Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick introduced three fresh faces into the player pool today as he selected a 24-man squad to face the United States in an international friendly in Orlando on 31 January.
Defenders Michael DeShields and Federico Pena and midfielder Jonathan Jimenez will all join the Soca Warriors set-up for the first time, after being invited to meet the squad in the US. All three are based in North America.
Eighteen-year-old Atlanta United academy player Ajani Fortune, who represented Trinidad and Tobago at the Concacaf 2019 Under-17 Championship, is also in line for his first taste of senior international football along with versatile 22-year-old Real Salt Lake flanker Noah Powder and Charleston Battery defender Leland Archer.
Otherwise, Fenwick recalled Indy Eleven utility player Neveal Hackshaw and York United FC forward Ryan Telfer to strengthen his squad. Hackshaw last represented the Warriors during the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup, while Telfer played in Trinidad and Tobago’s Nations League campaign.
They join the likes of Michel Poon-Angeron, Brent Sam, Sean Bonval, Jesse Williams, Jabari Mitchell and Gary Griffith III, who are the uncapped local-based players who kept their place throughout the local screening process.
“We’ve gone through 325 players over the course of 2020,” said Fenwick at a press conference yesterday. “The guys that we have got training with us now are the best of the bunch.”
The players in the provisional Warriors team who missed the final cut include veteran defender Daneil Cyrus, midfielder Justin Sadoo and attacker Marcus ‘Lobo’ Joseph. Cyrus is understood to have a minor groin injury.
US Major League Soccer (MLS) stars Joevin Jones and Kevin Molino both asked not to be considered for the Orlando outing but remain interested to play in the World Cup qualifiers.
There were no players from the Terminix La Horquetta St Ann’s Rangers team, which include talent like Aikim Andrews, Keron Cummings, Isaiah Lee, Keston George, and Kishon Hackshaw. None of the employees from the Pro League outfit attended training and Fenwick hinted that there might be some backroom issues.
Former TTFA presidential candidate Richard Ferguson is managing director at Rangers.
“I don’t know [why they haven’t trained and] I don’t care,” said Fenwick. “We’ve just moved on with kids who want to play for our national side… I’m disappointed with the politics but I won’t get involved with it.”
Fenwick urged the selected players to make the most of the opportunity.
“It’s a chance for them to make a name for themselves in a shop window,” Fenwick told the TTFA Media. “We have a few players from North America who we know are of a good quality, playing in quality leagues—but there is nothing like seeing them live and getting the chance to work them a bit on the training pitch.
“This will be the first time I am meeting them, so I am looking forward to this … We need players of this calibre on our side.”
Fenwick claimed to have another 12 to 14 players in Britain who were unable to join the squad in the US, due to a mandatory quarantine for travellers from the UK. However, he expects them to be involved for the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign, which starts in March.
“We’ll try to fuse them with the quality that we have got on the ground here in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
Fenwick also defended the selection of Griffith III, who is a graduate from his Football Factory academy and the son of Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.
“He and Jesse [Williams] are the only contracted players in the squad […] with Coleraine in Northern Ireland—they’ve competed in the early stages of the [UEFA] Champions League,” said Fenwick. “So they are playing at a good standard and they bring back with them the experiences that they’ve got.
“Most of the players I am coaching right now have done absolutely nothing in football for well over a year … I need people that can compete that are fresh and bright in their mind and structured different to what we have seen on the ground in Trinidad.”
Williams and Griffith III, both former national youth team players, are registered with Northern Ireland club Coleraine FC but do not have work permits and have never played for the team.
The England Football Association considers the Northern Ireland league to be of the same standard as the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League and India I-League, with all three competitions ranked in ‘Band Six’ for work permit applicants—which is two tiers below the United States’ MLS and a step below the domestic game in the likes of Serbia, Slovenia and China.
For Archer and Powder, the senior call-up has been a long time in the works. Archer was a 2020 USL Championship All-Star second-team player, alongside his former National Under-20 teammate, Hackshaw. And Powder, a standout at the national team level, already has four seasons of USL action under his belt.
Facing them is a United States outfit that includes former England Premier League forward Jozy Altidore. Fenwick suggested that his choice of opponent is a sign of the new ambition within the Warriors and mocked his predecessor Dennis Lawrence’s decision to play global minnows, Anguilla, who they routed 15-0.
“This was me thinking let’s get going with something that is a huge brand,” said Fenwick. “I want our players to be taken seriously, so we’ve sidestepped the likes of Anguilla—that I think had been an embarrassment in the past.
“[…] We need to get our guys comfortable with the big occasion, and it doesn’t come much bigger than this. Some may say we’re throwing these guys to the wolves [but] what an experience for them; what an experience playing your first game against the United States of America.
“What we are doing is getting everybody’s attention … This is a big tall order for them, but bring it on.”
Fenwick will travel without assistant coach/goalkeeper coach Kelvin Jack, who was unable to get to game due to a mandatory quarantine period for travellers from the United Kingdom. Jack is expected to join the team in Trinidad next month.
There was a shift in duties within the technical staff otherwise as former St Augustine Secondary coach Adrian Romain was handed the portfolio of team manager. The outgoing team manager, Captain Basil Thompson, was shifted to logistics/safety and compliance manager instead.
The Warriors fly to Miami tomorrow, via Guyana, and should have at least four training sessions under their belts before they face the host nation. They are due to quarantine at the Home of Football in Couva on their return.
Trinidad and Tobago squad (Club; age; caps/goals)
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Neroca—India; 36; 80/0), Adrian Foncette (Police FC; 32; 15/0);
Defenders: Alvin Jones (Unattached; 26; 25/1), Jesse Williams (Coleraine FC—Northern Ireland; 18; 0/0), Justin Garcia (Defence Force; 25; 1/0), Jamal Jack (Sacachispas—Guatemala; 33; 2/0), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery—US; 25; 0/0), Michael DeShields (DC United—US; 22; 0/0), Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven—US; 14/0), Josiah Trimmingham (Forward Madison—US; 24; 1/0), Noah Powder (Real Salt Lake—US; 0/0), Federico Pena (Valour FC—Canada; 21; 0/0);
Midfielders: Michel Poon-Angeron (Club Banfield—Argentina; 20; 0/0), Matthew Woo Ling (AC Port of Spain; 24; 2/0), Duane Muckette (Memphis 901 FC—US; 5/0), Jabari Mitchell (Police FC; 23; 0/0), Ajani Fortune (Atlanta United—USA; 0/0), Andre Fortune Jr (North Carolina FC—USA; 2/0), Jonathan Jimenez (RGV Toros—USA; 23; 0/0);
Attackers: Hashim Arcia (Defence Force; 32; 13/1), Gary Griffith III (Coleraine FC—Northern Ireland; 18; 0/0), Sean Bonval (Central FC; 24; 0/0), Brent Sam (Defence Force; 24; 0/0), Ryan Telfer (York United FC; 26; 6/3).
Staff: Terry Fenwick (head coach), Derek King (assistant coach), Adrian Romain (manager), Captain Basil Thompson (logistics/safety and compliance manager), Dr Mario John (team chief medical officer), Dr Akash Dhanai (team doctor), Cassius Humphrey (fitness coach), Sion Cane (massage therapist), Michael Williams (kit manager), Shaun Fuentes (head of media/communications).