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Stern trims National U-17s; McFee and Welch aim to rebound from Jamaica shocker

Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team players Jean-Heim McFee and Zachary Welch are anxious to put the embarrassment of their Concacaf Under-15 campaign to bed, as they prepare for their Brazil 2019 World Youth Cup qualifiers.

The young Soca Warriors lost all four games at Concacaf level, two years ago, with 21 goals conceded—including a 8-1 loss to Jamaica. McFee and Welch, both Fatima College students, admitted the effect of that campaign.

Photo: Fatima College attacker Jean-Heim McFee (left) gets behind St Mary’s College defender Nathaniel Williams during SSFL action at Mucurapo Road on September 29 2018.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

“The loss against Jamaica was an embarrassing one,” McFee told TTFA Media. “We weren’t playing as a team. We were playing as individuals and it was embarrassing to the coach and the country.

“We must use our individual skills at times but we have to work as a team to get the results to go forward.”

Welch suggested the only direction for players from that shambolic 2017 Under-15 campaign is up.

“The last tournament didn’t give us the best of results,” said Welch. “We played Jamaica last time and the result wasn’t the best but I think we can use the lessons and experience to come better this time around and really compete and challenge for a qualifying spot.”

Welsh and McFee are among 24 members shortlisted for National Under-17 duty at present as head coach Stern John has already begun trimming his team. Reinforcements are expected this week from North America including Atlanta-based Jerrel Nixon, who is the son of John’s former international teammate and Europe-based attacker Jerren Nixon. Nixon was among the players who took part in a combine at Atlanta last week, as John gave overseas-based talent the opportunity to catch the eye.

At present, the team is training five days per week at the Mannie Ramjohn and Ato Boldon Stadiums.

“So far we’ve seen over forty players and a few have been cut from the squad,” said John. “We’ve begun the process of narrowing the numbers down towards the final selection. We’ve had a fairly good period to work with the players at home and assess their capabilities. And from this week we’ll have some of the guys joining us from North America.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team assistant coach Stern John (foreground) leads the squad in training at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar on 8 March 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“[We will try] to fit them into the mix with the intention of putting together the best possible squad for the competition in May.”

The National Under-17 Team had barely six weeks from their first training session to their opening qualifying match against Bermuda on 1 May at the IMG Academy campus in Bradenton, Florida.

Trinidad and Tobago are also grouped with Jamaica and Mexico. Three teams will advance to the knockout round while the bottom placed team face automatic elimination.

“We are working hard to ensure we do better than the last tournament; we are trying to go out and compete this time,” said McFee, who said players have to lift their standards since the international game is ‘totally different’ to school football. “The team is progressing and the aim is to qualify for the World Cup. My personal view is that our chances are high. The group is set out in a way which I think gives us a fair chance.

“We can beat every team in the group but we have to want it.”

Welch believes that the international experience of John and assistant coach Kenwyne Jones as players would be an asset to the squad. The team was previously coached by iconic former Soca Warriors playmaker and Hall of Fame footballer, Russell “Little Magician” Latapy.

Photo: Shiva Boys Hindu College playmaker Judah Garcia (right) attempts a pass while Fatima College midfielder Zach Welch (centre) stays close during SSFL action at Mucurapo Road on 30 September 2017.
(Courtesy Annalisa Caruth/Wired868)

“Coach Stern and coach Kenwyne both have a lot of experience in the game which is a plus for us and they have been working on getting us to master the ball and get us ready and fit for the tournament,” said Welch. “I think my game has grown over the past two years because coach Russell, coach Stern and coach Kenwyne are all ex-national players and the best to ever play for the country; and they have used their experience to guide and help us. This has been helping the team to grow.

“The coaches are very interactive with the players. They give pointers to us throughout the sessions and the relationship between them and the players is very good as they are giving it their best to help us improve for the tournament.”

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15 comments

  1. It is just really unfortunate that they haven’t had sufficient time to prepare. Not sure what were the reasons but I would guess they lacked the funding for earlier preps.
    Malik Johnson what is it about Stern’s coaching that is questionable?
    He’s a qualified coach, has a good record at pro-league level and has youth and senior experience in the region.

    • Kester Lendor I question his attitude but above all I know that coaching men who already know the game …(senior TT Nationals) is not the same thing as coaching developing U17 Nationals……there is a reason …. Latapy and Shabazz has failed at youth level but Bertil has regularly succeeded…..it entails a different skillset …..I don’t mind if Stern proves me wrong on this but I’ll question him until he does.

  2. Very interestedBrent Bennett has some good boys out there.

  3. Hoping for the best with this team…

  4. Interested to see how many kids in addition to Jerrel Nixon was selected from the Atlanta combine. Keep grinding kids

    • Brent me too….anyone I know other than Jerrel was there?

    • Malik Johnson Jerrel plays as a forward for Concorde Fire U16/17 an Academy in the Development Academy league. In 23 matches so far he has played in 13, started in 6 and scored 1 goal. He has played up in age group with the U18/U19 on 4 occasions starting once. The team is 25th out of 84 U16/17 teams in the top level of club football in the USA. http://conc.ussoccerda.com/sam/teams/index.php?team=1400268&player=37343041

    • Sean Powder he’s way better than those stats indicate….that being said ….they have to improve

    • Malik Johnson I never saw him play, just wanted to supply the information so at least folks have some background. Our(not yours) tendency as people sometimes is to presume one thing or the other because of his parents. I experienced this with his older brother(Jerren Jr.) who was at Philadelphia Union when my son Noah was at Red Bull, they both played U20 for us. The boy did not choose his parents, so let folks judge him on his performance. We have to be cautious with the very young boys emotionally and psychologically.

    • Sean Powder Concorde has traditionally been a very good program…

    • Sean Powder I get it …..but I know him and I rate him…some people in our “family” think he has even more upside than his older brother….but I digress neither of them are as talented as their Dad was…facts…but they don’t have to be…..but they’re both very good and we’d like em to be as good as they can be…..I think Jerrel’s game will improve even more with maturity…because he’s around good people for his development…. right now he enjoys rolling it through your legs a lil more than bending it into the top corner with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot lol …..I say go for both lol……I like his upside but it’ll be in the US because (unapologetically) I don’t expect key coaching from the current staff ….Stern and Kenwyn has experience but I question their coaching particularly Stern’s ……

    • Malik Johnson I am wishing him the best too, let him keep rolling it through the legs but you are right the results of top corner and low far post are all that’s on the scoreboard. I wanted to point out that his team is 24th out of 84 teams in the “Premier League” if you will of youth club football in the USA. That’s in a country of over 300 million with another 5 levels below the level he is playing. It’s not that every foreign based player is good but in general we have to do more to attract these youths

    • Sean Powder I think Trini players and athlete’s have an x-factor that coaches in TT never really tapped into and as a result we missed opportunities to maximise some real talent that was available…..Latas…. Marcelle ..Yorke…Sherwood….Nixon….Glen Benjamin….Ivan Sampson…Kona Hislop ..Otis Seaton…Larry Joseph..Irasto Knights …just to name a few ….we just don’t see that kinda talent just strolling the streets anywhere…..we have to capitalize……on these moments….the 1991 U20 team was a missed opportunity as was the 1996 Olympic qualifying team….. we’ve screwed up so many opportunities of development in TT and now we have this Oompa Loompa in charge of TTFA it pisses me off ..nothing worse than wasted potential

    • I know what I saw at that trial so I’m interested to see who else was selected from the Atlanta combine. I also could care less about what club you play for cause that dont mean much to me. Plenty kids parents dont necessarily have the money to play at the highest level in the US.