Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart has confirmed that he is closely monitoring 18 year old starlet Levi Garcia, who managed his competitive debut and maiden goal for AZ Alkmaar last month in the Eredivisie.
However, Hart declined to say when Garcia can expect his first senior international call-up and suggested that he prefers the young winger focuses on his progress in the Netherlands top flight.
Garcia became the youngest Trinidad and Tobago player to get competitive action in Europe when he came on as a substitute in a 4-2 win against Feyenoord on January 24. And, six days later, the former National Under-20 Team winger got his first AZ goal in another appearance off the bench in a 3-0 win over NEC.
Both milestones were previously head by former Trinidad and Tobago star and World Cup 2006 captain Dwight Yorke.
Hart worked with Garcia before as a technical advisor to the National Under-20 Team, which was coached by Derek King, and tried to select him for the 2014 Caribbean Cup, only for the player to opt for a trial with AZ instead.
But the “Soca Warriors” coach is not prepared to reveal any of his selections yet for next month’s Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers against St Vincent and the Grenadines, which will be played away on March 25 and in Port of Spain on March 29.
“I have seen all of Levi’s games and I am closely monitoring his progress for consideration,” Hart told Wired868.
After the Warriors’ timid 1-0 loss to Haiti last month in a 2016 Copa America play off, there has been good news for Trinidad and Tobago football fans, as captain Kenwyne Jones already has two goals for his new Abu Dhabi-based employer, Al Jazeera, while midfielders Hughtun Hector and, possibly, Kevin Molino, might be available after lengthy injury-enforced lay offs.
Gold Cup 2015 utility player Dwane James and defender Mekeil Williams have also been unveiled as signings for Antigua GFC (Guatemala) and Colorado Rapids (United States) respectively.
Twenty five year old United States-born midfielder Nick De Leon, who is the son of former Trinidad and Tobago football legend Leroy De Leon, has also opened the door to represent the two island republic. But De Leon still does not have a T&T passport and cannot be considered at present.
In the Pro League, Central FC playmaker Ataulla Guerra, San Juan Jabloteh striker Jamal Gay, Club Sando midfielder Akeem Humphrey, Defence Force winger Ross Russell Jr and the W Connection pair of attacker Jomal Williams and right back Shannon Gomez are among the players staking a claim for an international call-up.
There is the possibility that the local-based players might work with Hart before the March 25 qualifier in St Vincent, as the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) is looking into securing an international friendly.
Any such match would be outside the FIFA match window and would mean that Hart cannot call upon his foreign-based players.
However, the Warriors coach, who is among 10 nominees for CONCACAF’s 2015 Coach of the Year award, said he would welcome more games and pointed out that he often asked former football president Raymond Tim Kee for opportunities to work with a local pool.
Hart stressed, though, that such matches cannot be considered preparation for the Russia 2018 campaign.
“Any game played outside a FIFA window cannot be a preparation game for the World Cup qualifiers,” Hart told Wired868. “However, the camp and game can be used experimentally with a mixture of current local-based squad members, potential selects and young players.
“The aims and objectives will be to gain international camp and game experience, scouting and address match sharpness.”
Hart said he is in constant dialogue with current TTFA president David John-Williams, as the football body tries to get things in place for the immediate priority, which is the CONCACAF qualifiers.
“The immediate priority remains making sure all arrangements for the World Cup qualifiers in March are in place,” said Hart, “such as wages, travel, hotel, scouting, staffing, equipment, etc.
“David (John-Williams) and I are in constant dialogue. We understand the present constraints but the World Cup qualifying campaign has to meet certain standards and presently we are working towards that as a priority.
“Anything outside of that is for the overall benefit of potential future programming and development for the National Team.”