The 2018 CONCACAF Men’s U-20 Championship has been an uneven experience for Trinidad and Tobago.
Administrative blunders saw the T&T Men’s U-20 program essentially grind to a halt in the months leading up to this tournament. The team traveled to Florida without adequate preparation and expectations set to “low”.
Ninety minutes into T&T’s opening game, those expectations seemed appropriate as the team looked set to lose to St Vincent and the Grenadines. But the Soca Warriors rallied in stoppage time and pulled off a 3-2 win. That was followed by a 5-1 win over Puerto Rico, and the T&T camp was positively buoyant. The Soca Warriors are technically the second seed in Group A and that ranking seemed appropriate after the first couple of rounds of the Group Stage.
And then T&T ran into Group A’s juggernaut, the USA. The team might have been able to compensate for poor preparation against lesser opposition, but against the USA, T&T’s flaws were quickly exposed: the Soca Warriors lost 6-1. No great shame in that: the USA has comfortably won every game it has played in the competition to date. But T&T followed the loss to the young Americans with a 2-0 loss to Suriname. Second-best in Group A no more, it would seem.
Except that T&T - currently fourth in the Group A standings - still has the best shot at taking the runner-up spot behind the USA. The US Virgin Islands have been outscored 37-2 in their four preceding group-stage games. The Soca Warriors are expected to win this game by a wide margin. Add that to Suriname’s expected loss to the USA, and it will not be a surprise if Group A finishes with T&T in second place on goal difference (despite being 11 goals worse off than Suriname in that category at present).
T&T is one of three teams in the group with a solid shot at finishing with nine points (Suriname and Puerto Rico being the other two), but it is the only one playing USVI in its final game - and that should be a decisive advantage in a race for second that is likely to come down to goal difference.
A good tournament for T&T would have been a second-place finish in Group A having run the USA close. This has not been a good tournament: the game against the USA was a blowout and the Soca Warriors were lucky to get past SVG and shut out by Suriname. But they may still head home with the second-place finish in Group A that was expected of them when the draw was made in September and before they were set up to fail by their own FA.