STRIKER Nathaniel "Natty" James wants to combine with Levi Garcia for the Soca Warriors, as the teenager believes he can form a solid attacking pair alongside the Greek-based player against the US in the quarter-finals of the Concacaf Nations League on Thursday and Monday.
The first leg of the quarter-finals will be played in Austin, Texas on Thursday at 10 pm, TT time. The second leg will kick off at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo, on Monday at 8 pm. The winner over the two legs will not only advance to the semi-finals of the Nations League but will earn a spot at the 2024 Copa America.
James, who has settled down quickly in T&T colours, wants the Soca Warriors to be confident.
"We are here for a purpose. I think the team needs to be brave in attack and we need to be disciplined in defence," James told TT Football Association media. "I think we could do really well here. Everyone is in high spirits, it is a good bunch...I am happy to be here."
On the possibility of playing with Garcia, James said, "I am really happy to be here with Levi. I really want to play with him and I think we can combine well in the attack. I think it will be a good experience for me. The amount of knowledge (he has) and the amount of things he can teach me, I think it will be good."
James and Garcia have similar traits, using speed and skill to evade defenders. The Soca Warriors have welcomed the return of Garcia after recovering from a leg injury.
Despite just having a few caps under his belt, James has already scored two match-winning goals for T&T in the Nations League group phase. Against Curacao he scored the winner in a 1-0 victory for the Soca Warriors and in a match against Guatemala, his late free kick led to a 3-2 win.
"I just take one game at a time. I try not to have any pressure on myself. The coach (Angus Eve) knows what I can do, he believes in me so I just go out and I do what I can do. It is natural to me, the brain is on autopilot."
James said he is enjoying the experience of playing with Mt Pleasant after joining the team for the 2023/2024 Jamaica Premier League (JPL) season which began in October. James said the JPL is a physically demanding league.
For the first time in the 2023/2024 Concacaf Nations League, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be introduced during the match between the US and T&T when the teams play each other in the first leg of the quarter-finals.
Jamaican Oshane Nation has been appointed as the referee for the first leg of the clash between the Soca Warriors and T&T. The assistant referee one is Stephanie-Dale Yee Sing, assistant referee two is Ojay Duhaney and the fourth official is Christopher Mason, all from Jamaica.
Canadian Drew Fischer will be the VAR and his assistant in the booth will be Costa Rican Benjamin Pineda.