The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team failed to start their Chile 2015 Under-17 World Cup qualifying campaign on a positive note this afternoon. The junior “Soca Warriors” kicked off the CONCACAF Championship at the Estadio Francisco Morazan in San Pedro Sula, Honduras but crashed to a 4-1 defeat to Central American outfit, Guatemala.
Presentation College (San Fernando) schoolboy Keston Julien, who is attached to the DIRECTV W Connection football club, got Trinidad and Tobago’s lone item in the 45th minute and it temporarily halved Guatemala’s advantage to 2-1.
But the Warriors were already a player short—after defender Shirwin Noel was expelled in the 38th minute—and Guatemala, who got to the CONCACAF tournament via a play-off win over El Salvador, scored twice more for a commanding final result.
Trinidad and Tobago face the United States next from 7.00 pm on Monday night and then tackle the host nation, Honduras, from 9.30 pm on Thursday March 5. It is a six-team group with half of the participants advancing to the final round. But, if the Warriors are to have any hope of a World Cup berth, they cannot leave it too long to start picking up points.
Whether National Under-17 Team head coach Shawn Cooper has the firepower to turn around an abysmal start is another story.
The young Warriors were neglected for much of their preparation while assistant coach Leonson Lewis and technical director Anton Corneal both quit about a year ago due to unpaid salaries. And it was not until two weeks before their CONCACAF opener that the team had its first international warm-up match.
The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 squad, which also endured grossly substandard preparation, at least had more than a dozen players with CONCACAF tournament knowledge and/or Pro League experience plus loads of obvious natural talent.
Whether or not Cooper’s team is blessed with the latter attribute is debatable but they certainly fall short in the former category.
Matters were not helped by the absence of Trinidad and Tobago’s two top scorers during the Caribbean qualifying round as St Benedict’s College utility player Anthony Herbert reportedly migrated while Trinity College East attacker Dareem Daniel did not impress the technical staff with his attitude.
In their pre-tournament camp in Panama, the Warriors conceded 9 goals without scoring from two outings and collected two red cards to boot. They did not do much better today although the stats suggested that the final result did not tell the whole story.
Trinidad and Tobago had 9 shots at goal to Guatemala’s 10—although shots on target were one to five—while the corner kick count read 5 for the Warriors and 7 to Guatemala.
But the scoreline made sober reading.
Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Levi Fernandez failed to reach a right side David Ramos cross in the third minute and Guatemala captain Fernando Fuentes headed it goalward as Diego Raymundo beat two of his teammates in a sprint to poke the loose ball over the goal line.
Fernandez would especially not want to remember the second goal as Victor Valdez beat the Trinidad and Tobago custodian with a 40-yard free kick, which caught the Naparima College student flatfooted as he anticipated a flick on.
Trinidad and Tobago was then reduced to ten players as Noel, a Presentation College (San Fernando) student and Connection player, was ejected in the 38th minute after his follow-through from a clearance caught a Guatemalan player with studs to his chest.
Noel’s schoolmate, Julien, gave the boys in red, white and black a momentary lift with a fine finish in the 45th minute. The overlapping defender weaved his way into the opposing penalty area before arrowing his strike into the far corner.
But, two minutes later, Abel Lemus restored Guatemala’s two goal lead with a clever chip after being left with acres of space in first half stoppage time. And there was more farce in the 54th minute as Fernandez raced out of his area but failed to get the ball and Raymund strolled into the opposing penalty area before completing his double.
Shobal Celestine struck the bar with a close ranged header in the 76th minute off a deep Kareem Riley free kick but it was as close as the Warriors came to another goal.
It has left the Warriors with a mountain to climb if they are to stay alive in the competition. The United States is next from 7 pm on Monday evening.
Trinidad and Tobago: 1.Levi Fernandez (GK); 3.Keston Julien, 4.Tekay Hoyce, 5.Shirwin Noel [Red card 38], 6.Kareem Riley, 7.Shakeem Patrick, 8.Joshua Burnett (10.Morgan Bruce 46), 16.Shobal Celestin, 14.Isaiah Hudson (13.Kishon Hackshaw 76), 19.Noah Powder, 11.Jerren Nixon Jr (9.Chaz Burnett 57).
Unused substitutes: 20.Tyrek James (GK), 2.Isaiah Garcia, 15.Darnell Hospedales, 12.Kierron Mason, 18.John-Paul Rochford, 17.Jeankeon Alexander.
Coach: Shawn Cooper
CONCACAF Under-17 Championship
Guatemala 4 (Diego Raymundo 3, 54, Victor Valdez 10, Abel Lemus 45+2), Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Keston Julien 45) at San Pedro Sula;
USA 5 (Hugo Arellano 5, Joe Gallardo 40, 65, 88, Alejandro Zendejas 43), Cuba 0 at San Pedro Sula;
Honduras 2 (Darixon Vuelto 12, Jorge Alvarez 78), Jamaica 0 at San Pedro Sula;
Jamaica v Guatemala, 4.30 pm, San Pedro Sula;
Trinidad and Tobago v United States, 7 pm, San Pedro Sula;
Honduras v Cuba, 9.30 pm, San Pedro Sula.