USMNT vs. Trinidad & Tobago
USMNT vs. Trinidad & Tobago

Gold Cup Preview: USA – Trinidad and Tobago

4 minutes, 23 seconds Read

The United States faces off against familiar foe Trinidad and Tobago in their Group A finale on Sunday night, in a game where a slip-up, even if unlikely, could see the team face the most disastrous of consequences.

Sunday’s final round of Group A games sees the top three teams all vying for a spot in the final eight of the competition, with Jamaica the only of the trio who can be practically considered to be a shoo-in.

The scenario for BJ Callaghan and his squad is simple: a draw or victory will see the team through to the knockout, while a loss, as unlikely as that might be, would almost certainly see the Soca Warriors join the Raggae Boyz in the next stage.

Playing in front of a friendly home crowd in the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Americans are undoubtedly overwhelmingly the favorites to come out on top, or at least get the draw that they need. However, the same could have been said in October, 2017 when they also only needed a draw against the same team to reach the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

A lot has changed for the hosts since that shocking evening in Couva nearly six years ago; the United States is sporting a younger and more energetic talent pool, even with this squad lacking most of the European-based stars, and interim coach Callaghan seems to be a step above the reanimated, mindless corpse that seemingly impersonated legendary coach Bruce Arena in his ill-fated, second go-around at the helm.

Still, their rather disappointing tournament-opening draw against Jamaica in the current tournament, which was only the case thanks to the penalty-stopping heroics of Matt Turner, show that nothing can be taken for granted.

Even if the worst disaster can be averted, it will be important for the Americans, and the CONCACAF overlords, for the team to finish first, to ensure the spectacle, attendance and maximized TV ratings for another US vs. Mexico final in mid-July.

The Soca Warriors’ squad is significantly less blessed with home-grown and imported talent than the Jamaicans, with no players in the top-five European leagues, and only a small handful playing in top-flight leagues outside of either MLS or their own domestic TT Premier Football League.

A number of the players in that 2017 squad that took down the Americans are still in the team for Sunday’s game, notably defender Alvin Jones, who scored the critical goal. Apart from him, Triston Hodge, Kareem Moses, Joevin Jones and AEK Athens forward García were all in uniform or played in that game.

Nevertheless, the game is still the Americans’ to lose, which looks more unlikely than a few days before, after a heavily rotated starting XI put six past Saint Kitts and Nevis. The main question will be whether Callaghan largely returns to his initial first-choice starters who drew against Jamaica, holds over a few of the players from the more recent win, or rotates in several unused players.

Apart from Alan Soñora, who is out with a hamstring strain, and Jordan Morris, who is available but was left on the bench in the last game due to a prior injury, the full squad is healthy and available for Callaghan.

One key question will be the center back pairing; Matt Miazga has started both of the two prior group games and is likely to retain his spot, however his partner in the back is unclear. Teenager Jalen Neal did well enough in the second half against Jamaica and over the full 90 versus SK&N to retain his spot, but erstwhile first-choice starter Miles Robinson is eventually due a spot after recovering from an earlier injury.

It would be hard to justify dropping Jesus Ferreira from the center forward role after his hat-trick on Wednesday, but Brandon Vazquez has made a strong case for a shot.

Soñora’s unavailability puts added importance on the role of Alejandro Zendejas for providing speed and creativity from the wide position, which would likely mean that either Cade Cowell or Morris would flank Ferreira on the other side.

James Sands has been a rock in the center of the park for Callaghan in both group games so far, and with the defensive midfielder having yet to pick up a yellow, could continue his run on Sunday. Again, a wealth of candidates are available to complement Sands, although Djordje Mihailovic’s brace on Wednesday could give him a leg-up.

Likewise, based on performances so far in the tournament, it would be hard to go wrong with any of the four outside back options, although it will be hard to choose between Wednesday-night goalscorer Bryan Reynolds and veteran DeAndre Yedlin on the right, as well as DeJuan Jones or John Tolkin on the left.

While many fans would love to see Gabriel Slonina receive what would be his no-backsies, cap-tying start in goal, Callaghan will most likely go back to the steady hands of first-choice Turner in this critical game.

The game kicks off at 7pm Eastern US time at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

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David Smith

I'm YA's resident doctor, but not the kind of doctor you would want giving you an examination anywhere outside of a lecture hall. I've been YA's feet-on-the-ground in Germany since 2008, have an affinity for overly verbose descriptions of irrelevant minutiae, keep an eye on YAs in most of the destinations on mainland Europe, and watch a whole lot of Serie A.

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