The United States Men's National Team are hitting the road for the first time in the 2018 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers on Tuesday. The USMNT head to Trinidad and Tobago and have a chance to take control of Group C with a victory against the Soca Warriors at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
The U.S. came back and defeated Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 6-1 in St. Louis, MO on Friday to start the qualifiers. Trinidad & Tobago went to Guatemala and pulled out a physical 2-1 victory on the same day.
Both countries are tied with three points, but the Yanks are in first place due to their +5 goal differential. Whoever wins this match will have six points in the group and be well on their way to the final round of qualifications in CONCACAF.
The USMNT will be playing in their toughest road game of this round on Tuesday. The Soca Warriors are a complicated opponent at home or away, and their confidence is at an all-time high. The Caribbean nation has not lost a match in eight attempts.
The last time the Soca Warriors lost a game was on the road against Jordan in a friendly on June 16th. Since then, T&T has enjoyed (W-D-L) a 4-4-0 record and also a +6 goal differential. In their current eight game unbeaten run, Trinidad and Tobago played Mexico twice and both times El Tri failed to defeat them.
In each match, the Soca Warriors took the powerhouse nation of CONCACAF to two high scoring draws. Once in the 2015 Gold Cup in the group stages on July the 15th the two collided at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC for a thrilling 4-4 draw. Then the two played each other again, this time in a friendly at Rio Tinto Stadium on September 4th when El Tri had to claw back and force a 3-3 draw.
The Soca Warriors head into this decisive home match against the USMNT aware that they can go toe to toe against the powerhouses of CONCACAF. T&T will need captain Kenwyne Jones to lead the offense and punish the vulnerable American defense every opportunity they create.
The United States' defense has had a rough year. The Yanks have given up 26 goals and their offense produced 42. However, 16 of those goals came against Cuba, Guatemala and St Vincent and the Grenadines; in those three one-sided results the United States only conceded one goal.
However, taking away those 16 goals against weak opponents they only have scored 26 times and conceded 25. The Americans have struggled to create goals and plug the holes in a leaky defense.
If it was not for U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan's performance in the group stage against Haiti in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, they might have lost or drawn instead of squeaking by with a 1-0 victory. Against the Reggae Boyz it was a struggle and the Yanks' luck ran out as they were eliminated 2-1 in the semifinals.
Now these two nations play very similar styles to the Soca Warriors, and have similar athletic players as well. The Yanks will have their hands full with the captain, but they will also need to keep an eye on Khaleem Hyland and Joevin Jones in the midfield. At some point speedster midfielder Cordell Cato will enter the match for T&T, and his job will be to cause chaos.
The last thing the Yanks can afford is allow the Soca Warriors to score first. Unlike the Vincy Heat, Trinidad and Tobago can easily build on a 1-0 lead and punish the USMNT on the counter.
A leader will be needed at the back for the United States in this match. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann responded by announcing veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard will start. The USMNT will need him to anchor the defense whenever T&T fly down the field.
The American midfield’s task in the match will be to control the possession. Captain Michael Bradley will be the driving force for the USMNT in the midfield. To break down the Soca Warriors the Yanks will need to attack on the wings with Fabian Johnson and Gyasi Zardes. They have to spread the field and not allow Trinidad and Tobago to do what Jamaica did to the Yanks in the Gold Cup semifinal by congesting the middle.
If the midfield can open up the game it will benefit Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood. Instead of having three or possibly four opponents around them they will just have two and create more damage. If the USMNT leave Port of Spain with their sixth overall victory at Trinidad and Tobago it will be because of the midfield.
Prediction: Trinidad and Tobago 1-3 USA
The United States midfield will control the tempo and score an early goal. Their performance will secure the six points and put them in control of group C.