Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coach Stephen Hart selected eight uncapped players for friendly international action against Grenada on March 19 in just his team’s second outing of the year.
The exhibition match falls outside the FIFA international calendar but, thanks to a fixture reshuffle by the Pro League, Hart had his choice of home-based talent.
The “Soca Warriors” coach said he intends to use the match to help create a deeper player pool.
“I am looking for players who adapt quickly and can bring something different to the present squad,” Hart told the TTFA Media. “I am also looking to create a deeper playing pool, with an aim of establishing competition for places.”
Eight of Hart’s squad have junior FIFA World Cup experience for Trinidad and Tobago.
Goalkeepers Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United) and Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC) were both members of the 2001 Under-17 World Cup squads. And Daneil Cyrus (W Connection), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Khaleem Hyland (KV Westerlo—Belgium), Leston Paul, Marcus Joseph and Sean De Silva (all Central FC) wore red, white and black at either the 2007 Under-17 and 2009 Under-20 World Cups or both.
Hyland is the only overseas player in Hart’s 22-man squad, which, as expected, leans heavily on defending champions, Central FC, and the youthful W Connection set-up for the bulk of his team.
Central and Connection contributed eight and six players respectively to the Warriors outfit with three from Defence Force, two from Police FC and one apiece from Club Sando and Morvant Caledonia United.
The potential debutantes include Pro League top scorer Makesi Lewis (Police), 2015 Pan American Games Under-23 players Triston Hodge (W Connection) and Nathaniel “Spanish” Garcia (Central FC) and 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship midfielder Akeem Humphrey (Club Sando).
Defence Force captain Jerwyn Balthazar and defender Jamali Garcia and Central defender Andre Ettienne and left back Kevon Villaroel complete the list of international newcomers.
Balthazar, who is 33 years old, is the oldest member of the squad but was rewarded for his consistency and goal scoring form this season. And, although he has never won a cap for the Warriors, he is an accomplished international indoor player and the current national Futsal captain.
Lewis and Garcia (N) have both been eclipsed by younger siblings but will now get a shot to showcase their own abilities.
Lewis’ little brother, Micah Lewis, represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2007 Under-17 and 2009 Under-20 World Cups, while Garcia (N) is the elder brother of Netherlands-based teenager, Levi Garcia, who is in line to make his own debut in upcoming World Cup qualifiers against St Vincent and the Grenadines on March 25 and 29.
Thirty two year old Central winger Jason Marcano is another exotic selection. Marcano has 11 caps under his belt spread among four former national coaches—Wim Rijsbergen, Anton Corneal (while stand-in for Francisco Maturana), Russell Latapy and Hutson Charles—but has never represented his country in a competitive fixture.
Marcano too has benefitted from red hot recent form with the “Couva Sharks.” He would also relish the chance to show that his unorthodox dribbling and precise crossing matches international standards.
His Central, De Silva, has been sounded out to play for Guyana and Antigua and Barbuda at senior level due to family ties—although he represented Trinidad and Tobago at two junior World Cups—but has so far resisted overtures in an effort to prolong his international career with the land of his birth.
Joseph is, arguably, the player to watch for in Grenada, as he managed at least one goal in his last seven successive games for the Sharks and totalled eight items during that period.
Joseph’s five caps under Hart thus far—all in friendlies—have primarily been as a winger, which is not his preferred post.
A shortage of “number 10s” available to Hart—Kevin Molino is still recovering from a lengthy injury-enforced lay off, Keron Cummings is injured and Ataulla Guerra just joined Charleston Battery (US) and has not convinced—might open the door for Joseph to play alongside captain Kenwyne Jones in St Vincent, if the former World Youth Cup player impresses on audition in Grenada.
The more established travellers in the squad are JM Williams, who captained the squad in their 2016 Copa America Centenario play off loss against Haiti on January 8, his capable deputy, Phillip, and the versatile Cyrus.
Connection attackers Jomal Williams, who leads Pro League scorers with goals in all competitions, and Shahdon Winchester have kept their place in the squad from the Copa play off while club teammate Hughtun Hector is also regaining full fitness after injury.
Connection captain and defender Alvin Jones, who is the younger brother of Warriors star Joevin Jones, Police FC utility defender Elijah Belgrave, Gonzales and Paul, who captain Defence Force and Central respectively, complete Hart’s squad.
“This game will serve its purpose (in widening the player pool) and it provides that opportunity for players who have been knocking on the door,” said Hart. “And of course we have a few of the regular squad players who will add that stability and experience to the team that will play in Grenada.
“This is also a good opportunity for us to get these players, several of them new to the stage of international football, in a training camp environment which allows us to see how the react to such conditions.”
The team will enter a training camp on Sunday and will hold its first training session on Monday morning at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium. Hart will be without his six Central FC players who are in Jamaica until Sunday night for their CONCACAF Champions League qualifying series.
The Warriors travel to St George’s on Friday March 18 and will tackle Grenada from 7 pm on March 19 at their National Athletic Stadium.
Trinidad and Tobago’s next home match will be their World Cup qualifier against St Vincent on the Grenadines on Tuesday 29 March at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
Tickets are priced at TT$300 for the covered section and TT$150 for uncovered and fans can buy them at Sports and Games or Kenny’s Sports outlets nationwide as well as at Sportway (Ellerslie Plaza and Gulf City) and Ramsingh’s Sportworld (Couva).
Tobago fans will be able to purchase tickets at Heritage Sports in Scarborough from Friday while tickets are also available online from Wednesday March 9, via the TTFA’s official website – www.TTFootball.Org.
(Trinidad and Tobago team)
Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams (Central FC), Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United);
Defenders: Daneil Cyrus, Alvin Jones, Triston Hodge (all W Connection), Andre Ettienne, Kevon Villaroel (both Central FC), Curtis Gonzales, Jamali Garcia (both Defence Force), Elijah Belgrave (Police FC);
Midfielders: Hughtun Hector (W Connection), Jerwyn Balthazar (Defence Force), Nathaniel Garcia, Leston Paul (both Central FC), Khaleem Hyland (KV Westerlo—Belgium), Akeem Humphrey (Club Sando);
Attacking Midfielders: Jomal Williams (W Connection), Sean De Silva, Jason Marcano (both Central FC);
Forwards: Shahdon Winchester (W Connection), Marcus Joseph (Central FC), Makesi Lewis (Police FC).