It soon became clear how easy of an opponent St. Vincent and the Grenadines are for a team like the United States. After giving up an early goal to SVG, they came fast and furious for the US, leading to a 6-1 demolition of the Caribbean outfit.
On Tuesday, a considerably harder opponent awaits the Americans: Trinidad and Tobago, who were competitive enough in the Gold Cup to draw with the eventual winners, Mexico. Another Caribbean country, Trinidad won their group at the Gold Cup (over El Tri) and missed out on the semifinal round due to a penalty shootout loss to Panama.
They defeated Guatemala on the same night that the US destroyed SVG, although by a much smaller score than their newest opponents. 2-1 was the final in Guatemala City, with Khaleem Hyland and Kenwyne Jones both scoring for T&T.
Trinidad have three main tactical elements to their game that Jurgen Klinsmann needs to combat in order for the USMNT to grab the full three points:
1. Bunker, then counter-attack
T&T like to sit very deep, especially against the better sides in the region. They stack nine or ten players behind the ball at any given time, giving up lots of possession in the process. What makes this strategy effective for T&T and not others is their fitness.
Not only are they fit enough to deal with the lack of possession, but they always have two or three defenders ready on one opposing attacker. This means that one player steps up, while a couple more are ready behind him to either stop the attacker if he gets past the first defender or close down the passing lane directly ahead.
Here's how they did this against Mexico:
As you can see, there is one defender on the ball, one behind him backing him up, and another ready to step up on a Mexican player who could be a passing option.
While this strategy doesn't always efficiently get the ball, it does help to contain the opponent and prevent them from advancing.
How to stop it: Spread the field
Using the width of the field would spread Trinidad's midfield and defense out, making their second defender tactic fail because they are forced to run with the opponent, jumbling up the structure they have.
The US can do this by playing a 4-3-3 formation and utilizing Darlington Nagbe in his more natural central midfield role. Nagbe has a knack for seeing space and using his speed to exploit it which gives his team more possession in the final third. Thus, Trinidad and Tobago's backline, which featured five players against Guatemala, will be broken down more easily.
Also, DeAndre Yedlin, who will presumably get another start at right back, should push up the field more often. His blistering pace can be used in a way that will force the defense to quickly transition to another side of the pitch, opening up spaces in the box for a cross.
2. Use overlapping full-backs
When Trinidad actually manage to get the ball, their counter-attacking strategy relies on the ability of their full-backs to overlap. Chicago Fire's Joevin Jones has plenty of pace down the wing, so he will be a threat to Yedlin all day.
Neutralizing his impact will be huge for the US.
How to stop it: Have DeAndre Yedlin push up
I mentioned this before as a way to spread the field, but letting Yedlin off his leash down the right flank could have an even larger influence in another way: If he is playing a role in the attack, it forces Jones to stay home more than he would like to, taking away his offensive ability.
On the other hand, T&T could switch the roles of Yedlin and Jones. If they keep Jones up the field, it would take away Yedlin from the US's offensive game. Either way, Klinsmann needs to make sure the Sunderland loanee does his share of attacking as well as defending.
3. Play through Kenwyne Jones up top
In Trinidad's 5-4-1 formation against Guatemala, Kenwyne Jones started as the lone striker and scored what would be the winning goal with ten minutes remaining. Jones, an experienced striker who has played in the English soccer system almost his entire career, is a physical, big-bodied, incisive forward that will spend all day finding holes through the channels of a backline.
A good finisher, Jones always seems to be in the right place at the time. The Cardiff City man will use his physical capabilities to out-body the strongest of center-backs and hold up play for late runners like Hyland and Keron Cummings.
He provides a target for quick wingers and full-backs like Joevin Jones and Lester Peltier to cross to. His only weakness is that he has a tendency to completely disappear from games, especially when opponents keep the ball ahead of him in the midfield.
His work-rate decreases and he doesn't find the seams in the defense that he is usually able to see. This results in sloppy mistakes; he ends up hurting the team when he doesn't get involved.
But when Jones is on, he's on. It remains to be seen whether he will show up with his best on Tuesday night.
How to solve it: Make him chase the ball
If the US backline can hold possession for an extended period of time, he gets frustrated and won't try as hard to force turnovers and put pressure on.