For the second year running, there were no Trinidad and Tobago players included among a shortlist of the Caribbean’s top young players for the United States’ Major League Soccer (MLS) Caribbean Combine, which kicked off today in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and serves as a talent search for promising regional players.
And, yet again, the explanation seemed to lie in the inability of Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) general secretary Sheldon Phillips to execute a simple task.
On 25 November 2014, Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president Gordon Derrick wrote to the region’s Member Associations in an email entitled: “Invitation to Participate in 2015 Major League Soccer Caribbean Combine.”
Wired868 has a copy of the email and relevant attachments.
The TTFA, like everyone else, was asked to submit for consideration its two best male national team players between the ages of 18 and 22 years who should be part of its “elite player programme.”
Each football body had to submit a CV for each player that should include a passport-sized photo, name, date of birth, height, weight, playing position and number of international caps by the deadline of Friday 28 November 2014. All expenses for the camp, including travel and accommodation, are met by the MLS.
Once more, Trinidad and Tobago players never stood a chance.
On the afternoon of Friday 28 November, Phillips forwarded the CFU’s request to the Pro League, Super League and Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) bodies instead.
“Please review attached invitation from the CFU for their upcoming MLS Caribbean Combine and share with your affiliate clubs,” wrote Phillips. “If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at any time.”
The Pro League clubs received the request at 2.44 pm on deadline day. Even if the clubs had most of the information on file, there were a few obvious difficulties: the TTFA rather than the clubs held the players’ international data while the clubs were not authorised to communicate directly with the CFU on the matter.
The most glaring issue, though, is if the nine Pro League, 15 Super League teams and 44 schools—even though all would not have players to fit the criteria—had decided to offer two names each, Phillips would have had to sift through 68 CVs.
For that reason, the CFU assumes the best authority to decide the best two young players in the country is the relevant Football Association.
Last year, Phillips passed on the CFU’s correspondence to a handful of local clubs, which bemused CFU general secretary Damien Hughes.
“The process by which players were to be selected was outlined to Member Associations in a correspondence to them,” Hughes told Wired868 last year. “The TTFA never made any submissions of players to the MLS for consideration.”
For a second successive year, Phillips did not seem to understand a simple instruction and, instead, gave local clubs and schools an impossible task with roughly an hour before the CFU’s deadline.
The Caribbean football bodies who did understand how to submit a CV and had players selected to the combine were: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Turks and Caicos and the US Virgin Islands.
The “Soca Warriors” were the only English-speaking participant at the 2014 Caribbean Cup finals that did not send a player to the Caribbean Combine.
At present, Trinidad and Tobago has four internationals in the MLS: Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes), Kevin Molino (Orlando City), Kevan George (Columbus Crew) and Joevin Jones (Chicago Fire).
Some Trinidad and Tobago players who were eligible for the MLS Caribbean Combine, not counting the National Under-20 players who are preparing for their CONCACAF tournament, include: Alvin Jones, Shahdon Winchester, Neil Benjamin, Jomal Williams (all DIRECTV W Connection), Brent Sam (San Juan Jabloteh), Keon Joseph (North East Stars), Rundell Winchester and Dwight Quintero (both Central FC).
Phillips did not respond to Wired868’s request for the TTFA’s failure to recommend any local players to the MLS.
Phillips was recently relieved of “government relations” and national team budgets after Wired868’s expose on his role in a $400,000 TTFA licensing fee scam. Arguably, there might be a few more duties that he is not keen on.
TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee has not suggested that his general secretary’s monthly remuneration, which is in the region of $45,000, was restructured to suit his new portfolio.
The Pro League will have one representative at the Caribbean Combine as W Connection goalkeeper Julani Archibald was nominated by the St Kitts and Nevis Football Association.
Last year, Connection’s Surinamese winger Stefano Rijssel was selected from the Caribbean Combine and then drafted by Seattle Sounders although the club subsequently decided against offering the attacker a deal.