“[…] I see John-Paul Rochford playing in between the lines like Judah Garcia, as an inverted winger. He shoots the ball well for a little fellah. I don’t think we shoot enough from outside.
“He is a tenacious player and has a great eye for a pass and a tremendous work-rate…”
Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Angus Eve talks to Wired868 about tomorrow’s international friendly against Bolivia at altitude: what he will miss about Leland Archer, what newcomers like John-Paul Rochford and Molik Khan bring to the table, and why Jesse Williams reminds him of Brazil 1994 World Cup winner, Mazinho:
Wired868: How are the Soca Warriors fitting in over there?
Angus Eve: Well, we are in Santa Cruz now and the weather is just like in Trinidad. So it’s too bad we are not playing here. The change of venue will make the game more difficult for us. Initially, when we took the game, we were going to play in Santa Cruz—but then they moved it to Sucre.
(Santa Cruz de la Sierra is 400 metres above sea level while Sucre is 2,810 metres above sea level. Port-of-Spain is 66 metres above sea level.)
Wired868: Can you say anything about how you will approach the game tactically to compensate for the altitude?
Eve: I won’t go too deep into tactics now. Maybe after the game I can explain what we tried to do. But we will attack the game with a positive frame of mind and positive energy. We had an initial game plan and then we found out last week that the game will be played at altitude, so we had to change what we wanted to do.
We have a doctor and medical staff on board. The advice is you either go in [to the high altitude venue] a day before the game [so you can be in and out before you feel the full effect] or you go two weeks before and acclimatise.
Since last Friday, we have been building up on carbs and trying to hydrate players as much as possible, which we understand is important at altitude. But it is only on the day that you will see the players’ reaction.
Wired868: What about your own experience at altitude?
Eve (laughs): My time playing at altitude was a very difficult experience for us, because that is when we lost 7-0 [to Mexico] at the Azteca [Stadium]. I remember in the game I was always one of our fitter players and I was darting around the pitch for five or six minutes; but then you have to take a minute and a half to catch yourself, because oxygen just isn’t going through your system like you’re used to.
It affects your concentration. It was difficult to sprint about and close players down. And Mexico had a really good side then.
Wired868: And Bolivia seem to have a buzz about their game right now as well? (Their last World Cup qualifying outing was a 3-0 win over Uruguay.)
Eve: There is a lot of excitement over here around the [Bolivia national] team because they are pushing for a World Cup place. When the opportunity presented itself, I knew we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for this game. Our local players were in camp before Christmas so we did build up some fitness, while the USL (the United Soccer League is America’s second-tier professional competition) players played until October.
It is not ideal because the match practice is not there because, as you know, we haven’t been playing in Trinidad and the USL players haven’t played in months. But we felt we could prepare for this game. It gives us a chance to look at some of our younger players. We have nothing to lose and only something to gain here.
Wired868: Your team travelled without Charleston Battery defender Leland Archer. Is it a big loss or do you think you are well covered in that area?
Eve: I think it’s a loss. I have been watching Leland very closely at Charleston where he is one of the co-captains of the team. He was training very well. I like his speed and height and his personality as a player. He was down to start this game.
As you know his last game was that match against the United States (where Trinidad and Tobago lost 7-0 under former head coach Terry Fenwick). I think he was looking forward to showing that he is better than that and eager to show his true worth.
It is unfortunate for him that he misses out. He had put in for his visa before he joined up with the team and he could not get his passport back in time.
Wired868: Can you say anything about some of the other guys who are not on this trip like Duane Muckette, Triston Hodge, Jelani Peters and Shannon Gomez?
Eve: I wanted Muckette to be here. Unfortunately, some of the guys put in their passports to get their visas renewed. Jameel Neptune was another one. I wanted Neptune to be here. I loved what he was doing in training.
[…] Jelani is in the States working on paperwork. Triston trained with us a bit but he played with injuries for much of last season and he is still recovering. So he indicated to us that he was not ready enough to be in a game. Triston is definitely going to be in and around the team in the future.
There were a lot of constraints in selecting this squad because the game is outside of the [Fifa international match] window and some clubs didn’t release players. Aubrey [David] wanted to come. Bebo (Jomal Williams) wanted to come.
I am happy with the attitude of the guys who are here. I think we have a good group of about 40 players that I can choose from.
Wired868: We have a couple newcomers to the team: Keston George and Stephon Marcano are uncapped, while there are also Matthew Woo Ling, Ajani Fortune and John-Paul Rochford. What do you see them adding to the team?
Eve: I’ve watched Keston for a while now and I have always been a fan of his. He is my type of player: all action—you can put him at right-back or left-back or midfield to do a job. John-Paul too is all action and he is good at corners and free kicks and can shoot the ball, which is an area we are severely lacking in.
Jamal Jack came to our camp and I was very impressed with his defending and he is very professional and gets around the park. I think he is a Marvin Andrews type of player, as in a hard-nosed centre-half.
Young Marcano reached out to me and anybody who reaches out to me, I follow. Similarly [Tyrese] Spicer, who unfortunately had to go back to school before we started training.
Marcano also can play multiple positions and when you have a small squad, you want players like that. He is intelligent and a good reader of the game. He used to play for a good friend of mine at Fatima. (Laughs)
I had to cut two staff members from my [travelling] squad to maximise on players because we could only bring 30 people. So I have a bare minimum staff so that I could see more players. We all know the financial constraints that the FA has.
Wired868: And what about Jesse Williams? Since his international debut he has played at right-back, right-wing and central midfield, while he was a central defender at national youth level. What is he?
Eve (laughs): Well Pittsburgh Riverhounds (a USL club) signed him to play in the defensive midfield position, which is where they saw him playing for us [at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup]. I think he can grow there. He reminds me of Mazinho (the 1994 Brazil World Cup winner who converted from right-back to central midfielder and is the father of Liverpool and Spain midfielder, Thiago).
He just needs to work on his distribution from the position, but his closing down and defensive qualities are already there. I think he can grow into that position. He is also comfortable for us at right-back.
Once we get our full team together, we are very stacked at central defence but ball winners are hard to find in Trinidad, where people don’t want to do the dirty work.
Wired868: And you see Rochford as an inverted winger, similar to how Judah Garcia played at the Gold Cup? And Molik Khan as a ‘number eight’?
Eve: Yes, I see Rochford playing in between the lines like Judah as an inverted winger. He shoots the ball well for a little fellah. I don’t think we shoot enough from outside.
He is a tenacious player and has a great eye for a pass and a tremendous work-rate. Molik is a box-to-box sort of player, who is technically gifted. I believe he is the future of Trinidad and Tobago football.
Wired868: I have noticed that you travelled without a centre-forward, so you’ll probably use either Reon Moore or Ryan Telfer there. Is this your preference anyway?
Eve (laughs): Well, Marcus [Joseph] is still in India and couldn’t be here. We reached out to Isaiah Lee and Brent Sam was in the squad. ‘Sammy’ wasn’t fit enough to be here and Isaiah [was unavailable]. As you know, I try to make do as best I can with the players I have available.
Wired868: What is your goal for this trip to Bolivia?
Eve: Well, I think it offers much-needed experience and international exposure for the squad. If we can play South American opposition, who mirrors what Central American players do but execute it at a better level, then it will stand us in good stead when we come up against Central American teams.
If you remember, the team that gave us the most trouble at the 2006 World Cup was Paraguay because our players don’t like to track and move.
Wired868: And how does this game fit into the big picture of your Concacaf Nations League preparation? What comes next?
Eve: I can’t say off-hand when we play next. We are working on stuff for the Seniors and Under-20s but there are so many variables, especially with Covid. Things evolve so quickly in the world these days.
We haven’t played a match since the Gold Cup. We were invited to this match and we thought we should take it for a number of good reasons: the opportunity to play and the chance to expose young players. I don’t have the full complement of players to pick from. I didn’t have it in the Gold Cup and don’t have it here. But for these players, they have a chance to stake a claim and show they can play the game at this level.
Gone are the days when we had a vibrant CFU and could expose young players in Caribbean Cups so they could build and grow into the national team and international football. Now everything is Concacaf-centred and the smaller nations just have to grab every opportunity they could get to try and develop these players.
If we only take easy teams, we won’t know where we are.
Wired868: Thanks, Angus. And good luck on Friday.
Eve: Thank you.
(Trinidad and Tobago squad to face Bolivia)
Goalkeepers: Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Marvin Phillip (Unattached);
Defenders: Stephon Marcano (CSU Bakersfield Athletics—USA), Alvin Jones, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Jamal Jack, Keston George (all unattached), Mekeil Williams (Pittsburgh Riverhounds—USA), Justin Garcia (Defence Force);
Midfielders: Jesse Williams (Pittsburgh Riverhounds—USA), Michel Poon-Angeron (both unattached), Matthew Woo Ling (Miami United FC—USA), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven—USA), Molik Khan (Club Sando FC), Noah Powder (Indy Eleven—USA);
Attackers: John-Paul Rochford, Ryan Telfer (both unattached), Ajani Fortune (Atlanta United II—USA), Reon Moore (Defence Force).
Editor’s Note: Trinidad and Tobago face Bolivia in a friendly international at the Estadio Olímpico Patria in Sucre from 5pm on Friday 21 January.