ST. PAUL, Minn. – As if there weren’t already enough potential emotion surrounding the US men’s national team’s first chance to play Trinidad and Tobago since T&T knocked them out of 2018 World Cup qualifying, there’s also the reality that the Soca Warriors will be in do-or-die mode.
With 16 teams in the Concacaf Gold Cup for the first time, only the top two group finishers advance. And after a disappointing 2-0 opening loss to Panama on Tuesday, that means Trinidad must perform in Saturday’s Group D encounter against the US in Cleveland (8 pm ET | FS1, Univision, UDN in US, TSN5 in Canada).
“We just need to get a good result, just make sure we don’t lose the game against the US,” said Minnesota United midfielder Kevin Molino after going all 90 minutes for T&T in his home ground. “But I think we have what it takes in the locker room to win the game.”
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The teams’ last meeting sent shockwaves around the soccer world in October of 2017, when Alvin Jones’ stunning strike ultimately gave T&T a 2-1 victory and kept the US out of the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986.
That history should give the Soca Warriors confidence another upset is possible, but Molino also believes his team needs to leave it in the past.
He doesn’t expect the USMNT to do the same.
“They will come motivated, and come with extra drive to want to win the game because of what happened in the World Cup qualification,” Molino said. “We want to repeat that. We want to win again and qualify for the next round. Most important is that it’s not about the last result [in qualifying]. It’s about us trying to move forward in the tournament.”
Trinidad missed their own chance at revenge at Allianz Field Tuesday, falling to the same Panamanian side that eliminated them on penalties in their last Gold Cup match, the 2015 quarterfinals.
That meant a bittersweet homecoming for Molino, who got a noticeable ovation during player introductions from those who arrived in time for the opener of the twin bill. He must’ve also noticed the roar from the crowd when it reacted to Mason Toye’s winner in MNUFC’s 3-2, come-from-behind U.S. Open Cup triumph at the Houston Dynamo, a match screened during T&T-Panama.
His side couldn’t engineer a similar comeback against a Canaleros squad whose continuous pressure was eventually rewarded with costly T&T mistakes.
“All of us were sloppy, and we have to rebound and go back to the drawing board, and work hard and keep fighting,” Molino said. “I was happy to be here playing, the fan support was great. But overall, collectively, the most important thing is ... we didn’t get the three points.”