One returned with his team on the verge of clinching a group stage win in World Cup qualifying. The other made his way back after his country narrowly advanced to the next round of the Caribbean Cup.
But Charleston Battery internationals Neveal Hackshaw of Trinidad and Tobago and Quinton Griffith of Antigua and Barbuda shared one common experience from the end of last week’s international period: A very long day of travel.
“It sucked,” said Hackshaw, a 20-year-old defensive midfielder for both the Battery and Trinidad and Tobago’s senior national team, the Soca Warriors.
Hackshaw made his way back to Charleston on March 30, the morning after T&T trounced visiting St. Vincent and the Grenadines 6-0 to take a commanding three-point lead over the USA in CONCACAF Group C World Cup Qualifying. He got about three hours of sleep before reporting to the stadium to catch a ride with his teammates to Melbourne, Fla., for the Battery’s April 1 match with Orlando City B.
The first-year Battery man figured as a substitute in both wins over St. Vincent, providing the back-breaking assist in Trinidad’s 3-2 first-leg victory on March 23. The home team had twice taken the lead, but the Soca Warriors had twice equalized by the time Hackshaw entered in the 82nd minute.
Within moments of checking in, Hackshaw spotted left winger Levi Garcia of AZ Alkmaar making a run off his blind side. Hackshaw’s long diagonal pass bounced right into his path. “He took it in stride and just hit it home one time,” for the match-winner, Hackshaw said.
Trinidad and Tobago will qualify for the the next round of World Cup qualification with a win at home against Guatemala or on the road against the United States in September.
Griffith, now in his fourth season with the Battery, played every minute in both of Antigua’s Caribbean Cup matches: a 2-1 win over Aruba on March 23, and a 1-0 loss to rivals St. Kitts and Nevis on March 29. His Benna Boys with be the No. 3 seed in its three-team group when Cup play resumes.
“We knew the first game we had to win, because the second game we knew would not be easy for us,” Griffith said. “So the first game was not as tough, but we won it. We could have scored more goals, but so be it.”
Despite short rest, long travel and heavy legs, Griffith returned to the Battery starting XI against OCB. Hackshaw, who has emerged as the Battery’s top option at defensive midfield next to Justin Portillo, made his Battery and USL debut in the second half of the Battery’s scoreless draw.
“It was pretty frustrating,” Hackshaw said. “We had a lot of possession, but sometimes the final pass wasn’t right. We got chances, hit the post, defenders blocked the shot. Goalkeeper made a couple of good saves. Even though we had all the possession, we were getting frustrated just trying to get it in.”
Hackshaw could assume the starting DM role in Saturday’s home match with Wilmington Hammerheads. It was filled by fellow Trinidadian Ataullah Guerra — typically an attacking specialist — against New York Cosmos and in the Battery’s first two USL games.
“I’m feeling great,” Hackshaw said of his return to regular training in Charleston. “I’m ready to make the team stronger than how it is already, I’m ready to help us win and do what I have to do to make us successful.”
The Battery hosts Wilmington in a Southern Derby Cup match Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $10 and can be purchased online at charlestonbattery.com or over the phone at 843.971.GOAL (4625).