Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart suffered another withdrawal yesterday, as veteran right back Justin Hoyte pulled out of Friday’s 2016 Copa America Centenario play off clash against Haiti with a hamstring injury.
Hoyte’s pull-out means the “Soca Warriors”—already without midfielders Kevin Molino and Hughtun Hector, as they recover from injury—have now lost five players from the squad that defeated Guatemala and drew with the United States in November.
The absences include captain Kenwyne Jones, striker Willis Plaza, defender Sheldon Bateau and attacking midfielder Keron “Ball Pest” Cummings, who was shot in his leg just over a week ago. While playmaker Ataulla Guerra is still trying to get his rhythm back after a string of injuries and ailments in the latter half of 2015.
Hart had his full squad for the first time in training today and the coach said he is focused on getting the relationships right between his attackers for Friday’s showdown against Haiti in Panama City, Panama.
“We all went to see Keron Cummings as a group and that was a sobering experience for us,” Hart told Wired868. “But the atmosphere in the camp has been tremendous. It is a great bunch of players to work with and, right now, it is just to get the relationships right with the midfield and forward line because it is a bit new…
“It is a new forward line and we have had to make some adjustments. We are trying to get some understanding among them as quickly as possible.”
The Haitian football team are under new management, as 61-year-old French journeyman coach, Patrice Neveu, was appointed their head coach last month.
Seventeen players from Haiti’s 23-man squad earn a living off the island with eight playing professionally in Europe. In contrast, Trinidad and Tobago have 14 overseas-based players and five Europe-based professionals.
Haiti, who are ranked 77th in the world, are the only team to defeat Trinidad and Tobago during regulation time of a competitive fixture, since Hart’s appointment in mid-2013. And the Warriors coach is wary of the threat they possess.
“I saw the players they invited in and they have quite a bit of their core team,” said Hart, whose Warriors are ranked 49th by FIFA. “They were a nice balanced squad at the (2015) Gold Cup and with a little bit of luck, anything could have happened.
“I think they have a nice ball possession game and they play very quickly and have good team speed, which is kind of similar to us. They may arguably have some more experience than we do and that sometimes could be important in a one off game…
“I think the game will be evenly balanced and really, really tight.”
Warriors defender Radanfah Abu Bakr insisted that the boys in red, white and black have their eyes on the prize though and are desperate to keep their momentum.
“(The 2016 Copa America Centenario) can provide massive exposure for us and excellent preparation for our upcoming World Cup qualifiers,” Abu Bakr told Wired868, “but Haiti will be playing for that as well. We played them in a scrimmage game before the Gold Cup and they are always a physical team and they were well organised…
“But we want to improve on what we have been doing under coach Hart. We are expecting to do better and we are working towards that.”
Molino, the TTFA’s 2014 Player of the Year, did individual training alongside his international teammates last week, as the Orlando City midfield ace continues his recovery from a broken leg.
Abu Bakr said the Warriors also have another Trinidad and Tobago playmaker, Cummings, at the forefront of their thoughts.
“We had a little chat with (Cummings on Wednesday and) it really put things into perspective for the rest of us,” said Abu Bakr. “It was a really humbling experience for us. But we are really determined to qualify for this tournament and to dedicate that to him.
“We are looking forward to doing well in that game.”
The Trinidad and Tobago squad to face Haiti is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC), Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United), Adrian Foncette (Police FC);
Defenders: Daneil Cyrus (W Connection), Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E-Land—South Korea), Radanfah Abu Bakr (HB Koge—Denmark), Yohance Marshall (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Mekeil Williams (Antigua GFC—Guatemala), Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica);
Midfielders: Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Khaleem Hyland (KV Westerlo—Belgium), Kevan George (Unattached), Neveal Hackshaw (North East Stars);
Attacking Midfielders: Trevin Caesar (Austin Aztex—USA), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes—USA), Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava—Slovakia), Joevin Jones (Chicago Fire—USA), Rundell Winchester (Portland Timbers II—USA), Jomal Williams (W Connection), Ataulla Guerra (Central FC);
Forwards: Jonathan Glenn (Breioablik—Iceland), Shahdon Winchester (W Connection).
Goalkeepers: Steward Ceus (Atlanta Silver Backs—USA), Valendi Odelus (Aigle Noir AC), Jaafson Origène (Don Bosco FC);
Defenders: Méchack Jérome (Armada FC—USA), Frantz Bertin (Mumbai City FC—India), Judlin Aveska (Mohun Bagan—India), Stéphane Lambèse (PSG—France), Kim Jaggy (Aarau FC—Switzerland), Alex Christian Junior (FC Boavista—Portugal) Kevin Lafrance (Miedz Legnieca—Poland);
Midfielders: Sébastien Thurière (Charleston Battery—USA), Jean Marc Alexandre (Negeri Sembilan—Malaysia) , Max Hilaire (Pau FC—France), Soni Mustivar (Sporting Kansas—USA) ,Constant Monuma (Don Bosco), Sony Nordé (Mumbai City FC—India), Pascal Millien (Armada FC—USA), Junior Delva (Don Bosco FC);
Forwards: Wedson Anselme (Aigle Noir AC), Kervens Fils Belfort (1460 Trabzon Sport—Turkey), Jean Eudes Maurice (Ermis Aradippou—Cyprus), Woodensky M. Chèrenfant (Fica), Duckens Nazon ( Stade Lavallois—France).