Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Terry Fenwick today admitted to another selection headache, worsened by his own administration, on the eve of the Soca Warriors’ departure for their opening two World Cup qualifiers against Guyana and Puerto Rico.
Ace winger Levi Garcia, central defender Sheldon Bateau and the rest of Trinidad and Tobago’s Europe-based contingent—which includes assistant coach and goalkeeper coach Kevin Jack—are unavailable to play in Puerto Rico on 28 March, due to United States travel restrictions.
“At the moment we are still finalising [the squad] recognising that a lot of the European guys will not be able to play in Puerto Rico,” said Fenwick, during a press briefing this morning at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. “That’s obviously a big concern… We’ve been told only over the last days [about the travel restriction].
“[…] That will be a bitter pill for us to swallow, but that’s the nature of where we are.”
The issue for the Warriors is a proclamation by US president Joe Biden, which suspends and limits entry into the United States for all non-citizens who ‘were physically present within [specified] countries during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States’.
The list of blacklisted countries includes the United Kingdom, Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Norway, Portugal, and Slovakia, which are all home to players eligible to represent the twin island republic.
It is worth noting, though, that Biden’s proclamation was not made days ago. The United States’ travel restriction was passed on 25 January 2021; and, as a result, the Warriors shelved their plan to fly Jack to Florida to join the technical staff for their friendly against USA on 31 January.
Is it that the technical staff of the Men’s National Senior Team and the Robert Hadad-led Fifa-appointed normalisation committee did not know Puerto Rico is part of the United States?
Fenwick suggested that the travel restriction was not the only surprise.
“[The Puerto Rico game is] being played on synthetic [surface], another surprise to us very late on,” he said.
Concacaf confirmed Puerto Rico’s match venue, at the Estadio Centroamericano in Mayaguez, on 27 February. Did the Warriors’ technical staff, led by manager Adrian Romain, not immediately research the venue?
Fenwick’s mood would not have been improved by news that star attacking midfielder Kevin Molino reported a hamstring strain during pre-season training with new US Major League Soccer (MLS) employers Columbus Crew, to add to a scare from right back Alvin Jones.
Flanker Joevin Jones trained separately this morning while central defender Radanfah Abu Bakr was heavily strapped, although the latter duo did not appear to be a pressing concern.
“Alvin Jones is struggling to make the trip because of an injury sustained against ‘Army’ on Monday morning,” said Fenwick, who revealed that a few clubs blocked their players from joining the squad due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “[There is] a little doubt over Kevin Molino also… Our administration and technical staff this afternoon will iron out and organise the numbers we need to travel with, in case we have to use more local players for the Puerto Rico game.
“[…] It’s a difficult situation. We’re still trying to get a friendly game up in Dominica, that should be finalised today. A lot of things, as you can hear, are last minute-dot-com.”
Fenwick again lamented the administrative support provided to his team.
“[I’m] absolutely disappointed,” he said. “These games were announced I think on the 23rd of August last year. So there has been a helluva lot of time between that for us to get organised, make sure we’ve nailed everything down; and it still hasn’t been.”
On the bright side, Fenwick is keen to be reunited with Saudi Arabia-based midfielder Khaleem Hyland, who he debuted as a teenager at San Juan Jabloteh—over a decade ago.
“Khaleem Hyland is definitely coming for both games, that’s a definite plus for us,” said Fenwick. “[He is a] good solid character, good leader of men; the type of player that we need.”
Over the next week, he suggested that his younger players use Hyland as a reference point as they enter World Cup qualifying battle.
“We have some great players on the ground, great young players,” said Fenwick. “We’ve given them an opportunity against the United States, they done okay [in the] second half. I want to be able to put men out on the pitch.
“[I want] guys who are prepared to go out there to get a good result for Trinidad and Tobago… It’s very important to me that we have them big characters in the squad.”
Trinidad and Tobago squad (tabulated as Club; Age; Caps/Goals)
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Unattached; 36; 80/0), Adrian Foncette (Police FC; 32; 16/0), Nicklas Frenderup (IL Stjørdals-Blink—Norway; 28; 2/0), Denzil Smith (W Connection; 21; 0/0);
Defenders: Noah Powder (Real Salt Lake—US; 1/0), Alvin Jones (Unattached; 26; 25/1), Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven—US; 15/0), Justin Garcia (Defence Force; 25; 2/0), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery—US; 25; 1/0), Sheldon Bateau (Mechelen—Belgium; 30; 42/3), Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica; 30; 53/1), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Unattached; 34; 37/2), Robert Primus (FC Bengaluru Utd—India; 30; 7/0); Joevin Jones (InterMiami CF—USA; 29; 77/8);
Midfielders: Michel Poon-Angeron (Club Banfield—Argentina; 19; 1/0), Duane Muckette (Unattached; 25; 6/0), Andre Boucaud (Maidstone FC—England; 36; 47/2), Daniel Phillips (Watford FC—England; 20; 0/0), Judah Garcia (Neroca FC—India; 20; 4/0), Khaleem Hyland (Al Batin FC—Saudi Arabia; 31; 87/4),
Attackers: Marcus Joseph Jr (Unattached; 29; 20/6), Levi Garcia (AEK Athens FC—Greece; 23; 26/2), Ryan Telfer (Atletico Ottawa—Canada; 26; 7/3), Willis Plaza (TLH Rangers; 33; 29/7), Sean Bonval (Central FC; 24; 1/0), Jabari Mitchell (Police FC; 23; 1/0), Brent Sam (Defence Force; 24; 0/0).