The “Soca Warriors” will take a local-based squad to face the Grenada National Senior Team on March 19, after the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) today confirmed a friendly fixture between the two Caribbean nations.
The clash will serve as Trinidad and Tobago’s sole warm-up fixture before World Cup qualifiers against St Vincent and the Grenadines on March 25 and 29, which will be played away and home respectively.
Warriors coach Stephen Hart told the TTFA Media that he welcomed the outing, which kicks off at 7 pm at the Grenada National Stadium.
“Well, it serves two purposes as, for one, I’ve been asking for a sort of local camp in which the home-based players can be looked at in a camp environment and in an international match scenario,” said Hart. “And secondly. the local Pro League will be breaking a few days well before we play our next two World Cup qualifiers. So getting these players together and keeping them active will keep players who can potentially be in the World Cup squad, game sharp and ready for the two games later in the month.”
The TT Pro League helped to facilitate the match by rescheduling its fixtures since, by FIFA law, the domestic competition is not obliged to break before March 20.
Hart is expected to select his squad later this week.
The Pro League players who were selected for the 1-0 Copa America play off loss against Haiti on January 6 are: (goalkeepers) Jan-Michael Williams, Marvin Phillip, Adrian Foncette, (defender) Daneil Cyrus, (midfielders) Ataulla Guerra, Jomal Williams and (forward) Shahdon Winchester.
It is uncertain whether Hart would also consider out-of-contract midfielder Kevan George, who was released by Columbus Crew last season.
The fixture does create an opportunity for the local-based players to shine, though.
Among the remaining Pro League talent likely to be considered on current form are: Andre Ettienne, Sean De Silva, Nathaniel Garcia, Kevon Villaroel, Marcus Joseph (all Central FC), Nathan Lewis, Jamal Gay (both San Juan Jabloteh), Jibiri McDavid, Elijah Belgrave, Makesi Lewis (all Police FC), Akeem Humphrey (Club Sando), Kadeem Hutchinson (St Ann’s Rangers), Jerwyn Balthazar, Curtis Gonzales, Ross Russell Jr, Hashim Arcia (all Defence Force), Triston Hodge, Hughtun Hector (both W Connection) and Gorean Highley (North East Stars).
Hart has called for a local camp ever since he took over in mid-2013 and he hopes that the match helps the Warriors’ Russia 2018 World Cup campaign.
“It’s good to have a game against (Grenada) but for me what is more important is the camp environment,” said Hart, “and giving players an opportunity so that they can push to create a bigger player pool.”
Grenada captain Shannon Phillip and fellow internationals Moron Phillip, Rickson Phillip and goalkeeper Jason Belfon are all employed by local Pro League team, Club Sando.
Compatriot Jamal Charles represents W Connection and scored four times from three games during last month’s CONCACAF Champions League qualifiers while Grenada’s second string custodian, Shemel Louison, is a San Juan Jabloteh player.
Grenada are already eliminated from the 2018 World Cup qualifying—after losing home and away to Haiti—while they are ranked 161st in the world compared to Trinidad and Tobago’s FIFA ranking of 41.
But Hart said he is taking nothing for granted against the “Spice Islanders”, who won their last clashes with the Warriors in 2010 and 2008.
“They have proven to be a formidable opponent against us and I’m quite sure they will give us a good test when we get there,” said Hart.
Hart hopes to get more international friendly assignments in May, which, he suggested, will further aid the team’s World Cup campaign.
“We have the two qualifiers in March and then we have to potentially look at the FIFA dates in May where hopefully we can get at least two quality games,” said Hart. “And then there’s the Caribbean Cup, which is crucial for us getting to the 2017 Gold Cup. And of course we cannot forget the closing two semi final round games in the qualification in September.
“This is all a good step in terms of forward planning for the long journey ahead.”