Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team interim head coach Angus Eve will wait for as long as possible before finalising his starting team to face French Guiana tomorrow, with defenders Aubrey David and Triston Hodge both doubtful due to injury.
Trinidad and Tobago and French Guiana square off from 4.30pm in a Concacaf Gold Cup playoff contest at the Drv Pnk Stadium in Fort Lauderdale with a place in the group stage at stake. The winner advances to Group A—alongside Mexico, Curaçao and El Salvador—and will face Mexico on Saturday 10 July.
The 30-year-old David, the second most capped outfield player in Eve’s team with 58 national senior appearances, was kicked in the face by Montserrat defender Nathan Pond, during Trinidad and Tobago’s 6-1 first round playoff triumph on Friday night.
The incident was caught by VAR and led to Kevin Molino’s opening goal from the penalty spot in the 21st minute. However, although David soldiered through the match, the versatile defender needed eight stitches after the game.
In Hodge’s case, the 26-year-old left back tweaked his groin during the first half against Montserrat and was replaced at the interval by Ross Russell Jr.
“We are still treating with them [and] we will wait until the last moment, if any changes have to be made,” said Eve, at a virtual Concacaf press conference today. “[…] The medical staff is working on it; but again with the guys who came off the bench, they were fantastic.
“We have a squad of players who we trust, so if somebody is injured there is no problem to replace them with one of the other guys.”
Russell Jr apart, Eve can also use Justin Garcia at left back or central defender while Curtis Gonzales or Radanfah Abu Bakr can deputise for David if necessary. Gonzales and Abu Bakr have 38 and 37 national senior team appearances respectively and represented the twin island republic for close to two decades, starting at youth level.
Perhaps more problematic for Eve is the fact that he knows precious little about his next opponents. French Guiana, who are not full Fifa members and did not participate in the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying series, have not played competitively since October 2019.
Eve had hoped to watch French Guiana play against Cuba on Saturday, only for the game to be cancelled due to the non-appearance of the latter nation.
“We are basically going in relatively blind,” said Eve, whose troops will wear their red kit tomorrow. “They will have a better idea of what we do because they would have seen our game. So they have an advantage in that regard. But we are pretty confident in what we are capable of doing.”
Trinidad and Tobago have faced ‘Les Yana Dòkòs’ on six prior occasions. The Frenchmen won the first two encounters on 20 August and 2 September 1978 but have lost every meeting since.
Head coach Thierry De Neef admitted that his team’s preparation was not as he hoped—due in part to the Covid-19 pandemic, which made friendly outings a gamble. Still, the core of the French Guiana team has trained twice a day since 19 June. De Neef suggested that their strength lies in collective teamwork and dedication to the task.
“We know we are not favourites but we have some things to show and we will do everything to counter [Trinidad and Tobago] and give us some chance of winning,” said De Neef. “[…] We saw [Trinidad and Tobago] are very good technically with players who can move forward in transition very quickly… But we will do everything we need to for a good performance tomorrow.”
Marcus Joseph started at centre forward on Friday and got a goal and an assist for his troubles, while flanker Ryan Telfer and late substitute Isaiah Lee also got some minutes upfront.
Telfer, who played upfront under former head coach Terry Fenwick but is a winger for Canada Premier League club Atletico Ottawa, said Eve asks him to be creative and team-oriented for the Soca Warriors.
“Whether it is an assist or a goal […], anything to help the team win—that’s my role,” said Telfer.
On Friday, Trinidad and Tobago got one goal from Telfer cutting in off the right flank, another from Judah Garcia slipping behind the defence to run on to a long Jelanie Peters pass, one with Joseph punishing a loose clearance through the centre, and two from substitute Reon Moore who ran on to diagonal through-balls from fellow sub Duane Muckette.
Eve said the Warriors’ ability to strike from a variety of positions is a strength he hopes to harness.
“We don’t have the luxury of a Stern John or Kenwyne Jones and Dwight Yorke and these other strikers we have had in the past,” he said, “so we have to use the players that we have and get them to contribute. We got goals basically from five different players in five different positions.”
Trinidad and Tobago fans will hope the Soca Warriors kept some powder dry for French Guiana.
Trinidad and Tobago Team (Tabulated as club; age; caps/goals scored)
Goalkeepers: Adrian Foncette (Police FC; 32; 17/0), Nicklas Frenderup (Ranheim Il—Denmark; 28; 5/0), Marvin Phillip (Unattached; 36; 80/0);
Defenders: Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica; 30; 58/1), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Unattached; 34; 37/2), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force; 32; 38/0), Justin Garcia (Defence Force; 25; 4/0), Jelani Peters (Pittsburgh Riverhounds—USA; 27; 1/0), Jesse Williams (Unattached; 20; 1/0), Alvin Jones (Unattached; 26; 27/1), Triston Hodge (Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC—USA; 26; 18/0), Ross Russell Jr (Terminix La Horquetta Rangers; 29; 6/0);
Midfielders: Neveal Hackshaw (Indy Eleven—USA; 25; 20/0), Khaleem Hyland (Al Batin—Saudi Arabia; 32; 92/5), Duane Muckette (Unattached; 25; 10/1), Hashim Arcia (Defence Force; 32; 13/1);
Attackers: Marcus Joseph (Unattached; 30; 21/7), Isaiah Lee (Terminix La Horquetta Rangers; 21; 3/0), Kevin Molino (Columbus Crew—USA; 31; 51/22), Andre Fortune II (Memphis 901 FC—USA; 24; 6/0), Judah Garcia (Unattached; 20; 8/1), Reon Moore (Defence Force; 24; 4/2), Ryan Telfer (Atletico Ottawa—Canada; 27; 12/5).
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