On Tuesday morning, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) announced 28 players who will represent the senior men’s national team in the 2022/23 Concacaf Nations League. Of those 28, inexplicably only 24 have been booked to travel to Nicaragua for their opener in Managua on Friday, June 3.
Today the TTFA confirmed that only 19 players are expected to be available to represent the Soca Warriors in their Nations League opener – and head coach Angus Eve is among those absent!
“Senior Men’s Team Head Coach Angus Eve will miss the game,” a statement from TTFA Media said, “after being unable to travel due to a personal family emergency. Players Alvin Jones, Noah Powder , Neveal Hackshaw and Jabari St Hillaire are also missing from the trip for a combination of reasons.
“Jones and St Hillaire did not reveal in time the approval of their online travel health card by the Nicaraguan Health Authority to board the flight from Piarco.
“Powder and Hackshaw also did not receive their PCR results in the United States within the time required to receive similar approval for entry into Nicaragua.”
The TTFA statement further claimed that rescheduled travel arrangements would have meant the quartet would travel to Nicaragua “just hours before the 8pm kick-off” on Friday evening. “Eve and her team felt it was therefore inappropriate,” he said, “to have them travel to Managua.”
“All four players will join the squad in Trinidad for Monday’s match against the Bahamas at Hasely Crawford Stadium,” TTFA Media said.
The list of players who were to stay in Trinidad had also grown.
On Tuesday, Terminix La Horquetta Rangers duo of Real Gill and Kaihim Thomas along with Police FC midfielder Jabari Mitchell and freelance playmaker Duane Muckette were named as members of the Trinidad and Tobago Nations League troops who would not go to Nicaragua. Today, the no-fly list has swelled to include Defense Forces midfielder Kevon Goddard.
Although a 23-man travel party is generally considered appropriate for international duty, no reason was given for the decision to keep these players in Trinidad.
Even with the 19 players expected in Nicaragua, the TTFA revealed the group had traveled in “two batches”. A group passed through Miami and traveled to Managua on Tuesday, while Wired868 understands that the second group traveled through Central America and took a long bus ride to get to their destination.
Tonight, there were only eight players from Trinidad and Tobago in Managua. It’s unclear why some players have been told to take the latter route.
Wired868 contacted Eve, team manager Major Basil Thompson and TTFA Director of Football Richard Piper for further information on issues affecting the squad for Friday’s outing.
None of the three had responded as of press time.
With Eve absent from team camp, assistant coach Reynold Carrington will take charge of the Warriors for Friday’s encounter, which will be broadcast live on Flow Sports from 10 p.m. TT. Incidentally, on Sunday June 5, Carrington is due to travel with the Men’s National Under-20 Team to Costa Rica, where he will once again replace Eve, as the head coach remains with the senior team.
The double act for Eve and Carrington between senior national team and youth team jobs – an unusual reality introduced by the Fifa-appointed normalization committee, which botched in the head coach’s case of the National Women’s Under-20 Team and Under-17 Jason Spence – was tough enough without wacky travel arrangements.
But Carrington put a brave face on things.
“The task is the same and we remain optimistic and committed to that task,” Carrington told TTFA Media. “We have 19 capable players with plenty of experience and ability with foreign and local players in the mix.
“The important thing is that we stay focused and understand the importance of the game and also want to start the campaign in a positive way on Friday.”
The absences leave Trinidad and Tobago particularly light in central midfield, where Hackshaw and Powder cemented themselves as first-team players in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.
Of Carrington’s expected 19-man squad, the only player to start a game in central midfield during Eve’s tenure is defender Mekeil Williams – and only the head coach has deemed the experiment successful.
However, Memphis 901’s Leston Paul and Watford City’s Daniel Phillips are not lacking in international experience and should be strong contenders for the vacancy.
Sacramento Republic FC defender Shannon Gomez, who is not selected under Eve, has reportedly been in competition with Jones for the right-back position. Now he is the team’s only right-back.
And while Muckette has just one start under Eve, he’s played four times off the bench and Carrington might be a bit light on offensive options.
Trinidad and Tobago regularly starts with four attacking players, but Carrington has only five in his entire squad: Judah Garcia, John-Paul Rochford, Joevin Jones, Marcus Joseph and Levi Garcia. So there won’t be much firepower in reserve on Friday.
Still, the backbone of the Soca Warriors squad in Nicaragua is solid and well tested, with veteran goalkeeper Marvin Phillip covered by 2021 TTFA Player of the Year Aubrey David and returning Turkey-based defender Sheldon Bateau .
Phillip, Bateau, David, Williams, Paul and Joseph are all former Junior World Cup players.
Since being sidelined with an injury last July, versatile InterMiami CF flanker Joevin Jones is also ready for his first outing of the Eve era.
“It’s always an honor to be called up to represent the national team,” said David. “No matter the occasion or the challenges. I am delighted to be here. I know the boys are all looking forward to it because we’ve made progress over the past few months.
“The spirit and momentum from the last two games against Barbados and Guyana was great. That’s something we’ll be looking to build into these games to come.
“It’s also great to have experienced players like Joevin [Jones], Sheldon Bateau and Leston Paul back in the team. All in all, we have the ability to go out there and put on a performance that hopefully will give us a winning start before heading home to the Bahamas.
At present, Trinidad and Tobago is ranked 103rd in the world by Fifa while Nicaragua is 144th.
In five encounters, Nicaragua have beaten the Warriors only once – in a friendly outing on December 27, 2016 under head coach Tom Saintfiet. However, Saintfiet avenged that loss with a 3-1 victory three days later in Managua, with goals from Cornell Glen, Carlyle Mitchell and Aikim Andrews.
No member of the current Trinidad and Tobago squad traveled to Nicaragua in 2016, although goalkeeper Adrian Foncette, Jones (A), Radanfah Abu Bakr and Jomal Williams were all involved six years ago .
Returning to Managua in 2022, a shorthanded Soca Warriors side are hoping to secure back-to-back wins for the two-island republic.
(Trinidad and Tobago players expected in Nicaragua)
Guardians: Marvin Phillip (Deportivo PF), Denzil Smith (W Connection);
Defenders: Shannon Gomez (Sacramento Republic—USA), Kareem Moses (Vaasan Palloseura—Finland), Sheldon Bateau (Samsunspor—Turkey), Aubrey David (Deportivo Saprissa—Costa Rica), Mekeil Williams (Pittsburgh Riverhounds—USA), Triston Hodge ( Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC—USA), Keston Julien (FC Sheriff Tiraspol—Moldova);
Midfielders: Justin Sadoo (Defense Force), Michael Kedman (Thróttur Vogar—Iceland), Leston Paul (Memphis 901—USA), Molik Khan (Minnesota United II—USA), Daniel Phillips (Watford FC—England);
Attacking midfielders: Judah Garcia (AEK Athens B FC—Greece), John-Paul Rochford (Sure Sports FC), Joevin Jones (InterMiami CF—USA);
Attackers: Marcus Joseph (Mohammedan SC—India), Levi Garcia (AEK Athens FC—Greece).
(Originally selected players who did not travel)
Goalkeeper: Jabari St Hillaire (Terminix La Horquetta Rangers);
Defender: Alvin Jones (Forward Madison—USA);
Midfielders: Kevon Goddard (Defense Force), Kaihim Thomas (Terminix La Horquetta Rangers), Noah Powder, Neveal Hackshaw (both Indy Eleven—USA), Duane Muckette (Sans attache);
Attacking midfielders: Real Gill (Terminix La Horquetta Rangers), Jabari Mitchell (Police FC).
Editor’s note: The remaining 11 players from Trinidad and Tobago arrived by bus between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, bringing the contingent of Soca Warriors players to 19.