Shock call-ups for Keon Daniel, Keron Clarke and Isaiah Hudson in T&T squad to face Ecuador

Unattached maverick playmaker Keon Daniel, FC Santa Rosa forward Keron Clarke and teenaged W Connection attacker Isaiah Hudson were three surprise call-ups today as Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence selected a 26-man provisional squad to play Ecuador in Guayaquil on 26 July.

The friendly international is likely to be the first of three warm-up matches before the Soca Warriors tackle Honduras on 1 September and Panama on September 5 in two decisive World Cup qualifying contests.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Keon Daniel goes around El Salvador goalkeeper Dagoberto Portillo during the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup
(Copyright YahooSports)

In his short stint as head coach so far, Lawrence has already shown that he is unafraid of making bold decisions and his latest squad certainly fits the bill.

The 30-year-old Daniel, who is a free agent, has not represented Trinidad and Tobago since 15 July 2013 when he played the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 Gold Cup quarterfinal loss to Mexico. By then, he was already a controversial selection by then newly appointed coach Stephen Hart.

In November 2012, Warriors head coach and former Strike Squad stand-out Hutson “Barber” Charles tried to have Daniel join his team for the Caribbean Cup qualifying round; he subsequently admitted to the media that the Tobagonian was not taking his calls—although he had played for Charles in an earlier round.

Ataullah Guerra took over the play-making mantle in Daniel’s absence and helped Trinidad and Tobago qualify for the Caribbean Cup where they booked their first Gold Cup berth in seven years.

By then, Jamaal Shabazz had been added to the Warriors’ technical staff and, as co-head coach, he talked Daniel into rejoining the team for a two-game exhibition tour to Belize and Peru in March 2013.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Keon Daniel was released by Philadelphia Union on 8 April 2014.

Daniel played against Belize and even wore the captain’s armband for part of the second half. But he surprised the staff by insisting that he be released for personal reasons before they headed to Peru—the TTFA initially claimed he had to renew his visa in Trinidad but subsequently confessed that was untrue.

As a result of Daniel’s about-turn, Trinidad and Tobago did not have a full complement of substitutes in Lima where they lost 3-0 to the hosts.

Hart gave Daniel another chance at the July 2013 Gold Cup and the player was one of the country’s best performers in the group stage. But Daniel, who was then attached to MLS team Philadelphia Union, asked to be excused from Hart’s first post-Gold Cup squad that September.

Hart responded by leaving Daniel out of his next squad before, in November 2013, he again extended an olive branch to the left-footed play-maker. Daniel agreed to play and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) sent him a plane ticket to join the squad but the player simply never showed up.

Hart never selected Daniel again and it was the last time the player was in the international frame. Until now.

Clarke, who is the Trinidad and Tobago Super League’s (TTSL) joint leading scorer with seven goals from four matches, is a surprise selection for an altogether different reason. It is the first time in four years that a lower league player has been called up to the National Senior Team.

Photo: FC Santa Rosa captain Keron Clarke (left) looks to escape from a WASA FC opponent during TTSL One action in St Joseph on 9 July 2017.
Clarke scored twice as Rosa won 3-0.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Attacker Marcus Joseph was the last player to have that honour as he was representing Point Fortin Civic in the Southern Football Association (SFA)  in 2013 when he earned two caps under Shabazz and Charles.

Joseph was 22 years old at the time with two World Youth Cup appearances in the Korean Republic and Egypt under his belt. In contrast, Clarke is aiming to make his international debut at 31—after a journeyman lower league career that included stops at Maloney FC and WASA FC. This is his second season at Santa Rosa.

Santa Rosa coach Keith Look Loy, a former TTFA technical director and national youth team coach, commended Lawrence for his brave decision and suggested that Clarke still has plenty to offer.

“He is the Trini [James] Vardy,” Look Loy told Wired868, as he referenced the Leicester City and England striker. “[He is ageing like] fine wine. I will get another four good years from him [and] they will be his best!”

A strong forward with a clean right-foot shot, Clarke scored a brilliant scissors-kick goal against Club Sando Moruga—it marked his hattrick in a 7-0 rout—which has been the best moment of the fledgling TTSL career so far and an online hit. (Click HERE and check 0.48 seconds in).

Photo: FC Santa Rosa captain and forward Keron Clarke celebrates after completing his double against WASA FC during TTSL One action in St Joseph on 9 July 2017.
Santa Rosa won 3-0.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Look Loy said ability and not age should be the most important factor in national selection so long as the Warriors still have a mathematical shot at the Russia 2018 World Cup.

“We need goals now,” said Look Loy, who noted that Portugal and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo is enjoying a tremendous scoring run for club and country at 33. “To flip the old adage: if you’re good enough, you’re young enough.”

Lawrence did offer a chance to young talent too as there were three teenagers in his squad: Taryk Sampson (Central FC), Shane Sandy (MIC IT St Ann’s Rangers) and W Connection’s Hudson).

It is Hudson’s first involvement with a national team since his father, Brent Hudson, surprised National Under-20 coach Brian Williams by demanding his son be released in the middle of the Caribbean Cup tournament last October.

Hudson said his son was injured but Williams disagreed and the player was dropped for the January CONCACAF Under-20 Championship.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team midfielder Isaiah Hudson (right) tries to hold off Bermuda captain Zuhri Burgess during 2017 World Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 18 September 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Strangely, Hudson’s call-up also ignores the fact that he does not hold down a starting berth at Connection. Earlier this year, Lawrence selected Keron Cummings in similar circumstances  despite the play-maker being a substitute at Central FC. At present, Cummings effectively plays in the local third tier after he swapped Central for Petit Valley/Diego Martin United in the second rung of the TTSL.

If Hudson, a Naparima College student, gets on the field, he will become one of the youngest players ever to represent Trinidad and Tobago—if not the youngest. His 17th birthday is on 27 July.

His progress through the ranks has been anything but smooth though. Hudson failed to shine at the Under-17 Caribbean Championship last year when the young Warriors were eliminated in the group stage, despite playing at home. And he failed to hold down a starting berth at National Under-20 level before walking out of the team.

Lawrence appears ready to give Hudson, a versatile two-footed attacker, another chance to deliver on his promise.

Carlyle Mitchell, who recently signed for India club East Bengal, returns to the team after a five-month lay-off due to injury while there were also recalls for Nathaniel Garcia, Akeem Benjamin, Sean De Silva, Tyrone Charles and Rundell Winchester. North East Stars defender Kevon Villaroel was a late addition to the original squad, which took the number of players to 26.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Tyrone Charles (left) whips a cross past Suriname right back Miquel Darson during 2017 Gold Cup playoff action at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 4 January 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

However, there was no place for Police FC goalkeeper Adrian Foncette and forward Jameel Perry, North East Stars defenders Yohance Marshall, W Connection attackers Neil Benjamin Jr and Marcus Joseph and veteran striker Cornell Glen.

Mexico-based forward Shahdon Winchester was also not included although his Murcielagos FC teammate Jomal Williams was selected.

The Ecuador friendly does not fall within the FIFA international calendar and, as such, most of Lawrence’s overseas-based players are unavailable.

“We’ve invited twenty-five players to be part of the training squad and we’ll work with them from this coming Monday before finalising the team to travel to Ecuador,” Lawrence told the TTFA Media. “[…] We have available to us some of the players who were involved for the two previous games against the US and Costa Rica and we’ve invited a few others to have a look at and see how they respond to what we’re requiring of them.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Triston Hodge (centre) tries to wriggle past some Barbados opponents during international friendly action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

(Trinidad and Tobago squad 26-man squad)

Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic), Andre Marchan (Defence Force);

Defenders: Carlos Edwards (Central FC), Alvin Jones (W Connection), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Taryk Sampson (Central FC), Shane Sandy (MIC IT St Ann’s Rangers), Maurice Ford (W Connection), Carlyle Mitchell (East Bengal FC—India), Akeem Benjamin (San Juan Jabloteh), Triston Hodge (W Connection), Kevon Villaroel (North East Stars);

Midfielders: Nathaniel Garcia (Central FC), Leston Paul (North East Stars), Hughtun Hector (W Connection), Jared London (Club Sando);

Attacking midfielders: Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh), Tyrone Charles (Club Sando), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force), Keon Daniel (Unattached), Sean De Silva (Central FC), Isaiah Hudson (W Connection), Jomal Williams (Murcielagos FC—Mexico);

Forwards: Keron Clarke (FC Santa Rosa), Rundell Winchester (North East Stars), Willis Plaza (East Bengal FC—India).

Editor’s Note: North East Stars defender Kevon Villaroel was invited to join the National Senior Team in training, after his team’s 2-2 draw with W Connection on Friday 14 July.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Dennis Lawrence talks to the media after his team’s 2-0 loss to USA in Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying action at Commerce City on 8 June 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)
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  1. The few games I’ve seen with NE, Kevon has been consistent. Well deserved.

  2. We need the services of a new keeper
    In my view the team clicked well in the last two games the keeper was our only and last line of defense and he failed on both occasions being badly positioned and being deceived by straight shots on both games
    Please get him trained or replaced.

  3. So what about Carlos Hughes of Guaya United, he deserve a chance too

  4. Wasn’t the criteria for the National team coaching staff – support for Dennis Lawrence from local coaches to short cut decision making on local players?

    Why is it taking so long to nail down our best players, figure out our most suitable style of football and short cut to a more effective team and performance? Fevrier, Shabazz and Isa, god bless him, should be on top of this. Keon Daniel? Young Hudson, is he WC material already? Is there plans to replace Kenwyn, are they going to play or leave him out of WCQ? Will they discuss with Kenwyn or run away from responsibility and honest man management? Is there any planning at any level? Do we have a plan for WCQ’s or has it already been thrown under the bus? Let’s hear it up front instead of the usual head in the sand, haven’t got a clue incompetence.

  5. Glad to see Shane Sandy getting the recognisation he deserves.

  6. I hear the Head Coach was impressed with Kevon Villaroel’s performance and added him after the game.

  7. So the question is essentially …will Keon actually show up for training? lol ….. so this Isaiah Hudson isn’t this the kid who shoulder was hurtin him so he father pull him from the squad to rub some soft candle on it? Ahmm ah asking for a friend 😀

  8. Lawrence giving them brothers a chance to show their worth

  9. Seeing dat now call up Kevon Woodley

  10. It’s a friendly I hope to see alot of our youngsters. We have talent that needs to be groomed

  11. Why not try out others but hopefully not at the expense of more worthy others – who are those that might need a look or that extra exposure before our all important next game! Any loss of points means we hobbling to the finish line.

  12. Keon Daniel very skillful player I hope he makes the best of his recall to the national team

  13. I’m very happy for my boy Isaiah Hudson

  14. Congratulations Keon Daniel. I have been Calling for this since Hart.

  15. Skiller get call up congrats keon daniel

  16. Not one to be critical of Coaches’ decisions, but I am very very skeptical of Daniel’s inclusion. The guy is a talent, but not in any way better than some of the others that are available for selection. Others that have been committed to National Football…..

  17. Well done Dennis given the youths a chance what about Atula Guerra Trevin Caesar welcome back Tyrone Charles

  18. Well done ShaneSandy..make it count!!

  19. Said it a few months ago. This thing operating like a fete match team…

  20. Been wondering where Daniel Went

  21. Me eh go bother to try to figure out why some people get selected. De coach have he own criteria. Leh him do what he hadda do. But ah must say ah surprised dat Burkie eh get call up.

  22. Hope we get the two friendlies within five days and keep the travelling squad together for both in a way that mirrors what we will face in World Cup qualifying action.

  23. So who Daniel play for in the past few years?

  24. Aaaaaaaaahhhh,,,,, Isaiah Hudson congratulations young man,,,, keep moving forward and keep making new strides to become a Great Player you are Destine to be.

  25. Keon Daniel? Where they resurrect him from?

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