NATIONAL winger Levi Garcia is pumped for his Gold Cup debut tomorrow against Panama at the Allianz Field in Minnesota.
TT head coach Dennis Lawrence oversaw an afternoon training session yesterday at the Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. TT will train at the game venue this evening and Lawrence will attend the official pre-match press conference along with a player.
The Israel-based Garcia said, “It’s a huge moment for me as a young player and someone who has never been to the Gold Cup before. But all in all, I think all the players know how major this is for us. We want to make a big impression and to do that we need to play well and get good results. We are going to give it everything and hopefully we’ll make a strong start in our first game against Panama.”
National captain Khaleem Hyland said the team remains focused on the task ahead.
“The mood is quite good and everyone is staying switched on in terms of our focus and mission for the opening match on Tuesday. We’ve had some good, solid sessions including today’s one and the vibe and focus is up at the moment. It’s now about being mentally ready, taking care of what we need to in terms of preparation and going into the game knowing what we are here for,” he added.
Midfielder Jomal Williams is banking on the right combination of youth, experience and strong team chemistry to push the national team through at the Gold Cup.
Williams, a 25-year-old W Connection player from Piccadilly Street in Port of Spain, scored two first half goals to pace TT to a 7-0 win over local club team Minnesota Eclipse in a training match last Thursday. TT’s other goals were scored by Garcia, a penalty by Kevin Molino, Nathan Lewis and one each from Cordell Cato and Shahdon Winchester.
“We are coming together nicely at the moment,” Williams told TTFA Media. “You could never really do enough or think that you have done enough because in your mind there’s always more to be done, but at this time I think we are putting in the work and should be ready in time for Panama."
Williams said TT have embraced the underdog tag but are keen on toppling the favourites.
“It’s a challenging assignment but we came to do something at this Gold Cup. We’ve been working for a long time for this. To some extent, we know that we are outsiders because all the talk is about USA and Mexico and well Panama has been to the last World Cup and Jamaica were in the last two finals. But we use that as motivation to prove them otherwise. We know it’s going to be difficult but we have shown that we can compete once we put out heads together and play to our best.”
Williams, previously based in Mexico, wants to represent his home community on the international stage.
“It hasn’t been easy coming from Piccadilly street. There are a lot of distractions and if you don’t have a strong head it can break you. People don’t really class where I come from as a good place to live, but I see it as one of my obstacles that I need to cross in my life and it just motivates be to go on (and) do better. I grow with these people so I understand them and I just try to live in love with everyone.
“It’s most important to represent my people, my community and my country. I feel very happy to be able to show not just TT but also the world, that coming from Piccadilly street, coming from Laventille, there are good things coming from them and it’s a happy feeling to be able to represent where I am from. This keeps motivated and keeps me going because I know there are a lot of young kids looking up at me and I have a responsibility that I need to keep moving forward to show them that aye look, we can still become something regardless of where we come from.”
And the Gold Cup stage will be the main stage for him over the next two weeks.
“It is something I’ve always wanted to achieve… playing in a Gold Cup with the national team. What has motivated me the most is the gaffer (Lawrence), he has always showed belief in me and I’m just working hard everyday to make it.”
Williams said he enjoys sharing the field with top local players like his captain Hyland and Minnesota United star Kevin Molino.
“Playing with Hyland and Molino and the rest of the guys is an honour. They motivate me a lot on the training pitch. Playing with these guys gives you no choice but to want to play football. The difference in the squad when it comes to the competitiveness to earn spots is who wants it more, and then it’s up to the gaffer to select who he wants on the field.”