Trinidad and Tobago national senior team head coach Stephen Hart announced his final 20-man squad for the 2014 Caribbean Cup semifinal qualifying round today with only three Pro League players named among his 18 outfield players.
Central FC midfielders Ataullah Guerra and Leston Paul were both summoned while DIRECTV W Connection right back Alvin Jones, who spent his pre-season on trial with a French Third Division club, also got his first call-up. As usual, Central’s Jan-Michael Williams and Point Fortin Civic’s Marvin Phillip were selected as the team’s two goalkeepers.
Otherwise, Hart leaned heavily on foreign expertise with 14 picks for players employed by overseas clubs and one unattached player. Jones is the only member of the squad who has never played under Hart at any level.
Cardiff City forward Kenwyne Jones, who plays in England’s Championship Division, captains the “Soca Warriors” and leads a list of seven Europe-based players who are Justin Hoyte (Millwall—England), Sheldon Bateau (KV Mechelen—Belgium), Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Khaleem Hyland (Racing Genk—Belgium), Joevin Jones (HJK Helsinki—Finland) and Leston Peltier (Slovan Bratislava—Slovakia).
Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino, whose team is about to join the United States’ Major League Soccer (MLS) is also in the squad along with fellow North America-based players Kevan George (Columbus Crew), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes), Carlyle Mitchell (Vancouver Whitecaps) and Trevin Caesar (San Antonio Scorpions).
The Vietnam-based duo of Hughtun Hector and Daneil Cyrus, who both represent Hanoi T&T, completed the foreign roster.
Hart told Wired868 that his selection was based more on familiarity with his methods than where the player happened to be plying his trade.
“This is not an indictment on the Pro League at all because the last few squads have been a 50-50 balance between foreign and local based,” said Hart. “But, at the time of selection, I wanted to go with a group that more of less understands what I am doing because we have so little time together.
“There are a number of players I would have liked to have included but I have never seen them at international senior level. Do I go with players who I don’t know how they will react? I can’t go into a tournament blind with players I don’t know how they are going to perform.”
The head coach also suggested that the late start to the 2014/15 Pro League season might also have affected his selection.
“The Pro League has just started and match fitness is something I have to consider too,” said Hart. “A number of Pro League players were out on trial and only returned in the last few days.”
The main omissions are Central FC attackers Willis Plaza and Rundell Winchester, who recently walked out of their contracts at Belgium Third Division team CV Visé due to financial issues, as well as Defence Force utility player Curtis Gonzales, Caledonia AIA midfielder Densill Theobald, Point Fortin attacker Marcus Joseph, who was the Pro League’s top scorer last season, and FK Kruoja Pakruojis defender Radanfah Abu Bakr, who was an all-star player recently in the Lithuania league. All six players were involved in Trinidad and Tobago’s South American tour in June.
Yohance Marshall, who played against Argentina and Iran in June, kept his place in the squad despite being unattached since leaving Central at the end of the Pro League season in May.
“He was in the latest camp we had and knew what we were trying to do,” said Hart, “so I decided to go with him.”
At least two absentees were not of Hart’s making. FF Jaro forward Shahdon Winchester and full back Aubrey David were excluded amidst talk of a financial dispute between the Finland Premier Division club and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) over a lingering debt.
Hart suggested that he wanted to select Winchester (S) and David although he opted not to give details.
“They were considered for selection but there is an internal issue there that I do not want to get into,” he said.
However, Jaro general manager Nicklas Storbacka said his club was unhappy that the TTFA allegedly reneged on a promise to refund the Finnish outfit for plane tickets purchased last year for Winchester (S) and Ataullah Guerra, who was at fellow Finland team RoPS at the time.
“We have addressed the TTFA about it several times and we have received promises that we would be reimbursed,” Storbacka told Wired868. “It is not something that you would expect from a federation… It is not a big amount. I see it more as a measure of a matter of principle.”
Still, Storbacka explained that his club did not withhold its Trinidad and Tobago players and said the TTFA decided not to select them.
Wired868 understands that, by the time temperatures cooled between the two parties on the matter, the deadline for selecting players for the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) competition had gone.
There might be another issue regarding overseas players as some clubs have complained about the tournament fixtures, which scheduled three international games in five days. Hart said he will be mindful of the health of the “Soca Warriors” and suggested he might try to solve the problem through squad rotation and careful use of his substitutions.
Otherwise, Hart expressed satisfaction with his 20-man team which opens its qualifying campaign against the Dominican Republic from 8.15 pm on Wednesday October 8 in the second game of a double header at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
The Warriors’ fixture is preceded by a clash between St Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda at 6 pm.
“The players appear to be very enthusiastic and the mood is quite good which is what we want heading into the competition,” Hart told the TTFA Media. “It’s important for us to have the right approach which I am quite confident the team will have because these are all professional players who are very committed to doing what is right for the team and their country.”
The Dominican Republic squad includes former W Connection stand-out Jonathan Faria, who has 18 goals in 28 international appearances, and four Europe-based players including forward Mariano and central defender Cayetano Bonnín, who play in the Real Madrid and Villarreal reserve teams respectively.
Admission is $100 for the covered stands and $60 for uncovered.
(Trinidad and Tobago squad)
Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC), Marvin Phillips (Point Fortin Civic);
Defenders: Justin Hoyte (Millwall—England), Alvin Jones (W Connection), Sheldon Bateau (KV Mechelen—Belgium), Yohance Marshall (Unattached), Carlyle Mitchell (Vancouver Whitecaps—Canada), Daneil Cyrus (Ha Noi T&T—Vietnam);
Midfielders: Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Khaleem Hyland (Racing Genk—Belgium), Kevan George (Columbus Crew—USA), Leston Paul (Central FC);
Attacking midfielders: Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava—Slovakia), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes—USA), Hughtun Hector (Hanoi T&T—Vietnam), Kevin Molino (Orlando City—USA), Joevin Jones (HJK Helsinki—Finland), Ataullah Guerra (Central FC);
Forwards: Kenwyne Jones (Cardiff City—England), Trevin Caesar (San Antonio Scorpions—USA),
Caribbean Cup qualifying fixtures
(Wed Oct 8)
St Lucia v Antigua and Barbuda, 6 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
T&T v Dominican Republic, 8.15 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Fri Oct 10)
Dominican Rep v Antigua and Barbuda, 6 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
T&T v St Lucia, 8.15 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Sun Oct 12)
Dominican Republic v St Lucia, 4 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
T&T v Antigua and Barbuda, 6.15 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium.