By Aldwyn McGill
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey – Any thought of an all Caribbean Gold Cup final went out the window when Trinidad and Tobago was eliminated by Panama in a penalty shoot-out at the Met life Stadium here last Sunday.
The weekend saw four Caribbean teams participating in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals for the first time in the history of the tournament and ended with some of their efforts coming up a tad short of what was required to advance to the semi-finals.
It was the hottest weekend of the summer in the eastern U.S. and one would have thought that it would have favored the Caribbean teams. But besides Haiti it seemed like the sporadic play of the Caribbean teams had more to do with mental fatigue than physical fitness.
On Saturday I watched an emotionally drained Cuba team which was coming off a pivotal 1-0 win over Guatemala in their last group match to advance having to face USA in what was the shortest turnaround of all advancing teams. And as such Cuba was demolished by a rested USA 6-0.
In the second game of the double header the Reggae Boyz clinched a berth into the semi-finals after defeating Haiti 1-0 in a very close contest. It was not the best performance by Jamaica but Giles Barnes scored in the seventh minute to send Jamaica to its first CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final since 1998 and there is certainly no question asked when the defending Caribbean champions advance.
The big disappointment for Caribbean fans came on Sunday when Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warriors failed to take advantage of the easiest of opportunities to defeat Panama and advance to the semi-finals.
It was in the first match of the double header at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey where the Soca Warriors were fortunate to be tied at one apiece after the extra time. Panama enjoyed the better of the run of play and was unlucky when striker Blas Perez missed an open goal with seconds left in the second half of extra time.
After missing an easy header at the last post captain Kenwyne Jones scored the equalizer to give T&T supporters hope. But Trinidad and Tobago missed a penalty after Captain Roman Torres kicked Panama’s first penalty over the crossbar.
The play that will remain in the minds of T&T fans will be Daniel Cyrus’s penalty that would have won the game for Trinidad and Tobago if converted. Instead Cyrus offered a chipped shot for a penalty that sailed way over the crossbar.
Cyrus’s miss occurred after Warrior goalkeeper Marvin Phillip had just saved Alberto Quintero’s shot in the seventh round of sudden-death penalties and with renewed life Panama re-established its lead in the shootout and won after subsequent kicks to eliminate T&T.
Jamaica is the lone Caribbean survivor and in rough waters (at press time) against a USA team which it has only defeated once in 20 attempts. But motivation is a factor for Jamaica which is in pursuit of its most significant accomplishment since reaching the 1998 FIFA World Cup finals in France.
After all is said and done the Caribbean Football Union and Caribbean fans are proud of all the teams at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and are confident Jamaica will continue to display the Caribbean pride against USA at Georgia Dome in Atlanta.