EMERGING Soca Warriors players will get their opportunity to show what they are made of against Guatemala in an international friendly as head coach Angus Eve and his technical staff chose an inexperienced team with just a few seasoned campaigners in the mix.
TT held their final training session at Manny Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella on Thursday ahead of their match against Guatemala on Sunday in Pennsylvania, US. A 22-man squad was selected for the Guatemala clash and following that match a national team will be chosen for the 2023 Gold Cup qualification tournament which will be held from June 16-20 in Ft Lauderdale, Florida, US.
Most of the players chosen for the Guatemala contest are uncapped or have just a few caps under their names.
Eve, speaking before Thursday’s training session said, “We picked a lot of players in this squad for Guatemala that we have not seen at this level before. Some of them have been knocking on the door and have been doing really well in the local league and some guys who have been on the fringes, been on the radar from the outside who have been doing well with their teams also.”
He added, “We wanted to give some youngsters obviously some international experience like Real Gill and these guys (and) Kaihim Thomas who played with the (TT) Under-20s and now we have the opportunity to see them at senior level.”
Nathaniel James is another player chosen who represented the TT Under-20 team last year.
Che Benny of AC Port of Spain and Ross Russell Jnr of Terminix La Horquetta Rangers have been rewarded for quality performances in the TT Premier Football League. Benny has found the back of the net regularly and provided assists for his team-mates. Benny was not in the initial 60-man TT Gold Cup qualification tournament provisional squad but was brought in as a replacement for Judah Garcia who injured his hamstring. Garcia seems to be recovering quickly as he was training with the team on Thursday.
Russell Jnr is an attacking wing-back and can be a threat going forward.
Eve encouraged the young players to capitalise on the chance.
“Take the opportunity. When they come by you have to take the opportunity. It does not matter if a player gets injured when you get an opportunity you have to go on the pitch and grasp it with both hands.”
Eve said there are still a few spots up for grabs for the Gold Cup qualifiers. “There are some spots that we think we are sure about (and) there are some spots that are still up for grabs, so the guys who play on the 11th (Sunday) that will then give us that final indication of who the final squad should be.”
Experienced Belgium-based defender Sheldon Bateau makes a return to the squad, along with emerging talent Duane Muckette. The players were not part of TT’s team for the Concacaf Nations League matches in March.
Goalkeeper Marvin Phillip, defender Alvin Jones and midfielder Michel Poon Angeron are some of the familiar faces on the team. Midfielder Kaile Auvray, who demonstrated quality in his debut for TT in a friendly against Jamaica earlier this year, has been included.
A notable absence in the provisional squad was Tobagonian Rundell Winchester, who played the two Nations League matches recently. Asked about his absence, Eve said, “Remember we have a lot of attacking players who did not play in the last phase…we have the likes of Levi (Garcia) and other players coming back in, so it did not have any space up front for another player.”
Greece-based Levi, 25, is coming off a memorable season with AEK Athens helping the team win two titles. Eve is elated to have Levi in the squad to guide the inexperienced players.
Goalkeepers: Marvin Phillip (AC Port of Spain), Denzil Smith (W Connection).
Defenders: Sheldon Bateau (SK Beveren, Belgium), Alvin Jones (Club Sando), Ross Russell Jnr (La Horquetta Rangers), Josiah Trimmingham (Club Sando), Andre Raymond (Dumiense FC, Portugal), Justin Garcia (Defence Force), Jameel Neptune (AC Port of Spain), Samory Powder (Hudson Valley Hammers, US), Stephon Marcano (Ventura Fusion, US).
Midfielders: Daniel Phillips (St Johnstone, Scotland), Duane Muckette (AC Port of Spain), Kaile Auvray (Sporting Kansas, US), Real Gill (Club Sando), Justin Sadoo (Defence Force), Michel Poon Angeron (AC Port of Spain), Kaihim Thomas (Defence Force), Che Benny (AC Port of Spain), Kristian Lee Him (IFK Eskilstuna, Sweden).
Forwards: Nathaniel James (Club Sando), Kadeem Corbin (La Horquetta Rangers).