The Trinidad and Tobago national football team should not lack know-how for its two upcoming friendly internationals against Belize on March 22 and away to Peru on March 26 after picking a relatively experienced 18-man squad today.
Four 2006 World Cup players got the nod from the technical staff, which is led by joint head coaches Hutson “Barber” Charles and Jamaal Shabazz, as the team continues its preparations for the July 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States.
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Stoke City forward Kenwyne Jones, North East Stars striker Cornell Glen, Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA playmaker Densill Theobald and Port Vale midfielder Chris Birchall are included and all represented the “Soca Warriors” at the FIFA showcase tournament in Germany, seven years ago.
Central FC goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, DIRECTV W Connection defender Daneil Cyrus, Caledonia full back Aubrey David, Defence Force utility player Curtis Gonzales and Point Fortin Civic Centre midfielder Marcus Joseph have played for Trinidad and Tobago at World Youth Cups, which means that half the squad has played in a FIFA tournament before.
Philadelphia Union midfielder Keon Daniel and Defence Force striker Devorn Jorsling also played in at least one senior World Cup qualifying series.
The technical staff is expected to make two late additions to the squad with 23-year-old North East Stars defender Kareem Moses and England-born Toronto FC midfielder John Bostock in line to be drafted in.
Glen, Birchall and Daniel were all absent last month when the Warriors lost 2-0 to Peru in a friendly international at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
Joseph, who plays for a Southern Football Association (SFA) team, represents an intriguing addition as Shabazz stated last year that, apart from the overseas footballers, he preferred to use home-based players who were attached to Pro League clubs.
The skilful left footed midfielder represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2007 Under-17 World Cup and the 2009 Under-20 World Cup tournaments. He initially played for Joe Public in the senior Pro League but dropped into the Super League over a year ago.
Joseph showed his ability in the 2012/13 TTFF FA Trophy competition, though, as he finished as the top scorer with six goals including a strike against Pro League outfit, T&TEC FC. It earned him an invitation to train with the Warriors before their friendly against Peru, last month, and a full call-up on this occasion.
“Marcus worked with us for the Peru game and he is following a fitness programme we set out for him,” Shabazz told Wired868. “For now, he is the exception to the rule that we talked about. This game will help determine what the future holds for players like him.”
There is one other debutante within the ranks as 23-year-old Central midfielder Darren “Chucky” Mitchell also won his first national senior call-up.
Three months ago, Mitchell was a Super League player for 1976 Phoenix before Central snapped him up in the January transfer window. A fast, skilful and fearless midfielder with notable upper-body strength, it did not take Mitchell long to catch the eye.
The team’s Caribbean Cup captain and goalkeeper, Jan-Michael Williams, again misses out on selection as he is still in the process of finding a new club after being frozen out by employer, W Connection.
Kazakhstan-based defender Robert Primus was omitted after his employer, Aktobe, insisted that he could only be used in one of the two internationals.
It means Cyrus and Canada-based defender Carlyle Mitchell are likely to continue with a central defensive partnership that looked very promising against Peru last month while Gonzales would probably deputise at right back.
Caledonia right back Kareem Joseph was again left out although he is believed to be carrying a knock. Connection midfielder Clyde Leon and Central winger Jason Marcano also missed out.
As always, the enigma that is Trinidad and Tobago’s lone England Premiership player, Jones, will be a talking point. The giant striker aims to stake his claim upfront after a patchy display against Peru last month when he won everything in the air but struggled to hold up the ball and failed to take his one scoring chance.
Jones might work in tandem with Glen although it is more likely that the Warriors will pick one from those two strikers for the kick off.
Glen has been in sparkling form in the Pro League this season and his recall has created a stir while there would much discussion too about the decision to include Birchall, a barely used substitute at Port Vale, and Daniel, who ignored national call-ups last year.
However, the performances from the youngest member of the Trinidad and Tobago squad, Joevin Jones, might be of the most interest to knowledgeable football fans.
The 21-year-old Jones (J), the son of former Police and “Strike Squad” defender Kelvin Jones, made his international debut three years ago and has already amassed 24 senior caps. His performances at Pro League have made his place within the national team seem almost a formality.
But, crucially, he is yet to take the breath away at senior international level. His mediocre returns might partly be down to overwork.
Since his senior international debut, Jones (J) has played regularly for the under-20, under-23 and senior team while also representing Connection in the domestic league and cup tournaments, the Caribbean Club Championship and the CONCACAF Champions League.
Connection owner David John Williams gave the player three weeks off, in January, and his performances since have been eye-opening. “JJ” might lack Theobald’s experience, passing range and ability to vary the tempo of the game but compensates with sharp movement, accurate distribution from open play and set pieces and, above all, a booming left-foot shot from distance.
Whether he gets to play in his preferred central midfield role is another matter entirely.
Jones (J) is also considered to be the country’s best left back—his first seven national caps came as a left back—and a shortage of defenders might prompt the coaches to use him there instead. He has also been used regularly in an attacking left wing position and his namesake, Kenwyne, could definitely benefit from his whipped crosses into the area.
In fact, the Warriors are well stocked with dead ball experts this month as Daniel, Birchall, Jorsling and Joseph are all very capable in that area.
The Trinidad and Tobago team does not have another international engagement until early June and it is crucial that the Warriors offer signs of progress following a successful but not especially handsome Caribbean Cup qualifying campaign.
Glen, Birchall and the Joneses might be key to continuing the Warriors’ development.
T&T 18-man squad
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Central FC), Cleon John (North East Stars);
Defenders: Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Daneil Cyrus (DIRECTV W Connection), Carlyle Mitchell (FC Edmonton—Canada), Aubrey David (Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA);
Midfielders: Chris Birchall (Port Vale—England), Densill Theobald, Keyon Edwards, Ataullah Guerra (all Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA), Keon Daniel (Philadelphia Union—US), Joevin Jones (DIRECTV W Connection);
Wingers: Kevon Carter (Defence Force), Darren Mitchell (Central FC), Marcus Joseph (Point Fortin Civic Centre);
Forwards: Kenwyne Jones (Stoke City—England), Devorn Jorsling (Defence Force), Cornell Glen (North East Stars).
Editor’s Note: Marcus Joseph plays for a Southern Football Association (SFA) team and not a Super League team as initially reported.