Defence Force striker Jamille Boatswain and Police FC forward Jameel Perry were rewarded for their fine form this Pro League season with their first international call-ups to the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team.
The 27-man squad, which was announced by Soca Warriors head coach Dennis Lawrence at a press conference this afternoon, consisted entirely of local-based players.
Lawrence hopes to get two practice games for his local-based contingent before he decides which players will advance to his full team for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Mexico.
“I wouldn’t have access to the foreign-based players until the 18th or 19th of March,” said Lawrence. “What I think is important is I work with the local players now […] to start building on something [so] that these players will be able to push for a position on the team [to face Panama] come March the 24th.”
Boatswain scored 16 goals in all competitions—eight with his former club, Point Fortin Civic—and is the joint second highest domestic scorer, alongside fellow national recruit Hashim Arcia, while Perry managed just one goal less for the “Lawmen”.
Club Sando attacker Akeem Roach, who managed a league high 11 goals, is in the squad too and keeps his place from the Trinidad and Tobago team which played in last month’s 2017 Gold Cup Play Offs under former coach Tom Saintfiet.
However, Lawrence omitted former 2006 World Cup teammate Carlos Edwards, who captained the national team under Saintfiet, as well as defender Maurice Ford who was also a regular starter under Saintfiet. Winger Aikim Andrews is also out although he is believed to be unavailable due to overseas commitments.
Defence Force poacher Devorn Jorsling, whose 16 goals in all competitions was the highest tally in the domestic game, was also overlooked from the 27-man squad.
Lawrence said he spoke to Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon before deciding on Jorsling’s fate and suggested that he felt the time was not right to consider the 33 year old forward at present. The burly striker has just returned to full fitness from an injury.
Lawrence did not offer an explanation for the exclusion of Edwards or anyone else, though.
“This is the group I am starting with,” said Lawrence, “this is not the group I am going to finish with.”
Other significant returnees are the Central FC pair of defender Julius James and midfielder Keron “Ball Pest” Cummings.
James, a former Columbus Crew player in the MLS, has not represented Trinidad and Tobago since 11 November 2011 when the Warriors lost 2-1 away to Guyana. But he caught the eye with a series of steady showings for the “Couva Sharks” as they clinched their third successive Pro League title.
James joined Central just last month.
Cummings has not worn red, black and white strip since he was shot in his leg, just over a year ago, while he has not consistently commanded a starting role for Central this season.
“Keron [Cummings] plays in a position on the football pitch that was one of the positions that I was interested in finding players for,” said Lawrence. “Keron has demonstrated to me that he understands the position… He has the experience of being around the international football before.
“From that point of view, I would like to work with him and see if we can improve on him.”
Lawrence was certainly happy to be unconventional in his initial squad. Cummings apart, Defence Force goalkeeper Andre Marchan is not even a regular starter at his club while defender Jesus Perez has not always held on to a first team spot at W Connection.
St Ann’s Rangers winger Jomoul Francois, a speedy but raw prospect, barely played for his club in the past two months, as he considered an exit to greener pastures. But Lawrence was not put off.
“I saw him come on as a substitute a couple times,” said Lawrence, “so he has been playing for Rangers.”
There were more debutantes too as Club Sando midfielders Jared London and former National Under-20 player Akeem Humphrey were also selected.
Central goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and midfielders Leston Paul and Sean De Silva are in as well, although club captain Darren “Chucky” Mitchell—who scored nine goals from a variety of positions across the midfield and even full back—was another surprise omission.
Lawrence explained that his coaching staff comprised of people he felt comfortable working with and who he felt shared his vision.
He said Connection coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier—who was initially recommended for his job by the TTFA technical committee—had valuable knowledge of the local league and its players while Central assistant coach Stern John, who is Trinidad and Tobago’s record goal scorer, could share his goalscoring knowledge with the squad.
Lawrence said he decided to appoint South African fitness trainer Riedoh Berdien based on the positive feedback of people who worked with him in Trinidad.
The Warriors squad had their first meeting this afternoon at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
“I am trying to ensure that I prepare the team as best as possible,” said Lawrence. “And as I said before, as difficult as it might be, it is not impossible. So we are going to prepare as best as we can to make sure that—come March the 24th—we can go out and try and deliver what we would like to have, which is a successful result.”
(Trinidad and Tobago 27-man squad)
Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC), Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United), Glenroy Samuel (Ma Pau Stars), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Andre Marchan (Defence Force);
Defenders: Carlyle Mitchell (Unattached), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Julius James (Central FC), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Unattached), Daniel Cyrus (Unattached), Jelani Peters, Jesus Perez, Triston Hodge, Alvin Jones (all W Connection);
Midfielders: Leston Paul, Sean De Silva (both Central FC), Akeem Humphrey, Jared London (both Club Sando), Hughtun Hector (W Connection), Tyrone Charles, Nathan Lewis (both San Juan Jabloteh), Jomoul Francois (St Ann’s Rangers);
Forwards: Keron Cummings (Central FC), Jamille Boatswain, Hashim Arcia (both Defence Force), Akeem Roach, Jameel Perry (Police FC).