Fri, Dec

Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Denzil Smith watches on during a match against El Salvador at Estadio Jorge "El Mágico" González, San Salvador, El Salvador on Sunday, September 10th 2023.

DENZIL Smith, 23, like many goalkeepers, did not start off in that position.

However, after encouragement to put on the gloves from his national team-mate Levi Garcia at Santa Flora Government Primary School, he never looked back.

Smith, who has only played two competitive matches for the Soca Warriors, was one of the team's star players in an upset 3-2 win over El Salvador earlier this month in the Concacaf Nations League. Smith made several spectacular saves during the match to help T&T hang on for the victory – their first competitive senior win in that country.

In stoppage time, Smith denied El Salvador from equalising with a header as he pulled off a diving one-handed save, pushing the ball out for a corner kick.

Smith said he too was surprised by some of his heroics that day. He told Newsday, "I would say the last save of the game (was my best), the header. It was out of my reach also. I did not know how, to be honest, I got there...I was shocked."

Smith will be hoping to earn selection on the team when the Nations League continues with a crucial match against Guatemala at Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on October 13 at 9 pm.

A victory will ensure T&T's qualification to the Concacaf Nations League quarterfinals.

Speaking about the match, he said, "I am looking forward to it. I always look forward to any game coming up, it could be a big game, a small game."

On his goalkeeping journey, Smith said he initially wanted to play further up the pitch. "Basically, it all started at primary school. I was not really making the squad (as an outfield) player, but it had one day I went in the goal and just started to save from there."

He said his natural talent caught the eyes of Garcia and the school's coach who both asked him to be the permanent goalkeeper.

"I did not realise (I had potential), it was the players, Levi Garcia and the coach." After attending Santa Flora Government, he also played alongside Garcia at Shiva Boys Hindu College in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL). At the time, the school was a powerhouse in the Secondary Schools Football League.

Smith also developed his ability at Cox Coaching School. The former W Connection goalie, who represented Club Sando earlier this year in the Caribbean Shield Cup, is aiming to get an overseas contract.

"That is what I am pushing for, to be honest, right now," Smith said. He does not have a preferred destination, but wants to play in the one of the best leagues in the world.

Looking ahead, Smith said he has to continue improving by being more vocal, and his outfield distribution via kicks and throws. However, he said his main priority is to communicate better with his team-mates. "I need to speak more to the whole team, not just the defenders. My distribution and stuff I could work on, but the communication is a big part."

A goalkeeper can see the entire field and many goalkeepers often inform players when they are out of position.

Nicklas Frenderup and Marvin Phillips have been the top two national goalkeepers in recent years, but Smith's strong performances recently have certainly given head coach Angus Eve and the coaching staff a headache.

Smith said all the T&T goal-keepers share a close relationship. "All the boys are good. It has no bickering. At the end of the day we are fighting for one spot, but all of us are good...We speak almost every day to be honest."

Smith also highlighted the quality of Christopher Biggette and Jabari St Hillaire, who earned call-ups to the Soca Warriors this year.

SOURCE: T&T Newsday