FC Santa Rosa captain and forward Keron Clarke may miss out on the chance to make his senior international debut against Ecuador next Wednesday—at the ripe age of 31—after he failed to get passport issues resolved in time to travel to Guayaquil.
The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team’s technical staff did not specified the problem with his travel documents.
Clarke was the first lower league player to earn a senior team call-up since Marcus Joseph, who was summoned by co-head coaches Hutson Charles and Jamaal Shabazz four years ago while campaigning in the Southern Football Association (SFA).
Clarke, by all accounts, acquitted himself well on the training ground with the Soca Warriors only to be thwarted by an off-field matter. However, there remains a possibility that he can travel with the squad if he can get his passport sorted on Monday before they depart on that same evening.
National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence will definitely head for South America without Keon Daniel, Rundell Winchester and Jomal Williams. According to the TTFA Media, Daniel and Winchester are ruled out through injury while Williams is awaiting a work permit renewal for his Mexican employers, Murciélagos FC, and cannot travel.
Curiously, despite the shortage of attacking options, Lawrence decided not to take along versatile 16-year-old attacking midfielder Isaiah Hudson, and drafted speedy winger Neil Benjamin, Jr into the travelling party instead.
Hudson and Benjamin are both W Connection players although ‘Benjie’ is a regular starter and the Pro League’s leading scorer while Hudson, a Naparima College student, is yet to tie down a starting spot for his club.
In the end, Lawrence opted to keep Hudson waiting for his first senior international cap.
Versatile San Juan Jabloteh defender Akeem “Battery” Benjamin and teenaged defenders Taryk Sampson (Central FC) and Shane Sandy (St Ann’s Rangers) were the remaining players from Lawrence’s training squad who will not fly to Ecuador.
“It was good to have had a few of the younger ones involved in the training as it would no doubt be valuable experience for them,” Lawrence told the TTFA Media. “Unfortunately we have lost two wingers, hence we’ve brought in young Neil Benjamin into the squad. We’ll have one final session in Guayaquil on Tuesday ahead of what I expect will be a solid test for us on Wednesday.”
The Warriors travel with only one recognisable centre-forward in India-based forward Willis Plaza although Benjamin can deputise if necessary.
Plaza and defender Carlyle Mitchell, who are both registered to East Bengal FC, are the only overseas-based players in the travelling party. But Lawrence has selected a street-wise bunch who have all tasted international football before at either youth or club level.
Veteran right-back Carlos Edwards is a survivor of the 2006 World Cup team while goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, defender Curtis Gonzales and midfielders Leston Paul and Sean De Silva have played in FIFA World Youth Cup competitions.
Phillip, Gonzales, Paul, De Silva, Mitchell and Plaza as well as winger Nathan Lewis and playmakers Hashim Arcia and Hughtun Hector have all already tasted 2018 World Cup qualifying action.
(T&T 19-man squad)
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic Centre), Andre Marchan (Defence Force);
Defenders: Alvin Jones (W Connection), Carlos Edwards (Central FC), Maurice Ford (W Connection), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Carlyle Mitchell (East Bengal FC—India), Kevin Villaroel (North East Stars), Triston Hodge (W Connection);
Midfielders: Jared London (Club Sando), Leston Paul (North East Stars), Nathaniel Garcia (Central FC), Hughtun Hector (W Connection);
Attacking midfielders: Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh), Neil Benjamin Jr (W Connection), Sean De Silva (Central FC), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Tyrone Charles (Club Sando);
Forwards: Willis Plaza (East Bengal FC—India).
Editor’s Note: Keron Clarke received a new passport on the morning of Monday 24 July and was immediately drafted in to travel to Guayaquil that same evening with the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team.