COUVA, Trinidad, CMC – Tom Saintfiet appealed for more time to shape the Trinidad & Tobago Soca Warriors into a formidable force following elimination from the CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifiers.
An extra-time brace from Andrew Jean-Baptiste upstaged a hat-trick from Shahdon Winchester and saw Haiti continue on the road to the Gold Cup, following a 4-3 victory over T&T on Sunday at the Ato Boldon Stadium in this central Trinidad town.
The result followed the Soca Warriors splitting a pair of friendlies with Nicaragua and losing 2-1 in extra time against Suriname in another Gold Cup qualifier.
“I had very limited time,” said Saintfiet. “I came here a week before the games started and I had to select a squad, so I was seeing some matches and I was counting on advice.”
Many of the top Soca Warriors’ players were not available, due to one reason or another and Saintfiet said this affected the competitiveness of his side.
“We had no FIFA dates and we invited Khaleem Hyland, Jan-Michael Williams, Levi Garcia, John Bostock, Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones, Cordell Cato and Mekeil Williams (and all of them could not show up),” he said.
“We invited a lot of players who were not available for several reasons, not released because of FIFA dates or personally not ready to perform for the team.
“There are consequences if you have a lot of good players missing for such important games. On the other side, I saw in these two weeks the boys growing, working very hard and I think even the local people discovered some local players that they never expected to play at this level.”
Saintfiet said the matches allowed him to get a better grasp of the depth of the playing assets available to the Soca Warriors.
“I have some good experiences of working with the boys and for sure some of the players proved that in the future they have to be on the squad, but in the four matches in two weeks’ time, I learnt that some people are maybe not yet ready for it,” he said.
Saintfiet will now turn his attention in the coming weeks to fine-tuning the side for resumption of World Cup qualification in March, when they are due to face Panama.