Terminix La Horquetta Rangers forward Willis Plaza, 33, was a surprise inclusion in the Soca Warriors squad today as he made a cameo appearance in their final warm-up match before they depart on Thursday for World Cup qualifying action in the Dominican Republic.
The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Team play Guyana at the Estadio Panamericano in Santo Domingo on 25 March and, three days later, they tackle Puerto Rico at the Estadio Centroamericano in Mayaguez.
Plaza gave himself a chance of catching that flight today, as he featured off the substitutes’ bench in their 1-0 win over Defence Force in a closed door scrimmage at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain. Lanky soldier Brent Sam got the lone goal for the Warriors.
Rangers managing director Richard Ferguson has refused to release his players for international duty, outside of the Fifa-mandated period. Ferguson said he was open to negotiations on the topic with Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick.
However, Fenwick apparently rejected that invitation while he also blanked Rangers’ offer of a warm-up match, with upwards of TT$100,000 on the table as a ‘performance incentive’ if the Warriors won.
Despite the tense relations between the two parties, Plaza broke ranks to wear national colours and is believed to have given a decent account of himself. Wired868 confirmed that Plaza did not have permission from his employers to join the Warriors.
Ferguson did not comment on how his club would treat with the matter.
Fenwick worked with Plaza before at San Juan Jabloteh and Central FC and it is left to be seen whether the forward did enough to challenge for the ‘number 9 shirt’ against Guyana on 25 March.
The centre-forward position has yet to be filled adequately since the departure of former England Pro League frontman Kenwyne Jones, with over a dozen players used on top without establishing themselves.
Canada-based attacker Ryan Telfer played upfront against the United States, although he was used primarily as a flanker under previous coach Dennis Lawrence.
If Plaza travels, he is likely to be one of three centre-forward options alongside Telfer and Sam. Plaza has seven goals from seven starts and 22 substitute appearances with items against China (2), Anguilla (2), French Guiana, UAE and Antigua and Barbuda. Telfer has three goals—two against Anguilla and one against Martinique—from six starts and one substitute appearance.
Sam is yet to make his international senior debut.
Trinidad and Tobago are in a four-nation group for the opening World Cup qualifying round, with only the winners advancing to the next stage. Guyana apart, the Warriors face Puerto Rico on 28 March before breaking camp.
They close off action in Group F with qualifiers against St Kitts and Nevis and Bahamas respectively.