New Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Tom Saintfiet made his first big call as Soca Warriors coach today—and it was a six foot three decision.
Saintfiet selected his first squad today and named 28 players to face Nicaragua in friendly internationals on 27 and 30 December. And, even with 16 players summoned from the local Pro League, there was no room for the giant Central FC forward who scored 16 goals in 35 matches under former coach Stephen Hart—albeit just two items from eight games in the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign so far.
Jones scored just once in 2016, which was also a miserable year for the team.
Saintfiet revealed that Jones was informed he would not be selected last week, which would have been within a day or two of the Belgian taking over as head coach. And the new Warriors coach suggested that, although the door was not closed to the former Sunderland and Stoke City forward, he wants to tweak the style of play of the Trinidad and Tobago team in time for next month’s Gold Cup playoff matches against Suriname and Haiti on 4 and 8 January respectively.
“I had a personal meeting with Kenwyne last week and I discussed privately with him the reason why we took that decision,” Saintfiet told Wired868. “The criteria for the selection of players is our tactical ideas and choices we want to use against Suriname and Haiti. The next thing is the current physical and mental shape of the players in our knowledge…
“Kenwyne is not out of the squad for good. I will follow up with how he performs [with Central FC] and how he performs with [his new MLS employers] Atlanta.”
Jones, who scored Central’s decisive second goal in a 2-1 win over W Connection on Monday, leaves for pre-season with new United States Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise, Atlanta United FC, on 1 January 2017.
The next MLS season begins in March 2017. Trinidad and Tobago host Panama and Mexico on 24 and 28 March in two vital qualifiers, which could decide the country’s World Cup fate as well as Saintfiet’s short-term coaching future.
For now, Saintfiet believes that Trinidad and Tobago’s best chance of getting results is with speed upfront and Jones, a classic target man and set piece weapon, does not fit in.
Instead, he selected San Juan Jabloteh striker Willis Plaza and the overseas-based duo of Shahdon Winchester (Murcielagos FC—Mexico) and Trevin Caesar (Orange County Blues—USA). Caesar, a diminutive speedy frontman, is one of a half dozen players who are in their off-season at present.
“I want a lot of speed upfront and space to run into on the counter attack,” said Saintfiet. “But I do not want to say too much because [the technical staff of] Suriname and Haiti can read what I say.”
Saintfiet will decide on his new captain by Christmas.
“I have not yet an answer for the [identity of the] new captain,” said Saintfiet. “I want to talk better to the players… We still have some doubts about availability of players [for the Gold Cup playoffs].”
Orlando City midfield ace Kevin Molino is back in the squad after an internal two game suspension while there were recalls for Sean De Silva (Central FC), Alvin Jones, Hughtun Hector, Aikim Andrews (all W Connection) and Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force).
There were also intriguing call-ups for Defence Force playmaker Hashim Arcia, flying St Ann’s Rangers winger Jomoul Francois and versatile W Connection defender Maurice Forde. And, most of all, former 2006 World Cup and Sunderland flanker Carlos Edwards, who now represents Ma Pau Stars in the Pro League.
Edwards has over 80 National Senior Team caps but has not represented his country in three years.
England-based midfielder conductor Andre Boucaud, Eredivisie winger Levi Garcia and combative Belgium-based midfielder Khaleem Hyland were not named in Saintfiet’s first squad but the coach insisted that it was a matter of availability. He still hopes to have their services for the Gold Cup playoffs, if possible.
None of the four upcoming matches fall under the FIFA match window and clubs can decide whether they choose to release players to take part.
However, Saintfiet said the United States duo of Neveal Hackshaw and Ataulla Guerra were simply overlooked at present.
Midfield anchor Kevan George, who is also in his off-season, ruled himself out of the Nicaragua games and will be left out of the Gold Cup playoffs as a result, since the new coach believes there will be insufficient time to get him in shape and fit him into his new tactics.
There were four W Connection, three Central and two Ma Pau players in the squad. Shahdon Winchester, Jomal Williams and Triston Hodge, who are on loan from Connection, were also selected.
There was no room for Defence Force striker Devorn Jorsling, Central FC attacker Marcus Joseph, Jabloteh wingers Nathan Lewis and Tyrone Charles or Mexico-based defender Yohance Marshall while Connection defender Jelani Peters is believed to be out due to injury.
World Cup 2006 striker Cornell Glen, who now plays professionally, was also overlooked although he was identified by Hart as a potential inclusion to help save Trinidad and Tobago’s faltering Russia 2018 World Cup chances.
(Trinidad and Tobago 28-man squad)
Goalkeepers: Jan Michael Williams (Central FC), Glenroy Samuel (Ma Pau Stars), Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United), Adrian Foncette (Police FC);
Defenders: Carlos Edwards (Ma Pau Stars), Daneil Cyrus (W Connection), Sheldon Bateau (Krylia Sovetov Samara—Russia), Triston Hodge (Toronto FC II—Canada), Mekeil Williams (Colorado Rapids—USA), Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E-Land FC—Korea Republic), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Sillamae Kallen—Estonia), Maurice Ford (W Connection), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Aubrey David (Dallas FC—USA);
Midfielders: Nathaniel Garcia (Central FC), Alvin Jones (W Connection), Sean De Silva (Central FC), Hughtun Hector (W Connection), Kevin Molino (Orlando City—USA), Aikim Andrews (W Connection), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes—USA), Jomal Williams (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders—USA), Jomoul Francois (St Ann’s Rangers);
Forwards: Willis Plaza (San Juan Jabloteh), Shahdon Winchester (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Trevin Caesar (Orange County Blues—USA).