Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart says settling into a good stride in the early moments will be key to this country’s chances of achieving a good opening result against El Salvador in Monday’s 201 CONCACAF Gold Cup opener against El Salvador.
Leading his country of birth in what would be his fourth Gold Cup appearance as a coach will also be a highlight for Hart who has had an impressive record as head coach of Canada in previous Gold Cup outings. (Photo shows T&T training at the Jersey City University ground on Saturday)
T&T faces El Salvador in the opening clash of a double header at the Red Bull Arena on Monday night from 7pm. Honduras faces Haiti in the second outing.
Hart and the rest of the squad and coaching staff including director of football Leo Beenhakker arrived and checked into the Hilton, Newark, Penn Station on Saturday morning prior to a late evening training session at the Jersey City University training site. The T&T team will then have its mandatory one-hour training session at the Red Bull Arena on Sunday which is a mere ten minutes drive from the team hotel.
Hart described the just concluded training camp in Fort Lauderdale as one that proved to be valuable to the team’s eventual state of readiness for the Gold Cup campaign.
“The camp went well. A lot of it was trying to get the right mix, the right kind of working relationships and of course how we’re going to play the game in relation to El Salvador The players worked hard and it was impressive,” Hart told TTFA Media.
“That’s a special one (being with Trinidad and Tobago now). This will be by fourth Gold Cup and this time with Trinidad and Tobago which you always sit down and think about and definitely something I’m looking forward to.”
Hart, who grew up in San Fernando, spoke about his ongoing relationship with Beenhakker.
“It’s been good. He’s let me do my work and when he thinks we can do something he explains it to me and we discuss things very openly and freely. He’s very accessible and it’s great to have somebody to fall back on,” Hart added.
El Salvador came from a goal down to defeat an understrength T&T team 3-2 in the 2007 Gold Cup opener but T&T has had a fair share of good results against the Central Americans including a 1-0 win in Port of Spain during the 2010 World Cup qualification on a Cornell Glen winner. T&T also dominated the away encounter before El Salvador pulled back two late goals for a 2-2 draw in 2009.
Hart expects a tough challenge on Monday but believes T&T will not back down by any means.
“I think the opening part of the game will be important in terms of how we settle down, how we fall into our rhythm of the game and try to control the entire tempo. The staff has worked very well with the players and I think’s it’s a matter of settling down very early,” Hart added.
T&T Notes – Seon Power, Jan Michael Williams and Darryl Roberts will be making their second Gold Cup appearance having been in the squad in 2007. It’s also Gold Cup number two for Chris Birchall and Cornell Glen after they appeared in the Leo Beenhakker-led squad in 2005. Densill Theobald, now the team captain, will be making his third appearance while Carlos Edwards will make his Gold Cup debut.
Gold Cup Notes
-Mexico has won the tournament in six occasions, more than any other country. The United States has won it four times.
-Only North American teams have won the tournament, Mexico (6), USA (4) and Canada (1).
-For third consecutive time, 13 different venues will host the Gold Cup.
-In the last three editions the final has been Mexico vs. USA, the U.S. defeated Mexico in 2007, 2-1. Mexico won the next two editions 5-0 and 4-2.
-In the 2011 final, the U.S. had a 2-0 lead after 25 minutes, it only took Mexico seven minutes to tie it at two and scored twice more in the second half to win 4-2.
-Soldier Field in Chicago will host the final for the first time since 2007, when the United States defeated Mexico 2-1.