Trinidad & Tobago is far from CONCACAF’s most dangerous team. A quick glance at the Hexagonal table will tell you that, but that does not mean that the U.S. Men’s National Team does not need to remain open and alert to certain situations on Tuesday night.
The U.S. knows that a draw will most likely be good enough to leave T&T with a World Cup ticket in hand, so any sort of clean sheet would be enough to book a spot in Russia. Bruce Arena is not likely to completely pack up shop but he also won’t go pedal to the medal to chase goal after goal like he did on Friday night. If Friday was about asserting dominance, Tuesday is about keeping things cool and simply taking care of business against a lesser team.
That lesser team does have weapons, though, and the U.S. will need to deal with them. To be more specific, the U.S. defense will need to be ready for several challenges, some presented by T&T and others presented by the environment.
Now, T&T’s main weapon is speed. Players like Kevin Molino and Joevin Jones remain the most talented players on the Soca Warriors’ squad. They are fast, technical and creative, and they have the ability to make life hard for defenders at most levels.
That said, the conditions on Tuesday could play a major factor. The rain-soaked pitch will turn the match into an ugly mess of a game unless something very drastic happens to the drainage on Tuesday night. That means we’ll see very little of anything resembling soccer and something that something much more comparable to middle school kickball.
T&T has the ability to go route one, and they found success with it against Mexico. The Soca Warriors put a scare into El Tri with a ball over the top, one which was finished by Shahdon Winchester:
It’s a formula as old as the game itself. Ball over the top, head it down, run onto it, score, rinse and repeat. The U.S., in particular, struggled with individual mistakes against Costa Rica and Honduras, and those individual moments will be what T&T will target. They won’t try and beat you tactically or with numbers. They’re going to kick the ball in the air or down the line and make you deal with it. You need to win those headers and those foot races or, at the very least, handle them in a way that prevents an easy opportunity.
While those long balls will come into play, the best chances will probably come via set pieces. The USMNT has been notoriously hit or miss on set pieces all cycle, dating all the way back to the late loss to Mexico last fall. The absence of Kenwyne Jones takes a big target away from T&T, but those dead ball situations will still be major moments.
The good news as the U.S has the bodies to handle it. Omar Gonzalez remains a force on set pieces. Geoff Cameron, Costa Rica aside, makes few individual mistakes. Matt Besler and Tim Ream aren’t as physically imposing, but they’re both smart and experienced. The U.S. can’t afford a mental lapse on those types of situations.
Other than that, things are fairly straight-forward. T&T isn’t going to ole the USMNT to death because they don’t have that in them. The U.S. will have a bulk of the possession and, if they can use that possession meaningfully and limit bad giveaways, T&T will struggle to create save for the odd Molino or Jones moment of magic.
With that in mind, the U.S. remains favored to take care of business and book a spot in Russia, but in order to do that, they’ll need a composed defensive performance worthy of a team bound for the World Cup.