Goalkeeper Rushon Sandy, a former member of this country’s Under-20 men’s football teams, is the lone newcomer named in a 23-man squad by T&T Soca Warrior coach Angus Eve for the Concacaf Nations League first-leg quarterfinal away to two-time champions USA on Thursday (November 16) at Q2 Stadium, Texas from 10 (TT time).
T&T who qualified to the quarterfinals as the runner-up from their six-nation League A Group A round-robin qualifiers with three wins from four matches for nine points, one behind table-topper Panama, will then host the Americans at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo on November 20 from 8 pm.
USA currently holds a 21-3-4 all-time advantage against T&T. The teams last faced off in this year’s Concacaf Gold Cup with FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira registering a first-half hat trick in a 6-0 Gold Cup group stage victory for the US, while San Jose forward Cade Cowell, Venezia midfielder Gianluca Busio and FC Cincinnati forward Brandon Vazquez also found the back of the net.
The 20-year-old uncapped Sandy, who attends Yavapai College in the USA was a part of the national U-20 team led by coach Eve at last year’s Concacaf Men’s U-20 Championship in San Pedro Sula, Honduras but was third choice behind Tristan Edwards and Canada-based Jaheim Wickham and is yet to feature for T&T at any level.
Last month, the San Fernando-born Sandy was one of three Yavapai College men’s football team student-athletes, who garnered postseason honours in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC), earning Second-Team All-Conference honours.
For the season, Sandy played in ten games for the Roughriders, starting in goal in nine of them, and picked up four victories in those matches and tallied one shutout.
His marquee victory of the season came on October 7 against Eastern Arizona when he made six saves and helped clinch a playoff spot for the Roughriders.
Apart from Sandy, coach Eve has also recalled the fit-again 25-year-old Greece-based striker Levi Garcia of AEK Athens after he missed all four Concacaf Nations League group matches through injury in September and October.
Garcia led AEK to the Greek League and Cup double last season, scoring 18 goals across all competitions, but has had a start-stop campaign so far only appearing in five out of 16 matches for his club, and is expected to feature today against Lamia before joining up with the Soca Warriors squad.
He was first injured on August 22 in a European Champions League Third Round first-leg away to Belgium’s Royal Antwerp, and only made his return almost a month later on September 21 in a clash with England’s Brighton & Hove in the opening round of the Europa League followed by a league clash with Panathinaikos four days later, in which he was replaced after 75 minutes due to injury.
However, the T&T captain at the Concacaf Gold Cup has since recovered and featured for his club in a 2-0 loss to France’s Marseille in the Europa League on Thursday, and along with Jamaica-based Nathaniel James, Canada-based Malcolm Shaw, USA-based Shannon Gomez, and Scotland-based Daniel Phillips will be welcomed back into the squad after they all missed the final group match in the Concacaf Nations League, a 5-3 away loss to Curacao on October 17.
Making way for Sandy and the returning players are Defence Force back-up goalkeeper Jabari St Hillaire, AC Port-of-Spain midfielders Tyrone Charles, and Duane Muckette, Defence Force midfielder Kevon Goddard, and Finland-based defender Kareem Moses.
The rest of the team selected by Eve includes goalkeepers and Defence Force duo Denzil Smith and Christopher Biggette, captain Aubrey David, Jesse Williams, Justin Garcia, Ross Russell Jr, Alvin Jones, Andre Raymond, Michael Poon-Angeron, Neveal Hackshaw, Noah Powder, Andre Rampersad, Kristian Lee-Him, Kaile Auvray, Reon Moore, Real Gill and Ryan Telfer.
In other Concacaf Nations League quarterfinals, Canada faces Jamaica, Mexico battles Honduras and Panama meets Costa Rica and at the end of the four home-and-away series, the four winners will not only advance to the Nations League final four in March next year but also will clinch their spots in next summer’s Copa America, the eminent South American competition, which will be held at venues in the USA.
The Angus Eve-coached T&T reached the quarterfinals having finished second in the six-team Group A qualifiers with nine points, with a 5-3 loss to Curacao in their final match on October 17, their only blemish.
The four losing quarterfinalists will still have an opportunity to qualify for Copa America 2024 via a single-match direct elimination play-in, where they will play for the two remaining slots awarded to Concacaf nations for the Copa America which will feature 10 CONMEBOL nations and six Concacaf nations.
T&T Concacaf Nations League squad for quarterfinals:
Denzil Smith (Defence Force), Christopher Biggette (Denzil Smith), Rushon Sandy (Yavapai College/USA),
Aubrey David (CS Cartagines/Costa Rica), Jesse Williams (Central Valley Fuego/USA), Shannon Gomez (San Antonio FC/USA), Justin Garcia (Defence Force), Ross Russell Jr (La Horquetta Rangers), Alvin Jones (Tiger Tanks Club Sando), Andre Raymond (Vilar de Perdizes/Portugal)
Michael Poon-Angeron (AC Port-of-Spain), Daniel Phillips (St Johnstone FC/Scotland), Neveal Hackshaw (Oakland Roots/USA), Noah Powder (North Colorado Hailstorm/USA), Andre Rampersad (HFC Wanderers/Canada), Kristiam Lee-Him (IFK Eskilstuna/Sweden), Kaile Auvray (Mount Pleasant/Jamaica)
Reon Moore (Defence Force), Malcolm Shaw (Atletico Ottawa/Canada), Real Gill (Tiger Tanks Club Sando), Levi Garcia (AEK Athens/Greece), Natahniel James (Mount Pleasant/Jamaica), Ryan Telfer (Miami FC/USA).