Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team coach Brian Williams described yesterday’s goalless draw against Cuba as “a good start” for the two island republic and insisted that his squad is still growing.
The young Soca Warriors and Cuba are in a four-team Caribbean Cup group in Curaçao, which also includes Haiti and St Lucia. Haiti stormed to the front of the group yesterday evening after a 5-1 win over the St Lucians.
“I think this was a good start for us,” Williams told the TTFA Media. “It was a difficult game, very physical and well contested by both sides but our boys handled it very well. We knew it was going to be tough heading into the match and I think Cuba also had to put in a decent shift on the evening.
“The first half was pretty balanced. We had one good chance and Cuba also had a chance on goal after a defensive blunder on our part.
“We had three second half substitutes, Jarred Dass, Kathon St Hillaire and Kori Cupid all coming on and making a good contribution. There’s always room for improvement and we are still growing as a unit.”
Trinidad and Tobago face St Lucia next on Monday evening before they close their group assignments on Wednesday night against Haiti. The top two teams advance to the Caribbean Cup semi-finals and automatically secure a CONCACAF spot while the the best third place team from the two groups also go to the Under-20 CONCACAF Championship.
Williams said his players are ready to go after a win against St Lucia.
“The boys are in good spirit after the match,” said Williams, “and now we will be looking to have a strong showing against St Lucia and go all out for the win on Monday.”
Williams, a former Strike Squad defender, also tried to explain why his technical staff took 23 players to Curaçao although only 20 could be registered. And why they flew in defender Jacob Sooklal from Canada, although he was concussed a week earlier and had been banned from training by his school.
Jacob landed in Willemsted a day before the 23-man squad was selected and was promptly ordered to watch the competition from the stands.
Williams explained that his technical staff, which includes manager Dunston Williams, was fully aware of Sooklal’s injury before they sent him his plane ticket.
“We knew since last month that Jacob Sooklal suffered the concussion,” said Williams, “and his coach in Canada made a decision to sideline him from training which put him off a bit. But he has been a part of this squad from the start and the other two players are also part of this squad.
“Jacob was back in training with us yesterday but we had to make that decision in advance to avoid the risk and go with another player.”
TTFA media officer Shaun Fuentes claimed that the National Under-20 Team technical staff, according to manager Dunstan Williams, got medical clearance for the player to join the squad. Despite having three additional players and six staff members, the Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team did not travel to Curaçao with a doctor.
The national youth coach also justified taking Naparima College defender Rondell Payne and Cengem Harlem Strikers attacker Moses Jaikaran to a Panama training camp and then to Curaçao although they will watch the action from the stands.
“As a staff we also made a decision to have at least 22 players in camp in order to have numbers to make up two teams for our training scrimmage sessions and so on,” said Williams. “We wanted to maintain a complete squad and to keep everyone involved for the duration of the tournament, which is why we brought the 23 players here to Curaçao.”
Trinidad and Tobago team (against Cuba): 1.Denzil Smith (GK), 13.Isaiah Garcia (3.Kori Cupid), 5.Taryk Sampson, 6.Noah Powder (8.Jarred Dass), 17.Keston Julien, 11.Kareem Riley, 12.Shane Sandy, 7.Isaiah Hudson, 10.Jabari Mitchell (captain), 14.Taofik Lucas-Walker (15.Kathon St Hillaire), 9.Nicholas Dillon.
Unused substitutes: 20.Jabari Brice (GK), 2.Andrew Rullow, 4.Kierron Mason, 16.Micah Lansiquot, 18.Josh Toussaint, 19.Morgan Bruce.
Technical staff: Brian Williams (head coach), Kerry Jamerson (assistant coach), Dunstan Williams (team manager), Nigel Neverson (goalkeeping coach), Dexter Thomas (trainer), Esmond O’Brien (equipment manager).