USA vs. TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
2018 World Cup Qualifier
Tuesday, Sept. 6 | 8 pm ET | EverBank Field, Jacksonvillle, Florida
TV: FS1, UniMás, UDN
Both sides are effectively assured of advancement to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Yet there's still plenty on the line when the US national team team welcome Trinidad & Tobago to Florida's “First Coast” on Tuesday night.
The visitors have already banked their spot in the Hexagonal, while it would take a miraculous combination of results for Guatemala to turn around the USA's 12-goal advantage in goal differential and pass them in the Group C standings. But the Yanks are determined to gain the victory that would earn them top spot in their semifinal qualifying group, an achievement they have attained in every cycle since the current format was adopted in the leadup to the 1998 World Cup.
It's not just pride at stake. Jurgen Klinsmann has repeatedly emphasized the importance of finishing in first for the seeding benefits: A win over T&T would set up a cool-weather meeting with rivals Mexico in the first game of the Hex in November.
The USMNT are 16-2-4 all-time vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 11-1-3 in World Cup qualifiers and an impressive 11-0-1 in home matches vs. the Caribbean side. The only qualifying loss took place during the 2010 cycle, after the US had already clinched a slot in the Hex.
These teams drew 0-0 in their first meeting of the current round, on November 17 in Port-of-Spain. The Trinidadian metropolis was also the site of the most dramatic match in this series, the fateful qualifier on November 19, 1989 where Paul Caligiuri's “Shot Heard 'Round the World” stunned the home fans and booked the USMNT's place in Italia 90 at the expense of the Soca Warriors.
Much of the pressure that the Yanks carried into the current international window has been eased by Friday's 6-0 thrashing of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a win that all but mathematically banked advancement.
Yet the home side sound intent to keep their engines revving on home soil. The USMNT are keen to extend their undefeated history in Jacksonville. Captain Michael Bradley returns to availability after his suspension for yellow-card accumulation. And with Matt Besler and DeAndre Yedlin returning home after Friday's result, at least two newcomers will step into the back line eager to show their credentials.
“Tuesday is very clear. We need, we want to win badly this game. We want to finish our group in first place and then head towards November, opening our Hexagonal campaign against Mexico right away,” said Klinsmann in a Facebook Q&A with fans on Sunday. “We want to take things in our own hands, we want to go full speed from the first minute on, aggressively, offensively, score and get the job done. So we're not sitting back there and going for a tie, that's for sure.”
TRINIDAD TOBAGO OUTLOOK
The Soca Warriors are undefeated in Group C play and can keep hold of first place with a draw on Tuesday. That said, their main goal at the outset was simply to reach the Hex – a stage they missed out on in the 2014 cycle – so this game has the feel of a bonus match for coach Stephen Hart & Co. To Klinsmann, that makes them more dangerous, not less.
“For Trinidad & Tobago, it's a nice game, they have nothing to lose, they want to show off,” he said on Sunday. “Some of the players are maybe looking for a contract – maybe even here in MLS – like some of them already have. So for them it's really showcasing themselves.”
T&T's large US-based contingent may be motivated for this one, including Seattle Sounders wide man Joevin Jones, Orlando City attacker Kevin Molino and San Jose's Cordell Cato. MLS fans will want to keep an eye on Kenwyne Jones, the strapping target man set to lead Atlanta United's attack when they make their 2017 expansion debut. (In the meantime, he's on loan at Central FC in his homeland.)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Michael Bradley, M (USA): The captain and heart of the USMNT midfield will be champing at the bit to make an impact after missing out on Friday's clash. His coach has extolled his influence on the squad at moments like these.
"His experience and his drive is really important. The job is still not done. So we need Michael here on Tuesday night in Jacksonville to make sure that everybody's on board, everybody is tuned in and 100 percent focused to go with the right aggressiveness and determination into this game against Trinidad & Tobago," said Klinsmann.
Joevin Jones, D/M (Trinidad & Tobago): T&T flirted with disaster in their home qualifier vs. Guatemala on Friday, falling behind to the visitors before Jones struck for a clutch brace that kept the Soca Warriors on course even after they conceded a late equalizer to the 10-man Chapines. Quick, hard-working and shifty on the ball, Jones could cause real problems along the USMNT's right flank on Tuesday.
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GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough), Ethan Horvath (Molde FC), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Caleb Stanko (FC Vaduz), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
GOALKEEPERS (3): Adrian Foncette (Police FC, Trinidad & Tobago), Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United, Trinidad & Tobago), Greg Ranjitsingh (Louisville City)
DEFENDERS (7): Radanfah Abu Bakr (Sillamae Kalev, EST), Daneil Cyrus (W Connection, Trinidad & Tobago), Aubrey David (FC Dallas), Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders FC), Yohance Marshall (Murcielagos, Mexico), Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E-Land, Korea Republic), Mekeil Williams (Colorado Rapids)
MIDFIELDERS (9): John Bostock (Lens, France), Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge, England), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes), Kevan George (Jacksonville Armada FC), Neveal Hackshaw (Charleston Battery), Hughtun Hector (W Connection, Trinidad & Tobago), Khaleem Hyland (Westerlo, Belgium), Kevin Molino (Orlando City SC), Jomal Williams (Murcielagos, Mexico)
FORWARDS (4): Trevin Caesar (Orange County Blues), Levi Garcia (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Kenwyne Jones (Central FC, Trinidad & Tobago - on loan from Atlanta United), Shahdon Winchester (Murcielagos, Mexico)