Naparima College playmaker Justin Sadoo, who was the Pro League Youth competition MVP, is closing in on his international debut for Trinidad and Tobago as he was included in the National Under-20 Team’s 26-man squad for a pre-tournament camp in Colombia.
National Under-20 Team coach Brian Williams named seven overseas-based players in his squad and will hope to include AZ Alkmaar winger Levi Garcia as well as Central FC forward Nicholas Dillon and San Juan Jabloteh left back Keston Julien, who are both on trial in Europe at present.
Garcia, Dillon and Julien miss the Colombia tour stint but can be included in time for the CONCACAF Under-20 Championships, which kicks off in Costa Rica on 15 February 2017.
Trinidad and Tobago are grouped with Bermuda, El Salvador and hosts Costa Rica and must finish among the top two nations to advance to a second qualifying group stage. The top four teams from the CONCACAF Championships advance to the South Korea 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup this May.
The national youth team leaves for Cali on Thursday where they are expected to play up to five training matches against Colombian professional teams and, hopefully, one friendly against the Colombia National Under-20 team.
Williams’ troops should have headed to South America on Saturday 21 January but the coach put the delay down to “unfinished arrangements” which, according to TTFA media officer Shaun Fuentes, meant necessary adjustments to their training camp schedule.
Williams, a former Strike Squad standout, said he is happy with the composition of his 26-man squad.
“These 26 players came from the previous ten-day training camp we had and also comprises players we had been monitoring earlier in the season,” Williams told the TTFA Media. “We believe this is the best 26-man squad at this time with the level of experience necessary to complete at the international level and in such a tournament as the CONCACAF championship.”
The seven current overseas-based players in the National Under-20 Team are: Montel Joseph, Jadel Poon Lewis, Coby McGregor, Noah Powder, Marc Gangia, Morgan Bruce De Rouche and Taofik Lucas Walker.
Poon-Lewis, a former QRC goalkeeper who attends Franklin Pierce University in the United States, is the only player from the seven who was born in Trinidad and Tobago.
Powder, a promising ex-New York Red Bulls II fullback, Bruce, a versatile England-based midfielder, and DC United attacker Taofik Lucas Walker represented the National Under-20 Team during the earlier qualifying rounds.
However, Cedar Stars Academy defender Coby McGregor and Odense BK midfielder Marc Gangia are both making their first stints in a Trinidad and Tobago national team.
“This leg of the preparations in Colombia is about getting the final chemistry in relation to the starting eleven and the final 20,” said Williams. “Our main objective over the past few weeks was to get the team physically and mentally in the best shape possible. And now we will focus on everything game related with emphasis on how we will want to play against the teams we are scheduled to face.
“We have at least five games carded for Colombia including one against their Under-20 national team, a couple against full pro teams and another couple against reserve teams which I think will serve us well during the camp and fall nicely into what are looking to achieve during this period.”
Garcia, who has nine National Senior Team caps with two goals, tops Williams’ wish list for the CONCACAF qualifying series although his availability is at the discretion of his Eredivisie employers.
Williams said National Under-20 Team team manager Dunstan Williams and TTFA general secretary Justin Latapy-George were in discussions with AZ for the gifted teenager who has not been a first team regular for his club this season.
Dillon, who was the National Under-20 Team’s leading scorer through the Caribbean qualifying rounds with eight goals, is on trial with Belgium Second Division club, K Patro Maasmechelen, at present while Julien is in Slovakia trying to secure a move.
“Keston and Nicholas are both on trials and will join the team in Costa Rica and we are still very hopeful of getting Levi to join us in time for the competition,” said Williams. “Noah Powder, Morgan Bruce and Jadel Poon-Lewis will join the squad in Colombia.”
The deadline for submission of squads for the CONCACAF competition is 8 February.
United States-based students Jarred Dass and Andrew Rullow, who were denied leave by their respective colleges to attend the Colombia tour, look to have missed out.
Dass, a gritty and industrious wide player, was a former National Under-17 player and played both Caribbean qualifying rounds with the Under-20 side. While the lanky Rullow, a former St Anthony’s College utility player, was used in central defence during the Caribbean Cup finals.
Former National Under-17 and St Benedict’s College utility player, Anthony Herbert also appears to have missed his chance due to, according to Williams, a combination of immigration issues and his US college’s reluctance to spare him for the tour.
At present, Herbert is attached to the New York Red Bulls’ academy.
The local-based players are headed by team captain Jabari Mitchell, who participated in the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championships alongside Dillon and Garcia.
Shiva Boys Hindu College goalkeeper Denzil Smith, who is yet to concede during regulation time after four competitive games for Trinidad and Tobago, retains his place as well as defenders Taryk Sampson and Kori Cupid, midfielder Shane Sandy and wingers Micah Lansiquot and Kathon St Hillaire who participated in both qualifying rounds so far.
The new additions include versatile Police FC attacker Joshua Leach, St Augustine Secondary captain and ex-National Under-17 playmaker Jesse Joseph, Malta Carib Alcons midfielder Joshua Sitney and Naparima’s Sadoo.
Presentation College (San Fernando) captain Kareem “Enzo” Riley, who was an ever-present for the team at National Under-17 and Under-20 level, is a big omission, as he misses out through injury.
St Anthony’s College goalkeeper Jabari Brice, Shiva Boys utility player Yohannes Richardson and Canada-based defender Jacob Sooklal are the other players from the early rounds who will not go to Costa Rica.
W Connection attacker Isaiah Hudson, Shiva Boys midfielder and Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) 2016 MVP Tyrel “Pappy” Emmanuel and Shiva Boys winger Quinn Rodney were not considered for selection either due to different disciplinary issues.
(Trinidad and Tobago 26-man squad for Colombia tour)
Goalkeepers: Denzil Smith (Shiva Boys/W Connection), Montel Joseph (Boreham Wood FC—England), Dejourn Charles (Carapichaima East), Jadel Poon Lewis (Franklin Pierce University—US);
Defenders: Taryk Sampson (Ma Pau Stars), Kori Cupid (Presentation College, San F’do), Kierron Mason (Marabella Family Crisis Centre), Isaiah Garcia (W Connection), Simeon Bailey (Barataria South), Coby McGregor (Cedar Stars Academy—US), Kyle Thomas (San Juan North/San Juan Jabloteh), Noah Powder (Unattached—US);
Midfielders: Shane Sandy (Naparima/Ma Pau Stars), Jabari Mitchell (W Connection), Marc Gangia (Odense BK—Denmark), Morgan Bruce De Rouche (Unattached—England), Micah Lansiquot (St Ann’s Rangers), Joshua Sitney (Malta Carib Alcons), Justin Sadoo (Naparima/Point Fortin Civic), Stephan Marcano (Fatima College), Jesse Joseph (St Augustine Secondary/San Juan Jabloteh);
Attackers: Kathon St Hillaire (St Ann’s Rangers), Joshua Leach (Police FC), Taofik Lucas Walker (DC United—US), Rushawn Murphy (St Ann’s Rangers), Josh Toussaint (St Ann’s Rangers).
Staff: Brian Williams (Head Coach), Dunstan Williams (Manager), Kerry Jamerson (Assistant Coach), Ross Russell (Goalkeeper Coach), Michael Taylor (Physio), Esmond O’Brien (Equipment Manager).