Action from the World Cup qualifier between host Trinidad & Tobago and Guatemala (white jersey) on September 2, 2016, in Port of Spain. (Photo: Caribbean Action Images)
JACKSONVILLE, Florida – Not even rain in Jacksonville could bring down Trinidad & Tobago from the high of earning a place in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
On Friday, the Soca Warriors played visiting Guatemala to a 2-2 draw, ensuring them either a first- or second-place finish in Group A. With as a little as a draw against the host United States (3W-1D-1L, 10 points) on Tuesday at Everbank Field, T&T (3-2-0, 11) will capture the group title.
The squad landed in the northern Florida city mid-afternoon Saturday and trained for an hour, before head coach Stephen Hart allowed time to rest at the team hotel. Everybody returned at 6pm for another session.
With the opportunity to qualify for its second-ever World Cup and first since 2006 in Germany, the Trinidadians want to capitalize on any time they can spend together. They are not satisfied solely by progressing to the Hexagonal. There’s also the business of topping the final table with an unbeaten record. A win over the U.S., combined with a heavy victory by Guatemala (2-1-2, 7) over St. Vincent & the Grenadines (0-0-5, 0) could see the Americans be eliminated.
"Yes I think it would be a good way to end the semifinal round with a good result against the U.S. and a strong performance,” said Joevin Jones, who plays with the USA’s Seattle Sounders and scored both goals in the Guatemala stalemate. “Obviously, I know a few of the guys from playing in the league here and there has been a lot of talk about the match. I am sure the two teams will go all out to try and win the match and set the pace for the next round.”
Jones struck in each half against Guatemala and highlighted some positive signs from the overall effort.
"I know I had to put on a good performance and play my part in order to help the team and I was happy to do that," the 25-year-old remarked. "Even though we started strongly…they kind of pegged us back with the first goal and from then we knew we had to come back even stronger and we did that. I think it's the kind of spirit and fight we will need in the next round.”
T&T last competed in the CONCACAF Hexagonal during the 2010 World Cup cycle.