Due to their pre-game preparations, the Soca Warriors appeared to have been more than ready for what the USA could produce, in terms of high altitude, increased ball speed and troublesome respiratory issues for the players. T&T went down 2-0 in a very tough, but competitive match-up.
Both teams recognised that any increased velocity during the early stages of the game may incite physical discomfort. After the first five minutes, which was filled with slow methodical build-up by both teams within their portions of the field, the quality of the game during that period appeared to demonstrate their intention of caution before aggression. But as time passed the USA recognised that coach Dennis Lawrence decided upon a “wait and see pattern” by rotating passes laterally and causing the opponents to chase from side to side.
There was good chemistry in the process as the back three of Daneil Cyrus, Sheldon Bateau and Mekeil Williams, showing a pattern of play which could have allowed five midfield players to combine ball possession and extra defensive strength.
Tactically, our system seemed to have been lopsided with Nathan Lewis, Mekiel Williams and Joevin Jones being left sided players. This was well done in defense, but the attacking process did not materialise. I was hoping and praying that the coaching staff made the decision to use a solid defender to mark the young German American Christan Pulisic, whose goal scoring success over the past five matches should have invited the thought.
However, Khaleem Hyland seemed to have been the player to do the job, but his first tackle on the youngster brought a serious warning from the referee early in the first half, a factor which would have received the signal to the former Mucurapo dynamo to transfer the responsibility to his defensive midfield partner Kevan George.
The plan did not work as Pulisic has a tremendous work rate and his blindsided runs towards the T&T goal, attracted the attention to the entire defense, causing space and time for Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore to fire seven shots at Jan Michael Williams, whose brilliance showed up seven time in the first half alone, and if we understood the extra speed of the ball through the air space, you will appreciate the keeper’s brilliance even more.
It actually work as a challenge to keeper Tim Howard and as competent as he was in his career, he was forced into error when Hyland missed the target by centimetres, Edwards made him bungle a diving save, and misread Joevin Jones’ impeccable cross to Kenwyne Jones’ header. It was the gift of the night which may have turned the game the way of the visitors.
Unfortunately, two tactical errors brought victory for the USA. The both goals came from the right side for the USA with Nagbe making full use of the distorted defence line which Williams attempted to drift in central defence to offer some assistance. Pulisic’s blindsided run saw him rushing between two defenders and sliding the cross into the net. The second portion of his brace cam from the same position, but has tap in was much easier.
The statistics will show a two-nil victory, but the consolatory picture was a possible three goal opportunities for the Warriors and two of them before the Americans had scored. Possession percentage was almost equal, but an 8-5 advantage of goal chances gave the USA the victory they had worked for. Tough game, but home teams usually end up with a two-goal advantage if the teams are equal in strength.
Tuesday is another day and although Costa Rica was held to a draw by Panama the same night, our task is now more difficult, but not impossible. The game will be more exciting because both these teams will make use of skill and creativity rather than the robotic methods of the USA. Good luck Warriors.