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Hart monitoring Levi’s AZ progress; gives blessing to experimental Warriors

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart has confirmed that he is closely monitoring 18 year old starlet Levi Garcia, who managed his competitive debut and maiden goal for AZ Alkmaar last month in the Eredivisie.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago teenager Levi Garcia (right) practises with Netherlands top flight club, AZ Alkmaar.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago teenager Levi Garcia (right) practises with Netherlands top flight club, AZ Alkmaar.

However, Hart declined to say when Garcia can expect his first senior international call-up and suggested that he prefers the young winger focuses on his progress in the Netherlands top flight.

Garcia became the youngest Trinidad and Tobago player to get competitive action in Europe when he came on as a substitute in a 4-2 win against Feyenoord on January 24. And, six days later, the former National Under-20 Team winger got his first AZ goal in another appearance off the bench in a 3-0 win over NEC.

Both milestones were previously head by former Trinidad and Tobago star and World Cup 2006 captain Dwight Yorke.

Hart worked with Garcia before as a technical advisor to the National Under-20 Team, which was coached by Derek King, and tried to select him for the 2014 Caribbean Cup, only for the player to opt for a trial with AZ instead.

But the “Soca Warriors” coach is not prepared to reveal any of his selections yet for next month’s Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers against St Vincent and the Grenadines, which will be played away on March 25 and in Port of Spain on March 29.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart juggles a football during practice before his team's 2016 Copa America play off contest against Haiti. (Copyright AFP 2016)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart juggles a football during practice before his team’s 2016 Copa America play off contest against Haiti.
(Copyright AFP 2016)

“I have seen all of Levi’s games and I am closely monitoring his progress for consideration,” Hart told Wired868.

After the Warriors’ timid 1-0 loss to Haiti last month in a 2016 Copa America play off, there has been good news for Trinidad and Tobago football fans, as captain Kenwyne Jones already has two goals for his new Abu Dhabi-based employer, Al Jazeera, while midfielders Hughtun Hector and, possibly, Kevin Molino, might be available after lengthy injury-enforced lay offs.

Gold Cup 2015 utility player Dwane James and defender Mekeil Williams have also been unveiled as signings for Antigua GFC (Guatemala) and Colorado Rapids (United States) respectively.

Twenty five year old United States-born midfielder Nick De Leon, who is the son of former Trinidad and Tobago football legend Leroy De Leon, has also opened the door to represent the two island republic. But De Leon still does not have a T&T passport and cannot be considered at present.

Photo: DC United midfielder Nick De Leon was born in Arizona but his father, Leroy De Leon, was a former Trinidad and Tobago great. (Courtesy YouTube)
Photo: DC United midfielder Nick De Leon was born in Arizona but his father, Leroy De Leon, was a former Trinidad and Tobago great.
(Courtesy YouTube)

In the Pro League, Central FC playmaker Ataulla Guerra, San Juan Jabloteh striker Jamal Gay, Club Sando midfielder Akeem Humphrey, Defence Force winger Ross Russell Jr and the W Connection pair of attacker Jomal Williams and right back Shannon Gomez are among the players staking a claim for an international call-up.

There is the possibility that the local-based players might work with Hart before the March 25 qualifier in St Vincent, as the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) is looking into securing an international friendly.

Any such match would be outside the FIFA match window and would mean that Hart cannot call upon his foreign-based players.

However, the Warriors coach, who is among 10 nominees for CONCACAF’s 2015 Coach of the Year award, said he would welcome more games and pointed out that he often asked former football president Raymond Tim Kee for opportunities to work with a local pool.

Hart stressed, though, that such matches cannot be considered preparation for the Russia 2018 campaign.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Shahdon Winchester (right) tries to escape from Haiti defender Jean Marc Alexandre during the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City.  (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Shahdon Winchester (right) tries to escape from Haiti defender Jean Marc Alexandre during the 2016 Copa America play off contest at the Rommel Fernandez Stadium, Panama City.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-images/Wired868)

“Any game played outside a FIFA window cannot be a preparation game for the World Cup qualifiers,” Hart told Wired868. “However, the camp and game can be used experimentally with a mixture of current local-based squad members, potential selects and young players.

“The aims and objectives will be to gain international camp and game experience, scouting and address match sharpness.”

Hart said he is in constant dialogue with current TTFA president David John-Williams, as the football body tries to get things in place for the immediate priority, which is the CONCACAF qualifiers.

“The immediate priority remains making sure all arrangements for the World Cup qualifiers in March are in place,” said Hart, “such as wages, travel, hotel, scouting, staffing, equipment, etc.

“David (John-Williams) and I are in constant dialogue. We understand the present constraints but the World Cup qualifying campaign has to meet certain standards and presently we are working towards that as a priority.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago players (from left) Khaleem Hyland, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Mekeil Williams, Daneil Cyrus and Sheldon Bateau celebrate their 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Guatemala on 13 November 2015. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago players (from left) Khaleem Hyland, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Mekeil Williams, Daneil Cyrus and Sheldon Bateau celebrate their 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Guatemala on 13 November 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“Anything outside of that is for the overall benefit of potential future programming and development for the National Team.”

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 15 years experience at several local and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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42 comments

  1. I cannot see the St Vincent and the Grenadines defence hold T&T but our defenders will have a torrid foot race against their attack

  2. Thanks for the intel Jamaal. I suspect we do better against the more one-paced teams like Guatemala than the teams that match us for athleticism like Panama.
    Big test for us to show the other sides of our game.

  3. St Vincent and the Grenadines will not be a walkover in St. Vincent on a bone hard arnos vale wide pitch. 5 of their front 6 could ensure they medal in the Rio Olympics if they entered the 4×100. Not strong at the back but will be headaches on the counter

  4. 70 % of the local based squad would have played in Trinidad with North East, Cale, Joe Public, Santa Rosa ..plus play with Alpha United in CFU and Concacaf Champions League

  5. Guyana home based can stand up with T&T home based now that they have an 8 team elite league. If you add one or two USA based Guyanese I think this is a clash.

  6. Well, Guyana won’t be able to access their foreign based spine either. How strong is your home-based team Jamaal?
    But Caribbean opposition is fine. Sure.
    You think 10 days on the road would be so detrimental to Levi, Kester?
    Dwight Yorke was already a senior international by that age and producing polished performances against top nations like Costa Rica.
    Once we don’t put too much weight on his shoulders, I don’t know that it’s a bad idea to get a fresh face in.

    • I do think 10 days away from his current situation will do more harmbthan good to his club prospects. Put in all the factors, plus the difference in time zones (his body has just once had to deal with it) I was told it is one day (circadian rythym) recovery/adjustment for every 2 hours time difference. Does this kid need to be stressed this way now?
      Dwight has said his early club career was severly affected by his transalantic sojourns. Additionally, he was injured at one point and struggled to regain hi spot on the team.

    • Well, hopefully his body will be taken into consideration. But remember Dwight Yorke was never one to get much rest on his trips to Trinidad.
      The likes of Luis Suarez, Alexi Sanchez and Lionel Messi travel further distances than Yorke would have had to and turned out okay.
      Hopefully they will consider all the ponderables though.

    • Lasana wha you sayin? Yorke had other activities on his trips to play for TT? ?…lol

  7. Let Hart leave Levi alone nuh. Let him grow as a professional for at least another season. The young man is battling for a starting and we wanna set him back by taking him out of that environment.

  8. Ah hmm(clearing my throat)…can I get support on Wired for Guyana to be a possible outside of the fifa window opponent for Trinidad & Tobago.
    Now its not a title fight eh (we (Guyana) being the title holders. But we (Guyana) draw 2-2 and 4-4 with St. Vincent & the Grenadines and was eliminated on the away goal rule….I think we would be an ideal opponent to help widen the T&T pool.
    It would increase the level of difficulty for T&T if the game is played in Guyana and keep the local based players motivated especially those knocking on the doors as suggested in Lasana’s article. Can I get some Wired868 support here….remember its not a title fight eh….

  9. Dont think DeLeon played at any youth level for the USA, with US soccer politics his chances were slim though better under Klinsman. He is good 1v1 and works very hard. I hope the passport get sorted out soon. Would love to see him running at that US aging midfield in our colours.

  10. Jamaica’s migrant population is either much larger or tends to gravitate towards sport more than ours.
    But usually Trinidad and Tobago’s football has been too chaotic to attract such players.
    And we have never had a history of stuffing our teams with players born abroad. That’s jamaica’s thing. We create our own teams largely.

  11. I’ve run the question at coach Hart once at TTFA press conferences & whether or not De Leon wants to play for TT or not, I’ve always found it strange that more players of TT heritage in UK or USA have not been spotted over the years under his tenure.

    Esepcially when you consider Jamaica seems to finding such players in England every month – even Guyana ha…

  12. Perhaps. He is 25 so still has a lot to offer. Of course Klinsmann has some time to derail that I guess. So we will see.

  13. ..Well this is a new development. He has danced for years and has probably “abandoned all hope” of representing USA. Cool..

  14. …LOL. The man doesn’t want to be looked at. We ain’t see that by now?..

  15. No Keith. He has indicated he is open to representing Trinidad and Tobago and is getting his T&T passport as we speak.

  16. He is a good player Lasana Liburd… definitely worth a look by the HC.

  17. …The man doesn’t wish to represent Trii man. That is CLEAR. He lives in the hope of representing USA. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But we need to forget him….

  18. …Why allyuh doh give up on dat de Leon guy? Is not time? He doh want us. Why we want him?..

  19. Nick De Leon might be an interesting prospect at some point too. I had hoped he was a central midfielder but I see he is more of a winger.
    How do you rate him Brent Bennett and Ian R Briggs?

  20. Levi is gonna get that call sooner rather than later.