The United States Men’s National Team has reached the end of the group stage at the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup, carrying four points from a 1-0-1 record. Advancement to the knockout rounds is still up for grabs, with three nations vying for a spot. All that remains is a showdown with Trinidad and Tobago, with the co-hosts attempting to secure a top seed and the opponents needing a win to reach the quarterfinal. Charlotte, North Carolina’s Bank of America Stadium – a 74,867-seat American football venue – is set to house the combatants.
This is the 28th all-time meeting between the two nations, with the USMNT holding a 20-3-4 advantage. Ranked 104th internationally by FIFA, Trinidad and Tobago finished at second place in the CONCACAF Nations League’s League B Group C with a 4-1-1 record, one point behind Nicaragua, which was disqualified from the Gold Cup due to fielding an ineligible player. The Soca Warriors have taken advantage of the unexpected inclusion and pushed for a spot in the knockout rounds, opening the tournament with a 3-0 win against Saint Kitts and Nevis, followed by a 4-1 loss to Jamaica.
Angus Eve was appointed to an interim role in June of 2021 and promoted to full-time that September. The 51-year-old, a retired midfielder who spent time in England and the domestic league, is the all-time leader in caps for the national team. His hope is to reestablish the program in CONCACAF and return to the salad days of the 1990s through mid-2000s.
The manager pushed back against any insinuation that Trinidad failed to earn a spot in the Gold Cup. “It was not simply that we qualified because Nicaragua was put out, but we came second overall, so we deserve to be here,” said Eve. “We didn’t do anything wrong. There is no shame in what we did.”
Eve named a 23-player roster for the Gold Cup, with the entire squad available for a pre-tournament camp. Six of the call-ups are based in the TT Premier Football League, with another five situated in various European competitions. Several domestic talents were left out of the group, including notable past selections such as Duane Muckette and John-Paul Rochford. Daniel Phillips of St Johnstone was initially set to join but missed the tournament due to an injury.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Denzil Smith (W Connection), Nicklas Frenderup (Ranheim), Marvin Phillip (AC Port of Spain)
DEFENDERS (9): Alvin Jones (Club Sandro), Shannon Gomez (San Antonio FC), Joevin Jones (Police FC), Triston Hodge (Hartford Athletic), Kareem Moses (FF Jaro), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery), Sheldon Bateau (SK Beveren), Aubrey David (SD Aucas), Luke Singh (Atlético Ottawa)
FORWARDS (7): Kaïlé Auvray (Sporting Kansas City II), Levi García (AEK Athens), Kadeem Corbin (La Horquetta Rangers), Real Gill (Club Sando), Ryan Telfer (Miami FC), Kevin Molino (Columbus Crew), Malcolm Shaw (Atletico Ottawa)
In recent friendlies, Eve attempted to implement a 3-4-3 formation, which could prove more useful against stronger opponents than the traditional 4-3-2-1. Trinidad plays a vertical style and looks to break out into the attack quickly, pushing through the wings and occasionally settling for long shots. The defense can be susceptible on crosses and set pieces, at times, being unable to mark late runners, maintain an organized structure, or clear the box.
After several years as a backup, Nicklas Frenderup appears to be receiving his opportunity as the number one. The 30-year-old competes with Ranheim Fotball in the Norwegian second division, which is currently in season. He is a highly-acrobatic shot-stopper and will come very far off his line to clear away through balls, almost reaching the center circle. There is a slight tendency towards surrendering bad rebounds, with those incidental spillages landing in the center of the box instead of being pushed aside of goal.
A veteran of the program, Sheldon Bateau spent the last season on loan at SK Beveren in the second tier of Belgium, standing out as a strong distributor who can land 50-yard passes on a dime. His strength is disrupting the opponent: from blocking shots to intercepting passes and claiming every possible header. Alajuelense’s Aubrey David brings good size to the line, wins aerial duels, and can be quite nifty with the ball, occasionally hitting a neat Cruyff layoff. The 32-year-old is often making the heroic last-ditch tackles to quell the opponent’s charges. Completing the trio is Kareem Moses of Finnish side FF Jaro, a versatile inside/outside defender who moves into an advanced position to shut down attacks. His diagonal crosses can also be an asset during sustained possession.
⚽ ¡Gooooool de Trinidad y Tobago!— TUDN USA (@TUDNUSA) June 25, 2023
⚽ ¡Gooooool de Trinidad y Tobago!
⚽ ¡Gooooool de Trinidad y Tobago!
EN VIVO: https://t.co/ZSpSg7vyGr
TUDN | Univision
#VeranoDeCampeones | #TrinidadYTobago | #SanCristobalYNieves pic.twitter.com/YeHQiwLoFf
With Keston Julien out of the roster despite five starts in the Nations League, the left fullback responsibilities should land on the shoulders of Triston Hodge, who is currently on the books at Hartford Athletic. He has good speed in engagements, picks out teammates with long passes, and likes to uncork the occasional long-distance shot. The other side of the formation could be patrolled by Alvin Jones, who scored the opening goal in the 3-0 victory over Saint Kitts and Nevis. The 28-year-old is a strong one-versus-one defender, rarely letting the opponent beat him to the endline or get a step past. There’s also the potential for impact from San Antonio FC’s Shannon Gomez, who discovered a bit of a scoring touch at the club level last season. His logline is quickness and looking to join the counter-attack while overlapping on the outside.
After spending years on the precipice of a call-up, Andre Rampersad joined the program in March and quickly became a key part of the squad. He has a delicate touch and uses his spin move to work out of pressure on both halves of the field. The manager has paired him with Neveal Hackshaw of the Oakland Roots, who scored two crucial goals during the Nations League. The 27-year-old is strong in aerial duels, looks to advance the ball, and tracks back deep to challenge opponents. The question is whether productive attacker Kevin Molino will remain fit enough to continue contributing to the squad, having just returned from yet another knee injury. The veteran is an impactful creative presence, harboring the technique to maintain possession and drive the action.
Trinidad & Tobago starts the second half strong pic.twitter.com/wFWFuJyITB— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 29, 2023
Eligible for five nations and having suited up for four, teenager Kaïlé Auvray committed his future to the Soca Warriors, playing in seven matches this year and starting twice in the Nations League. He displays “fearless runs and silky touches,” choosing to “go at [opponents]” with speed and guile. Ryan Telfer of the USL Championship’s Miami FC could occupy the other wide attacking position, scoring eight goals for Trinidad. The Canada-born 29-year-old drifts toward the center of the field and can serve as an additional striker, winning headers and pouncing on opportunities in the box.
Levi García is coming off of a fantastic season in the Super League Greece 1, contributing 18 goals and nine assists in 37 fixtures for AEK Athens. The 25-year-old from Santa Flora is fast with and without the ball, strong in the air, and devastating from long distance. He feasts on the counter-attack, can operate with his back to the defender, and has few qualms about setting up his teammates. The striker entered the competition in torrid form but has failed to emerge as one of the Gold Cup’s biggest stars.
The USMNT has a clear talent advantage over the opponent, but there is always a chance for some variability in the third round of the group stage when contrasting objectives and roster rotation come into play. Trinidad and Tobago is seeking to improve the program and build momentum into World Cup qualifying, although the lack of true star power may prove to be too great a limitation. As is typically the case in this sort of fixture, expect an initially cagey affair that ends with a tight scoreline or breaks open into a blowout once teams start chasing a result.
The match is scheduled for Sunday, July 2nd at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include FOX, TUDN USA, Univision, and FUBO TV (free trial).