There were four new inclusions but no major surprises today when Trinidad and Tobago national under-20 head coach Derek King named his 20-man to contest next month’s CONCACAF Championship in Jamaica.
The top four teams at CONCACAF level will advance to the New Zealand 2015 FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
The young “Soca Warriors” lifted the Caribbean crown in September—albeit in a competition that did not include regional rival, Jamaica—and King believes his team is even stronger now.
Caribbean Cup MVP and gifted frontman Kadeem Corbin, attacking midfielders Levi Garcia and Kishun Seecharan, holding midfielder Neveal Hackshaw and versatile defender Jesus Perez all had trials in Europe since while defender Maurice Ford and winger Akeem Garcia played regularly in the local Pro League for defending champion DIRECTV W Connection. The 17-year-old Garcia (L), who is a Form Five student at Shiva Boys Hindu College, is believed to be close to a European move.
These players will be joined in Jamaica by a United States-based quartet of university students in: Brendon Creed (Temple University), Leland Archer (College of Charleston), Duane Muckette (University of South Florida) and Ricardo John (Virginia Tech).
Houston Dynamo Juniors custodian Johan Welch, who was first choice for the young Warriors during the Caribbean qualifying stage, completes King’s tally of five US-based players.
“These player such as Muckette, Creed and John will definitely add some quality to what we already have,” said King, “with the likes of Corbin, Levi Garcia and the other boys who did exceptionally well for us in the Caribbean Championship.”
Creed, Archer and Welch have all graduated from the national under-17 team while Muckette, who was installed as vice-captain of the current squad, was a starter on the national under-20 squad in 2012, which crashed out in the first qualifying phase.
The rest of King’s under-20 squad includes: captain Shannon Gomez, Martieon Watson, Jabari Mitchell, Aikim Andrews (all W Connection), Javon Sample, Kevon Goddard (both Central FC), Akeem Humphrey (Club Sando) and Matthew Woo Ling (St Anthony’s College).
North East Stars’ holding midfielder Keon Joseph and Naparima College striker Nicholas Dillon failed to keep their spots from the Caribbean qualifiers while others like Defence Force winger Akeem Roach, who missed several sessions due to illness, did not do enough to force their way in.
Roach was among the scorers on Saturday when the young Warriors whipped Caledonia AIA 5-1 in a practice match. Corbin, who is a Pro League player with St Ann’s Rangers, scored twice against Caledonia while Woo Ling got one goal from the penalty spot.
Last week, King told Wired868 he would try to stuff his team with utility players for the gruelling tournament that comprises of five group matches in 12 days, which is contrary to the FIFA bylaw for the welfare of players.
“We need players who can play in more than one position,” said King. “The 20 we select will more or less be players who can play in more than one position so it gives us an opportunity to rotate.”
The national under-20 team has not played a single international practice game since they got together as they made do with match-ups against local Pro League and Super League clubs. In contrast, the United States and Canada both had European tours with games against the likes of England and Russia while teams like Jamaica and Panama recently finished invitational international tournaments.
The young Warriors were forced to cancel a trip to Mexico due to financial issues while they also delayed their proposed Fort Lauderdale tour, which was initially supposed to begin on Saturday.
At present, the national under-20 team does not have US visas.
“We are waiting for an Embassy appointment for either Monday evening or Tuesday morning,” said King.
It would have cost an estimated TT$17,000 for visas for the squad and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA), by its own record, banked TT$1.6 million from the senior women team’s FIFA Play Off contest against Ecuador on December 2.
However, TTFA official William Wallace said he delayed the acquisition of visas due to uncertainty over the funding of the trip to Fort Lauderdale.
“I put a hold on the visa (applications) when I heard the funding was a trouble because that is about $17,000,” said Wallace. “There was a definite ‘no’ from the PS on Monday who said that there were no funds. So we were then hoping to train here and travel to Jamaica directly and we wouldn’t need visas for that.
“So I put a hold on it until I was sure about the funding. Not knowing put a spoke in our planning.”
Unfortunately it meant that, when the SPORTT Company did agree to fund the young Warriors last Tuesday evening, the players did not have the necessary travel documents to immediately proceed to their pre-CONCACAF camp.
At present, the under-20 squad is due to depart for Florida on Thursday January 1. The Warriors will then play matches against undisclosed teams on January 3 and 5 before heading for Jamaica on January 7. King hopes that at least one of those matches will be against the Canada under-20 team.
The team’s camp in Fort Lauderdale is fully funded by TSTT.
Trinidad and Tobago is grouped with hosts Jamaica, Aruba, Panama, Guatemala and the United States at CONCACAF level. The group winner will qualify automatically for the Under-20 World Cup while the second and third placed teams will enter a play off.
(Trinidad and Tobago national under-20 team)
Goalkeepers: Johan Welch (Houston Dynamo Juniors), Javon Sample (Central FC);
Defenders: Shannon Gomez, Martieon Watson, Maurice Ford (all W Connection), Brendon Creed (Temple University), Leland Archer (College of Charleston), Jesus Perez (North East Stars);
Holding midfielders: Neveal Hackshaw (North East Stars), Kevon Goddard (Central FC), Akeem Humphrey (Club Sando), Matthew Woo Ling (St Anthony’s College);
Attacking Midfielders: Aikim Andrews, Akeem Garcia, Jabari Mitchell (all W Connection), Duane Muckette (University of South Florida), Levi Garcia (Shiva Boys HC), Kishun Seecharan (Club Sando);
Forwards: Kadeem Corbin (St Ann’s Rangers), Ricardo John (Virginia Tech).
Derek King (head coach), Hutson Charles (assistant coach), Michael Maurice (goalkeeper coach), Stephen Hart (technical advisor), Douglas Archer (manager), Wayne Cunningham (assistant manager), Terrence Babwah (doctor), Michael Taylor (physio), Sharon Joseph (trainer), Michael Williams (equipment manager), Shaun Fuentes (media officer).