“Coach [Angus Eve] has a lot of confidence in me, so wherever I play I’ll give 100% for the country,” said Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team utility player Noah Powder, at last night’s post-match press briefing. “It’s honestly an honour to play for this country, so if I’m playing left back, right back or goalkeeper it doesn’t matter.”
Fresh off a double against St Vincent and the Grenadines in Concacaf Nations League B play at the Hasely Crawford Stadium last night, Powder spoke like a man ready to go for war for Trinidad and Tobago and head coach Angus Eve—the most capped man in this country’s football history and a former soldier.
In his short international career to date, the US-born Powder has played a handful of positions for T&T, including wing back, defensive midfield, ‘the number 10’, and even as a conventional winger.
Last night, the jack of all trades was intent on showing that he could master at least one of those positions, as he played wide on the left of a three-man midfield for the Soca Warriors and showed great ambition and gusto to get on the end of crosses.
After Judah Garcia opened the scoring for the hosts with a well-taken item in the ninth minute, Powder was jolly on the spot to slam into a vacant net at the back stick in the 11th minute.
And at the 41st-minute mark, Powder doubled his tally of international goals as Judah’s elder brother, Levi Garcia, casually ate a defender’s food in the area before squaring from the right byline.
Powder and his Indy Eleven teammate Neveal Hackshaw set about on a mission to hit the old onion bag when they left Indianapolis for the shores of sweet T&T a couple of weeks ago.
And four matches into the Warriors’ Concacaf Nations League B campaign, Powder and Hackshaw have four international goals between them while helping Eve’s troops to a maximum nine points from the three matches they featured in.
A supposed administrative issue regarding PCR test results forced the Indy Eleven pair to miss T&T’s loss to Nicaragua in Managua on 3 June, which means that the two island republic is still one point behind the Central American nation.
“[Neveal and I] told each other on the aeroplane when we were coming here that we would get our first international goals,” said Powder, “and that we’d do it in front of our families—so that’s definitely a great feeling and a blessing.”
Last night though, it was all about the power of Powder!
“We have a lot of players who are multifaceted—a lot of players who can play different positions,” said Eve. “As I said before, in a country like ours where you don’t have a big cadre of international players who can play at this level, you have to maximise the players you actually have. And Noah is one of these players.
“[…] He can definitely play anywhere on the park.”
Eve has shown the penchant to experiment with his lineup, particularly with defensive players in advanced positions. Last night, though, few watching on at the Hasely Crawford Stadium or from the comfort of their homes would have questioned the positioning of Powder or his teammates.
If not for a fine first half save from SVG goalie Lemus Christopher, Powder would have celebrated a maiden hat-trick in Port of Spain and offered more steam than local dancehall artiste ‘Yung Bredda’ brought to the ‘D Vibes Section’ in the stadium.
Eve admitted that his team ought to have hit double figures in goals last night although he was most disappointed in the lengthy layoff before their next Nations League match, which is away to The Bahamas on 24 March 2023.
“We have a difficult task to try and get the players to be match fit in time for those matches next year,” Eve said. “It baffles me why we couldn’t finish the next two games in the next Fifa window in September, while everybody is fresh and everything is still going on for these teams and the competition is still in our minds.
“I don’t understand the big layoff. I think that we should have just played in September in the next window and finished off the last two games.”
March 2023 does indeed seem an eternity away. Perhaps, Eve would have the services of a fit-again Kevin Molino by then and the opportunity to kiss and make up with experienced flanker Joevin Jones, who was dropped twice within the space of a week following the Nicaragua loss.
Rest assured, Eve is keeping his eyes on the prize.
“[The campaign] has been consistent so far […] we started really badly by losing the game against Nicaragua then we had to dig ourselves out of a hole,” Eve reflected. “We’ve done that successfully so far. I think Nicaragua is going to lead us by one point going into the final two games which [leaves] it basically in our hands, as we are treating each game we play as a final.”
It is not where T&T aspires to be or feels they belong. However, coach Eve and his team still have a legitimate shot at promotion to Concacaf Nations League A.
Conversely, coach Kendale Mercury and his ‘Vincy Heat’ team are trying to avoid demotion to Concacaf Nations League C, after accumulating just one point from their first four matches.
When the draw came out, Mercury and his technical staff thought they had as good a shot as any to gain promotion to League A. These past couple of weeks have been a rough reality check though.
“When we saw the draw, we thought this was the best draw of Concacaf Nations League B,” said Mercury. “We thought we could have topped this group and unfortunately we didn’t. We can’t even get second place.
“Our job now is to refocus and we have to [try and] stay in Nations League B. Our next game is away to Nicaragua and we have to beat them, then we have to beat The Bahamas.
“It’s been a very disappointing campaign. Put simply, it’s a failed campaign.”
Like Trinidad and Tobago, SVG has had no domestic league football since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the virus hit their camp more directly last month with eight positive tests including the head coach after a trip to Dominica.
Then, star player Oalex Anderson, who plays for North Carolina in USL 1 and once partnered Jones at MLS Club Seattle Sounders, missed both CNL games against the Soca Warriors after contracting the virus.
With Anderson out last night, Cornelius Stewart led a spirited second half showing for the Vincy Heat. However, they lacked the quality to overturn a two-goal halftime deficit and eventually fell 4-1 after substitute John-Paul Rochford added a late item for the hosts.
“We have to do some soul-searching back home with our technical department because I think basically we messed up crucially in certain areas,” said Mercury.
For Eve, the challenge is getting his team to maintain their intensity levels for the duration of the match. In their last three games, T&T shot out of the blocks like Jamaica’s ‘Pocket Rocket’, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce—with five of their seven goals coming in the first 25 minutes of play.
Their finish hasn’t been as strong through to the final tape, however.
“We come out of the blocks very fast then we have a little bit of a lull, which happens when you go up that early—it creates a lull,” said Eve, who championed the effectiveness of his counter attacking style last night. “We have to maintain our consistency for the 90 minutes and this is part of the project to get them to do that.”
Powder sang from his coach’s hymn book, as he urged the Warriors to make the Hasely Crawford Stadium a fortress.
“Trinidad [and Tobago] have always had a target on their backs because they are one of the better teams in the Caribbean,” the 23 year-old Powder said. “And as we take those hits and blows, we need to come with more energy and more life. We can’t be here conceding goals at home and not knowing if we are going to win games. We need to be strong and solid.”
Strong, solid and speedy best describes the play of Greece-based attacker Garcia (L), who was again deployed in the ‘number 9’ position by Eve. Levi had an assist on the night, but could have easily netted a handful of goals with a bevy of presentable chances.
“I basically like any position in the attacking third and the coach asked me to do something and I try my best to do it full 100%,” said Garcia (L), as he kept the tone set by Powder. “So far it’s been good to me and hopefully I can continue and wherever the coach puts me I’ll play.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t finish with 12 [points] so we have to settle for nine but we move forward and we do our best to continue winning.”
With pace, power, guile and a brute of a left-footed shot, Garcia (L) is more than a handful for defenders in Nations League B. If he can add a consistent finishing touch to his toolkit, the Warriors could well have a refined weapon for stiffer Concacaf opposition.