Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart will carry a depleted squad including 14 Pro League players to South America later this month when the “Soca Warriors” will battle Uruguay—who are ranked ninth in the world by FIFA—and Peru.
The Warriors, who are ranked 53rd by FIFA, face 46th ranked Peru in Lima on May 23 and then Uruguay in Montevideo on May 27. They will then head to China for a third exhibition match at Qin Huang Dao on June 3.
Only the China outing falls within the FIFA international match calendar, which allows football associations free reign to select players.
However, Hart has opted to stick with largely the same squad for all three games.
“The consideration for selection was a bit difficult mainly because the first two games do not fall on a FIFA date,” Hart told the TTFA Media. “So what I have decided to do was to go with a number of players that have looked well in the Pro League and try to mix them with players who have been utilised in the World Cup qualification.
“It was a difficult decision because you want to put your best foot forward in those games. But unfortunately because it is outside of a FIFA window a number of players were not available to us.”
Among the beneficiaries are the uncapped duo of San Juan Jabloteh winger Nathan Lewis, who has 12 Pro League goals this season, and North East Stars goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel, who was playing in the domestic second tier with Matura ReUnited up until February.
They will play alongside the likes of AZ Alkmaar winger Levi Garcia, HB Koge defender Radanfah Abu Bakr and KVC Westerlo midfielder Khaleem Hyland, who headed the list of foreign-based players included in the squad.
Andre Boucaud (England), Aubrey David (Costa Rica), Justin Hoyte (England), Yohance Marshall (Mexico) and Willis Plaza (El Salvador) will fly in for the trip too alongside former Point Fortin Civic defender Weslie John, who also plays in El Salvador.
England-born midfielder John Bostock is again forced to delay his international debut due to tardiness by the England FA. The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) is obliged to present FIFA with letters from the other three associations that Bostock can represent, which state whether he has represented them and at what level.
The Republic of Ireland and Wales have already responded but not England, who Bostock captained at National Under-17 level. As a result, Hart decided not to risk calling up the classy box-to-box midfielder.
Central FC captain Leston Paul, a two-time World Youth Cup player, might benefit from his absence.
“There has been a lot of discussion in Trinidad and Tobago football about giving players an opportunity,” said Hart, “and this is my one sort of opportunity to bring in a number of players and see if I can get the squad to gel together and play what will be two very difficult games.”
Garcia and Hyland will not travel on to China and will be replaced by Central attacker Marcus Joseph and Republic of Korea-based defender Carlyle Mitchell.
“China have been on the up, their recent results have been very good and overall this tour will test us in every way possible, both on and off the field,” said Hart. “What this will do is give me is an idea of which players could handle the stress of playing in a very difficult situation.
“Having to play Peru and then Uruguay in Uruguay which is one of the best teams in South America is going to place a lot of mental stress on the players and you want that.
“I want to see who can handle it and adapt quickly and for myself, it is going to be a challenge because to get that squad to gel is really going to test myself and the staff.”
The Warriors will begin a live-in camp on Sunday at the Metro Hotel in Couva, although Pro League clubs Defence Force and Jabloteh remain locked in battle for second place and the sole remaining CONCACAF Champions League qualifying spot at stake.
Defence Force, who have 48 points, have one league fixture remaining while Jabloteh, who also have 48 points but an inferior goal differential, have two outings left. Hart selected Lewis from Jabloteh and Curtis Gonzales from Defence Force.
“Nathan Lewis has done well for Jabloteh in the League and now we will see if he can take his ability to another level,” said Hart. “Glenroy has been outstanding for North East and is a big factor in their rise up the table. So it’s a good for him to push for selection.
“And then of course Weslie John, who I have been following on InStat Scout, has done very well in El Salvador and I will be interested to see how he adapts.”
Soca Warriors custodian Jan-Michael Williams again misses out due to injury while captain Kenwyne Jones and key players like Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones and Sheldon Bateau are unavailable due to club commitments.
(Trinidad and Tobago team)
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Glenroy Samuel (North East Stars);
Defenders: Aubrey David (Saprissa FC—Costa Rica), Daneil Cyrus, Triston Hodge (both W Connection), Justin Hoyte (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Weslie John (CD Universidad—El Salvador), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Yohance Marshall (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Andre Ettienne (Central FC), Radanfah Abu Bakr (HB Koge—Denmark);
Midfielders: Hughtun Hector (W Connection), Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Leston Paul (Central FC), Khaleem Hyland (KVC Westerlo—Belgium);
Forwards: Willis Plaza (Alianza FC—El Salvador), Shahdon Winchester (W Connection), Makesi Lewis (Police FC);
Additions for China match: Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E Land—Korea Republic), Marcus Joseph (Central FC).