Spicer’s international debut in limbo; Toronto concerned about T&T call-up

Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Angus Eve will almost certainly have to start his 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign without gifted 23-year-old flanker Tyrese Spicer.

Spicer, who was Major League Soccer club Toronto FC’s first round draft pick last year, was included in Eve’s 39-man pool last week for qualifying matches against Grenada (5 June) and The Bahamas (8 June) in Port of Spain and Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis respectively.

Toronto FC forward Tyrese Spicer celebrates his first professional goal against Atlanta United in MLS action at BMO Field on 243 March 2024.
(Photo John E Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

However, Wired868 understands that he is likely to be unavailable, due to concerns by his employers regarding a niggling foot injury.

Toronto head coach John Herdman, who steered Canada at the 2022 Qatar World Cup, allegedly prefers that Spicer use the international break for rehab—although the player continues to feature for the club on MLS match days.

The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association, according to Fifa rules, can force Toronto to release Spicer to his country for an independent assessment, and possibly to play. But it has been decades since the local football body took such an adversarial stance.

In 1994, then TTFA special advisor Jack Warner had Fifa threaten Reading FC with sanctions for not releasing goalkeeper Shaka Hislop to play in an international friendly against the United States.

Iconic Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, then 25, represents Reading FC against Italian club, Genoa, in a pre-season friendly.

Hislop, who felt he had a gentleman’s arrangement with late TTFA president Oliver Camps to skip friendlies—since there was no international football match window at the time and he was vital to Reading’s promotion campaign—used his British passport to save himself and his club from a ban.

And the acrimony between the parties resulted in a five-year stand-off before Hislop eventually made his senior international debut in 1999. The former St Mary’s College goalkeeper went on to represent the Soca Warriors at the Germany 2006 World Cup and win a place in Trinidad and Tobago’s sporting Hall of Fame.

Spicer does not have a North American passport. However, it is unlikely to be lost on the young man that Herdman’s faith in him is what led to his first senior international call-up in the first place.

A standout for St Mary’s College and St Augustine Secondary, Spicer has never represented Trinidad and Tobago at any level.

Toronto FC attacker Tyrese Spicer.

World Cup 2006 standout Russell Latapy invited Spicer to join his National Under-20 squad once. But the young man was preparing for his CXC exams and did not want to disrupt his studies.

In 2020, he trained with a local-based squad under Soca Warriors head coach Terry Fenwick. But, once he departed for Lipscomb University in 2021 to compete in the NCAA Division I, the interest in his services from the national team seemed to dry up.

Toronto’s evaluation of Spicer as the most desirable college athlete in the United States immediately brought fresh attention to the versatile attacker. And Eve said his summons for the Toronto player was actually his second request of this year.

Trinidad and Tobago head coach Angus Eve (background) urges on his players from the sideline during friendly action against Jamaica at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 1 March 2024.
Eve said he tried to select Tyrese Spicer for that friendly although it fell outside the Fifa international match window.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

It appears that Spicer might have to wait a bit longer to wear red, black and white for the first time, though.

Eve’s curious decision to announce a 39-member pool means he is not short of potential replacements, though.

In Trinidad and Tobago’s last competitive match, a 2-0 Copa America playoff loss to Canada, Eve started with one attacker, Levi Garcia, while Reon More and Real Gill came off the bench and Nathaniel James remained in reserve.

Trinidad and Tobago attacker Reon Moore (right) takes a stab at goal while Curacao defender Justin Ogenia looks on during Concacaf Nations League A action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 7 September 2023.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

The self-titled pragmatic coach is expected to be more adventurous against Grenada and The Bahamas and might add at least two more attackers to his travelling squad.

The remaining contenders for a spot in Eve’s frontline include the Canada-based duo of Ryan Telfer and Malcolm Shaw, Jamaica-based flanker Kaïlé Auvray, and the TTPFL pair of 22-year-old Point Fortin flanker Ezekiel Kesar and 37-year-old Morvant Caledonia United forward Kevon Woodley.

It is uncertain when Eve will announce his final squad for the upcoming match window, although the coach suggested he might wait until after this weekend’s games.

Veteran Morvant Caledonia United forward Kevon Woodley is in the frame for a competitive international debut against Grenada, after scoring twice in two friendly appearances against Guyana earlier this month.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

“The [Fifa match] window starts on the third and we play [Grenada] on the fifth,” said Eve. “So, players have to travel on the third [and] on the first and the second, we have players still playing matches outside.

“[…] We still have to look and see who will come through those games unscathed.”

At least one member of Eve’s squad, 24-year-old Pacific FC midfielder Steffen Yeates, does not have a Trinidad and Tobago passport at the time of writing.

Pacific FC midfielder Steffen Yeates is in the pool for Trinidad and Tobago’s opening 2026 WCQ against Grenada on 5 June 2024.

“We’ve been behind Steffen Yeates since last October [but] there were some administrative issues, if you could call it that,” said Eve. “We think that we are very close, so we wanted to bring him in the training squad—so just in case the documents do come through, he would already be in the squad.

“We’ve been having really good communications with him.”

Eve’s 39-member pool for opening World Cup qualifying assignments is as follows:

Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Denzil Smith.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Goalkeepers: Denzil Smith (Club Sando), Aaron Enill (Prison FC), Christopher Biggette (Defence Force), Adrian Foncette (Police FC);

Defenders: Aubrey David (CS Cartagines—Costa Rica), Alvin Jones, Robert Primus (both Police FC), Isaiah Garcia, Justin Garcia (both Defence Force), Josiah Trimmingham (Montego Bay Utd—Jamaica), Shannon Gomez (San Antonio FC—USA), Andre Raymond (unattached), Jesse Williams (Chattanooga FC—USA), Sheldon Bateau (SK Beveren—Belgium), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery—USA), Triston Hodge (Hartford Athletic—USA), Ross Russell (La Horquetta Rangers);

Trinidad and Tobago defender Sheldon Bateau stands on the ball during friendly international action against Guyana at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 13 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Midfielders: Duane Muckette, Michel Poon-Angeron (both AC Port of Spain), Kevon Goddard (Defence Force), Andre Rampersad (HFX Wanderers—Canada), Kristian Lee Him (Eskilstuna—Sweden), Matthew Woo Ling (Defence Force), Noah Powder (Northern Colorado Hailstorm—USA), Dantaye Gilbert (Jong PSV—Netherlands), Steffen Yeates (Pacific FC—Canada), Molik Khan (Minnesota Utd II—USA), Daniel Phillips (St Johnstone FC—Scotland), Ajani Fortune (Atlanta United—USA);

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Michel Poon-Angeron (right) glides past Guyana midfielder Darron Niles during international friendly action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 15 May 2024.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

Attackers: Kaile Auvray, Nathaniel James (both Mount Pleasant FC—Jamaica), Real Gill (Northern Colorado Hailstorm—USA), Reon Moore (Pacific FC—Canada), Malcolm Shaw (Cavalry FC—Canada), Levi Garcia (AEK Athens—Greece), Tyrese Spicer (Toronto FC—Canada), Ezekiel Kesar (Point Fortin Civic), Kevon Woodley (Morvant Caledonia Utd), Ryan Telfer (HFX Wanderers—Canada).

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