Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence has named his final 23-man squad for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup, with uncapped United States-based duo of goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh and defender Leland Archer earning late spots alongside Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones and Cordell Cato.
Lawrence omitted just one player from the 19-man squad that drew with Japan today, as teenaged central midfielder Judah Garcia will miss out. Garcia, the former National Under-20 captain and Shiva Boys Hindu College student, is the younger brother of Israel-based flanker Levi Garcia who will play in the Concacaf tournament.
It was possibly heartbreak for Terminix La Horquetta Rangers utility player Ross Russell Jr who was one of three players who were not selected due to their failure to get US visas in time. Veteran Costa Rica-based full back Aubrey David, a two-time World Youth Cup player, and India-based forward Willis Plaza were also overlooked because of issues accessing travel documents for the competition.
On 20 August 2018, Russell Jr was released from prison, due to insufficient evidence, after being incarcerated for two years for the murder of Diego Martin resident Selwyn Gaff. Within six months, the former soldier had done enough with Morvant Caledonia United to earn a maiden call-up from the Warriors and travelled to Wales with the national team earlier this year.
But Russell Jr, whose dad Ross Russell is the Warriors goalkeeping coach, will not get a chance to make his senior international debut at the confederation’s most prestigious competition.
The absence of Russell Jr and David as well as the curious omissions of former National Under-20 players Keston Julien and Noah Powder leaves Lawrence desperately short of expertise at full back.
Oklahoma Energy right back Alvin Jones is the only specialist full back in Lawrence’s 23-man squad while his elder brother, Joevin Jones, plays at left back for his club—although he usually plays in a more attacking midfield role for Trinidad and Tobago. Mekeil Williams, who started at left back against Japan, has considerable experience there although he is primarily a central defender at club level.
Those three apart, Lawrence would have to be creative for another player to fill that position with winger Cordell Cato and central defender Curtis Gonzales also potential alternatives. Daneil Cyrus can also operate there although he has been an ever present in central defence under the current coach.
Versatile Club Sando midfielder Akeem Humphery (sic) played the final 33 minutes of today’s friendly against Japan at right back—after Jones picked up a knock—and made at least one costly error with a cheap giveaway in his half, which required a superb double save by goalkeeper Marvin Phillip. It is uncertain whether Lawrence plans to convert him to that role for the Gold Cup.
The Warriors were already without experienced central defender Sheldon Bateau and attacking midfielder Ataulla Guerra who were early withdrawal for varying reasons.
Lawrence has even less options on top as he will take just one centre forward, Shahdon Winchester, to the United States-based tournament. Winchester was an unused substitute in Japan as wingers Levi Garcia and Lester Peltier rotated upfront.
Trinidad and Tobago will have a final dress rehearsal against Canada on 10 June before they start their Gold Cup campaign against Panama on 18 June.
Lawrence and the Warriors leave Japan in an upbeat mood tomorrow after a goalless draw on the road with Asia’s second best nation, who are ranked 26th in the world by FIFA.
“I was really, really proud of my boys tonight,” said Lawrence. “[…] I couldn’t name one particular player because I thought they all stood up to be counted. Obviously in the end Japan really pushed us back and our ‘keeper had to pull off some incredible saves; but that is what he’s there for.
“[…] The main thing for us has been preparing for the Gold Cup. We’ve worked with a few of the players at home over the past few weeks and we had a very good exercise in terms of the match with Japan. Our focus now continues on the Gold Cup.”
(Trinidad and Tobago 23-man Gold Cup squad)
Goalkeepers: Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Marvin Phillip (Central FC), Gregory Ranjitsingh (Orlando City—USA);
Defenders: Alvin Jones (OKC Energy FC—USA), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery—USA), Daneil Cyrus (Al Orobah—Saudi Arabia), Carlyle Mitchell (La Horquetta Rangers), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Mekeil Williams (Oklahoma City Energy FC—USA);
Midfielders: Kevan George (Charlotte Independence—USA), Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven—USA), Akeem Humphrey (Club Sando), Leston Paul (Memphis 901 FC—USA), Khaleem Hyland (Al Faisaly FC—Saudi Arabia), Duane Muckette (Memphis 901 FC—USA);
Attacking midfielders: Cordell Cato (Oklahoma City Energy FC—USA), Levi Garcia (Kiryat Shmona—Israel), Kevin Molino (Minnesota United—USA), Nathan Lewis (Lansing Ignite—USA), Lester Peltier (Al Orobah—Saudi Arabia), Jomal Williams (W Connection), Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders—USA);
Forward: Shahdon Winchester (W Connection).