Friday, December 15, 2017

New faces

...10 changes as Lawrence names 23 for Mexico, USA encounters

HOLDING COURT: Dennis Lawrence, Trinidad and Tobago’s senior men’s national football team coach, addresses the media at yesterday’s media briefing in Couva. At left is Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) media consultant Wayne Cunningham. —Photo: IAN PRESCOTT

Trinidad and Tobago senior men’s football coach Dennis Lawrence has included Holland-based Levi Garcia, but has suspended two regulars Aubrey David and Jamille Boatswain, for disciplinary reasons.
The former T&T defender has made 10 changes to the squad for the ‘Red Army’s’ two remaining World Cup qualifying matches, away to Mexico on October 6, and the United States on October 10, at home.
Lawrence’s sweeping changes include dropping experienced goalkeepers Jan Michael Williams and Marvin Phillip; defenders Carlyle Mitchell, Sheldon Bateau, Radanfah Abu Bakr; and striker Willis Plaza. He has included youngsters Akeem Roach, Josiah Trimmingham and St Ann’s Rangers National U-20 midfielder Kathon St Hillaire.
Lawrence explained the reasoning for his decision, “The selection was based around the direction we are trying to go forward (to). I know fully well what Jan Michael Williams is capable of. I know what Sheldon Bateau is capable of.
“I think its a perfect opportunity to integrate these (new) players into the international set up at senior level so they can get an idea what it is going to be like. We have to start thinking ahead,” he added.
T&T will also do all of its preparation for the next match in Mexico, beginning on Sunday. A day after playing there on October 6, the Red Army returns home ahead of its final match of the unsuccessful qualifying campaign against the Americans on October 10.
“Because we have so many new faces in the squad its important that they get to understand how we want to play… the tempo we want to play at and how we want to manage the game, and they need to get that very quickly,” Lawrence pointrd out. “We going to prepare to take on a very good Mexican team. We going there and we are going to try and be positive again, and to try and see if we can eradicate some of the defensive errors we have been making.”
The Mexico fixture will be contested in the North-Central Mexican city of San Luis Potosi at the Estadio Alfonso Lastras from 9:30 p.m. (T&T time). And the final WC qualifying match will be at the ‘Home of Football’, the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, with an 8 p.m. kick-off.
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has opted for the smaller venue due to the unavailability of the Hasely Crawford Stadium, owing to problems with the High Mast Lighting system which resulted in the Port-of-Spain venue being without electricity to over 50 per cent of the facility.
At yesterday’s press briefing, Lawrence disclosed that he had advised Stern John that he should consider not playing for Central FC in the local Pro League, following a verbal confrontation between the national team assistant-coach and prospective national players, representing opposing team North East Stars, in last Friday’s Pro League action.
Until fully investigated, Lawrence said the matter will be handled in-house. Noticeable absentees from the 23-man team Lawrence named were experienced defender Aubrey David and striker Jamille Boatswain. Both are suspended for the upcoming matches after violating team policy and being involved in minor league football, during the build-up to the last WCQ versus Honduras. Lawrence said both players remain in his future plans but are suspended for the next two matches.
“Jamille and Aubrey are two of the more disciplined players in the squad,” said Lawrence, adding, “The two players made a huge error in judgment. When you make (those) judgments and you make error(s) like that, there has to be consequences. So, they are not involved in this squad. The decision was made that they would be suspended for the two games and then we move forward from there.”
Both suspended players have since apologised and have also volunteered to donate their match fees to a charity of their choice.
“I really want to apologise to the nation and the people I disappointed with my actions and I know every action has a reaction and I have accepted the decision of the TTFA,” David told TTFA Media. “I want to put this behind me and look forward to representing T&T again,” the Finland-based defender added.
Lawrence and his staff will welcome the return of Levi Garcia who opted out of the last two qualifiers in order to fully recover from injury. “I am fit and ready to go for Trinidad and Tobago, I spoke to the coach and was happy to be included as I always welcome the opportunity to play for my country” stated the AZ Alkmaar forward.
“I must admit, it’s disappointing that we will not be going to the World Cup but we have to lift our heads and look to the future, plus we have to make a statement by playing good football in the two final games and get six points” Garcia added.
Garcia will have some company from his Under-20 days with the other notable selection, 19-year-old St. Hillaire being called up to the senior squad. The young St. Ann’s Rangers winger has been outstanding for his club and will be hoping for his first cap at the highest level with his last national outing being at the CONCACAF U-20 Championships in Costa Rica earlier this year.