The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-23 Team managed to end its short-lived 2016 Olympic Games qualifying campaign on a high note tonight as they whipped Puerto Rico 5-0 at the Juan Ramon Louriel Stadium in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Virginia Tech student Ricardo John scored for the “Soca Warriors” while Portland Times reserve striker Rundell Winchester, Defence Force winger Akeem Roach and DIRECTV W Connection winger Aikim Andrews chipped in with a goal apiece.
The result ensured that St Vincent and the Grenadines advanced from the group while the Warriors and Puerto Rico were both eliminated.
St Vincent and Puerto Rico played to a 2-2 draw last Thursday although the “Vincey Heat” was in the country for less than 24 hours before kick off.
The Vincentians were ruthless against Trinidad and Tobago as they raced into a 4-0 halftime lead. But, that horrific opening 45 minutes apart, the Warriors were the best team of the competition.
Trinidad and Tobago scored three times and conceded once in the second half against St Vincent, as the match finished 5-3 in favour of the Vincentians.
And, although their opening result meant immediate elimination, the Warriors roused themselves tonight with two first half goals and three more after the interval.
Vranes made five changes to his starting team as goalkeeper Montell Joseph, defender Leland Archer, midfielders Xavier Rajpaul and Duane Muckette and John replaced Aaron Enill, Josiah Trimmingham, Aikim Andrews, Jomal Williams and Shackiel Henry respectively.
“I am happy to see the boys come back and play this way. It has been a long few weeks for them, you know, preparing for the tournament and then coming here to get knocked out after one loss,” Vranes told the TTFA Media. “But I know their capabilities and they were able to put the loss behind them and focus on this game. I think the early start helped us and we never looked back.
“Now we have a few days to prepare for the Pan American Games. The players are anxious because they all would like to play against these quality teams. They want to do well for the country and I think this will be a great opportunity for them to go there and do something good and get the experience for the future.”
Ironically, the scorers for seven of Trinidad and Tobago’s eight goals will not travel with the team to the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games in July, since most of them were only in Puerto Rico to replace players with visa issues.
Roach scored three times in the qualifying competition while Winchester and John scored twice each. But Roach and John were both replacement players for the Under-23 squad while Winchester, who will also represent the Warriors at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and, possibly, the upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, is expected back at Portland.
Intriguingly, St Ann’s Rangers attacker Kadeem Corbin was named on the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee’s Pan Am Games roster today for the Under-23 Team. Corbin was already named on the senior Warriors squad, which will compete at the Gold Cup this July.
The senior Warriors play Guatemala, Cuba and Mexico on July 9, 12 and 15 respectively. And the National Under-23 Team faces Uruguay, Paraguay and Mexico on July 13, July 17 and July 21 in Toronto.
National Under-23 manager David Muhammad assured Wired868 tonight that Corbin is not on their final roster for the Pan Am Games.
However, he did not say who will replace the talented teenager on the Pan American Games squad.
Trinidad and Tobago Under-23 squad: Montell Joseph (GK); Alvin Jones, Leland Archer, Jesus Perez, Jelani Felix; Xavier Rajpaul (Aikim Andrews 57), Duane Muckette, Neveal Hackshaw, Kadeem Corbin (Akeem Roach 73); Ricardo John, Rundell Winchester (Jomal Williams 83).
Unused Substitutes: Aaron Enil (GK), Martieon Watson, Jabari Mitchell, Josiah Trimmingham, Shackiel Henry.
2016 Olympic qualifying results
(Mon Jun 29)
Trinidad and Tobago 5 (Rundell Winchester 6, Aikim Andrews 62, Akeem Roach 76, Ricardo John 82, 88), Puerto Rico 0
(Sat Jun 27)
St Vincent and the Grenadines 5, Trinidad and Tobago 3 (Rundell Winchester 55, Akeem Roach 68, 79)
(Thu Jun 25)
Puerto Rico 2, St Vincent and the Grenadines 2