The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team will host Panama on 17 April at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, after the rising CONCACAF power agreed to meet the Soca Warriors in a friendly international match.
The fixture falls outside of the FIFA match window so both teams will be under-strength. However, Soca Warriors head coach Dennis Lawrence is happy for what should be a stiff challenge for his charges against a nation that has already booked its place at the Russia 2018 World Cup.
“We’re obviously delighted to have obtained this fixture against a team that is going to take part in the upcoming World Cup,” Lawrence told the TTFA Media. “This should be a very good test for what is going to most likely be an all locally-based Trinidad and Tobago team as the game falls outside the FIFA window.
“It then gives us the opportunity to keep our footballers active in the meantime with the uncertainty of what’s going to happen with the Pro League. And so we are looking forward to welcoming the Panama team to Trinidad next month.”
The Panama affair follows friendly outings away to Guadeloupe and Martinique on 23 and 25 March respectively. The Central Americans will also be the most illustrious team to test Trinidad and Tobago since the 2018 World Cup qualifying series as the Warriors ended the year with exhibition games against Grenada and Guyana, which both ended in draws.
Trinidad and Tobago edged Panama 1-0 on 24 March, 2017 in Lawrence’s first competitive game as head coach but the two nations embarked on wildly differing trajectories after that.
Twenty-nine-year-old Defence Force midfielder Hashim Arcia, who has 12 senior caps with one goal, told the TTFA Media that the players are looking forward to the international tests.
“It’s a good experience for me now, as a player who has been involved in the World Cup squad last year, to be able to pass it onto the new guys in the team now,” said Arcia. “We have an eager bunch and the guys are putting in a lot of work to get up to good level for the games ahead.
“These […] games are good preparation for us… I expect [Panama] to come here and put on a strong showing.”
Lawrence added a second National Under-20 Team player to his rank last week as Shiva Boys Hindu College captain and playmaker Judah Garcia was added to the locally-based training squad.
Garcia, the 2017 Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) MVP, joins his fellow Under-20 player and schoolmate Tyrel “Pappy” Emmanuel while the presence of winger Quinn Rodney, a W Connection player, means Shiva Boys have more players in the senior team training squad than 2017 Pro League champions North East Stars.
Garcia (J) joins his older brother, Nathaniel Garcia, in the current team while a third sibling, Netherlands-based Levi Garcia, is also in Lawrence’s player pool.
Trinidad and Tobago have fielded two brothers at the same time before with the likes of Winston and Lincoln “Tiger” Phillips and Alvin and Joevin Jones, among others. However, the three Garcias playing together for the Warriors is likely to be an event without precedent in national football.
Nathaniel and Levi are the last brothers to share the field for Trinidad and Tobago as, on 14 November, 2017, both played for 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Guyana in Couva.
(National Senior Team 18-man local-based training squad)
Goalkeepers: Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Andre Marchan (Defence Force), Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic);
Defenders: Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Alvin Jones, Triston Hodge (both W Connection), Kareem Moses (Unattached), Josiah Trimmingham (Club Sando FC);
Midfielders: Tyrel Emmanuel, Judah Garcia (both Shiva Boys Hindu College), Nathaniel Garcia (Point Fortin Civic), Rhondel Gibson (Central FC), Kevon Goddard (W Connection);
Attacking midfielders: Kathon St Hillaire (St Ann’s Rangers), Reon Moore, Hashim Arcia (both Defence Force), Quinn Rodney (W Connection),
Forwards: Akeem Roach (Unattached).