Fri, Sep

T&T captain Aubrey David, left, battles with Curacao's Brandley Kuwas during the Concacaf Nations League 'A' match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on Thursday. T&T won 1-0. ...DANIEL PRENTICE

T&T Soca Warriors captain, defender Aubrey David, was full of praise for his teammates following their narrow 1-0 win over Curacao in their opening Concacaf Nations League A Group A match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on Thursday night.

Substitute Nathaniel James, making his debut, got the decisive strike for the Angus Eve-coached Soca Warriors in the 86th minute to grab all three points in their first match since exiting the Concacaf Gold Cup at the group stage in July with a 6-0 loss to host USA.

The 32-year-old Guyana-born David, who has featured 72 times for the T&T squad speaking after the narrow win before a crowd of 5,181 spectators said, “As I was emphasizing before the match it was very important for us to win our home game and leave here with the three points and start on the right foot knowing that we have a tough game away to El Salvador.

“So, it's now for us to stay focused, get recovered as fast as possible because we know it’s going to be a challenging game."

Reflecting on the match, David who plies his trade with CS Cartagines in the Costa Rica Primer Division Clausura, applauded the team effort saying, "It was a great job by each and everyone that played, and including the substitutes that came on and changed the game for us.

"It was a great effort by the staff and players and I’m so grateful for that and I just want to say wonderful job by the boys."

With regards to the caution and defensive approach from the T&T team at the start of the match, David defended the team tactics saying, "Basically, before the game, we knew the technical team and how they approach the game, and we knew that there were going to be moments in the game that we were not going to have the ball and we set our minds that when we reached to that stage and we don’t have the ball we would work and we stay disciplined and we keep shape, and then after we will catch them on the counterattack.

"Because we have very fast wingers, and we have willing strikers who are willing to run behind the defence, so we knew that there were going to be times that we would be under pressure, and we also knew there was going to be a time that we were going to have possession of the ball, and we saw that in the second half, so it was just about game management and managing the moments and staying discipline.

"So, yes we were under pressure, but I think the lads dealt with it very well and in the second half, we had good spells of possession and thankfully we came out with the victory."

The T&T captain was also in high praise of match-winner Nathaniel James for his impact off the bench.

"I would like to say congrats to Nathaniel on his first goal, he did an excellent job when he came on, and we continue to move on," noted David.

"It shows that we have a lot of willing and new players who are willing to raise their hand up and say that they deserve to be on the national team, and I think that is what we showed tonight (Thursday) with the effort from the new guys, and the guys that made their debut.

"For me, it was a well-rounded performance by the team, and each and everyone performed their shift, whether they started or whether they came on and it was good discipline and good concentration because we know sometimes that concentration lets us down in some important games.

"But, today (Thursday) we stayed concentrated for 90 minutes and everybody just put in their shift and did a good job.”

Commenting on the performance of goalkeeper Denzil Smith, 23, of Tiger Tanks Club Sando who made his debut in the win, David said he had some important saves during the match.

“Denzil has been around the national set-up for a while, he’s just been awaiting on his opportunity. So, he was there before with the senior players like Marvin (Phillip), and Nicklas (Frenderup) who unfortunately are injured, so he learnt a lot from then, and it wasn’t that he would be scared or anything like that because he has been around, and I thought he did a tremendous job.

"He had some important saves for us and he didn’t show any nervousness, he was confident and he was very vocal for us, and he was a key player, and I just think that this is a performance for him to build on because he did a great job.”

James: I was ready to make an impact

Striker Nathaniel James, who scored the winning goal against Curacao on debut in T&T’s 1-0 win, said he was ready to answer coach Eve's call.

Speaking after the match and his match-winning strike on his senior team debut, the 19-year-old La Horquetta-born James said, “I know when coach (Eve) called me it was to make an impact to the game, and I just wanted to be explosive and I wanted to be an asset to the team, and it was a great feeling.”

He added, “The goal, and everything just happened in slow motion and it was a lot of emotions running through my mind, and head and it was a great feeling and I’m really proud and thankful for the opportunity.”

James noted his goal celebration was in tribute to a close friend who passed away recently to gun violence.

He explained, “It was a tribute to my friend who passed away in La Horquetta and I just wanted to dedicate the goal today (Thursday) to him and it was a lot of emotions, and it was just basically a message to everyone that we need to come together as a community and as a country and just be one with each other and live in harmony."

The 2023 T&T Premier Football League top goal scorer, James, formerly of Queen’s Royal College added that he can be a real asset to coach and the national team going forward.

A confident James added, "I can bring a lot of explosiveness to the team and can be used as a winger, attacking midfielder and as a striker, and I think I can also be very dynamic and help the team.

“Getting the nod to go on late in the game with the game as it was, shows a lot of confidence from the coach and showed that in a time like that, he believed in me, and it also shows that I can compete at that level," said the T&T striker.