Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Tom Saintfiet selected his 23-man squad to face Nicaragua today with 15 Pro League players and eight overseas-based players, including two who will join the team in Central America.
Thirty-six year old veteran Cornell Glen, as reported in Wired868, returns to the Soca Warriors fold and will join the squad in Nicaragua along with United States-based combative midfielder Kevan George. The other 21 players are in Trinidad and entered camp at the Cara Suites Hotel in Claxton Bay on Tuesday evening.
W Connection make up the spine of the squad, as six of their current players are in Saintfiet’s team along with another two players—Jomal Williams and Shahdon Winchester—who are on loan at Murcielagos FC in Mexico.
From the Connection contingent, only defender Maurice Ford was uncapped by former coach Stephen Hart.
The surprise omission was another Connection past player, Mekeil Williams. Williams, who represented MLS outfit Colorado Rapids last season, can operate anywhere in the back four. However, he failed to sufficiently impress Saintfiet during their practice sessions. Ma Pau Stars midfielder Elton John and St Ann’s Rangers winger Jomoul Francois also missed out.
Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino and San Jose Earthquakes winger Cordell Cato are unavailable for the Nicaragua friendlies due to club business while Seattle Sounders winger Joevin Jones asked for time off to recover from his long season and San Juan Jabloteh striker Willis Plaza will be abroad on trial.
Europe-based players Sheldon Bateau, Khaleem Hyland, Andre Boucaud and Levi Garcia are also unavailable due to club commitments. There were no Central FC players selected after the club refused to release goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and midfielder Nathaniel Garcia for the local-based camp.
Saintfiet expressed satisfaction with his team’s preparations so far.
“We don’t have the full squad here because there are still some foreign based players to arrive but I am very happy,” Saintfiet told the TTFA Media. “We have about 19 or 20 players in camp. I think we have a mixed group of young payers, talented players without experience in national team but also players who played a lot for the national team and are very experienced, who also have experience abroad.
“The atmosphere is good. The boys trained good last week and yesterday, and we are looking forward to prepare this team for Nicaragua [which] is also preparation for the real matches against Suriname and Haiti.”
Saintfiet’s final 23-man squad had five players—including Club Sando attacker Akeem Roach and the San Juan Jabloteh duo of Tyrone Charles and Nathan Lewis—who were not in his initial 29-man training squad.
“The reason they are invited is because they caught my eye,” said Saintfiet. “Secondly there are absences of some other players and some players can fill those vacancies. [They] fit exactly into the system I want to play and I am very happy that they are added and I hope they can adapt very fast.”
The Belgian coach said Glen will compensate for Plaza’s absence.
“We will look in these friendly matches and in the coming training sessions at his quality and level and we will see what he brings,” said Saintfiet. “[Glen] has to prove in training whether he is ready for it, just like every other player.”
The Warriors depart on Christmas Day for Managua where they will face Nicaragua on 27 and 30 December before returning to Trinidad on Old Year’s Day.
Saintfiet said he has not yet named his replacement for former captain Kenwyne Jones and is likely to do so in Nicaragua.
“I have had some thoughts about it but I didn’t make the final decision yet,” said Saintfiet. “To be honest I don’t think it’s is always that important who is the captain for me. I like that the whole team takes the responsibility of a captain…”
The former Bangladesh and Namibia coach complimented the ability of the local-based players and hopes to hold another camp once the Pro League ends in February.
TTFA president David John-Williams said, at Saintfiet’s media unveiling, that the coach will be looking for a new job in March if he does not secure four points against Panama and Mexico in 2018 World Cup qualifiers in Port of Spain. But, for now, the Belgian coach suggested that he is thinking long term.
“I believe that locally we have a lot of good players and I am looking forward already to the future,” he said. “After the league, I think there could be a huge opportunity to train a lot with the local players to make a better understanding for the needs of international football—to improve here and there and to work longer together.
“I think maybe we overlooked a bit too long the quality of the local based players and focused too much on the foreign based players who are also of a high quality. But I think we can find the ideal mix.
“Locally, there are a lot of players with the potential to go abroad and to defend their country and I hope they take this opportunity.”
The National Senior Team train twice tomorrow at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella at 9.30am and 5.30pm.
(T&T 23-man squad for Nicaragua)
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Glenroy Samuel (Ma Pau Stars);
Defenders: Carlos Edwards (Ma Paul Stars), Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E-Land—Korea Republic), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Sillamae Kallen—Estonia), Daneil Cyrus, Maurice Ford, Triston Hodge (all W Connection), Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica),
Midfielders: Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Kevan George (Jacksonville Armada—USA), Alvin Jones, Hughtun Hector (both W Connection);
Attacking midfielders: Aikim Andrews (W Connection), Akeem Roach (Club Sando), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Jomal Williams (Murcielagos FC), Nathan Lewis, Tyrone Charles (both San Juan Jabloteh);
Forwards: Shahdon Winchester (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Cornell Glen (Ozone FC Bengalaru—India), Trevin Caesar (Orange County Blues—USA).