If the confidence exuded by captain Aubrey David and striker Levi Garcia is anything to go by, then Trinidad and Tobago’s Soca Warriors are poised to give Canada a tough run in their Copa America playoff contest in Frisco, Texas on Saturday.

Both David and Garcia declared intentions of the Angus Eve-coached team to leave everything on the pitch in a bid to upset their more fancied opponents and book an historic spot in the prestigious CONMEBOL Copa America.

The winner of the one-off encounter, will be placed alongside Chile, Peru and reigning Fifa World Cup champions Argentina in Group A for the June 20 to July 14 tournament to be held in the United States.

David, who is expected to have his hands full against a Canadian attack which includes Mallorca forward Cyle Larin, Lille attacker Jonathan David and electric Bayern Munich flanker Alphonso Davies, is determined to lead by example from his centre back position.

"With it being a one-off game, we have to give everything. We are 90 minutes away from making history and changing our lives forever. That's motivation to give everything, to die basically on the field. Anything can happen. We just need to believe in ourselves and try to make history," David told TT Football Association (TTFA) media.

"It's very important for the country and very important for our careers personally and as a team. I think we just need to settle and get focused, and take every day as a step. I think it is a big opportunity for us as a nation to be in the Copa America. It's the biggest thing for us after World Cup (qualification),” the veteran defender, who assumed the captaincy during last year’s Concacaf Nations League A campaign, added.

Meanwhile, Garcia, who has battled numerous injuries during the ongoing season with Greek champions AEK Athens, wants to deliver on the big stage after missing several games in the twin island republic’s Nations League A campaign.

Now back in form at AEK where he has 14 goals in 20 games in all competitions this season, Levi is motivated to put the red, white and black on his broad shoulders.

"It feels good to be back. It's always a pleasure to represent our country. We know the game that's at stake. From now, I usually picture myself either scoring or celebrating," Garcia said.

"I start preparing my mind from now for 90-plus minutes, fighting for every ball. I start seeing myself winning tackles, winning duels, winning everything and trying my best to get the win,” he added.

That said, the veteran striker expressed delight that he has the opportunity to not only represent his country again, but more importantly to possibly achieve a feat that would inspire younger players.

"A lot of people don't know how grateful we are to represent our country. There are a lot of younger guys looking at us for hope and for a way out. These types of games and these types of opportunities are what we need to grasp with both hands and try to set the platform right for these guys,” Garcia noted.

 

Having selected what, he believes to be a formidable squad, Trinidad and Tobago’s Head coach Angus Eve is now hopeful that is Soca Warriors will deliver the goods when the lock horns with Canada in their Copa America playoff encounter in Frisco, Texas, next week.

In fact, Eve would love nothing more than for March 23 to mark another special day in the annals of the twin island republic’s football history by taking the Canadians scalp and, by extension, securing a spot in the prestigious CONMEBOL Copa America.

The winner of the one-off encounter will make a debut appearance at the Copa America tournament, where they will contest group A alongside Chile, Peru and reigning Fifa World Cup champions Argentina. United States, Jamaica, Mexico and Panama are the other Concacaf teams in the tournament.

“We know how important the game is, this would be one of the most prestigious tournaments to go and represent our country in, if we get the victory. (A win) will put us on a different level, on a different map. That would open up a lot of doors for our players,” Eve said during a press conference shortly after naming his 23-player squad.

However, in order to win, Eve is well aware that the first need to defend well to keep the Canadians at bay, and also showcase their attacking prowess.

“We need to defend well—it’s like David against Goliath. It’s top players that they have, so we have to be astute defensively but also offensively. We have to express ourselves so that we can come out with a victory,” Eve declared.

The tactician has included Greece-based brothers, Levi and Judah Garcia in his squad, as both recently signalled a return to form from respective injuries.

“We’re very optimistic of Levi being fit and ready to play. He’s been doing well in [the Greek] League. He’s gone through injuries but we’re very happy to see the form that he’s in. Judah had a back injury and then a groin injury, so he was not available for us. He is back playing, he’s scoring goals, and we think that he can add goals from midfield,” Eve shared.

He also welcomed the return of Atlanta United midfielder Ajani Fortune to the Soca Warriors setup after a series of injuries.

“Ajani had some injuries that affected him, also he was fighting for a place in [his] team. We left him out sometimes by mutual consent, based on injury or a particular situation that was happening at his club,” Eve revealed.

That said, Eve declared that he selected his 23-man squad with a specific skillset in mind.

“[We looked at] the flexibility of the players, players being able to play multiple positions, based on the fact that we may want to change something during the game, and also the level of competition that the players are playing in, at this point in time. Also, giving the players who brought us to this point the opportunity to finish the job,” he ended.

Soca Warriors Squad: Christopher Biggette (Defence Force), Adrian Foncette (Police FC), Denzil Smith (Club Sando FC), Aubrey David (CS Cartagines), Ross Russell Jr (La Horquetta Rangers), Jesse Williams (Chattanooga FC), Robert Primus, Alvin Jones (both Police FC), Andre Raymond (GD Vilar De Perdizes), Shannon Gomez (San Antonio FC), Justin Garcia (Defence Force), Noah Powder (Northern Colorado Hailstorm), Daniel Phillips (St Johnstone FC), Kevon Goddard (Defence Force), Neveal Hackshaw (Oakland Roots), Andre Rampersad (HFX Wanderers), Nathaniel James (Mount Pleasant FA), Kaïlé Auvray ( Mount Pleasant FA), Real Gill (Northern Colorado Hailstorm), Levi Garcia (AEK Athens) Judah Garcia (AEK Athens B), Reon Moore (Pacific FC), Ajani Fortune (Atlanta United).

 

While he welcomes a recent signal of form from Levi Garcia, Trinidad and Tobago’s senior men’s Head coach Angus Eve is not grandstanding about the striker’s return just yet. Instead, he hinted at a wait-and-see approach, as selection will be dependent on Garcia maintaining a clean bill of health.

Eve’s comments followed the 26-year-old’s brace, which assisted his club AEK Athens to a 4-0 away win over Lamia in round one of the Greece Super League playoffs, on Sunday.

Garcia, who missed two of his club's last three games with a slight injury, signalled a return to fitness with the brace after he was introduced as a 78th-minute substitute. His tally now stands on 13 goals in as many matches, as he sits third on the Greek Super League scoring chart, while the win pushed AEK Athens to the summit of the standings.

Though undecided, Eve is optimistic that Garcia will remain healthy and consistent in form, as he is still in the process of finalizing a formidable Soca Warriors squad to tackle Canada in the Copa America qualifying encounter on March 23.

“We’re cautiously optimistic about Levi maintaining his form, and hopefully staying injury-free,” Eve told T&T Newsday.

Plagued by injuries, Garcia has not played for the twin island republic since coming on as a second-half substitute in their 0-3 first-leg defeat to the United Stated in the Concacaf Nations League, late last year.

However, there is no doubt about the pace and flair that Garcia brings to the team, once he is healthy.

“As you know, we haven’t really played with Levi (recently) and we do have a number of players who are playing (consistently). When not injured, Levi has been in tremendous form for his club and we would only hope that he can maintain that level of intensity and match fitness that we can have with our ranks,” Eve shared.

“(But) Everyone has to fight for their place and once they maintain their fitness and their match fitness, which are two different things, they have the opportunity to play for the country,” he added.

Aside from Garcia, Eve pointed out that he has also been keeping tabs on Jong PSV’s Dante Gilbert, who has increased his playing time after returning from injury, along with Judah Garcia, Levi’s younger brother representing AEK Athens B.

“We keep abreast of all the players by communicating with them individually, the coaches and, for the injured ones, our medical department deals with them. We work in synchronization with the clubs,” he declared.

Trinidad and Tobago's Head coach Angus Eve was pleased that they achieved their objective from the two-match friendly series against Jamaica, but expressed that the overall fitness of local players require significant improvements to meet international standards.

Eve's sentiments came after a goalless stalemate between his Soca Warriors and their Reggae Boyz counterparts in the second contest at the Larry Gomes Stadium, on Sunday. Jamaica won the first game at the Hasely Crawford Stadium 1-0 courtesy of a Kahiem Dixon strike.

While he singled out players such as Adrian Foncette, Rhondel Gibson, Kai Moos and central defenders Jamal Jack and Robert Primus as standout performers over the two matches, Eve, who gifted debut caps to seven players, pointed out that getting the local-based players to the desired standard remains a work in progress.

"Everything you do is about stages. Everything about life is stages. Every time you go up a level, the work is more intense. Every time you go up a different level, it means you have to be more prepared," Eve said in the post-match press conference.

"We have to look at what the international standards are and we have to work harder to get the players fitter so they will be ready to play sharper and faster. The football now is more athletic. Jamaica's coach, Heimir Hallgrimsson, is saying the league in Jamaica is too slow. I find the same thing here," he added.

Still, with the friendlies aiding in his charge to gauge players, Eve is now in a better position to identify his final squad for their crucial Copa America qualifying playoff contest against Canada on March 23.

"Sometimes people ask for players to get opportunities, and these are the opportunities we have given to them over these two matches. You get to see who could stand up to physicality and stand up to the pace of the game and stuff like that. When I say our league is a little too slow, normally I get licks for it sometimes," Eve stated.