Shiva Boys Hindu College student Judah Garcia was part of an 18-man Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Under-20 Team which left Piarco International Airport this morning for the six-nation Guadeloupe Invitational tournament, which runs from 18-21 May.
Garcia, who debuted for the senior Soca Warriors against Panama last month and is the 2017 Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) MVP, is one of three players from the National Intercol champion school in the side, goalkeeper Denzil Smith and defender Jabari Graham being the other two.
Presentation College (San Fernando) flanker Jordan Riley, Trinity College East attacker Kishon Hackshaw, San Juan North utility player Brandon Semper and the St Anthony’s College quartet of forward Jaydon Prowell, goalkeeper Jabari Brice, defender Derron John and Jesse Williams are among the top schoolboy performers included in the squad.
However, the young Warriors are without St Augustine Secondary midfielder Rivaldo Coryat, Shiva Boys maestro Tyrel “Pappy” Emmanuel and St Anthony’s midfield engine Jodel Brown.
Head coach Russell Latapy revealed that he was obliged to leave a few important players at home.
“Because exams are going on right now, there are a lot of players who I would have loved to take on this trip but unfortunately I cannot,” Latapy told the TTFA Media. “But it is a fantastic opportunity for some of the other players to stake a claim for their pick for the tournament in November.”
The Invitational tournament splits its six participants into two groups, with Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Martinique in one bracket while French Guiana, Haiti and hosts Guadeloupe are in the other.
Trinidad and Tobago open their campaign against Costa Rica on Saturday and then face Martinique on Sunday. The winners, runner-ups and table-proppers will face each other in the final day of competition on Monday 21 May.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the team and the coaching staff to see where we are in terms of our preparations,” said Latapy. “We are definitely looking forward to it.”
Despite the absences, Latapy’s squad is not short of international experience. Smith was a stand-out performer with Trinidad and Tobago’s previous Under-20 squad while QRC playmaker John-Paul Rochford, Brice, Williams, Semper, Hackshaw and Prowell all played for Latapy at Under-17 level two years ago.
Trinidad and Tobago will officially get their Poland 2019 Under-20 World Cup qualifying campaign under way in November when the two-island republic play in the regional competition.
Latapy failed to steer his Under-17 team beyond the group stage of Caribbean competition in 2016, despite having home advantage. However, he had less than a month to prepare his squad in that instance.
The former Porto icon and 2006 World Cup player has had more time to mould his side this time around and he insisted that the talent is there. Their development, he said, is still a work in progress.
“We have a bunch of talented players as we always do in this country,” said Latapy. “What we were lacking and what we are trying to work on is the tactical side of the game in relation to where the ball is and what the positional play will be. We have been improving on it so far and we just need to keep working at it.
“We have a squad of players that technically are above average but we know playing with the football in the modern game is not enough. You have to learn and know how to run off the ball, how to create space, how to close spaces down when you are not in position.”
“We have worked with the boys for some time. We are fairly happy with where they are right now from when we took the squad… The development of these players is important—and not only as football players but as men.”
Trinidad and Tobago U-20 squad: Jabari Brice, Denzil Smith, Jesse Williams, Kerdell Sween, Jabari Graham, Derron John, Brandon Semper, Shakeem Joseph, Anthony Samuel, Shem Clauzel, Judah Garcia, Darnell Hospedales, Darnell Charles, John-Paul Rochford, Isa Bramble, Jordan Riley, Kishon Hackshaw, Jayden Prowell.