Visa and other problems are posing major concerns for National football coach Dennis Lawrence, ahead of two international friendly matches against Japan (June 5) and Canada (June 10), and the start of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States, Jamaica and Mexico in June.
At a press briefing on Monday, the coach gave an update on the team at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Balmain, Couva, when he said a number of players are awaiting their visas, or waiting for interviews for their visas, and among them- Aubrey David, the Deportivo Saprissa/Costa Rica defender who has been under investigation following the submission of his visa application in March, midfielders Ataulla Guerra (Charleston Battery/USA) and Joevin Jones (Seattle Sounders/USA), who it is hoped will get it in time for the Gold Cup.
Also experiencing visa issues are strikers Willis Plaza (Churchill Brothers/India) and Marcus Joseph (W Connection), while Rundell Winchester, the Plastense FC forward has asked for time off to deal with an issue with his son. Lawrence made it clear that instrumental defender Sheldon Bateau (Sarpsborg/Norway) will also be out for the friendlies and the Gold Cup, and physiotherapist Dave Isaac, who has been to the US four times in the past few months, but is also awaiting an interview to receive his visa since he applied for it in March.
The set-backs Lawrence said arose from a sudden change in the process for applying for the visas.
However, there are spectulations that the present challenge maybe as a consequence of the war-of-words between T&T Football Association president David John-Williams and Chargé d'Affaires of the US Embassy John Mc Intyre over visas for T&T Girls U-15 football team to play in the US last year at a CONCACAF Championships.
Lawrence, an ex-national defender turn coach, said he was also disappointed with the attitude of some of the players in the TT camp, for which he has had to be stern. All this he said leads to a weakened TT team ahead of the Gold Cup.
According to Lawrence "The idea was to try to get the Gold Cup team to Japan. We have had a few issues with this in terms of the new US visa system, where we have a couple staff members and players still awaiting visas, and this has hampered some of the decision-making in terms of the squad going to Japan. I can also confirm that Sheldon Bateau will not be available for selection for personal reasons with regards to commitments he made with this club."
Due to the setbacks, Lawrence said he has had to make major adjustments- "Apart from that the ones who are here have been working well, working hard, I still think we are a bit short in attack but we have been trying to rectify the problem."
Lawrence's problems will open the door for a number of players to vie for first-team selection, such as Justin Garcia (unattached), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Kareem Moses (FC Edmonton/Canada), Leland Archer (Charleston Battery/USA).
Lawrence has until June 3rd to submit his full team for the Gold Cup, but in the meantime he will take 19 players to Japan, with the hope of having more of his top players for the Gold Cup, as he does not want to carry players who cannot make it on the Gold Cup team.
The Warriors will open their Gold Cup campaign against Panama on June 18, before meeting host USA and then Guyana for the right to be among the top two to progress from the group.