The Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team will be short of two key attacking players for Sunday’s friendly international against Thailand in Bangkok, after German-based winger Joevin Jones and United States-based playmaker Ataulla Guerra both pulled out of the squad.
A Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) press release said Guerra—whose employers, Charleston Battery, are fighting for home advantage for the upcoming United Soccer League (USL) Play Offs—withdrew due to a work permit issue whiles Jones, who represents lowly 2 Bundesliga club Darmstadt 98, cited personal reasons.
Guerra would have missed a crucial game for his club if he flew to Thailand. However, Jones, whose employers are trying to stay above the relegation zone, does not have a professional fixture this weekend.
Soca Warriors head coach Dennis Lawrence forwarded Jones’ correspondence to the public.
“I think it’s best for me to take this time to regroup and get back to me where I can be,” said Jones, according the TTFA Media. “I will take full responsibility for this last minute decision. As much as I really wanted to be part of the team on this trip, I hope you can understand where I’m coming from as a player.
“I’m really sorry but I really need this time… wouldn’t want to come out and disappoint.”
Lawrence said he understood Guerra’s reason for pulling out of the squad but admitted that he was disappointed with Jones’ decision and, particularly, the timing of it.
“As much as I understood [Jones] and I will try to support the player to ensure he is back to where he should be,” Lawrence told the TTFA Media, “I was really disappointed with the timing of it because he had enough time and he could have allowed us to be informed way in advance before we purchased the ticket. So now we are left short.
“I am absolutely very disappointed with that but as I said with the group that is here, we are going to press forward and work to suit.
“[…] As much as I can understand Ataulla’s situation as these things do happen, unfortunately for him the Joevin one is a bit different; because there was enough time where we could have taken the opportunity to bring another player.
“In every action there are consequences.”
Guerra scored last month as Trinidad and Tobago defeated the United Arab Emirates 2-0 in a friendly international in Spain.
At present, Trinidad and Tobago are ranked 90th in the world by FIFA, Thailand are 122nd and UAE are 77th.
Without Guerra and Jones, Lawrence has just two attacking midfielders—Nathan Lewis and Jomal Williams—and will be forced into a tactical rejig. Trinidad and Tobago are likely to push captain and bustling midfielder Khaleem Hyland into the ‘number 10’ role, while young full back Keston Julien might be asked to deputise as an attacking flanker.
Lawrence urged his players to compensate for the absences.
“[Guerra and Jones] are two important players for us based on the last game,” said Lawrence. “But then again, the positive side is [some players] are going to get the opportunity to take their place. As I said before, we are trying to create a competitive group.
“It is going to be an opportunity for two players to come in and hopefully stake their claim.”
The friendly kicks off at 6pm (7am TT time) at the Suphan Buri Municipality Stadium in Bangkok. Lawrence said that—after problems accessing training grounds before their clash with the UAE—their build-up in Thailand has gone well so far.
“I think these Thai people have been very cooperative,” said Lawrence. “They have done everything possible to ensure our trip is successful. They have put everything in place.”
(Trinidad and Tobago team)
Goalkeepers: Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Marvin Phillip (Central FC);
Defenders: Sheldon Bateau (FC Kairat—Kazakhstan), Daneil Cyrus (Al-Orobah FC—Saudi Arabia), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Aubrey David (Vaasan Palloseura FC—Finland), Alvin Jones, Triston Hodge (both W Connection), Keston Julien (AS Trencin FC—Slovakia);
Midfielders: Kevan George (Charlotte Independence—USA), Akeem Humphrey (Club Sando), Khaleem Hyland (Al Faisaly FC—Saudi Arabia), Duane Muckette, Leston Paul (both Central FC);
Attacking midfielders: Nathan Lewis (Indy Eleven FC—USA), Jomal Williams (W Connection);
Forward: Shahdon Winchester (SJK Seinajoki—Finland), Ricardo John (Club Deportivo Luis Angel Firpo—El Salvador).
Staff: Dennis Lawrence (head coach), Stuart Charles-Fevrier (assistant coach), Stern John (assistant coach), Ross Russell (goalkeeper coach), Israel Dowlat (doctor), Dave Isaac (medic), Saron Joseph (therapist), Sam Huggins (trainer), Michael Williams (equipment manager), Wayne Cunningham (media officer), Richard Piper (manager).