Sat, Feb

Trinidad and Tobago's Ryan Telfer (#7) holds off an opposing player during a Concacaf Gold Cup match against St. Kitts and Nevis at DRV PNK Stadium, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday, June 23rd 2023.

Ryan Telfer’s omission from Fatima College’s 2010-2011 BG T&T Secondary Schools’ Football League squad only motivated him to work harder.

Despite helping the school’s U14 and U16 teams dominate their respective divisions during his time there (2006-2011), the 29-year-old right-winger was overlooked by then coach Huston “Baba” Charles for a senior team pick in his final year.

Undeterred, and brimming with talent, Telfer travelled to Canada, went to York University in Toronto and began competing with the university team. He impressed, and in 2017, transferred to Toronto FC’s second team for an entire season.

In 2018, he played three games with the club’s second team, and was then called up to play for the first team in Major League Soccer (MLS), in his first pro contract. He found it tough to secure a regular spot in the starting 11, and joined Ottawa Fury FC on loan later that year.

For the 2019 season, he signed with York9 FC, and played in the newly established Canadian Premier League.

His attacking style was recognised by then Trinidad and Tobago coach and 2006 World Cup player Dennis Lawrence, and Telfer earned his first senior national call-up.

He made his debut against Martinique in the Concacaf Nations League and helped win a penalty for T&T to earn a draw. Since then, he’s made 24 appearances and scored nine.

Following a successful season with York9 FC that year, Telfer moved to Cyprus to play for Nea Salamina Famagusta. His spell there was short-lived and he returned to Canada, to rejoin the renamed York United.

Over the next two years, Telfer represented Canadian club Atletico Ottawa in 2021, then moved to Columbus Crew II to play in the MLS Next Pro, which they won in 2022.

Now he plays for Miami FC in the United Soccer League. They’re currently eighth in the playoffs and need a win from their final match against Sacramento FC on Saturday to make it in.

On Friday night, however, Telfer suits up in red, white and black for T&T’s Concacaf Nations League A test against Guatemala at Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, from 9pm.

“I’m missing the last game (Miami FC) of the season, which could ultimately decide our fate, whether we’ll have a post-season (competition) or not.

"But it’s about getting your priorities right. You have to weigh your options. We (T&T) just need one win to put us into the knockout rounds, and it’s important for the country and younger generation of footballers. We don’t get the opportunity every year to qualify for a prestigious competition like Copa America. I have faith in my clubmates and the national team,” he said.

Telfer is one of eleven foreign-based players brought in for Friday’s clash and Tuesday’s away test against Curacao.

T&T won their two opening group A matches against Curacao and El Salvador, and one win from either upcoming match, guarantees them a spot in the quarter-finals.

Against the latter, Telfer scored in the 22nd minute to level the match 1-1, which spurred on the Angus Eve-led unit to a nail-biting 3-2 victory.

Like his coach, Telfer wants more support from local fans on Friday.

“Nothing changed from since we were last here, about a month ago (against Curacao at Hasely Crawford Stadium) playing at home. If we (are) honest with ourselves and the surroundings, no one actually believes in us to make it to the knockout round, despite even having six points at this stage. People still believe Guatemala to be the better team and whatnot,” he said.

When asked how he plans to handle the match mentally, Telfer replied, “It’s just the focus, being humble and knowing what we’re worth and what we can accomplish if we put our heads together.

“That’s the mindset: nothing to be worried about. God will decide your fate at the end of the day, as he did last month. We have to keep focused on the task at hand, keep out the noise.”

On his goal against El Salvador, he said, “It was a great feeling. (It) came from all of us, especially the back line, for keeping us in the game for the most part. We just needed that one chance or glimpse of home to get going, and it just so happened to be me.

“From that point, the goal made everyone believe that nothing is impossible.

"Sometimes players get scared going into those games, especially the younger guys, the atmosphere sometimes get to them, and it just helps them realise that they have talent too.”

His dream for T&T football is to see the national team “flourish,” whether it’s qualifying for the World Cup or any major tournament, to lifting any trophy or cup.

“We’re giving it our all and hopefully we’d get a chance to play in the expanded FIFA World Cup in future years.

"You just want to give hope for younger generations here in T&T. Let them know they will be wearing my jersey one day.”

Telfer showered praise on domestic football club Skhy FC for playing an integral role in crafting him into the player he is today. He also acknowledged York University coach Carmine Isacco for giving him the opportunity to express himself on the pitch, a move which propelled his football career at a critical stage.

SOURCE: T&T Newsday