Once a year in November

Once every year in November, a memory returns for both Trinidad and Tobago and the United States, one more agonizing than the other. The more pleasurable memory of course occurs for the US after Paul Caligiuri’s goal on November 19th, 1989 sealed their 1990 World Cup berth. The goal crushed T&T’s qualifying dreams and then came November 16th, 2005, which today marks ten years T&T’s historic qualification for the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany.

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As both the T&T and US national senior men teams arrived at the Piarco International Airport shortly before 4:30pm on Saturday ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier, one of the topics of discussion remained “1989” in both camps.

US Soccer contacted current T&T team coaches Michael Maurice and Hutson Charles last week in Fort Lauderdale to recall the occasion and Maurice, the starting goalkeeper in that fateful 1-0 loss, also spoke to TTFA Media about the dreadful past encounter and a hopefully more delightful one to come for the hosts this time around.

“A very interesting thing is up to this day even though people have asked me about the match, no reporter interviewed me after the game or ever asked about what happened in that goal that was scored by Paul Caligiuri,” Maurice told TTFA Media.

The Starting Eleven vs the United States on November 19th, 1989
The Starting Eleven vs the United States on November 19th, 1989

“They said it appeared as though the sun was in Maurice’s eye and everybody went with that,” he added.

“The sun was not the reason the goal scored. When Paul Caligiuri got into a particular zone, the way how we closed that zone, when the ball was struck I didn’t see it, when the ball was traveling even though it passed through the sun, when I saw it was when it reached in the goal. Had I seen when that ball was struck from the distance it was hit at, even though it was hit through the sun I would have known if to move a few steps to the left or to the right and then catch it,” Maurice explained.

But nearly twenty six years later, the former Costa Rican-based professional believes the current team can get it right.

“The players have a lot more experience now, playing in different leagues and there are different concepts the head coach is trying to knit into one. The players can adapt differently now and play a lot quicker and sharper. These things can definitely give us the edge,” he added.

Russell Latapy on the ball vs United States on November 19th, 1989
Russell Latapy on the ball with Philbert Jones looking on vs United States on November 19th, 1989

Maurice recalled that the crowd in 1989 did not do enough to spur the team on after the US went 1-0 ahead.

“When you are down, the crowd needs to get behind you and spur you on. You see it all around the world and on that day the crowd did not do that to spur us on.

Hopefully now the fans can break that habit and can really get behind this team in our matches,” Maurice appealed.

“Seeing that this is World Cup qualifier, we will certainly look to avenge what happened in ’89.

“It is still a vivid memory. It was special time in all of our lives including myself and teammates. We were that close. With something like that, based on the experience we have now, if we have to relive it do it again, there are a lot things that will be done differently.

The US team trained at Larry Gomes Stadium on Sunday morning while T&T trained at the Hasely Crawford Stadium main field on Sunday evening following a recovery session in the morning on the training pitch.

“Everyone’s healthy and that’s a big thing for us this time and of course the recovery from the game in Guatemala is also critical,” Hart told TTFA Media.

“Now we will switch our focus and our preparation will be more game specific for Tuesday’s match.”

National team defender Radanfah Abu Bakr spoke on Sunday about the team’s tenacity, particularly in the back line.

“This stems from a lot belief and camaraderie within the squad. We fight and play for each other at every point,” Abu Bakr said.

“The entire squad looks out for each other both on and off the field and it shows on the pitch. We are all there for each other, pulling each other together and keeping each other concentrating all the time,” he added.

“And we’d like to see that in the people of Trinidad and Tobago as well. And when we go out there on Tuesday, we’d like to feel the love. We all know what the home crowd does to us as an opposing team in the way they support their team when we travel, so it’s the same way we would like to feel the love at home.

A final batch of tickets will go on sale on Monday at Sports and Games in San Fernando, Port of Spain and Trincity Mall, Fan Club Movietowne in POS, Ramsingh’s in Couva and Kenny’s in Port of Spain on Monday.