AZ Alkmaar teenager Levi Garcia is back with the Soca Warriors squad but, otherwise, the most remarkable thing about the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and the United States are the absentees.
Head coach Dennis Lawrence swung the axe with relish with as many as 12 changes from the squad that lost to Honduras and Panama last month.
Honduras-based goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams, a 32-year-old veteran with 80 full international caps, and 26-year-old Kazakhstan-based defender Sheldon Bateau—both of whom shared captaincy duties for the previous qualifiers—are out.
So too are goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, defenders Aubrey David, Carlyle Mitchell and Radanfah Abu Bakr, midfielders Hughtun Hector, Cordell Cato, Jomal Williams and Tyrone Charles, and forwards Jamille Boatswain and Willis Plaza.
Reasons were offered only for David and Boatswain who are suspended for playing in a minor league match before Trinidad and Tobago’s crucial qualifier at home to Honduras.
The contentious game was believed to have occurred before the players joined camp to prepare for World Cup duty. It is uncertain when the Warriors staff discovered about their outing. Both players started against Honduras but were unused substitutes away to Panama four days later.
I95.5FM reporter Andre Baptiste revealed the incident over the weekend although the players were not named before tonight.
David and Boatswain, who play professionally in Finland and Costa Rica respectively, have apologised and—according to the TTFA Media—offered to donate their match fees to charity.
“I really want to apologise to the nation and the people I disappointed with my actions,” David told the TTFA Media, “and I know every action has a reaction and I have accepted the decision of the TTFA. I want to put this behind me and look forward to representing Trinidad and Tobago again.”
Incidentally, it has been at least four months since the Warriors have received match fees.
Lawrence’s sweeping changes mean that teenaged winger Kathon St Hillaire and 20-year-old Club Sando defender Josiah Trimmingham have earned their first senior international picks. But their first taste of Warriors action will be away to Mexico on 6 October.
It will be not be at the dreaded Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, though. Instead, Mexico, who have already qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup, opted to host Trinidad and Tobago at the Estadio Alfonso Lastras in San Luis Potosi.
It will be the first time in this World Cup campaign that “El Tricolor” opted not to play a qualifier at its famous base in Mexico City.
Whereas the Azteca holds 87,000 patrons and is located 7,200 feet above sea level, the Estadio Alfonso Lastras holds just 25,111 fans and has an elevation of 6,070 feet.
The TTFA confirmed that, owing to problems with the lighting system at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain, the Warriors’ final home match will be at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 10 October.
Ironically, in Couva last month too, the Warriors played under a dark tower owing to a lighting failure at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
Lawrence has lost his last six matches as coach while the Warriors’ winless streak now stands at eight games. In that period, Trinidad and Tobago fell 15 places to 99th in the FIFA rankings.
However, Garcia promised that the team will try to finish their campaign on a high note.
“I am fit and ready to go for Trinidad and Tobago,” Garcia said. “I spoke to the coach and was happy to be included as I always welcome the opportunity to play for my country. I must admit, it’s disappointing that we will not be going to the World Cup but we have to lift our heads and look to the future.
“Plus we have to make a statement by playing good football in the two final games and get six points.”
(Trinidad and Tobago Team)
Goalkeepers: Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Greg Ranjitsingh (Louisville City FC—USA), Glenroy Samuel (Morvant Caledonia Utd);
Defenders: Alvin Jones (W Connection), Mekeil Williams (Colorado Rapids—USA), Daneil Cyrus (Juticalpa FC—Honduras), Triston Hodge (W Connection), Kevon Villaroel (North East Stars), Josiah Trimmingham (Club Sando);
Midfielders: Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Leston Paul (CD Pasaquina—El Salvador), Khaleem Hyland (Al-Faisaly Harmah—Saudi Arabia), Kevan George (Jacksonville Armada—USA), Jared London (Club Sando);
Attacking midfielders: Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders—USA), Kevin Molino (Minnesota United—USA), Nathan Lewis (San Juan Jabloteh), Neil Benjamin (W Connection), Kathon St Hillaire (St Ann’s Rangers), Levi Garcia (AZ Alkmaar—Netherlands);
Forwards: Shahdon Winchester (Murciélagos FC—Mexico), Trevin Caesar (Sacramento Republic—USA), Akeem Roach (CD Vida—Honduras).