Mekeil Williams challenges Christian Pulisic - T&T vs. USMNT
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Despite loss, Trinidad & Tobago's MLSers take positives from US match

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Thursday night’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier between the United States and Trinidad and Tobago was a showcase of MLS talent, with 11 MLS players logging minutes in the match between both sides.

The result was a 2-0 win in favor of the USA, but the Soca Warriors, featuring MLS players Kenwyne Jones, Joevin Jones, Kevin Molino and Mekeil Williams, put in a strong shift against the Americans.

“I think Trinidad was well prepared for the match, had a good tactical plan, and played well,” US coach Bruce Arena said after the match.

With Colorado Rapids defender Williams (pictured above, right) slotting in at central defense, the Soca Warriors weathered an onslaught of 10 shots (five on target) from the Yanks to keep things scoreless at the half.

“I think the team played well,” Williams said postgame. “We were unfortunate not to take some of our chances. The US came out in the second half and they took their chances, unfortunately we didn’t”

Arena acknowledged a bit of frustration from the Americans at halftime having failed to convert chances, but he gave credit to what the opponents were able to achieve offensively in the first half.

“We were rather surprised how advanced five players were when they got the ball,” Arena said. “They put our back line under pressure.”

Kenwyne Jones nearly put the visitors ahead in the 33rd minute. The Atlanta United forward went toe-to-toe with Tim Howard and beat him to a cross, but saw his point-blank header bounce off the crossbar. It wasn’t all positive, of course. Reflecting on what was overall a mixed bag performance from the striker, Jones’ loss of possession helped lead to the US’ second goal.

“Obviously, he can to a bit better at times, but in general he brings poise and commitment,” said Trinidad and Tobago manager Dennis Lawrence. “It was our own individual errors that cost us the game, Kenwyne included.”

Molino was extremely active in ball distribution for Trinidad in the No. 10 shirt, with the Minnesota United midfielder at times setting things up from the right side of the field.

“I asked Kevin to play in a wider position and he did the best that he could distributing the ball,” Lawrence explained. “From that point of view, I was happy.”

On the left side, Seattle Sounders wing back Joevin Jones was also an active passer, but was subbed off early in the 68th minute due to fitness issues.

“Joevin arrived very late to camp,” Lawrence explained. “He didn’t have enough time to get adjusted to the altitude. So I think from that point of view, it would have been unfair for him to play 90 minutes.”

It was all fair play at the end of the match however, with Colorado teammates Williams and Howard exchanging shirts in their club’s home stadium. With the US taking home the win, Williams will now have to pay up on a pre-match bet made with Howard, and move his locker closer to the toilets in the Rapids locker room.

“It will go into effect when he gets back,” Howard said of the bet. “But it’s a great sign of respect to battle with somebody and then exchange shirts. It’s such an incredible gesture throughout sports and he’s a guy who I love as a teammate and as a brother.”

Moving forward, the USMNT will hope for more good vibes from Trinidad and Tobago, who, despite currently sitting at the bottom of the CONCACAF Hexagonal table, could help the third-place Yanks with a result at second-place Costa Rica on Tuesday.

“I’m hoping now that they can knock off some other guys in the competition,” said Arena.