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U-23 team faces more squad disruptions

… But Eve welcomes MLS duo to camp

 

Trinidad and Tobago national under-23 football team coach Angus Eve is still enjoying promising results on the field of play as he prepares for this month’s London 2012 Olympic Games qualifiers in the United States.

But Eve might be growing increasingly uneasy about off-the-field matters.

Already denied the services of three of the most talented players from this age group—Khaleem Hyland, Leston Paul and Robert Primus—for differing reasons, Eve is considering the possibility of doing without W. Connection starlet Shahdon Winchester and Poland-based defender Mekeil Williams as well.

The 20-year-old Winchester was expected to be available for the entire pre-tournament tour but was withdrawn by his club to finalise a move to an unnamed overseas professional club. Eve claimed that Connection reneged on two proposed dates for the striker’s re-introduction to the national set-up.

W Connection and Trinidad and Tobago national under-23 attacker Shahdon Winchester

“We have all the local-based players in the camp but there is the problem with Shahdon,” Eve told the TTFF Media, “in that we understand he has gone on a trial in Norway and now we are hearing he is in Spain.

“He was supposed to travel with the team to Jamaica but the management of his club said he had to go off to Norway on business (…) to sign a contract and obviously we are not going to stop a young player with an opportunity like that.

“It is a bit of a hamper…”

Wired868 was unable to reach Connection owner David John Williams for comment.

The Olympic qualifying tournament does not fall within the approved calendar for FIFA international games and so clubs, whether local or foreign, are not obliged to release their players to participate.

Williams, who recently left W. Connection for Polish First Division club Pogon Szczecin, has been allowed to play but has not yet received a US visa. At present, the versatile defender is at a training camp in Turkey and hopes to get the necessary documents when the team returns to Poland.

Eve is anxious for Williams to join his squad with ample preparation time before their opening qualifier against Mexico on March 23 in California. He had hoped to already have the services of the US-based duo of Kevin Molino and Sean De Silva early but might be forced to wait until March 17.

Molino, who represents A’ League team Orlando City, did not receive his club’s blessing to join the under-23s before the previously agreed upon date while De Silva is preparing for an exam at the University of Charleston.

Eve might be grateful for small mercies though.

Hyland’s employers, Belgian top flight club Racing Genk, refused to release the midfielder at all while Primus, who represents Aktobe in Kazakhastan, will not recover in time from a knee operation.

And Paul, the captain of this age group at Under-17 and Under-20 World Cup levels, never responded to invitations to join the Olympic campaign, according to Eve.

But there was still reason for smiles today as recent Major League Soccer (MLS) signing 22-year-old Columbus Crew midfielder Kevan George showed up today while 19-year-old Seattle Sounders striker Cordell Cato is expected on Friday.

George, who migrated from Roxborough to the United States as a 12-year-old, is registered as a holding midfielder but is yet to feature for Crew, which lost its season opener 2-0 to Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

Cato, a former St Anthony’s College player, was more involved for Seattle in pre-season despite the fact that Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero—both once considered prodigies for the United States and Colombia respectively—hold the starting spots. However, he is also awaiting his competitive MLS debut.

Seattle Sounders and Trinidad and Tobago national under-23 attacker Cordell Cato

Both young men will put their professional careers on hold until the end of the month.

Eve claimed to have been keeping tabs on Cato and said the talented teenager might have been involved earlier but was allowed to secure a MLS deal first. He expressed gratitude with Seattle and Columbus for letting the new signings serve their country.

“We are delighted to have Kevan George coming in so early as well to have young Cordell Cato joining the camp,” said Eve. “Cato has been doing very well with his club in their pre-season preparations. He did not play in their opener but he was in the squad and has done quite well to make a squad of talented players…

“Both Cato and George are coming in at a good time before the tournament which will allow them to be part of the gelling process.”

The Olympic hopefuls take on Fort Lauderdale Strikers in a warm-up match tomorrow afternoon before tackling the Canada under-23 team on Friday.

The Trinidad and Tobago Under-23 team has lost just twice from 14 outings under Eve, which included competitive draws with Uruguay, Mexico and Cuba and a thumping 9-1 win over Suriname.

AboutLasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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