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Eve expects a fit Molino for Gold Cup prelims.
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Soca Warriors coach Angus Eve says he expects USA-based midfielder Kevin Molino to be fit for this country’s all-important 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup first-round preliminary match against Guadeloupe at the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on June 16.

In late March, USA Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew forward Kevin Molino’s awful luck with knee injuries continued, when the club announced that the midfielder will be out six to eight weeks after undergoing a meniscectomy.

The 32-year-old, who had suffered three torn ACLs previously, made substitute appearances in the Crew’s first three matches of the 2023 season before getting the procedure done.

Due to the injury, Molino missed T&T’s final two Concacaf Nations League B Group C matches against Bahamas, a 3-0 win, and then against Nicaragua, a 1-1 draw which saw the Soca Warriors coming up short in their efforts to gain promotion to League A of the Concacaf Nations League for the 2023/2024 season, as well as automatic qualification to the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

This after, Eve’s men entered their final League B Group C match against table leader Nicaragua at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet, Tobago, needing a win to secure the top spot in the group, but missed out to Nicaragua, and for the second time in succession was forced to go through the preliminary qualifiers to secure a spot in the competition’s main draw.

With the result, T&T qualified for the Gold Cup preliminary qualifiers as a League B second-place finisher with French Guiana, Guadeloupe, and Guyana, together with League A third-place finishers Curaçao, Grenada, Martinique, and Suriname, and League C group winners Puerto Rico, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and Sint Maarten.

In addition to the T&T and Guadeloupe encounter, the preliminary round one fixtures between Martinique and St Lucia, and Curacao and St Kitts and Nevis will also take place on June 16 at the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale from 7 pm, and 9 pm, respectively.

One day later (June 17), at the same venue, the three remaining first-round preliminary matches will come off with French Guiana against Sint Maarten from 4.30 pm followed by Suriname versus Puerto Rico at 7 pm, and two hours later, Guyana up against Grenada.

In the second round of the preliminaries, the winners of the Martinique/St Lucia match and the winner of the Suriname/Puerto Rico clash will square off for a place in Group C alongside the Central American trio of Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador while the third and final preliminary round pairings see Curacao and St Kitts and Nevis winners meeting French Guiana and Sint Maarten winner for a place in Group A where the USA, Jamaica, and Nicaragua await. Group B of the main draw will feature Mexico, Haiti, Honduras, Asian Champions, and guest nation, Qatar.

Looking ahead to the availability of players from which he will select his squad for the Gold Cup, Eve noted that he has some concerns with the in-activity of three players, namely Joevin Jones, Noah Powder, and Jesse Williams.

He said, “As far as I know Joevin (Jones) is now organising with some clubs and having talks with them, while the other two guys, Noah and Jesse are also trying to get secure deals as well.

“They are the only three guys that we have on our list that are not active with a club at the moment, but I know they are trying,” said Eve.

Eve had some positive news on former captain Molino saying, “He (Molino) is back in full training, but he hasn’t played a match as yet because the prognosis for the injury was three weeks when he got injured, but that time has gone, and he is fully back in training 100 percent.”

In addition to Molino, another player who missed the final two Concacaf Nations League matches due to injury and is expected to be back in the squad is in-form Greece-based Levi Garcia of title-chasing AEK Athens.

In the build-up to the Gold Cup preliminary rounds, the Soca Warriors were scheduled to face 2022 FIFA World Cup host Qatar on June 8, and CONCACAF rivals Guatemala on June 11 in two Gold Cup warm-up matches in Florida, USA, but last week CONCACAF issued some communication to the T&TFA which stated that teams will not be allowed to play friendly matches in the same state that they have competition matches within the same month.

This means the friendly with 2022 FIFA World Cup host Qatar has been called off with the Middle Eastern country now carded to play in a tournament in Spain while efforts are still being made to play the Guatemala match in another state.

The winner of the T&T/Guadeloupe match will meet the winner of the Guyana/Grenada clash for a spot in the Group D of the main draw which takes place from Juen 24 to July 4 alongside the top-seeded Canada, ranked 47th in the world, 116th-ranked Guatemala and Cuba, ranked 165th.

T&T and Guadeloupe have met seven times in the past, with the French-speaking island winning the first two encounters, 1-2 in 1966 and 0-2 in the 1989 Caribbean Cup which T&T went on to win.

Since then, T&T has gone on a five-match unbeaten run versus the “Gwada Boys”, drawing goalless in 1994 also at the Caribbean Cup, before securing a 3-2 win in the 1999 Caribbean Cup and a 1-0 win in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2003, followed by a 2-2 draw and a goalless draw in 2007, and 2008 friendly internationals.

In the other preliminary rounds fixtures on June 16, Martinique faces St Lucia, and Curacao tackles St Kitts/Nevis at the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale from 7 pm, and 9 pm, respectively.

A day later (June 17), at the same venue, the three remaining first-round preliminary matches will come off with French Guiana against Sint Maarten from 4.30 pm followed by Suriname versus Puerto Rico at 7 pm, and two hours later, Guyana up against Grenada.

In the second round of the preliminaries, the winners of the Martinique/St Lucia match and the winner of the Suriname/Puerto Rico clash will square off for a place in Group C alongside the Central American trio of Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador while the third and final preliminary round pairings see Curacao and St Kitts and Nevis winners meeting French Guiana and Sint Maarten winner for a place in Group A where the USA, Jamaica, and Nicaragua await. Group B of the main draw will feature Mexico, Haiti, Honduras, Asian Champions, and guest nation, Qatar.