CARSON, California - Honduras completed the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinal field, beating Trinidad & Tobago 2-0 Tuesday night to likely earn a knockout round match with Central American rival El Salvador.
Eddie Hernandez scored his second goal of the tournament in the 37th minute and assisted on Antony Lozano's in the 70th to earn "Los Catrachos" a third trip to the semifinals in four tries. Honduras climbed to six points in Group B, same as Mexico (but trailing on goal difference) which played Panama later Tuesday.
Barring a nine-goal victory by Panama, Mexico would finish in first in the group and face Group A runner-up Canada on Saturday in Kansas City, Kansas. Only the knockout-round winners will qualify for the London Olympics.
Defending champion Honduras has won the CONCACAF U-23 title twice before, both times when the tournament was staged in the United States.
Trinidad finished with a second loss and one point, outscored 10-1 in three games.
Honduras hit the bar with Johnny Leveron's shot from the top of the area in the 17th minute and had virtual control of the match until the second half.
The Catrachos went ahead when Wilmer Crisanto curled a cross into the area and Lozano was able to get an extended right foot to it. The ball popped high in the middle of the area and Hernandez was quicker to get his head to it before Trinidad keeper Andre Marchan could react, knocking it lazily into the goal.
Marchan, playing in his third game despite suffering a concussion in the opener on Friday against Mexico, was active throughout fielding chances by Andy Najar, Mario Martinez and Lozano before having to punch Ever Alvarado's shot high over the bar in the 51st.
But Trinidad enjoyed a spell of possession and half chances midway through the second half, with Kevin Molino sending a cross through the goal box in the 61st, shooting over the bar from just outside the area in the 63rd and pulling a left-footed effort wide of the near post in the 65th.
"We give away soft goals every game," Trinidad coach Angus Eve said. "But in saying that, if we take our chances, we ease off the pressure on our defenders. We keep not taking the chances that we create. We created a lot of chances.
We brought on two faster strikers (Shahdon Winchester and Trevin Caesar); we started them and it worked to perfection. They were in the back all the time. They were twisting and turning. We just didn't put the ball in the back of the net."
The Soca Warriors' resistance all but ended when Lozano double the lead.
Najar curled a cross from the right that Hernandez headed down from the middle of the area. Lozano settled the ball off his thighs and finished from the edge of the six-yard box.
"We had plenty chances at goal and we took advantage of some," Honduras coach Luis Fernandez Suarez said. "(Trinidad) came out wanting to shoot from outside. We knew we had to show more security coming out of the back and be a bit more calm."
Honduras continued to push to the end, forcing Marchan to push Hernandez's header over the bar in the 90th and Afredo Mejia putting a right-footed shot from the top of the area off the left post in the 91st.
"This was an important game for us against Trinidad because of what it meant, a berth to the next round," Mejia said. "We are getting used to playing in games like this.
"We hope we can continue to play well against El Salvador. That's going to be an up and down game."
Honduras and El Salvador finished atop their respective Central American qualifying groups and will meet for the fourth time at the U-23 level in a competitive match. Honduras has won two of the three previous meetings and drew the other.
Highlights: - Honduras v Trinidad & Tobago
Honduras: - José Mendoza, Wilmer Crisanto (Gerson Rodas 84th), Johnny Leverón, Ever Alvarado, Hilder Colón, Mario Martínez (Luis Garrido 79th), Alfredo Mejía, Arnold Peralta, Andy Najar, Eddie Hernandez, Antony Lozano (Yellow 69) (Orlin Peralta 73rd).
Coach: - Luis Suárez.
Trinidad and Tobago: - Andre Marchan, Sheldon Bateau (capt), Curtis Gonzales (Jayson Joseph 64th), Mekeil Williams (Yellow 59) (Jomal Williams 76th), Daneil Cyrus, Joevin Jones, Kareem Moses, Kevin Molino, Kevan George (Yellow 24), Shahdon Winchester, Trevin Caesar (Yellow 46) (Jamal Gay 61st).
Coach: - Angus Eve.
Referee: - Jair Marrufo (USA).
Venue: - The Home Depot Center Carson, California.
P W T L GF GA GD Pts
Mexico 3 3 0 0 11 1 +10 9
Honduras 3 2 0 1 5 4 +1 6
Panama 3 0 1 2 2 5 -3 1
Trinidad & Tobago 3 0 1 2 2 10 -8 1
T&T exits Olympic qualifiers with 2-0 loss to Honduras.
By Shaun Fuentes (TTFF).
Trinidad and Tobago’s 2012 Olympic qualifying campaign came to a halt on Tuesday night as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Honduras in their final Group B encounter at the Home Depot Center, California.
Requiring a win to advance to the semi-finals, the Angus Eve-coached team fell short on the evening and finished the tournament with one point following their 1-1 draw with Panama on Sunday. Mexico defeated Panama 1-0 in the later match to top the group with T&T finishing bottom on one point behind Panama on goal difference.
T&T started with two attacking forwards in Trevin Caesar and Shahdon Winchester for the first time in the tournament as they went in search of early goals and the latter had two glorious opportunities to put T&T on the scoresheet in the first half.
Eve could chose not to utilize the services of Seattle Sounders striker Cordell Cato who sustained an ankle blow in training before the Panama match.
Honduras, the tournament’s defending champions didn’t dominate T&T for the most part of the match but took their chances well with goals from Eddie Hernandez in the 37th minute and Antony Lozano in the 70th minute to seal their semi-final spot versus El Salvador which knocked the United States out the previous evening with a 3-3 draw.
The Hondurans, coached by Luis Fernando Suarez, hit the bar with Johnny Leveron's shot from the top of the area in the 17th minute and goalkeeper Andre Marchan pulled off a few good saves to deny them until he struggled to reach a cross from Wilmer Cristano which Lozano got a touch on before Hernandez nailed home from close range. Marchan had earlier made a brilliant stop to deny Antony Lozano
Daneil Cyrus and Kareem Moses were steady at the back with good support from Curtis Gonzales while Polish-based defender Mekeil Williams was a bit off his usual self.
The Honduras goal was an obvious setback for T&T which got good combination plays from Kevin Molino and Joevin Jones on a few occasions as they enjoyed a fair amount of possession particularly after the break.
Caesar had a couple good looks at goal but he struggled with his footwork which meant his pace never really posed much of a threat in either of the three matches.
Moments after Honduras went 1-0 up, Winchester got a ball on the left of the box and cut into the area before preferring pace instead of placement on his right footed shot which went straight at goalkeeper Jose Mendoza.
Caesar’s best play of the tournament came in the 43rd minute when he used his quickness to beat his man on the right and moved into the box before whipping a good ball over but there was no T&T player to connect.
After breaking from a goalmouth scrimmage in their penalty box, T&T went close to equalizing when Molino crossed from the right but an unmarked Winchester could only direct his header from the top of the six yard straight to Mendoza and Eve held his head in dismay realizing how crucial a goal at that stage would have been.
T&T went all out in the second half and deserved credit for some enterprising play which saw the crowd behind them but they lacked the final touch and killer instinct on goal to trouble the Hondurans.
Molino had two efforts on goal, one a powerful over bar effort in the 63rd,while Bateau had a close range effort saved and 17-year-old substitute Jomal Williams had a shot stopped by Mendoza.
If T&T had started their matches like they played the final 20 minutes with the type of hustle and urgency in their play, they probably would stand a better chance of a more positive outcome. T&T went into the tournament with high expectations but simply did not deliver as hoped against opposition they are almost certain to face in future CONCACAF engagements.
Technical Director Anton Corneal was in California for all three games and he certainly would have made his observations prior to now setting about on the necessary adjustments and improvements for T&T’s game on the international stage beyond the Caribbean zone.
Eve later expressed his disappointment on not seeing T&T progress in the tournament.
“I think the determination of the guys and the never say die attitude was good at times. We did pass the ball well at times. I thought we played very good football at times after we settled down after the first couple of days.
The biggest problem for me was in the goalscoring in the tournament,” Eve said when asked by reporters on his perspective of T&T’s showing. He also knocked Honduras for trying to stall the game at times with their players going down and holding up the play.
“I thought the guys played an excellent game. We gave away soft goals but saying that, if we took our chances we would ease off the pressure a bit. We brought on two faster strikers today and it worked well but we didn’t take our chances.
Unfortunately we did not get the required result to move on and it’s back to the drawing board for us. Hopefully we can rise out of this and continue preparing the players to perform at a good level in international football.”
The T&T team will return to Port of Spain at 10:30pm on Wednesday night.