Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team captain Kenwyne Jones has urged “Soca Warriors” supporters not to heap too much responsibility on Levi Garcia just yet, after the 18-year-old Netherlands-based winger shone in their 3-2 win over St Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday afternoon.
Garcia, who plays professionally for Eredivisie club AZ Alkmaar, came off the bench to score twice against the “Vincey Heat” and, in the process, became the youngest Trinidad and Tobago player ever to score in a World Cup qualifier.
But Jones, who also made his international debut as a teenager, is urging the public to make realistic demands on the former Shiva Boys Hindu College student and Siparia Spurs player.
“He did well (but) I don’t want the public to put too much pressure on him,” Jones told the TTFA Media “He is being well coached where he is and I am happy for the start that he had. And hopefully he can go on and become a very integral part of the team.
“At the same time, he still has a lot to learn and I do hope he takes those lessons well and go on and fulfil his potential.”
Jones, a former England Premier League player who now earns his living with Abu-Dhabi club Al Jazira, claimed that the Warriors were never in danger of dropping points against St Vincent, despite trailing 1-0 at halftime.
“It was one of those games when we weren’t at our best,” said Jones. “We had to depend a bit on individual brilliance. I don’t think the team was at any point in danger of not winning the game. But I think we were just off the pace mentally.
“I don’t think we will be having that problems in this game (on Tuesday March 29). It was our hurdle which we had to cross and we crossed it.
“And now we are looking (forward) to playing at home and getting back that style and identity that we had.”
Warriors head coach Stephen Hart said the squad has put its patchy performance in Arnos Vale behind them and are now focused on doing better at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
“We’ve sort of finished thinking about the win on Friday and now the focus moves solely to Tuesday’s game and getting three points,” said Hart. “We spoke about the game and the players realise that it wasn’t one of our better performances. But we accept that the result was the most important thing.
“And now when you look at the other result with Guatemala and the USA, it sort of throws the group wide open. We don’t want to look ahead too far but we know that, as a team, we have to stay focused and ensure that we keep improving in every aspect.”
Jones was unfazed by the new dynamics of Group C, after Guatemala’s 2-0 home win over the United States meant that the three nations remain in the hunt for two spots for the final CONCACAF qualifying round.
“The result (in Guatemala) doesn’t change our focus,” said Jones. “We know what we set out to do regardless of what happens in front of us or behind us.
“We still have our personal goals and we are going to go out on Tuesday and get a step closer.”
Jones was a member of the Warriors squad that gained international attention at the Germany 2006 World Cup. He is desperate to get to the Russia 2018 edition and urged supporters to come out and support the team on Tuesday.
“Just like how we are going through the paces of this qualification, it’s important that we have the public coming out and showing their support,” said Jones. “We are going to need them in the next round once we get there. And we’d like to have them supporting us from the get go to make the journey even sweeter.
“We want to change the script from how it was in 2004, 2005 and 2006. I believe that this team has a lot of potential and we have a goal in mind to go to the World Cup.
“We are asking the public to come out again in their numbers to give us that moral and physical support.”
Trinidad and Tobago kick off against St Vincent and the Grenadines at 7 pm. Tickets are available for TT$300 (covered stands) and TT$150 (uncovered stands).