Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart recalled 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup defenders Justin Hoyte and Carlyle Mitchell for his 22-man squad to face Guatemala and the United States on November 13 and 17 respectively.
As always, Hart put a heavy premium on experience and maturity. Only two members of his squad were under the age of 24—winger Cordell Cato (23) and midfielder Neveal Hackshaw (20)—while there was no room for 19-year-old utility player Aikim Andrews.
But despite a chronic shortage of playmakers—Keron Cummings is included but Kevin Molino, Ataulla Guerra and Hughton Hector are either injured or just returning to full fitness—Hart suggested that he selected a cast with the adaptability required for two tough clashes against the street-wise Guatemalans and physical US team.
The “Soca Warriors” head to a camp in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday November 7 where they will prepare tactically for their two upcoming contests.
“The selection for the Guatemala game is a balanced one and it also allows for flexibility in our approach,” Hart told TTFA Media. “The camp in Fort Lauderdale will allow us a few days to work without scrutiny and we can simply concentrate on our approach to the game.
“Players will once again work on their roles and function and we can go over the details of potential scenarios.”
Trinidad and Tobago downed Guatemala 3-1 in Chicago at the July 2015 Gold Cup. But Hart expects a much tougher time in Guatemala City.
The Warriors lost 5-1 on their last competitive visit to Guatemala, 10 years ago, despite having the likes of Dwight Yorke, Shaka Hislop and Stern John in their side.
Hart, who is also a former Canada head coach, will do his best to mentally prepare his squad for the test ahead. The Warriors fly in to Guatemala on Wednesday November 11, just 48 hours before their opening qualifier.
“It’s a difficult environment and we want to minimise potential disruption with travel, hotel and training,” said Hart. “This is World Cup qualifying and like it or not, host teams in general try to make it uncomfortable. Now I am not saying Guatemala will do this, per se, but their supporters will try to disrupt you mentally.
“The game itself will carry a certain stress, so our intention is to make the players as comfortable as possible.”
Mitchell, who was a first choice central defender at the 2013 Gold Cup but missed the 2015 edition due to injury, will compete for a starting position and brings aerial prowess and sound distribution to the central defence role.
Hoyte, who recently joined midfielder Andre Boucaud at England League Two table proppers Dagenham & Redbridge, replaces his younger brother Gavin Hoyte in the travelling squad. And he offers a touch of serenity and tactical awareness to the right back role, although he is likely to be back-up for the more athletic and tempestuous Daneil Cyrus.
The return of wingers Cordell Cato and Lester Peltier should add pace and know-how on the flanks. While captain Kenwyne Jones, the country’s most prolific scorer over the past two years, will be a reassuring sight should the Warriors stick to the direct, counter-attacking style that has served them well under Hart.
(Trinidad and Tobago squad)
Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC), Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United);
Defenders: Daneil Cyrus (Chicago Fire—USA), Justin Hoyte (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E-Land—South Korea), Sheldon Bateau (FC Krylia Samara—Russia), Radanfah Abu Bakr (HB Koge—Denmark), Yohance Marshall (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Mekeil Williams (Antigua GFC—Guatemala), Aubrey David (Shakhter Karagandy—Kazakhstan);
Midfielders: Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Khaleem Hyland (KV Westerlo—Belgium), Kevan George (Columbus Crew—USA), Neveal Hackshaw (North East Stars);
Attacking Midfielders: Trevin Caesar (Austin Aztex—USA), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes—USA), Joevin Jones (Chicago Fire—USA), Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava—Slovakia), Keron Cummings (North East Stars);
Forwards: Kenwyne Jones (Cardiff City—Wales), Willis Plaza (Central FC), Jonathan Glenn (Breioablik—Iceland).