The Soca Warriors have kicked their last ball at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. So what now, in particular for coach Angus Eve?
Recall, reader, that he was only the interim choice; brought on board specifically to get Trinidad and Tobago to the Gold Cup after the World Cup failure. Well, for the record, Eve met his target, winning the two qualifiers against Montserrat and French Guiana, and in the group stage, losing only to El Salvador.
The coach himself was not happy with the effort of the players in drawing the final match 1-1 against Guatemala. One can understand his frustration. T&T controlled most of that game without being able to drive home their advantage after Reon Moore had given them an early first-half lead. A win in the group stage would certainly have looked good on Eve’s CV. But what will the technical committee of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association and their normalisation committee bosses make of the job he did?
They must take a few things into consideration, the first being time.
Eve was only appointed five weeks ago, and had to select and prepare a squad for the first qualifier in less than two weeks. There was therefore precious little time to make decisions about the group that his predecessor Terry Fenwick had selected. In that aspect, he showed himself to be both decisive and pragmatic in not making radical changes. The willingness of established Major League Soccer stand-out Kevin Molino to rejoin the national team so soon after returning from injury and before he had played a full match for his new team Columbus Crew was also instructive. It indicated that Eve could attract players who had for one reason or another not been so willing to join the T&T set-up under Fenwick.
The actual results in the qualifiers suggested that his planning, team selection and game-day strategy had been effective.
The Gold Cup proper, however, would present a more searching examination of Eve’s skills.
Tactically, what would technical director Dion La Foucade have observed?
Depending on how one looks at it, Eve was either very brave or very clever in starting with seven defenders against the heavily-favoured Mexicans. Starting with such a defensive mindset meant that the opposition would have been invited to attack and attack, which Mexico did, with 34 shots on goal.
They didn’t score, largely because of the brilliance of goalkeeper Marvin Phillip—himself an inspired selection by the coach—but also because the Mexicans were wasteful with their chances.
The Mexican match, controversial because of the tournament-ending injury to star player Hirving “Chucky” Lozano and the abusive behaviour of sections of the crowd, also tested the resolve of the T&T players. But their resilience, it can be argued, was testimony to the team spirit Eve had managed to build.
Reon Moore’s missing of what his coach described as a “sucker punch” chance near the end almost turned a dogged rearguard fight into a tactical masterclass.
However, in the second game against El Salvador, T&T were again largely on the defensive in a match they needed to win if they were to have a realistic chance of progressing from the group stage. El Salvador coach Hugo Perez was surprised by that. Eve disagreed that he had sent his players out to defend. But it was only in the final encounter against Guatemala that they had control of a match for any length of time.
Overall though, Eve showed himself willing to be flexible tactically and keen to make use of and trust locally-based players.
The shortcomings his side demonstrated had a lot to do with fitness, the lack of regular football for many of his players and limited quality options in front of goal.
All in all, Coach Angus produced a decent body of work in the Gold Cup.
So when they eventually begin to deliberate on applicants for the head coach job going forward, Robert Hadad, Nicholas Gomez and their colleagues will have live images to reflect upon.
They now know what Angus Eve can do in high-pressure situations. They can also determine whether he is the type of man who has T&T’s football at heart. And since he is already in their employ until August 31, he should fit their criteria of affordability.
In the battle for the job long-term therefore, Eve will feel he has struck early; early enough to hold on for victory.