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Aikim in, Plaza out: Hart names T&T squad for Panama friendly

Uncapped 19-year-old DIRECTV W Connection utility player Aikim Andrews was the surprise inclusion today as Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart announced a 20-man squad to face Panama in an international friendly on October 8 in Panama City.

Andrews, who was a stand-out for Trinidad and Tobago at the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in Jamaica, caught the eye with his recent performances for Connection in the Champions League and Pro League competition.

Photo: W Connection's Aikim Andrews (centre) tries to find way past a gang of Santos Laguna players during CONCACAF Champions League action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: W Connection’s Aikim Andrews (centre) tries to find way past a gang of Santos Laguna players during CONCACAF Champions League action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“It is important for us to increase our players pool (in the wide position),” said Hart, “and I like the things he has done.”

The Panama clash kicks off at 9.30 pm and will be broadcast live on Flow channel 99, which, according to Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) general secretary Sheldon Phillips, should be free to air.

The “Soca Warriors” will then return to Trinidad to face Nicaragua on October 13 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. Match tickets will cost fans $100 (uncovered stands) and $200 (covered stands).

As expected, team captain Kenwyne Jones and central defender Sheldon Bateau—two of the Hart’s best performers at the July 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup—return to the Trinidad and Tobago team, after they were allowed to skip an international friendly against Mexico in Utah last month due to club commitments on transfer deadline day.

Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico played to a 3-3 draw.

Bateau moved on loan to Russia top flight club, KC Krylia Sovetov, just before the transfer window shut, although Jones remained with England Championship club, Cardiff City.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones (left) congratulates scorer Sheldon Bateau (right) after his 2015 Gold Cup goal against Cuba. Looking on is Andre Boucaud. (Courtesy CONCACAF)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones (left) congratulates scorer Sheldon Bateau (right) after his 2015 Gold Cup goal against Cuba.
Looking on is Andre Boucaud.
(Courtesy CONCACAF)

There was a recall too for Gold Cup winger Lester Peltier, who was left out of the squad that faced Mexico. But it turned out to be short-lived.

Soon after the press conference, Hart was informed that the player suffered a rib injury and was unavailable to join his squad. The Warriors coach is due to name a replacement shortly.

San Jose Earthquakes winger Cordell Cato has been left out on compassionate leave, as his girlfriend is due to deliver a baby soon. Hart initially snubbed Central FC attacker Marcus Joseph and Portland Timbers 2 forward Rundell Winchester, who were his two other wide options from the squad that faced Mexico.

“Marcus, like any other player who comes to the squad, has to adapt to what we want,” said Hart, who also hinted at dissatisfaction with the former World Youth Cup player’s fitness and hunger for the international game.

The most glaring omission, though, was Bankers Insurance Central FC hitman, Willis Plaza, who scored four times in his last four games for his club against LA Galaxy, Point Fortin Civic and North East Stars.

Photo: Central FC striker Willis Plaza (centre) charges through the centre of the Comunicaciones defence during CONCACAF Champions League action. (Courtesy: Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Central FC striker Willis Plaza (centre) charges through the centre of the Comunicaciones defence during CONCACAF Champions League action.
(Courtesy: Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Hart said he is well aware of Plaza’s ability but simply could not find room in his current squad for the striker.

At the Gold Cup, Plaza was selected alongside Breioablik striker Jonathan Glenn and captain Jones. But the inclusion of Austin Aztex attacker Trevin Caesar, who can play wide or upfront, and Glenn’s goal and assist against Mexico last month might have convinced Hart that he does not need an additional forward.

Plaza scored on his first outing for Hart on 5 September 2013 in a 3-3 tie away to Saudi Arabia. However, the striker did not score in his subsequent 10 international outings—seven of which came as a substitute.

Another absentee is central defender Carlyle Mitchell, who made 10 international outings under Hart before he joined Seoul E Land in the Republic of Korea’s second division.

The national coach said Mitchell remains on his radar but pointed out that the talented defender faces a 30-hour flight to Trinidad. The Warriors have just two and a half days to prepare before they face face Panama and Hart felt the timeframe involved and the possibility of jet lag contributed to Mitchell’s omission.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago international defender Carlyle Mitchell at the 2013 Wired868 Football Festival in UWI SPEC. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago international defender Carlyle Mitchell at the 2013 Wired868 Football Festival in UWI SPEC.
(Courtesy Wired868)

However, he added that the defender could still be recalled when the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign starts in November.

Trinidad and Tobago plays its first 2018 qualifier away to Guatemala on November 13 before returning home to face the United States on November 17.

The intention is that the Panama and Nicaragua friendlies will act as a test run for the more serious stuff next month.

However, the Warriors continue to grapple with financial shortcomings.

Team manager William Wallace will not travel with the team to Panama due to a shortage of funds. Today, he urged corporate Trinidad and Tobago to support the Warriors when they need it most and pointed out that their support did not have to mean cash payments to the local football body.

“If they are not too comfortable with coming on board in the traditional way,” said Wallace, “they can come on board by making direct payments straight to our service providers.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago players (from left) Mekeil Williams, Ataulla Guerra, Joevin Jones, Sheldon Bateau and Radanfah Abu Bakr look on during their penalty shoot out with Panama at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Copyright AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago players (from left) Mekeil Williams, Ataulla Guerra, Joevin Jones, Sheldon Bateau and Radanfah Abu Bakr look on during their penalty shoot out with Panama at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
(Copyright AFP 2015)

Hart admitted that he is yet to agree a new contract with the TTFA while the players have not finalised match fees and bonuses for the 2018 qualifiers.

“Hopefully the (TTFA) can sit down with the players while they are here for the Nicaragua game,” said Hart, “and get some sort of idea of what their demands are. As for myself, it is an ongoing discussion.”

Unsurprisingly, Hart hoped for the Warriors’ off-field business to be much smoother as they enter into the World Cup campaign.

“If we are realistic—and we are entering a World Cup campaign—everything should already be in place,” said Hart. “This is a very difficult time for us (and) it is even difficult for us to use the word campaign.

“But the team has a good spirit, the players are unified and understand what is required, and we will go out in November (and) try to maximise our points.

Then, we have three months to try to put things together when the World Cup qualification run begins again.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart makes a point during a training session in Sao Paulo last year. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago head coach Stephen Hart makes a point during a training session in Sao Paulo last year.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/TTFA Media)

Hart praised his players’ approach so far and was relatively happy with their showing at the Gold Cup. But he is taking nothing for granted in their upcoming assignments and pointed to the Netherlands, who got to the Brazil 2014 World Cup semifinals but are now struggling to get out of their European qualifying group.

“The players have been tremendous and showed good spirit and leadership in terms of making demands of each other both on and off the field,” said Hart. “(But) you have to hope. Holland did very well in the World Cup and now cannot win a game.

“So you have to hope the players are in a good moment when you enter the qualification.”

The Warriors lost 1-0 to Panama in Couva on 27 May 2015, although Hart used an experimental team with mostly local players. They met again in July and Panama won on kicks from the penalty spot, after a 1-1 tie in regulation time.

But Hart said his attitude at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City will be the same as everywhere else. Trinidad and Tobago will play to win.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Sheldon Bateau (centre) celebrates the opening goal against Guatemala with teammates Radanfah Abu Bakr (left) and Khaleem Hyland during their 3-1 Gold Cup win. (Copyright Jonathan Daniel/AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Sheldon Bateau (centre) celebrates the opening goal against Guatemala with teammates Radanfah Abu Bakr (left) and Khaleem Hyland during their 3-1 Gold Cup win.
(Copyright Jonathan Daniel/AFP 2015)

“I don’t play a game to get a draw,” said Hart. “For me, that is the most difficult thing out. You play to get a win but you have to manage the game and understand that you are playing away from home and there are difficulties involved in that.

“So your approach sometimes might be different. But I have never played a game to draw.”

(Trinidad and Tobago team to face Panama on October 8 in Panama City)

Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC), Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia Utd);

Defenders: Gavin Hoyte (Barnet—England), Radanfah Abu Bakr (HB Koge—Denmark), Yohance Marshall (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Sheldon Bateau (KC Krylia Sovetov—Russia), Mekeil Williams (Antigua GFC—Guatemala), Daneil Cyrus (Chicago Fire—USA), Aubrey David (Shakhter Karagandy—Kazakhstan);

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Andre Boucaud volleys home the second goal in their 2-0 win over Cuba at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Copyright Christian Peterson/AFP 2015)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Andre Boucaud volleys home the second goal in their 2-0 win over Cuba at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
(Copyright Christian Peterson/AFP 2015)

Midfielders: Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Khaleem Hyland (KV Westerlo—Belgium), Kevan George (Columbus Crew—USA), Neveal Hackshaw (North East Stars);

Attacking Midfielders: Joevin Jones (Chicago Fire—USA), Keron Cummings (North East Stars), Aikim Andrews (W Connection);

Forwards: Trevin Caesar (Austin Aztex—USA), Jonathan Glenn (Breioablik—Iceland), Kenwyne Jones (Cardiff City—Wales).

 

Editor’s Note: Willis Plaza was selected to replace the injured Lester Peltier. Click HERE for more information.
Barnet FC defender Gavin Hoyte will return to his club after Trinidad and Tobago’s international friendly against Panama on October 8 and will be replaced in the squad to face Nicaragua on October 13.

About Lasana 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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62 comments

  1. well he did the pre season with az in aug played 7 games scored 2 goals and was adjudged as 1 of the best players for the presason and would have played in the europa cup and league as a starter if he was eligible so if that’s not grounds for selection what is I guess playing in this scrappy pfl is with players less than 60 percent fit

  2. Levi is a future international I think. He would have played for the senior team since last year. But then he went back to play SSFL and it set him back. He had a bad u20 tournament too in January. But I’m sure he will get the chance within a year or so.

  3. so because he playing for marabella fc in the super league till he go back to AZ he not good enough class is permanent he only playing there cause them asses at central fc put a clause in his release that he can’t professional football in tnt with no other club till he is 18

  4. Just as a point of knowledge… Levi Garcia is playing for Marabella in the super league??

  5. I think hart has done a tremendous job with the team he has tried many new players but Levi deserves a cap and in a year time he will be the talk of the dutch league mark my words

  6. I think it’s about the players adapting to the style Hart wants Jomo. It’s not that Guerra, Joseph and Plaza aren’t talented. Plaza is particularly unlucky because Glenn was terrific in the last friendly. Cummings’ great play is probably keeping Guerra out and well apparently Joseph hasn’t made up his mind to play a “wing” role yet

  7. Any thoughts on taking two goalies? Would like to see a third.

  8. Wait did i jus see he left out guerra?

  9. OK Lasana, change de title of de article. LOL. Plaza is back in, for Peltier.

  10. I just have this feeling people going to get the bizness from TnT in this qualifying campaign.

  11. Would have liked to have seen a call up of ryan innis from Port vale as well as John Bostock who plays in Belguim.

  12. The form that plaza is in at this moment how can you leave him out?

  13. Well in that regard he hasn’t shone… I didn’t think he was used as our main “go-central-man” in the Gold Cup either… If I can recall he was used as a sub in most of the games… Also the way we know him is as direct approach man… One who would take on defenders… Is either Hart wanted something else from him or he was just off… That same attitude was shown in some of his professional games last year… Lasana Liburd

    • Hart asked him to get close to Kenwyne. He said so publicly too and an interviews with Wired868.
      Guerra started the opening game in Guatemala.
      In the end, I think Cummings was simply ready to do what the coach wanted tactically and Guerra wasn’t.
      So it seems anyway.

  14. Sean De Silva’s recent performances were credited too.

  15. He spoke a bit more about Marcus not showing him the hunger to be on the team and do well. And he was concerned about his physical readiness for international football.
    There are a couple players who are not in the team that are talented enough but just need to justify their pick more.
    Hart has spoken creditably about Shahdon Winchester and Kadeem Corbin for instance. But has always hinted that they have to push a bit harder.

  16. Lasana, was there anything more that Hart said about Marcus Joseph?

  17. I have a feeling we will shock the World and make it to Russia. Our coach Hart is World class.

  18. I honestly don’t know what to make of this article idk if he trying to send a msg or something

  19. Guerra needs a switch of leagues… Maybe MLS to test his true strengths… He’s not playing to his true potential because it’s not nearly required of him… I suppose the quickest solution would be a move from Central to a lesser team… Or a team that requires “toting” … Ting nice in Central…

  20. Buoy Lasana Liburd, plaza is my favorite player!. Real disappointed. I like Hart’s style and he is no joke attitude like Rowley!. Time to separate the sheep from the goats…

  21. I admire his reasoning for selection… i guess everyone needs to get a showing before next month

  22. Good luck to Aikim. Personally, I was disappointed that Plaza didn’t get in the squad.
    I can understand the coach’s thinking. But I would like to have seen Plaza in there.

  23. Willis plaza out!. Teenager better perform Michael Knight

  24. Like the mix. Interesting appeal to sponsors by Wallace to not necessarily give TTFA funds but go directly to service providers..

  25. He didn’t hint of a possible replacement when Hoyte returns ?

  26. hmm, man i just wish he gets his head together hmm .
    but im liking the selections tho, minus ken jones!!

  27. Ataulla’s form has not been international standard. He needs to recalibrate. He was really good at some stages last season.

    • Too inconsistent. I have never seen him dominate a game or take it by the scruff of its neck. The thing is, I believe he has the tools to do just that, but for some reason it hasn’t happened. He should be conducting that midfield by now.

    • I remember when Ataulla got selected to play against Argentina and I was upset. I thought his club form didn’t merit it. And then he was the best T&T player on the field.
      He can be so good. But not often enough and you never know when.

  28. very interesting . wonders if this is d last of tulla’