The Soca Warriors will be without buccaneering Europe-based left back Keston Julien tomorrow when they face The Bahamas from 4pm at the Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, in a crucial Concacaf Nations League B encounter.
Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Angus Eve told the TTFA Media that the 24-year-old Julien, who plays for Moldova champion team Sheriff FC, does not have the appropriate visa to fly to the Bahamas—since the team is travelling via Florida.
He did not explain what was behind the oversight but said only Julien will be available to face Nicaragua in the Warriors’ final group match against Nicaragua at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet on Monday 27 March.
Julien, a former Presentation College (San Fernando) schoolboy, has 11 senior national caps—seven of them coming under Eve. He was a member of the Trinidad and Tobago team that drew goalless against the Bahamas in 2021, which meant that the Warriors failed to advance past the first Caribbean round of the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying series.
Eve overlooked Julien for the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup, as he opted for Terminix La Horquetta Rangers full back Ross Russell. However, Julien has been a certainty at left back for the past year, where his pace, composure and attacking quality have been an asset to the team.
Eve does have at least one other competent left back on his roster in United States-based defender Triston Hodge though.
Unspecified complications in forward Marcus Joseph’s trip back from India meant that he joined the team on the eve of the Bahamas clash, and Eve suggested he might have to settle for a place on the substitutes bench.
“Other than [Julien’s absence and Joseph’s late arrival], the mood is very good in the camp and we are settling in very nicely,” said Eve. “It is about gelling the team together.”
The Warriors coach suggested that his 24-man squad has enough versatility to address most personnel issues.
“We would pick players based on what we want to do—the squad has a nice balance to it,” said Eve. “[…] We had to be innovative in the squad we selected and a couple players can play multiple positions.
“[…] We are prepared for if [the Bahamas] want to play a high press or if they want to drop off and play like they did in the last game [when T&T won 1-0 in Port of Spain].”
The Bahamas, ranked 203rd in the world by Fifa, heralded their draw against the Warriors on 5 June 2021 as the biggest result in their country’s football history. And they are excited at the return of their new “rivals”.
Eve, whose troops are ranked 104 by Fifa, seemed slightly affronted at their host’s enthusiasm.
“We need to reestablish ourselves in the Caribbean,” said the Trinidad and Tobago coach. “[…] We are in a rebuilding stage but the rebuilding is going fine. That is to show how far we have dropped off that the Bahamas now think we have a rivalry.”
A draw tomorrow will not mean lights out for the Warriors’ ambitions of topping the Nations League group. However, it could leave Trinidad and Tobago needing to win by two or three clear goals against Nicaragua next Monday.
Once Nicaragua defeat St Vincent and the Grenadines, they will move four points clear of the Warriors. Trinidad and Tobago need either two wins or a draw in Nassau and a lopsided triumph in Bacolet.
At stake is promotion to the top tier of the Concacaf Nations League, a spot in the 2023 Gold Cup and the chance to qualify for the 2024 Copa America.
The Bahamas, not for the first time, are in the way.
(Trinidad and Tobago Team)
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (AC Port of Spain), Nicklas Frenderup (Raheim Il—Norway), Denzil Smith (W Connection),
Defenders: Shannon Gomez (San Antonio FC—USA), Alvin Jones (unattached), Aubrey David (Sociedad Deportiva Aucas—Ecuador), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery—USA), Justin Garcia (Defence Force), Kareem Moses (FF Jaro—Finland), Triston Hodge (Hartford Athletic—USA),
Midfielders: Michel Poon-Angeron (AC Port of Spain), Molik Khan (Minnesota United—USA), Andre Rampersad (HFX Wanderers—Canada), Daniel Phillips (St Johnstone FC—Scotland), Noah Powder, Joevin Jones (both unattached),
Attackers: Jomal Williams (Once Deportivo de Ahuachapan—El Salvador), John-Paul Rochford (AC Port of Spain), Kailé Auvray (Sporting Kansas City Academy—USA), Reon Moore (Defence Force), Ryan Telfer (Miami FC—USA), Marcus Joseph (Mohammedan Sporting Club—India), Rundell Winchester (Marsaskala FC—Malta),
Unavailable: Keston Julien (Sheriff FC—Moldova).