HEAD coach of the TT men’s Under-17 national Team Shawn Cooper has announced his 20-man squad for the Concacaf Under-17 Championship to be held in Guatemala from February 11 to 26.
Cooper released the roster to the TT Football Association (TTFA) and the media shortly before a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon.
The squad includes five players from the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premiership champions, St Benedict’s College – namely, Lyshaun Morris, Josiah Ochoa, Derrel Garcia and Jeremiah Niles and Malachi Webb.
Three players from the Premiership runners-up Fatima College were also called up. Goalkeeper Jaden Ottley, defender Jaden Williams and striker Michael Chaves will all represent the yellow and blue outfit from the north on the national youth team.
To add some foreign experience to the roster, Cooper included Crystal Palace’s Rio Cardines. The American sextet of Ailan Panton, Samuel Duncan, Jeremiah Cateau, Armani Rowe, Dominic Wilson and Tyrell Moore were also selected. The young Warriors’ coach believes that these players will be key members of his team, not only for the tournament but also for the future.
On papaer, the young Soca Warriors, on paper, face a difficult task at the tournament having been drawn alongside the United States, Canada and Barbados in Group B.
To prepare for the battle ahead, they will play two matches against fellow tournament participants, Jamaica, on February 4 and 7 in Kingston, Jamaica.
In his press briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Cooper stated, “I, alongside the staff, had a very tedious task in selecting these players. But, I think that they are working very hard and they are looking forward to this competition.”
He continued, “Going through the screening, we wanted players who could have added value to us and not (those who are) just equal to some of our (current) guys. I think, going through the process, we realised that there were about five or six players who can add some sort of experience to the young chaps that we have coming out of the SSFL.”
“We also have an under-14 player – Seth Hadid – who came through the screening and we will be taking him to Jamaica. So, the squad (for the Jamaica trip) will not be of 20 (players), but it will be 21. We think his development needs a game or two at the top level because, as far as I see, he’s (a step) above most of the (other) under-14s.”
“I have always thought that, when picking an under-17 team, you must select about three youngsters who will be around for the next under-17 (cycle) for some continuity, and Seth Hadid is one that I think has a bright future and I’m looking for big things from him.”
Cooper also believes that the players he selected, despite having no international experience, are capable of competing at a regional tournament. “They have a lot of potential”, he said, “(I think that) going to Jamaica will prepare them. They will have an idea (of what playing other countries will be like) because, remember, we haven’t played any international games before.”
“Most of them are just playing with their secondary schools. (But) we (do) have a couple of players coming from the US and England who would have a bit more experience. But, because we didn’t have the opportunity to go through the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) qualifying stage, we were barred from giving the boys the chance (of international football) going into this final leg of (the) Concacaf (Championship).”
The two group games against the US and Canada will prove to be the team’s biggest tests. However, Cooper is confident that his Warriors can match the North American juggernauts and deliver results.
He expressed, “We (Trinidad and Tobago) have matched them before. The last time we played the US U17s back in 2015, we lost 2-0 with Pulisic being one of the scorers. Before that, in 2013, we played Canada and also lost 2-0. So, I think we can match them. They have a lot more experience than us but, on the day, it’s youth football.”
“They (USA and Canada) are carrying professional players (to the tournament); we are carrying schoolboy footballers. But I think the mentality is what needs to change. The boys are taking the advice they are getting and I’m expecting big things from them.”
TT will open their campaign against Canada on February 11. Addressing the preparation for the maiden fixture, Cooper stated, “Right about now, what we are dealing with is the structure and organisation (of the team). We need to be organised to play against these teams.”
“We don’t want to be leaking goals, so we want to be very strong at the back. Transitioning going forward, we have a lot of guys who were dynamic in the SSFL – guys like (Lindell) Sween, (Josiah) Ochoa and (Michael) Chaves who can put the ball in the back of the net with ease. But what we really want to do is have the team structured properly that can be in the game for long periods.”
FULL TT UNDER-17 SQUAD:
Ailan Panton (Darlington Soccer Academy, USA), Jaden Ottley (Fatima College/QPCC)
Lyshaun Morris (St Benedict’s College/Point Fortin Youth Football Academy), Samuel Duncan (Jason Day School/Charlotte FC, USA), Jaden Williams (Fatima College/QPCC), Joshua Figaro (Trinity College East/Trendsetter Hawks), Aydon Caruth (Queen’s Royal College/Police FC)
Josiah Ochoa (St Benedict’s College/Point Fortin Youth Football Academy), Derrel Garcia (St Benedict’s College/Cox Football Academy), Jeremiah Niles (St Benedict’s College/Point Fortin Youth Football Academy), Tau Lamsee (Queen’s Royal College/Pro Series Events), Jeremiah Cateau (Hillgrove High School/Concorde Fire, USA), Armani Rowe (St Benedict’s Prep/Cedar Star, USA), Rio Cardines (Crystal Palace, England), Dominic Wilson (Cumberland Valley High School/Nashville Academy, USA)
Malachi Webb (St Benedict’s College/Club Premier FC), Lindell Sween (San Juan North Secondary School), Tyrell Moore (McEacheran High School/Nashville SC, USA), Vaughan Clement (Presentation College S’Fdo/Cox Football Academy), Michael Chaves (Fatima College/QPCC)
*Seth Hadid included for the two friendly matches against Jamaica