Trinidad and Tobago head coach Dennis Lawrence will try to engineer a route to the Russia 2018 World Cup without the services of team captain Kenwyne Jones and Netherlands-based winger Levi Garcia both of whom were omitted from his 26-man squad for critical qualifiers against Honduras and Panama on 1 and 5 September respectively.
Jones has not returned to full fitness since a knee injury sustained in training before kick-off away to Costa Rica on 14 June. No reason was offered for the omission of teenaged AZ Alkmaar winger Levi Garcia, the promising attacker who has so far been used sparingly by the National Senior Team coach.
Garcia played for 26 minutes in the Soca Warriors’ 1-0 win over Panama on 24 March but was an unused substitute in their subsequent 1-0 loss to Mexico and has not been available since then. Garcia eclipsed Dwight Yorke as the youngest Trinidad and Tobago player to score in a European top-flight match last year and bagged a double on his senior international debut against St Vincent and the Grenadines on 25 March 2016—although he has not scored for his country since then.
Wired868 understands Alkmaar are happy to have the player remain in Netherlands although there is no indication yet that the club played any role in his absence.
Lawrence told the TTFA Media that he believes his squad consists of the best players available.
“After a proper assessment of the players who have been with us and also those have been involved with their clubs overseas,” said Lawrence, “we’ve selected a squad that we believed is the best one at the moment that can get us the result we are working towards.”
Almost certainly, Trinidad and Tobago will rely on the offensive capabilities of the United States-based duo of attacking midfielder Kevin Molino (Minnesota United) and winger Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders) to find a way past Honduras and Panama. Anything less than six points and the Warriors can wave goodbye to their fading Russia dreams.
Molino managed two goals in four outings under Lawrence. Joevin is yet to score for the Warriors in 2017 but is the team’s most dangerous player on the break.
The pacy Jamille Boatswain is a potential wildcard. Boatswain has made a slow start to life in Costa Rica so far with two barren substitute appearances for Alajuelense—both as a winger rather than at centre-forward—while he was an unused substitute last weekend.
Alajuelense changed coaches during the week with former Costa Rica international Wílmer López replacing Spaniard Benito Floro; one of López’s first acts was to leave Boatswain out of his match-day squad entirely.
A good showing from Boatswain against two strong Latin American nations, Honduras and Panama, might be as beneficial to his country as for his professional career.
Lawrence has hedged his bets by including diminutive forward Trevin Caesar after his returns of six goals from 20 matches for United States Third Division team, Sacramento Republic. India-based forward Willis Plaza and Club Sando attacker Tyrone Charles remain in the squad too, despite recent underwhelming showings.
Charles managed a combined 37 minutes in Trinidad and Tobago’s last two friendlies against Ecuador and Jamaica—despite the Warriors being under-strength—and is yet to start for Lawrence. And Plaza played second fiddle to TTSL forward Keron Clarke in Guayaquil last month.
Clarke is currently recovering from a broken ankle although, owing to his faith as a Seventh Day Adventist, he had already ruled himself out the Honduras fixture.
Shahdon Winchester also missed out on an international call-up after failing to make the match-day squad of his Mexico Second Division employers, Murciélagos FC, in recent weeks.
Lawrence also left out England-based midfielder Andre Boucaud—who has played a total of 25 minutes from a possible 360 under Lawrence—while Defence Force playmaker Hashim Arcia was axed and United States-based midfielders Ataulla Guerra and Neveal Hackshaw were again overlooked.
Although the T&T’s attacking options look thin, the Warriors look better served at the back, with goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and Daneil Cyrus adapting well to life in Honduras with Juticalpa FC.
And the resurgence of Carlyle Mitchell means there is an abundance of riches in central defence where Lawrence can choose between Cyrus, Mitchell, Curtis Gonzales, Mekeil Williams, Sheldon Bateau, Radanfah Abu Bakr, Triston Hodge and Aubrey David—although Gonzales has featured as a holding midfielder of late.
David, Hodge and Mekeil can also play at full-back, where the Warriors included Kevon Villaroel and Alvin Jones, who both started against Ecuador and Jamaica.
Lawrence, who has failed to win in his last six matches as head coach, promised to work hard on the training ground to turn things around over the coming five days.
“The week ahead will be crucial with regards to the build-up to the match. We have a couple of the overseas boys already here with us along with the home-based players and the others will start coming in this weekend,” said Lawrence. “We will put in the work with the boys over the next few days to try to ensure that we are prepared as best as possible for what is ahead of us come Friday against Honduras.”
(Trinidad and Tobago 26-man Squad)
Jan Michael Williams (Juticalpa FC—Honduras), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic Centre);
Defenders: Aubrey David (PS Khemi—Finland), Alvin Jones (W Connection), Mekeil Williams (Colorado Rapids—USA), Carlyle Mitchell (East Bengal—India), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Sūduva Marijampolė—Lithuania), Sheldon Bateau (FC Kairat—Kazakhstan), Daneil Cyrus (Juticalpa FC—Honduras), Triston Hodge (W Connection), Kevon Villaroel (North East Stars);
Midfielders: Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Leston Paul (CD Pasaquina—El Salvador), Khaleem Hyland (Al-Faisaly Harmah—Saudi Arabia), Kevan George (Jacksonville Armada—USA), Hughtun Hector (W Connection);
Attacking midfielders: Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders—USA), Kevin Molino (Minnesota United—USA), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes—USA), Jomal Williams (Murciélagos FC—Mexico), Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh), Tyrone Charles (Club Sando);
Forwards: Jamille Boatswain (Alajuelense—Costa Rica), Willis Plaza (East Bengal—India), Trevin Caesar (Sacramento Republic—USA)