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Warriors secure Panama friendly; Hart looks to Pro League players

Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart has vowed to select a squad of mainly home-based players for an international friendly against rising CONCACAF force, Panama, in Port of Spain next month.

Panama will face the “Soca Warriors” on Friday March 27 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Trinidad and Tobago’s only scheduled fixture at present before the July 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States.

Photo: Teenaged Panama midfield sensation Luis Pereira (left) holds off United States player Matt Hedges during an international friendly on February 8. Pereira was selected as the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship's Most Valuable Player. (Copyright AFP 2015/Victor Decolongon)
Photo: Teenaged Panama midfield sensation Luis Pereira (left) holds off United States player Matt Hedges during an international friendly on February 8.
Pereira was selected as the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship’s Most Valuable Player.
(Copyright AFP 2015/Victor Decolongon)

“March is the only official FIFA date until June so Panama will be the first phase of preparations for the Gold Cup,” Hart told the TTFA Media. “Finally I can use the game to evaluate local based players whom, through their performances, deserve the opportunity to display their ability in an international setting and fight for selection.”

Hart, who steered the Warriors to the 2013 Gold Cup quarterfinals and a 2014 Caribbean Cup runners-up spot, has used 38 players since he took over the reins two years ago. However, that figure is reduced considerably when retirements and injuries are factored in along with the tragic death of former Defence Force winger Kevon Carter.

In Hart’s 18 international games, only 19 players have made five appearances or more and just three from that list—Central FC goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, midfielder Ataulla Guerra and striker Willis Plaza—play on home soil.

The matter could be complicated further by the fact that several of Trinidad and Tobago’s exports play in leagues that are still active in July like Hughtun Hector and Daneil Cyrus (Vietnam) and Carlyle Mitchell (Republic of Korea).

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago playmaker Ataulla Guerra (left) drives his shot past St Lucia player Perral Williams during 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago playmaker Ataulla Guerra (left) drives his shot past St Lucia player Perral Williams during 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Hart will try to offset potential issues in terms of player availability by widening his pool. And it is expected to lead to international recalls for Central attackers Rundell Winchester and Plaza while the likes of DIRECTV W Connection central defender Mekeil Williams, Point Fortin Civic attacker Marcus Joseph, North East Stars defender Dwayne James and Central full backs Kaydion Gabriel and Uriah Bentick and midfielder Sean De Silva will be among the players who would hope to stake their claim.

National Under-20 players Shannon Gomez, Aikim Andrews, Martieon Watson and Akeem Garcia, who all represent W Connection, might also get a look in along with national youth teammates Neveal Hackshaw and Jesus Perez (both North East Stars) and Kadeem Corbin (St Ann’s Rangers).

Evergreen 39-year-old Central utility player Marvin Oliver might tempt Hart too with his consistent performances at sweeper or central midfield although he would not be considered a long term prospect.

Photo: North East Stars utility player Kennedy Hinkson (left) pressures Central FC sweeper Marvin Oliver during the 2014 First Citizens Cup final in Couva. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: North East Stars utility player Kennedy Hinkson (left) pressures Central FC sweeper Marvin Oliver during the 2014 First Citizens Cup final in Couva.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Regardless of which players are selected, an international clash with Panama will be a stern test.

“We are extremely grateful for this game,” said Hart. “It is an opportunity to play a CONCACAF team that I consider one of the top 5 in the region. They have invested wisely in their football and let’s not forget they were finalists at the Gold Cup in 2013, losing narrowly to the host nation USA.”

Panama have never qualified for a senior FIFA but the Central American outfit have become a regular participant at FIFA’s junior World Cups while they finished runner-up at the 2013 and 2005 Gold Cup tournaments.

At present, Panama are ranked 61st in the world by FIFA and third in CONCACAF while the Warriors are one place behind at 62nd and fourth respectively.

Hart was unavailable for comment on his team’s preparations leading up to the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, which kick off in November for the Warriors.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfield ace Kevin Molino (centre) flicks the ball around Dominican Republic midfielder Heinz Barmettler (left) during the 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifiers while coach Stephen Hart looks on. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfield ace Kevin Molino (centre) flicks the ball around Dominican Republic midfielder Heinz Barmettler (left) during the 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifiers while coach Stephen Hart looks on.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The upcoming FIFA international match window is eight days long and most teams, including Panama, will play twice. Thus far, the Warriors’ pre-Gold Cup schedule entails the solitary friendly against Panama and a camp that should start on March 20 at the conclusion of the local Pro League.

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), which is plagued by financial issues and, arguably, mismanagement, will have seven national teams in action this year as the Men’s Under-17, Women’s Under-17 and National Beach Soccer Teams all due for CONCACAF tournaments while the Senior Women’s and Men’s Under-20 Teams have Pan American competition and the Men’s Under-23 and Senior Women’s Teams also face 2016 Olympic Games qualifiers. The Men’s National Under-20 team was eliminated at the CONCACAF stage last month.

Several of the national outfits that face action later this year do not yet have technical staffs in place. However, TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee said the football body will “make every effort” to prepare its teams.

Photo: The "Women Soca Warriors" enjoy a good result during the 2014 CONCACAF Championship. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: The “Women Soca Warriors” enjoy a good result during the 2014 CONCACAF Championship.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

“2015 is an extremely hectic year for us and one that will see six or more of our national teams engaging in international activities,” Tim Kee told the TTFA Media. “We intend to make every effort to ensure our programs are on stream and that our teams receive the necessary support as they prepare for these competitions.”

The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team will be next in action as they face CONCACAF action in Honduras from February 27 in their qualifying campaign for the Chile 2015 Under-17 World Cup. The junior Warriors have not played a single international game outside their scheduled Caribbean Football Union (CFU) qualifiers.

Hart’s senior Warriors at least have a date with Panama on the immediate horizon. The TTFA will provide further details on kick off time and ticket sales on that senior international friendly “in due course.”

It should create an additional buzz to the Pro League competition, which is on Carnival break at present.

Photo: Defence Force midfielder Curtis Gonzales (centre) beats Central FC's stand-in captain Sean De Silva during 2014/15 Pro League action. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Defence Force midfielder Curtis Gonzales (centre) beats Central FC’s stand-in captain Sean De Silva to the ball during 2014/15 Pro League action.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Hart’s Soldiers

Players who have made five appearances or more under present coach:

Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC); Justin Hoyte (Millwall—England), Daneil Cyrus (Hanoi T&T—Vietnam), Yohance Marshall (Juventud Independiente—El Salvador), Radanfah Abu Bakr (HB Køge—Denmark), Sheldon Bateau (KV Mechelen—Belgium), Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E-Land FC—Korea Rep), Aubrey David (FC Shakhter Karagandy—Kazakhstan), Joevin Jones (Chicago Fire—US), Andre Boucaud (Notts County—England), Kevan George (Columbus Crew—US), Khaleem Hyland (Racing Genk—Belgium), Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava—Slovakia), Kevin Molino (Orlando City—US), Ataulla Guerra (Central FC), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes—US), Hughtun Hector (Hanoi T&T—Vietnam); Kenwyne Jones (Cardiff City—Wales) and Willis Plaza (Central FC).

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Alvin Jones (left) drives the ball into the opposing penalty area while St Lucia player Romiel Felix looks on during the 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying stage. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right back Alvin Jones (left) drives the ball into the opposing penalty area while St Lucia player Romiel Felix looks on during the 2014 Caribbean Cup qualifying stage.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Hart’s remaining capped Pro League players:

Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic); Leston Paul (Central FC), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Alvin Jones (W Connection), Marcus Joseph (Point Fortin Civic) and Rundell Winchester (Central FC).

AboutLasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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24 comments

  1. As I have always been saying this is what was needed a very long time ago concentrate on our pro league/ local players, give them a real professional atmosphere because they are the ones that will give you 100% because they are trying to make it professional abroad as compared to the players playing professionally abroad, some of these players if not all when they return to our sweet country they don’t give 100% and that is because of getting injured and loosing their professional contracts abroad because after this happens the corrupted TTFA will just as usual throw them by the wayside.

  2. One game isn’t enough. Even if you go out and have the best game of your life. The others could be crap!

  3. Ataulla Guerra’s first ten or so games for Trinidad and Tobago were all forgettable. Turns out he wasn’t too bad after all.

  4. I don’t think one game is enough at all. Alvin Jones is a player who seems to outfit those characteristics Briggs outlined however his debut was poor. Then again he may not be able to play all the players in one game or see how they adapt to a certain formation.

  5. Experience is necessary in a squad. 38 year old why not. Teach the young guys a thing a two

  6. Darren Mitchell, Kaydion Gabriel and Hashim Arcia come to mind.

  7. But Ian R Briggs there may be some players who have never played international football before who might get a peep. Suppose a perfectly good player gets stage fright or takes a bit longer to adjust to the level of the game?
    I do understand that things like technique and so on can be spotted straight away though. Even if that player might not necessarily impose himself on the game.

  8. Actually 1 game is enough…. what you are looking for is to see if these guys are technically able to play at a higher level… what do they bring to the game? are they capable of following instructions? what happens when they have to make adjustments or out of comfort zone…. he not looking for them to play… he just looking to see if any of them have what it takes to play…. 1 game is enough

  9. I definitely agree with that Kirwin and it is a good point. Ataulla Guerra got a cap here and there for years before he showed he could play at that level. Some players need time to adjust.
    One game isn’t enough.
    But, in Hart’s defence, he doesn’t have a schedule of warm up matches so he can decide who to use when.
    Many teams in Concacaf and South America play internationals outside the FIFA calendar using local based players. But we don’t.

  10. ProLeague season will be out heading into the Gold Cup. I can’t see much ProLeague players eventually making it into the Gold Cup squad, especially after one international game to prove their potential.

  11. Many national team coaches have promised in the past to give pro- league players a chance to shine but they never get enough opportunities to do so. I feel that 1 game is not enough as coaches usually revert to their international players eventually.

  12. It’s begs a different question, so Marvin at 39 (who incidentally, I respect greatly) is still one of the best players in the TT Pro League? Hmmm…

  13. Most teams already have four games scheduled between now and June. We have one.
    As for our poor Under-17 team…

  14. A game to go finally. I say the next game would have been at the Gold Cup.

  15. You made a factual statement Lasana Liburd but I think our football would be better served giving the younger local base players that international exposure, lets see how they perform.

  16. Lasana Liburd…. Leadership qualities… Very important criteria in selecting the experienced players… We do need that combination…..

  17. But I can understand either way of course. Not a major issue to me.

  18. Before 2018 is the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup though. According to if we use that tournament as a warm-up for the World Cup qualifiers or if we are going to do as well as we can.
    Remember too that some players who helped to get the team to the 2006 World Cup didn’t play in the end. There will be players who might be too old in three years that can help now.
    Not necessarily talking about Oliver here. It could be Cornell Glen or Cleon John or even Devorn Jorsling. If they can help, let them help and add some experience.
    I always think it is a good idea to have two or three experienced players with leadership qualities in a squad.

  19. I understand ur point Lasana Liburd but Marvin no way, if we preparing for 2018 let’s look at d younger players

  20. It’s a minor issue to me. You always need a few experienced players in every squad to guide the younger ones. Who knows who he will pick.
    But from covering the Pro League every week, I can tell you that you cannot pick an XI on merit and leave out Marvin Oliver. That still counts for something I think even if he is 38.

  21. Lmao! Marvin Lasana Liburd……

  22. Give the youths this opportunity….

  23. Lol. Hey, I just threw that in there in case he is looking to reward players on current form.

  24. What oliver getting call up 4 a early pension cheque