionable and you think you can beat the world. That's good. That's a really healthy attitude to have.
"When you're older, you know the games and you know what it's like. Sometimes, that can be a hindrance."
The goalkeeper repeated the oft-uttered thought that the way to qualify in CONCACAF is to win at home and try to steal a few points on the road. But with the Americans struggling of late, did he feel like they needed a victory against T&T, the type of result that would make a statement? Would sticking to that tried and true plan be enough?
"It's been good enough in the last three qualifying campaigns to almost always have us finish first," Howard said.
The match against Trinidad & Tobago is a hard test, but it could present an opportunity or two for newcomers like Darlington Nagbe and Matt Miazga, both of whom earned their first caps last week. Klinsmann was impressed with their performance.
"When you talk about players like Matt Miazga, who we’ve followed for quite a while, or even Darlington Nagbe, who is a little bit older but is obviously fresh with our group, you hope for them that they find their foot in the game, they find their rhythm, they feel comfortable and become part of that group," he said. "I think that’s what we saw."
Klinsmann expects more from the duo going forward as World Cup qualifying progresses. Everyone in camp seems happy to be here now, hoping to move on from a disastrous summer and start with the slate not exactly clean, but certainly refreshed.
"The last couple months were their own animal," Howard said. "That was then. This is now. This is qualification. We look at this going forward."
Later, he continued: "It's not really about the Gold Cup or the playoff or playing Brazil. That's all water under the bridge. We want to win this group. We're confident that we can and that we will."
On Tuesday, the US get a chance to take a significant step toward achieving that goal.