United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann will be taking no chances in their World Cup 2018 qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday in Port of Spain.
The USMNT began its campaign with a resounding 6-1 victory against St Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday in St. Louis, despite an early scare when Oalex Anderson put the visitors ahead inside five minutes.
The victory was Klinsmann’s 43rd as coach of the national team, though he trails Bruce Arena’s record of 71 wins accumulated between 1998 and 2006.
Trinidad and Tobago reached the quarterfinals of the 2015 Gold Cup, suffering elimination at the hands of Panama, which went on to beat the U.S. on penalties in the third-place playoff.
Klinsmann believes such form warrants due care from his side.
“I think Trinidad and Tobago and probably Haiti have been the biggest winners or surprises in CONCACAF this year,” Klinsmann told USSoccer.com.
“They played a very good Gold Cup and also had some good results in friendlies and other test games.
“You have to give Trinidad and Tobago a lot of respect. They’re known for their physical game and known for being strong.
“A lot of their players play in the English Championship and obviously playing at home they have a lot of confidence, and they want to prove to the world that they’re a good team.”
The U.S. coach reckons his team’s opponents’ recent performance make them more serious contenders to qualify for the tournament in Russia.
“It comes down to a mental grind when you go through World Cup qualifying, which at the end of the day is 16 games,” he said.
“This is a long path — it’s a marathon, as we say — and I think teams like Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti have become more prepared for that.”
The Caribbean side began its campaign with a 2-1 win at Guatemala, and Khaleem Hyland — who scored the opening goal in that match — is hoping for a full house in Port of Spain.
“It will be a very big game. We have been playing great football for a long time and we hope we can get a full crowd — full support for the game against USA,” he said.
Trinidad and Tobago’s last triumph over USNMT came in 2008, when Russell Latapy and Dwight Yorke propelled them to a 2-1 victory in World Cup qualifying.
Brad Guzan and Jozy Altidore — who moved clear of Brian McBride to become Team USA’s fourth all-time highest scorer at 31 with his double against St Vincent and the Grenadines — were both part of the defeated American side.