Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Angus Eve will have the gifted Europe-based duo of attacker Levi Garcia and left-back Keston Julien in his squad for the first time this weekend, as the Soca Warriors prepare for the Concacaf Nations League competition with friendlies against Barbados and Guyana.
Garcia, who represented AEK Athens in the Uefa Europa Conference League this season, missed the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup owing to injury while Julien, who featured for FC Sheriff Tiraspol in the Uefa Champions League, was overlooked.
Both will get a chance to stake their claim for senior team places on home soil in the tri-nation exhibition games, dubbed the Courts Caribbean Classic.
Trinidad and Tobago face Barbados on Friday 25 March in Port-of-Spain and then tackle Guyana on Tuesday 29 March, while Guyana and Barbados square off on Sunday 27 March. All three matches kick off at 7pm in the Hasely Crawford National Stadium.
Tickets are available for fully vaccinated fans at TT$150 (covered section) and TT$100 (uncovered) and are on sale at The Fan Club (Trincity Mall), Fan Zone (MovieTowne, Port-of-Spain and Chaguanas), Legends Sports Bar (Point Fortin), the TTFA’s head office at the Ato Boldon Stadium and at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on match day.
A live stream is also available for fans at US$5 per game via tiziq.com.
Guyana head coach Jamaal Shabazz and Barbados head coach Russell Latapy have not named their travelling squads yet but both suggested that they will come to Trinidad with experimental teams—although the international fixtures are within the Fifa international match window.
Eve is again without veteran Turkey-based defender Sheldon Bateau along with the MLS pair of Kevin Molino and Joevin Jones, India-based forward Marcus Joseph, Denmark-based goalkeeper Nicklas Frenderup and injured El Salvador-based flanker Jomal Williams.
However, the Soca Warriors head coach can still boast of 13 overseas-based professionals in his 24-man roster as he prepares for the kick-off of the Nations League in June.
“When we looked at the squad, this would have been the first real opportunity to select all of the players that are available,” Eve told TTFA Media, “and bar some absences because of some personal issues here, club commitments there, basically we got the bulk of players we would have wanted in the squad.
“It’s a major boost for the country to have the likes of Levi Garcia back in the fray—he has not been in the squad since the World Cup qualifiers last year. Also Keston Julien has not been in since the qualifiers.”
The 24-year-old Garcia (L) is accompanied by 21-year-old brother and midfielder Judah Garcia, who plays with the AEK Athens B team. Garcia (L) has 30 senior international caps with three goals while Garcia (J) has nine senior caps and got his first goal in a 6-1 win over Montserrat in the Gold Cup play-offs.
They will not be the only siblings in Eve’s camp. Twenty-one-year-old University of Detroit Mercy attacker Samory Powder joins his 23-year-old brother and Indy Eleven utility player Noah Powder in the national set-up for the first time.
The versatile Powder (S) plays as a wide attacker for his school but Eve has listed him as a defender.
There were two other uncapped players in the Warriors team, goalkeeper Denzil Smith and Defence Force midfielder Justin Sadoo, while Kevon Goddard (Defence Force), Andre Fortune II (Nomme Kalju FC—Estonia), John-Paul Rochford, Nicholas Dillon (both unattached), and Jabari Mitchell (Police FC) all have under tten caps each and are hoping to establish themselves in the team.
At the other end of the scale, Eve kept faith in veterans like goalkeeper Marvin Phillip and defenders Aubrey David, Radanfah Abu Bakr and Mekeil Williams, who have between 34 and 82 caps each.
“I am very excited to be working with the group,” said Eve, who suggested that the team is in a rebuilding phase after a ‘decent Gold Cup run’. “I think it’s a good blend of mid-range aged players, with a couple senior players and players that we have in an age group which can take us through Project 2026, which I am [overseeing].
“We are in good stead from now until that time, once we prepare right.”
Eve noted that Trinidad and Tobago failed to advance from an all-Caribbean group 2022 World Cup qualifying last year, under his predecessor Terry Fenwick—after failing to defeat Puerto Rico and The Bahamas.
“These two games are sort of stepping-stones to reestablish ourselves in this region because we came out of the World Cup behind Caribbean teams,” he said. “So this is an opportunity for us to test ourselves against two quality Caribbean teams coached by two sons of the soil.
“I played with Russell [Latapy] for years and learnt a lot of stuff off of him as a player. Jamaal Shabazz has actually coached me at clubs such as Joe Public and Caledonia, so it will be interesting to see how the student attacks both teachers in this series.”
(Trinidad and Tobago squad)
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (Unattached), Denzil Smith (W Connection);
Defenders: Samory Powder (University of Detroit Mercy—USA), Radanfah Abu Bakr (Unattached), Jesse Williams, Mekeil Williams (both Pittsburgh Riverhounds—USA), Kareem Moses (Vaasan Palloseura—Finland), Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery—USA), Triston Hodge (Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC—USA), Keston Julien (FC Sheriff Tiraspol—Moldova);
Midfielders: Neveal Hackshaw, Noah Powder (both Indy Eleven—USA), Justin Sadoo, Kevon Goddard (both Defence Force), Andre Fortune II (Nomme Kalju FC—Estonia), Duane Muckette (Unattached), Judah Garcia (AEK Athens B FC—Greece);
Attackers: John-Paul Rochford, Nicholas Dillon (both unattached), Levi Garcia (AEK Athens FC—Greece), Ryan Telfer (Columbus Crew 2—USA), Reon Moore (Defence Force), Jabari Mitchell (Police FC).