The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team continue their South Korea 2017 Under-20 World Cup campaign on Saturday 22 October when they face Cuba from 8:15pm in Caribbean Football Union (CFU) battle at the Ergilio Hato stadium in Willemstad, Curaçao.
But, once more, local football fans will hope that the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) gets its on-field business significantly better than its off-field work.
National Under-20 coach Brian Williams has 23 players in Curaçao but can only register 20 for the tournament.
And, in an odd twist, the TTFA paid to bring teenaged defender Jacob Sooklal all the way from Ontario, Canada only to then leave him in the stands for the entire competition as it transpired that he suffered a mild concussion a weak earlier while playing for his school team.
Even more bizarrely, Sooklal only arrived in Curaçao yesterday.
The other two players who discovered that they would not suit up for the duration of the competition are Naparima College defender Rondell Payne and Cengem Harlem Strikers attacker Moses Jaikaran. The national youth team is managed by Dunston Williams.
The good news is that Williams is happy with the squad’s preparation, after a training camp in Panama, and is anxious to get the show on the road.
“We are as ready as can be at this stage,” Williams told the TTFA Media. “We knew for some time now that Cuba would be our opening game and we have prepared with that in mind.
“I am pretty pleased with the way the team responded in Panama, there was a nice bonding period and the guys worked very hard on the training pitch. Now it is their time to go out and show it on the field.”
The young Soca Warriors enjoyed pre-tournament wins in Panama over the Leones de America Reserves (2-1) and First Division Reserve champions San Francisco FC (3-1), which sandwiched a 2-0 loss to the Panama Under-17 Team.
Williams’ troops topped their three-man preliminary group in June after wins over Guadeloupe and Turks and Caicos and a draw with St Lucia. While Cuba finished as runner-ups in their group behind Antigua and Barbuda.
Williams is taking nothing for granted against Cuba, though.
“We saw how well [Cuba] looked in the Under-17 series last month in Trinidad and I expect they will have a similar kind of approach at this level,” said Williams. “We will need to prevent them from getting on top of us. And we must in fact try to steady our game and get ourselves ahead as early as possible, meaning too that we need to settle early and control the match.
“We need to narrow down on our errors and stay compact for the entire match and of course take advantage of our strengths in the attacking third and finish the chances.”
Haiti and St Lucia are the two remaining outfits in Trinidad and Tobago’s group. The two top teams advance to the Caribbean Cup semifinals and qualify automatically for the CONCACAF qualifying round while the best third placed team from the two groups will also go on the CONCACAF stage, despite being eliminated from the regional competition.
The young Warriors are captained by Jabari Mitchell who played two years ago when Trinidad and Tobago lifted the Caribbean Under-20 title along with striker Nicholas Dillon. Williams welcomes back former National Under-17 left back Keston Julien into his fold with the equally capable Noah Powder likely to move to the other flank.
With Haiti as group favourites, the Warriors would hope for a good start against Cuba to boost their qualification chances.
(Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 squad)
Goalkeepers: Jabari Brice (St Anthony’s College), Denzil Smith (Shiva Boys Hindu College);
Defenders: Taryk Sampson (Ma Pau Stars), Kierron Mason (Marabella Family Crisis Centre), Kori Cupid (Presentation College, San Fernando), Isaiah Garcia (W Connection), Keston Julien (San Juan Jabloteh), Andrew Rullow (University of Charleston—US), Noah Powder (New York Red Bulls II—US);
Midfielders: Jabari Mitchell (W Connection), Morgan Bruce (KRC Genk—Belgium), Kareem Riley (Presentation College, San Fernando), Shane Sandy (Naparima College), Micah Lansiquot (East Mucurapo Secondary);
Forwards: Nicholas Dillon (Central FC), Taofik Lucas Walker (DC United—US), Josh Toussaint (St Ann’s Rangers), Jarred Dass (Stony Brook University—US), Isaiah Hudson (W Connection), Kathon St Hillaire (St Anthony’s College).