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Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Marvin Phillip (1) throws the ball in action during a CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage match between Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago on July 10, 2021 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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DESPITE having to contest yet another round of 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup qualifying matches, seasoned T&T goalkeeper Marvin Phillip believes many positives are coming out of the national set-up in the lead-up to their opening qualifier clash against Guadeloupe, in June.

Phillip was an unused substitute in the team’s last two Concacaf Nations League meetings but had the opportunity to observe the squad in action from the substitute bench in their 3-0 victory away to the Bahamas on March 24 and the 1-1 result against Nicaragua in Tobago, three days later.

The latter result prevented T&T from automatic Gold Cup qualification. A win would have put them through. Now the team face their final fate, needing a victory against Guadeloupe and then another triumph against the winner of a Guyana versus Grenada clash.

At the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup qualification tournament draw on Friday, T&T received confirmation of the Guadeloupian test. There, T&T and 11 other teams will compete for the final three spots in the Gold Cup.

The qualification tournament kicks off from June 16 to 20 at DRV PNK Stadium, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, in the US. The Gold Cup gets underway from June 24 to July 16 in the US and Canada.

Phillip, who still wears the number one for T&T, said they’ve already overcome the past hurdles and heartbreak, and are charting forward with a positive mindset, goal-bound on Gold Cup qualification.

“Heading into the qualifiers…well firstly, we’re a bit disappointed that we didn’t go straight into the Gold Cup but we’re fortunate enough to be in the prelims and still have an opportunity to qualify for the Gold Cup.

“The mindset is good and we just want to go out there and win these two games and move into the Gold Cup group stage.

“We have been playing good football for quite a while together. I think we need to continue to work hard, play for each other, express ourselves and the results will take care of itself on the park,” he said.

Phillip was happy to see locally-based players and clubs finally back out playing domestic competitive football after over two years of inactivity owing to the pandemic.

He thinks the return of domestic tournaments plays an important role in helping head coach Angus Eve and his staff to spot new talent, to bolster the senior team’s chances of Gold Cup qualification.

“We won’t have any local senior team training right now because the league is going on. This is also a good sign for us because we haven’t been playing football for quite some time. It’s good that players can now get some time in on the pitch and increase their match fitness.

“I’m sure the coaches are eagerly waiting to see what new talent they could spot from the league as well,” he added.

Eve has also incorporated several new and veteran players into the squad.

French-born, Sporting Kansas City Academy midfielder Kaile Auvray was one of T&T’s standout performers in both matches and Phillip thinks the fusion between experience and youth in the T&T camp will soon bear fruit.

“Whether you’re young or old, once you reach on the national team, the players always welcome each other. There is always good camaraderie with the 18-year-olds to the 38-year-olds. There is never any animosity and there’s always a good mood among all the players.

“It’s been good thus far working with Angus. Kudos to him and his staff because they are getting players to respond to them and it really augurs well for us going forward.”

After Friday’s draw, Eve told TTFA media that Guadeloupe may be the toughest of the other contesting teams but that they would go in with a positive mindset and play to the best of their abilities.

“We have to do our work from day one. It will be difficult in the sense we will only have our players two days before the (Guadeloupe) match, but we will be doing our homework as of today on Guadeloupe and the other two teams,” Eve said.