Resolute United States Men Tie T&T in Scoreless Draw
November 17, 2015
PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO—The United States men's national team match against Trinidad and Tobago had a familiar feel to it. It was a CONCACAF World Cup qualifier: dirty, gritty, and quite fun if you were after energy and not beauty.
When it ended in a scoreless tie after 90 minutes, both teams had four points after two games. They would go home not quite happy but certainly not sad. It was a fair result.
The American Starting XI looked markedly different from the one that easily outpaced St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday. As anticipated, Tim Howard replaced Brad Guzan in net. In the field, while Klinsmann opted for nine of the same players, he switched a few positions in an attempt to find a more defensive formation against the stronger Soca Warriors side. Michael Orozco played right back, with DeAndre Yedlin pushing up to right midfield and Gyasi Zardes moving to forward next to Jozy Altidore. Bobby Wood watched the beginning of the match from the bench.
The lineup put Orozco and Ream–two natural center backs–on the wing. Against a speedy T&T squad, it was a gamble and also showed the American's dire lack of depth at fullback.
The plan almost immediately backfired. On the Soca Warriors' first possession, Ream got nutmegged and the ball went to Kenwyne Jones. His cutback cross looked like it was going to find an attacking teammate but Yedlin's late closing speed caused enough pressure to create a misfire on the shot.
No harm, no foul, but it was an inauspicious beginning.
On the humid but not overly warm night at Hasely Crawford Stadium, the match settled into a rhythm for the next period. Both teams enjoyed spells of time on the ball, but neither could manufacture more than a quarter chance. This would be a theme in the first half.
A wave circled around the stadium. The steel drum band kept up a consistent, quiet beat.
Just before the quarter hour mark, Jones nearly broke the deadlock—many in the crowd exploded into cheers as though he had—but his effort from 22 yards out curled just wide. The Americans had two chances, a long-range blast from Johnson and a half-volley from Altidore, that weren't exactly dangerous but weren't nothing either. In the 26th, Cordell Cato outran Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron, but his right-footed shot slid wide.
There was little to report for the rest of the half. Besler smashed his back into the goal stanchion. Klinsmann moved from the seating area to the standing one with about eight minutes to go. Daneil Cyrus took a Johnson shot right in the gut, then stayed down for 45 seconds. A second wave circulated. Klinsmann sat back down. The riot police ran into the stands. Yedlin picked up a yellow card. The band played on, joined at times by a rogue cowbell.
The U.S. should have gone ahead soon after the start of the second half. Yedlin used a burst of speed to dribble into free space then laid a nicely weighted ball into the channel for Altidore. His cross sailed over the last defender and found a streaking Zardes but his header was a fraction too high and smashed off the cross bar.
As the Americans pressed forward, the band picked up its pace. The players on the field appeared unfazed.
The home side had its first dangerous opportunity of the second half at the one-hour mark. A Michael Bradley foul set up Joevin Jones about 25 yards from net. The Chicago Fire player's attempt hit the wall and, while he regained possession, he only managed to send a harmless ball that Howard gobbled up.
Eight minutes later Klinsmann demonstrated Johnson's flexibility. Darlington Nagbe came on for Ream, moving into the midfield and pushing the Borussia Monchengladbach talent into the back four. The move bolstered the defense while not taking anything away from the red, white, and blue attack.
For no apparent reason, two men—one with a T&T flag and the other with Old Glory—walked around the track in lanes five and six. No one seemed concerned.
In the 75th minute, Zardes gave way to Bobby Wood.
The final 15 continued much as the first 75 had. There were forays and spells of passing by each team but no solid chances. The Americans had most of the run of play, the crowd grew restless, and it ended scoreless.
Noah Davis is Deputy Editor of American Soccer Now. Follow him on Twitter.