Several Trinidad and Tobago national under-23 footballers will forego a chance at more senior experience on Wednesday night when the “Soca Warriors” face Antigua and Barbuda at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua.
Coach Angus Eve confirmed that members of his squad have visa appointments at the United States Embassy the following day and, just in case of travel complications on the return flight, they will remain home.
Versatile defenders Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force) and the unattached Daneil Cyrus already have visas and will join the senior squad for Wednesday’s friendly. Gonzales and Cyrus both represented T&T at the 2009 Egypt Under-20 World Youth Championships while Cyrus also featured at the 2007 Korea Under-17 tournament.
Defenders Akeem Adams and Leslie Russell, winger Joevin Jones and midfielder Jean-Luc Rochford represented the senior Warriors in a 3-2 loss against Finland last month and should have been in contention again. While midfielders Kevin Molino and Sean De Silva, who also played against Finland, have returned to their respective duties in the US for Orlando City and the College of Charleston respectively.
The under-23 team flies to Orlando next month for a pre-tournament camp before it faces Mexico, Panama and Honduras in qualifying action at the Home Depot Center, Carson, Los Angeles. The top two teams from that group advance to the semi-final stage and winners there automatically qualify for the London Olympics.
A Trinidad and Tobago football team has never competed at the Olympics.
Eve will not travel to Antigua either but interim head coach Hutson “Barber” Charles will be aided by newly installed technical director Anton Corneal. The rest of the technical staff comprises Peter Rampersad (manager), Jefferson George (goalkeeper coach), Dave Isaac (physio) and Michael Williams (equipment manager).
The national team, which is preparing for the 2012 Caribbean Cup, will only use Pro League players although Wednesday’s affair is on a FIFA international date.
“It’s about exposure at this time as we’re working on getting the best squad together for the Digicel Caribbean Cup later in the year,” Charles told the TTFF Media, “and of course our goal is to do well and move on to the CONCACAF Gold Cup next year.”
The Trinidad and Tobago squad will be anchored by the experienced quintet of goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, defender Seon Power, midfielder Clyde Leon and attackers Andre Toussaint and Devorn Jorsling.
The likes of strikers Richard Roy and Willis Plaza and playmaker Ataullah Guerra will be anxious to take their club form into the international arena too while winger Kevon Carter is making his return to national colours after a long injury-induced lay off.
Reserve goalkeeper and Jabloteh captain Cleon John is the only doubt for the touring party as he is trying to complete a passport renewal on time.
The opposing Antigua and Barbuda squad, which is preparing for the 2014 CONCACAF World Cup qualifying semi-final round, will have five players with English roots in its squad.
Talented Nottingham Forest striker Dexter Blackstock, a former England youth international, and Aston Blackwood, supposedly once on the books at Arsenal and Tottenham, are new additions to the Antiguan squad which already features Wycombe right back Marvin McCoy, Woking midfielder Keiran Murtagh and former Crewe Alexandra playmaker Justin Cochrane.
Cochrane played alongside veteran Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Clayton Ince at Crewe while Blackstock was once loaned out by Southampton to allow more playing time for national senior team captain Kenwyne Jones.
Antigua and Barbuda’s home-based players included former Pro League stand-outs George Dublin, Peter Byers and Gason Gregory.
Byers, who leads all CONCACAF scorers with eight goals in the preliminary group stage, once represented San Juan Jabloteh alongside Gregory while Dublin, who captains Antigua, last played for Tobago United.
The full Trinidad and Tobago 18-man squad is:
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (T&TEC), Cleon John (Jabloteh);
Defenders: Elton John, Jamal Jack (both Jabloteh), Curtis Gonzales, Rodell Elock (both Defence Force), Seon Power (NE Stars), Daneil Cyrus (unattached),
Midfielders: Kevon Neaves (T&TEC), Clyde Leon (W Connection), Kevon Carter (Defence Force), Ataullah Guerra (Caledonia AIA), Andre Toussaint (T&TEC), Keon Boucher (St Clair Coaching School);
Attackers: Kerlon Ferguson (T&TEC), Willis Plaza (Jabloteh), Richard Roy (Defence Force), Devorn Jorsling (Caledonia AIA).