A late call-up for versatile 21-year-old defender Alvin Jones, who replaces England-based right back Justin Hoyte, created a remarkable distinction for the W Connection football in the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team.
Every single player with a Trinidad and Tobago passport in the Connection starting team, barring veteran 34-year-old playmaker Andre Toussaint, will travel with the “Soca Warriors” on a three-nation tour to Peru, Uruguay and China.
Jones, who captained the National Under-23 Team at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, joins teammates Daneil Cyrus, Triston Hodge, Hughtun Hector, Jomal Williams and Shahdon Winchester in coach Stephen Hart’s set-up.
Toussaint apart, the rest of the Connection first XI includes the St Kitts and Nevis duo of goalkeeper Julani Archibald and midfielder Gerard Williams, St Lucia left back Kurt Frederick and Suriname winger Dimitrie Apai.
Connection are fourth in the 10-team Pro League standings at present.
In contrast, Central FC, who just won the Pro League title for the second successive season, contributed just three players to the national squad, despite having just one foreign player on their entire roster.
Still, Connection’s Warriors are all capped at either junior or senior level and club owner David John-Williams, who is also the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president, might be reaping the benefits of shopping for young talent.
The sudden influx of Pro League players—there are 15 in Hart’s squad—is due to a clash with the FIFA calendar, which meant that the national coach had to rely on the generosity of overseas-based clubs to release players for the South America tour.
The 21-year-old Hodge, who can operate in central defence or at left back, hopes to make the most of the absences, as he eyes his second senior international cap.
“I’m trying my best in training this week, hoping to impress the coach so that I can get to play in these three games,” Hodge told the TTFA Media. “I would like to be a permanent pick on the national team. I know the competition for spots is tight but that’s football and it’s a good thing for the team.
“It’s an elating feeling to be among some of these players on the national team like Khaleem Hyland and Hughtun Hector. They always encourage me to do my best. “Coach Hart has also taught me a lot so far and also tells me to stay focused.”
Another new call-up is 26-year-old North East Stars goalkeeper Glenroy Samuel, who represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2007 Under-17 and 2009 Under-19 World Cups but struggled to get a look in at senior level.
Just four months ago, Samuel was representing Matura ReUnited in the National Super League competition before a mid-season move to Stars earned him a surprise call-up, with Warriors and Central FC number one, Jam-Michael Williams, missing through injury.
“It’s a proud moment for me and hopefully I can keep my spot,” said Samuel, who was called into a training squad in 2013 but remained uncapped. “I was so elated, I ran through the village of Matura to let everyone know the news. It’s good to be working with Marvin Phillip and Adrian Foncette.
“Michael Maurice is a good coach and hopefully I can keep fit and continue developing my game. I was very eager to get back on this team.
“I’m not nervous about the occasion. I am thirsty to play.”
The Warriors leave on Friday May 20 for Lima. They will face Peru there on May 23 before tackling Uruguay in Montevideo on May 27 and China in Qin Huang Dao on June 3.
(Trinidad and Tobago squad)
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Morvant Caledonia United), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Glenroy Samuel (North East Stars);
Defenders: Aubrey David (Saprissa FC—Costa Rica), Alvin Jones, Daneil Cyrus, Triston Hodge (all W Connection), Weslie John (CD Universidad—El Salvador), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Yohance Marshall (Murcielagos FC—Mexico), Andre Ettienne (Central FC), Radanfah Abu Bakr (HB Koge—Denmark);
Midfielders: Hughtun Hector (W Connection), Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge—England), Leston Paul (Central FC), Khaleem Hyland (KVC Westerlo—Belgium);
Attacking midfielders: Jomal Williams (W Connection), Levi Garcia (AZ Alkmaar—Netherlands), Sean De Silva (Central FC), Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh);
Forwards: Willis Plaza (Alianza FC—El Salvador), Shahdon Winchester (W Connection), Makesi Lewis (Police FC);
Additions for China match: Carlyle Mitchell (Seoul E Land—Korea Republic), Marcus Joseph (Central FC).