By Dylan Butler
ATLANTA – Mexico is the two-time defending CONCACAF Gold Cup champion and has raised the trophy a record six times.
Keon Daniel isn’t intimidated.
“For me, I think we’re going to go out and play, play football and play in a smart way as possible” the Trinidad & Tobago midfielder said before training at Emory University on Thursday. “We know they’re a good team. I don’t think we should sit and respect them in any way. We should go out and do what we can do and hopefully get the result that we want.”
El Tri may be regarded as one of the favorites to claim the Gold Cup title once again this year, but the Soca Warriors aren’t going to make things easy in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the Georgia Dome.
That suits Daniel just fine.
“I think most people would say they’re a favorite, but for me football is on the day” Daniel said. “Being underdogs is a good feeling. I think it motivates you and with that motivation I think the guys are ready to put in the hard work.”
The Philadelphia Union midfielder was in the Trinidad starting lineup for a FIFA World Cup qualifier at Estadio Azteca on June 10, 2009 – a 2-1 victory for Mexico.
The last meeting between the two sides also came in a World Cup qualifier in Port of Spain, a 2-2 draw on Oct. 14, 2009.
“I think we’re bigger than them, our guys are much taller than they are,” noted Daniel. “I think the coach knows that and I think we’re going to try to exploit that.”
Daniel was instrumental in helping Trinidad qualify for this year’s Gold Cup, its eighth all-time appearance in the competition. He scored four goals in 2012 Caribbean Cup play for a team that reached the final, before losing 1-0 to Cuba in the championship encounter.
A 2-0 victory over Honduras in the final Group B game on Monday clinched the Soca Warriors’ berth into the Gold Cup quarterfinals for the first since 2000 when Trinidad fell to eventual champion Canada in the semifinals.
“That was good for us,” Daniel commented about the Honduras match. “I think the guys know the height of the game and I think they went out and they worked hard and we got the result that we needed.”
With midfielder Khaleem Hyland back with Belgian side Racing Genk and midfielder Kevin Molino serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation from the group stage, Trinidad head coach Stephen Hart has called Kevan George into the team. The Columbus Crew midfielder trained with the squad on Thursday.
“I think he’s learned a lot since he’s been in MLS,” Daniel said of George. “I know he’s going to come here on a high. He’s a good guy and he brings a good attitude for the young guys to see.”
It will be the third all-time Gold Cup meeting between Trinidad and Mexico, and the first since 2000. The Mexicans won both previous contests (1998: 4-2, 2000: 4-0)