Central FC custodian Jan-Michael Williams was named on a 21-man Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team roster, as coach Stephen Hart selected a full strength squad for 2017 Caribbean Cup qualifying action next month.
Williams, who made his first competitive start in midweek CONCACAF Champions League after roughly six months out with a shoulder injury, is one of only two additions to the Soca Warriors squad that played Guatemala and the United States in early September.
The Central custodian will vie with Police FC’s Adrian Foncette and Morvant Caledonia United’s Marvin Phillip for the sole spot between the uprights.
Hart’s other new call-up is versatile 21-year-old defender, Triston Hodge, who can operate in central defence or at left back. Hodge, who turns 22 on October 9, won all three of his national caps this year and last represented the Warriors against Uruguay when he was replaced injured.
At present, he is on loan from W Connection to United Soccer League (USL) club Toronto FC II.
South Korea-based defender Carlyle Mitchell missed out due to club commitments while midfielder Hughtun Hector, defender Yohance Marshall and goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh are the other omissions from the squad which faced Guatemala and the United States.
Hart must whittle his team further to 20 players before they host the Dominican Republic from 7pm on 5 October at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. The Warriors then travel to face Martinique on 11 October. They will be looking to regain their defensive poise, after conceding six times in their last two outings.
“We know what is wrong as a squad [defensively],” said Hart, at today’s press briefing at the TTFA headquarters. “We have had good moments. We have had moments of concentration lapses […] I think the situation right now is one that we as a team have to do better collectively.”
The group winner is guaranteed a place in the Caribbean Cup semifinals round as well as an automatic berth in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup finals. The group runner-up will enter a play-off to try to get to the Gold Cup through the back door with an eventual clash against a UNCAF (Central American Football Union) representative.
The Warriors know the importance of the task at hand and, with Dominican Republic and Martinique lurking, Hart was keen to highlight the tricky nature of the upcoming fixtures.
“I think this is a very difficult situation we are going to be in having to play Dominican Republic here at home and then travel to Martinique,” said Hart. “I think this qualification is going to be more difficult than the last time around because we now have to win the group. Ideally, I would have liked to be in a situation where I could be playing two exhibition games and planning for the Hex.
“Unfortunately, once again we are in a competition tournament mood and there’s no room for experimentation. I think this is a more difficult fixture than people really understand.”
With victory almost a necessity for the Warriors on Wednesday, Hart will hope for a touch of déjà vu, as the boys in red, white and black thumped Dominican Republic 6-1 in Caribbean Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium back in October 2014.
The Couva venue will also host Trinidad and Tobago and their Spanish-speaking foes on Wednesday, after a precautionary switch was made from the originally slated Hasely Crawford venue. Hart said he was just rolling with the punches.
“From my understanding, the situation is one of lighting, the generators. They cannot guarantee that the generators will hold and of course it’s an international fixture and they don’t have the back-up generators. But other than that you will have to speak to the stadium management on it. We could not take the chance seeing that it’s an official FIFA competition.”
The TT Pro League will have to play the role of ‘guinea pig’ in this instance, as a Pro League double header originally carded for Couva venue on Tuesday evening was shifted to the Port of Spain venue, which seems to have a diminished reputation these days.
Nevertheless, Hart knows that his toughest battle is on the field, and the former Canada coach is mindful of the threat posed by Martinique.
“The official FIFA date for the match day was supposed to be the Friday [but] it’s been moved to the Wednesday which means the players will only have two days together. So it’s a tricky fixture. And then of course you have to travel to Martinique […] and I looked at the potential Martinique squad and it’s very heavily France-based with a lot of players playing in the French top league.”
Hart is without his own France-based player, yet again, as former England national youth team midfielder John Bostock has not had his international switch ratified by FIFA. Bostock has already scored six times for his Ligue 2 employers, Racing Club de Lens, but his potential Warriors representation has been stalled by the English FA.
“That whole [John Bostock] situation is out of my control. I can just wait on FIFA,” said Hart. “I have no more information than I gave recently.”
Trinidad and Tobago and Martinique have enjoyed some good tussles over the years, and the Warriors eked out a penalty shootout win when they met in the 2012 Caribbean Cup semi-final. Daneil Cyrus, Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones and Williams all featured for the Warriors that day.
Any stalemate in the October 11 meeting between the two teams could result in an extra time or penalty shootout outcome, as per the regulations of the CFU tournament.
The last time Hart’s Warriors graced the field they were humbled by CONCACAF giants USA. On Wednesday, Hart and his army will be hoping to administer the same footballing lessons to Caribbean minnows Dominican Republic.
It’s been more than a decade since Trinidad and Tobago etched their name on the Caribbean Cup trophy, but you must creep before you walk.
(Trinidad and Tobago 21-man squad)
Goalkeepers: Jan-Michael Williams, Marvin Phillip, Adrian Foncette;
Defenders: Mekeil Williams, Aubrey David, Daneil Cyrus, Tristan Hodge, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Sheldon Bateau;
Midfielders: Khaleem Hyland, Andre Boucaud, Kevan George, Neveal Hackshaw;
Attacking midfielders: Joevin Jones, Cordell Cato, Levi Garcia, Kevin Molino, Jomal Williams;
Forwards: Kenwyne Jones, Trevin Caesar, Shahdon Winchester.