Tue, Jul

Trinidad and Tobago captain Khaleem Hyland grimaces in pain during a 2021 Concacaf Preliminary Second Round match against French Guiana at DRV PNK Stadium, Ft. Lauderdale, FL on Tuesday, July 6th 2021.

Interim Soca Warriors coach Angus Eve is expected to wait until the final hour permitted before deciding on whether to name replacements for the trio of Khaleem Hyland, Triston Hodge and Judah Garcia.

This, as Eve and his squad prepares to face defending Concacaf Gold Cup champions Mexico in their Pool A of the 2021 Gold Cup on Saturday night from 10 pm, three hours after El Salvador and Curacao, the two other teams in the pool meet in the tournament opener.

The Soca Warriors booked their spot in the tournament’s group stage after a nervy 8-7 penalty shoot-out victory over French Guiana at the DRV PNK Stadium, Florida on Tuesday after a 1-1 draw at the end of the 90 minutes regulation time.

Goalkeeper Nicklas Frenderup was the hero for the Soca Warriors saving the penalty attempt of Kevin Rimane spot-kick before Defence Force veteran and former T&T Under-17 and U-20 World Cup player Curtis Gonzales slotted home the winning penalty for his team.

But the win for the 49-year-old Eve, who has been at the helm of the team for only three weeks after the sacking of Englishman Terry Fenwick following the team’s failed World Cup qualifying campaign, may have come at a cost as the trio of captain Hyland, Garcia and Hodge all picked up muscular injuries in the match and had to be replaced and are now in a race against time to recover for the group stage.

Eve and his medical staff have been doing crucial assessments of the players since Tuesday and will Friday confirm whether he will have to bring in any players as replacements.

The former national midfielder, turned coach, travelled to the tournament with a 26-man squad instead of the required 23-man roster, saying the three additional players were to be used in situations where injuries or illness may take place.

But that was trimmed to 25 when Inter Miami FC winger Joevin Jones sustained a season-ending injury during a US Major League Soccer match and was forced to withdraw from the Gold Cup.

Two players who are available to Eve at his quick disposal are defender midfielders Michel Poon-Angeron and Molik Khan who travelled as part of the 26 but have not featured in either the 6-1 preliminary round opening win over Montseratt on Saturday last or the victory over French Guiana while defenders Leland Archer and Mekeil Williams, who are both based in the US with United Soccer League clubs could also come in for selection, and Canada-based pair, Akeem Garcia and Andre Rampersad as well as England-born striker Daniel Phillips of Watford.

Another concern for Eve heading into his opening match against the Mexicans who trashed Nigeria 4-0 in their last warm-up international friendly on Saturday is the number of players already on yellow cards.

It must be noted that the mandatory rule that drops yellow cards picked up by players when they are moving from one stage of a tournament to another, is not being used by CONCACAF organisers.

This means players who picked up yellow cards for T&T in the qualifying rounds, will move into the group phase with it.

The players crossing over with the cards are Neveal Hackshaw and Hyland from the Montserrat affair, and Gonzales and defender Aubrey David from the French Guiana match.

With regards to the cards Eve said after the French Guiana win, "It's a bit unfair because it's a different phase, it's the qualifying phase going into the group stage, and at most tournaments in the world, the cards don't carry over like that, from qualifying to the group stage."

The T&T team arrived in Dallas via a Concacaf charter on Wednesday afternoon and trained at 8 pm TT Time (7 pm local) at the Toyota Stadium in Frisco on Thursday.

On Friday, the official walk-through will take place at 7pm at the AT&T Stadium, venue for Saturday’s Gold Cup group match versus Mexico.

SOURCE: T&T Guardian