The Trinidad and Tobago National Men’s Under-17 football team will head to Panama tomorrow for a 10-day training camp, which has been funded by the Ministry of Sport. The excursion serves as preparation for the 2015 Under-17 CONCACAF Championship in San Pedro Sula, Honduras which will decide the four qualifiers for the Chile 2015 Under-17 World Cup.
The junior “Soca Warriors” will play four practice games in Panama including two against Panama’s National Under-17 team. It will be the first time that a national youth team has managed international warm-up games in almost two years and head coach Shawn Cooper is grateful for the opportunity to fine-tune his squad.
“I think our chances are good,” Cooper told the TTFA Media. “We know what is ahead of us and we’ve been able to compete against these teams in past tournaments.
“We’ve worked very hard in the build up so far and this camp in Panama will give us an opportunity to get some much needed match preparation and allow us to do some fine tuning before we head off to Honduras.”
Cooper has overhauled his troops, which qualified fifth from the Caribbean stage, with nine changes from the squad that started the qualifying process including the addition of five overseas-based players.
Striker Jerren Nixon stands out from among the pack, albeit for the accomplishments of his father.
Nixon Senior started all three matches for Trinidad and Tobago in the country’s maiden World FIFA tournament at the Portugal 1991 Under-20 World Cup while he was also a Caribbean Player of the Year and played professionally in Scotland and Switzerland.
His international career was cut short, though, after a fall-out with then FIFA vice-president Jack Warner over the controversial sacking of coach Bertille St Clair after the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup in which Trinidad and Tobago reached the semi-final round for the first time. He was 27 at the time.
The younger Nixon, whose mother Kathy-Ann Nixon was also a Trinidad and Tobago international player, is 16 years old, six foot five and a member of the Philadephia Union youth team in the United States. He can also represent the United States and Switzerland on the international stage but has chosen to wear red, black and white.
The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 team’s other four imports are London-based Stevenage FC midfielder Morgan Bruce, New York Red Bulls midfielder Noah Powder and the US Players Development Academy duo of midfielder Joshua Burnett and Chaz Burnett.
“We’ve added a few players from North America and one midfielder from England, Morgan Bruce,” said Cooper, who led Trinidad and Tobago to the 2013 Under-17 CONCACAF quarterfinal round and also coaches Presentation College (San Fernando). “These additions I believe will add a lot to the team and I expect every player to give it their best shot in the tournament.”
Among the players who miss out, though, are Trinity College East striker Dareem Daniel and St Benedict’s College utility player Anthony Herbert who were the two top scorers from the qualifying rounds.
East Mucurapo Secondary utility player Tekay Hoyce, Presentation College (San Fernando) midfielder Kareem Riley and Naparima College attacker Isaiah Hudson are among the players who have retained their places in the youth team.
Trinidad and Tobago plays its opening World Cup qualifier against Guatemala on February 27 at the Francisco Morazan Stadium before facing fellow Group A participants the United States, Honduras, Jamaica and Cuba—all in the space of 13 days.
The group winner will qualify automatically for the Chile World Cup while the runner-up will enter a Play Off against either of Canada, Haiti, Panama, Mexico, St Lucia or Costa Rica from Group B.
The full Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 team comprises of:
Goalkeepers: Levi Fernandez (Naparima College), Tyrek James (Presentation College);
Defenders: Isaiah Garcia (Shiva Boys HC), Darnell Hospedales, Keston Julien, Shirwin Noel (all Presentation College), Kierron Mason (Naparima College), Tekay Hoyce (East Mucurapo);
Midfielders: John-Paul Rochford (QRC), Joshua Burnett (Players Development Academy—USA), Isaiah Hudson, Kareem Riley, Shobal Celestine (all Naparima College), Noah Powder (New York Red Bulls—USA), Morgan Bruce (Stevenage FC—England), Shakeem Patrick (St Anthony’s College), Kishon Hackshaw (Trinity College East);
Forwards: Jerren Nixon (Philadelphia Union—US), Jeankeon Alexander (San Juan North), Chaz Burnett (Players Development Academy—US).
The technical staff includes: Shawn Cooper (head coach), Muhammad Isa (technical analyst), Ross Russell and Gilbert Bateau (assistant coaches), Christopher Gouveia (manager), Devin Elcock (equipment manager) and Roger Ryan and Michael Taylor (physiotherapists).