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Trinidad and Tobago's Kaïlé Auvray (#15) attempts to collect the ball while under pressure from Nicaragua's Luis Copete (#6) during a Concacaf Nations League Group C match at Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet, Tobago on Monday, March 27th 2023.

In the aftermath of T&T’s crash-and-burn performance against Nicaragua in the Concacaf Nations League on Monday, budding T&T national Kaile Auvray believes that the Soca Warriors can still claim their place in this year’s Concacaf Gold Cup.

The T&T senior men’s team shared the spoils with their Central America opponents following a 1-1 draw at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet. Having trailed midway through the first half, Joevin Jones’ 42nd-minute penalty brought the Warriors level. However, they lacked the physical muscle and technical guile to defeat Nicaragua in front of a hopeful home crowd.

Marcus Joseph’s disallowed goal (for handball) in second-half stoppage time made the evening even more frustrating than it was as, ultimately, the draw meant that the Warriors remained second in the group – destroying their hopes of advancing to be among the “big boys” in the region.

Having been relegated from League A in the last Nations League campaign, winning the group would have seen the Warriors promoted from League B and back with the elite. T&T’s failure to claim the top spot also meant that they would not earn automatic qualification for the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup. Repeating the process from two years ago, they will now have to qualify through the preliminary stages. Additionally, the Warriors will also miss out on a chance to qualify for the 2024 Conmebol Copa America.

However, Auvray is adamant that he and his teammates can recover and successfully qualify for the Gold Cup through the preliminaries. Although he is only 18 years old, the silky winger is loaded with experience. He is currently the player with the most nationalities represented having played for Guadeloupe’s Under-15 team, the United States Under-17 team, France’s Under-17 team, St Martin’s senior team and now the T&T senior team.

Born in France, Auvray is eligible to represent the Soca Warriors through his Trinidadian mother. His father, Stephane Auvray, is a former footballer and now the head coach of St Martin – who coached against T&T boss Angus Eve in an international friendly two months ago. Auvray also has club experience with Lille (France) before moving to the United States to play for Minnesota United II and now Sporting Kansas City II.

T&T’s new acquisition was a part of Eve’s training camp last December before “auditioning” against the Warriors in the aforementioned friendly at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port-of-Spain. Inspired by world superstars like Eden Hazard and Neymar, he proved his value to the T&T national team by being one of the team’s top performers in the two Nations League matches against the Bahamas and Nicaragua, as well as in the two friendly matches versus Jamaica prior to the competitive fixtures. Unfortunately, his minutes on the pitch were stifled by Eve’s tactical substitutions, but the mercurial starlet has now shown the nation what he’s capable of.

In an interview with the TT Football Association (TTFA) Media, Auvray expressed, “(The past few days with the national team) has been a great experience for myself to continue building my footballing career. Being able to represent T&T is truly a privilege that I’m continuing to discover.

“I feel like I have matured a lot (since I joined the team) and my goal is to keep building on this so that I can (help to) bring better results for the team in the upcoming games.”

“Playing for T&T at home is truly something special when you’re playing for the country… this time (having previously played for Saint-Martin). I really enjoyed it; I love the fans! Within the team, there are a lot of veterans, so I am able to learn a lot from them and their experience.”

“(Against Nicaragua), I felt great. I felt like if each of us did what we would do in any game and continue improving our level, we could have won the game. Unfortunately, that’s not how it ended. But, that’s my mindset – to do what I do since I’ve been playing Under-12 (football), just at a higher intensity.”

Auvray then boldly and confidently claimed that the Warriors will still have a place in the tournament finals in mid-June.

When asked if T&T can qualify through the preliminary rounds and the playoffs, he responded, “Simple answer – absolutely!”

He added, “I think that we have to go back to our clubs and get back to work in order to be even more prepared for the upcoming (preliminary) games in June. (We must) keep in a rhythm.”

T&T will be joined by 11 countries in the Gold Cup Prelims, including League A dropouts Curacao and Grenada, as well as former T&T coach Jamal Shabaaz’s Guyana team.

Three teams from the Prelims will advance to the Gold Cup finals.

The official draw will take place in California, USA on April 14, where the teams will know their opponents. The first preliminary round is carded for June 16 and 17, and the playoff round will be played on June 20. Following the conclusion of the preliminaries, the tournament finals – hosted by the United States – will kick off on June 24 and end on July 16.