Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team head coach Russell Latapy should have roughly two days with his full squad before they begin their Poland 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign on Thursday evening against St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The junior Soca Warriors, who are captained by Point Fortin Civic midfielder Judah Garcia, are scheduled to depart from the Piarco International Airport at 9pm tonight for Bradenton, Florida, where they will compete in a revamped Concacaf Under-20 Championship at the IMG Academy.
Trinidad and Tobago are grouped with St Vincent and the Grenadines, Puerto Rico, Suriname, the US Virgin Islands and host nation and defending champions, the United States. Only the group winner advances to the final qualification stage.
Their late arrival in Florida will leave Latapy with barely 48 hours with his squad, if their four overseas-based players—Justin Homer (Kean University—US), Luke Singh (Toronto FC II—Canada), Che Benny (Leixões—Portugal) and John-Paul Rochford (Portland Timbers—US)—are flown in promptly to meet them.
The National Under-20 Team restarted training a week ago, on 23 October, after being inactive for three months; and the coach admitted their poor preparation leaves them with virtually no chance of advancing beyond the group stage.
“I think it goes without saying that our expectations would be to do the best that we can and really give these players the chance to be in the shop window,” Latapy told Wired868, in a previous interview, “as there would be lots of clubs, coaches, scouts and schools looking for players.
“In terms of moving forward—with the USA in our group—[it] was always going to be an uphill challenge; and the lack of preparation makes it even harder. But I’ve said to the players that we have a unique opportunity in that we can play without the added pressure of expectation.
“Again, we are going to do the best that we can.”
This week’s Concacaf tournament is unique, as the confederation opted to remove the zonal qualifying stages of the competition for the first time. All 34 participating teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean are split into six groups, according to a new ranking system.
The seeded teams are the United States, Mexico, Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica and El Salvador. Trinidad and Tobago were ranked ninth in the confederation behind fellow Caribbean outfit, Cuba, who are seventh.
The group winners will be split into two new groups from which only the loser from either bracket is eliminated while the remaining four nations advance to the 2019 Under-20 World Cup.
(Trinidad and Tobago squad)
Goalkeepers: Denzil Smith (W Connection), Jabari Brice (Unattached);
Defenders: Kerdell Sween (Trinity College East), Jerrin Jackie (Presentation College, San F’do), Justin Homer (Kean University—US), Mikel Mieres (Morvant Caledonia Utd), Luke Singh (Toronto FC II—Canada), Matthew Beal (Shiva Boys Hindu College), Derron John (Club Sando);
Midfielders: Jabarry Francis (Club Sando), Judah Garcia (Point Fortin Civic), Ethan Bonaparte (St Augustine Secondary);
Attacking midfielders: Che Benny (Leixões—Portugal), Kishon Hackshaw (St Ann’s Rangers), Shaqkeem Joseph (Moruga Secondary), Nickel Orr (San Juan Jabloteh), Mark Ramdeen (Naparima College), John-Paul Rochford (QRC);
Forwards: Isaiah Lee (Monroe College—US), Jaydon Prowell (North East Stars).
Technical staff: Russell Latapy (head coach), Alexandrine Elliot-Procope (manager), Caleb De Souza (assistant coach), Kevin Graham (goalkeeper coach), Otis Hislop (therapist), Devin Elcock (equipment manager), Dexter Thomas (trainer), Dr Kavi Ali (doctor).