The Trinidad and Tobago national football team will have to do without the services of 22-year-old DIRECTV W Connection defender Daneil Cyrus after the 2013 Gold Cup player missed his flight to Saudi Arabia.
The “Soca Warriors” face the United Arab Emirates tomorrow in the opening game of the 2013 OSN Cup at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh from 6.45 pm (11.45 am TT time). The game will be followed by a second international clash between host team Saudi Arabia and New Zealand at the same venue.
The two winners meet in the OSN Cup final next Monday while the losers will face each other in a third-place play off.
National senior team coach Stephen Hart is already without central defenders Seon Power and Carlyle Mitchell who were ruled out due to club commitments that would have made it difficult for them to join the Warriors.
Cyrus should not have had any such problems. He was in Tobago.
Sheldon Phillips, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) general secretary, said team manager David Muhammad struggled to make contact with Cyrus before their departure from Piarco on Sunday morning.
Initially, according to Phillips, a plane ticket was arranged for Cyrus to travel from Belgium where he was on trial at Racing Genk. However, Cyrus’ stint with Genk was shorter than anticipated and the defender returned home.
“His ticket was originally booked from Belgium but things didn’t work out for him (there) so we had to scramble to get one from Trinidad,” Phillips told Wired868. “The problem was David was having problems getting on to him. When they spoke on Saturday night, (Cyrus) apparently thought he was leaving on Monday and he was in Tobago.
“But then another ticket was booked for Monday and he missed that one too.”
Phillips said the national team was disappointed not to have Cyrus’ services and said Hart would talk to the player on his return. He insisted that Muhammad, who took over administrative duties from William Wallace for the tour, was not at fault.
“We called (Connection chairman) David John Williams on Saturday to see if he heard from Cyrus and even spoke to the league,” he said. “We did everything that we could to contact the player. It is unfortunate.
“He is a bright prospect and it would have been nice to have him in the team. But if we can’t get in touch with a player there is only so much we can do.”
Cyrus’ absence leaves the Warriors short of defensive cover but Hart still has Sheldon Bateau and Robert Primus to choose from to play alongside defender Radanfah Abu Bakr.
Middlesbrough full back Justin Hoyte is expected to start on the right side of the defence while Caledonia AIA’s Aubrey David and Connection’s Mekeil Williams will compete for the left back job.
Another mix-up might also rule out attacking midfielder Kevin Molino for tomorrow’s fixture. The TTFA claimed that Molino was delayed in Miami and is only expected to arrive in Riyadh tomorrow morning. The former Mucurapo schoolboy is employed by US A’ League team, Orlando City.
The Warriors generally favour a five-man midfield with three attacking midfielders and Molino’s absence could leave Hart with just Lester Peltier, Ataullah Guerra and Marcus Joseph for the advanced positions although Khaleem Hyland, Willis Plaza and veteran Densill Theobald can also be asked to deputise in more offensive roles.
Upfront, Kenwyne Jones is present and ready to go after recently regaining his starting place for England Premier League team, Stoke City, after a League Cup hattrick.
Jones was the Warriors’ third captain in seven months when he took the armband during the Gold Cup after Theobald and goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams both had the responsibility in recent times.
But Hart has decided to let Jones continue as captain despite having all three men in the camp.
“It’s the first time we are coming together since the Gold Cup and everyone is very keen to put on the national shirt and play again,” Jones told the TTFA Media. “We have some new faces around which will make it interesting to see how well we can execute on the field of play.
“We haven’t had much time together but there are some regulars here so we will obviously try to use our experience and the time we’ve spent together in the past to ensure we put on a good performance and hopefully come away with a good result as well.”
Vietnam-based attacker Willis Plaza and Caledonia goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel are among eight additions to the squad that played in the Gold Cup along with Peltier, Guerra, Joseph, Primus, Bateau and Williams (M).
Hart hopes to use the mini-tour to widen his player pool and he was happy with their first training session today, despite the sweltering heat. The temperature was 40 degrees Celsius at 6 pm in Riyadh today and the Warriors play at 6.45 pm tomorrow.
“It’s been very humid but we had a really good session today even though it was a bit short because of the fact that we had a long travel,” said Hart. “But generally the attitude of the players was good and the work rate was pretty decent as well…
“It was a good opportunity to regroup after the Gold Cup and to get some new bodies involved as well.”
The Warriors’ travel was funded by the Ministry of Sport.
United Arab Emirates head coach Mahdi Ali said his team will go for a win tomorrow although he expects a strong showing from the Warriors.
“I expect our game to be a less than easy one but we will be ready for the challenge,” said Ali, at a press conference today. “We know Trinidad and Tobago have played at the World Cup in 2006 so they are a capable team. We will try to play the right kind of game to start with a victory.”
Trinidad and Tobago and the UAE, who are ranked 78th and 84th in the world respectively by FIFA, have never met before in an international football match. Phillips revealed that the TTFA is still trying to get a live televised feed of tomorrow’s OSN Cup game for a local television station.
(Soca Warriors team)
Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC), Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic Centre), Glenroy Samuel (Caledonia AIA);
Defenders: Justin Hoyte (Middlesbrough—England), Sheldon Bateau (KV Mechelen—Belgium), Radanfah Abu Bakr (FC Vostok—Kazakhastan), Robert Primus (Aktobe—Kazakhastan), Mekeil Williams (W Connection), Aubrey David (Caledonia AIA);
Midfielders: Khaleem Hyland (Racing Genk—Belgium), Andre Boucaud (Notts County—England), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Kevan George (Columbus Crew—US), Densill Theobald (Caledonia AIA), Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava—Slovakia), Kevin Molino (Orlando City—US), Marcus Joseph (Point Fortin Civic Centre), Ataullah Guerra (RoPS—Finland);
Forwards: Kenwyne Jones (Stoke City—England), Willis Plaza (Song Lam Nghe—Vietnam).