The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team will meet Mexico on equal footing on Sunday after the junior Soca Warriors maintained their 100 per cent group record this evening with a battling 3-2 Concacaf Championship win over regional rivals, Jamaica, in Brentford, Florida.
Two years ago, the two aforementioned Caribbean nations met at the same venue in the Concacaf Under-15 Championship and the result was a humiliating 8-1 win for the young Reggae Boyz. There was none of that nonsense today and, at the final whistle, it was Jamaican players who slumped to the ground and buried their faces in the grass.
Winger Jaiye Sheppard and forward Justin Araujo-Wilson might have especially enjoyed the result. They were among five Trinidad and Tobago players today—including captain Zachary Welch, defender Cephas St Rose and substitute Jean-Heim Mc Fee—who were victims of that mauling, two years ago.
Sheppard and Araujo-Wilson were particularly influential in the preparing of the cold plate of revenge served to the ‘land of ackee and saltfish.’
Jamaica could have had no idea about what was coming their way. For most of the game, the Boyz enjoyed over 60 per cent of ball possession and it was they who struck first. The match was 17 minutes old when flanker Dwayne Atkinson whipped in a cross from the right side which Cephas St Rose failed to cut out and Cristojaye Daley rammed home with a left footed volley.
Trinidad and Tobago custodian Isaiah Williams got a hand to the Jamaican effort but could not keep it out. Daley was the only change in the Jamaica team that lost 1-0 to Mexico on Wednesday while Williams was one of three alterations to the Warriors team that downed Bermuda 3-1 in midweek.
But T&T coach Stern John—who replaced another 2006 World Cup standout Russell Latapy at the helm of the youth team—did not have to wait long to see his inclusions come into their own.
The bit about ‘forwards being the first line of defence’ is no empty cliche with this squad. And as Jamaica were harried into conceding possession in their own half of the field, Araujo-Wilson found midfielder Tyrese Pierre whose diagonal ball was turned in at the back post from an acute angle by the lunging Sheppard in the 34th minute.
It was completely against the run of play but, improbably, Trinidad and Tobago went ahead in the 44th minute as the Jamaican defence failed to deal with a deep free kick aimed at gangly six-footer Jerrell Nixon.
The ball broke for Araujo-Wilson and he enhanced his reputation as a poacher of some promise with a controlled first time volley past Jamaica custodian Shamar Haffenden.
Araujo-Wilson celebrated with a sprint to the half-line to hug John. John, of course, is Trinidad and Tobago’s record senior international goal scorer and a former England Premier League striker with Birmingham City and Sunderland AFC. Assistant Under-17 coach Kenwyne Jones is a former Premiership forward with Southampton, Sunderland, Stoke City and Cardiff City.
Araujo-Wilson, a former Fatima College schoolboy, could hardly find better mentors.
Jamaica never stopped plugging away but their malaise only grew in the 60th minute, as Nixon held off opposing full back Kenroy Campbell before whipping in a brilliant cross that Sheppard converted with an improvised header.
Sheppard, an unused substitute against Bermuda, showed what the goal meant to him as the Presentation College (San Fernando) student whipped off his shirt to celebrate—and received the mandatory booking for doing so.
Jamaica’s next booking was far costlier as central defender Dandre Miller got a second yellow card and marching orders after a cynical foul on Araujo-Wilson. The Trinidad and Tobago ‘number 9’ was virtually unplayable and should have stretched the Warriors lead with another dynamic run on the break, only to be denied by the legs of Haffenden.
At the death, the twin island republic tried to see off the match with negative ball possession and instead conceded a late goal as Atkinson burst past Savery and pulled back for substitute Isaac Scott to finish, after being granted far too much space in the T&T penalty box.
But it did not spoil a memorable outing for the young Warriors, whose returns so far have made a mockery of their chaotic preparation for the competition.
“I spoke to them about the importance of this match and the fact that it is the biggest Caribbean derby,” John told the TTFA Media, “and they went out there and demonstrated exactly how they felt about it. They followed my instructions and stuck to the plan.
“I think they had a bit of a score to settle as well from a previous match a couple of years ago.”
Mexico, who defeated Bermuda 5-0 this evening, and Trinidad and Tobago both have six points after two matches and meet to decide the group winners from 4pm on Sunday. Mexico have a superior goal differential and need only a draw to top the group.
The winner between Jamaica and Bermuda will advance to the Round of 16 while the loser will be eliminated. Jamaica, due to a better goal difference, will advance with a draw.
The top four nations from the Concacaf Championship advance to the Brazil 2019 Under-17 World Cup.
“Now we have showed that we came here to compete because I don’t think anyone gave us a chance coming into this tournament,” said John. “Now we’ve proven them wrong and I’m backing my boys to keep their heads high and continue playing good football.
“It’s still a far way off in terms of qualifying for Brazil but I will give them credit for pulling off two wins and showing that they are no push overs.”
Trinidad and Tobago U-17: 1.Isaiah Williams (GK); 2.Nigel Carraby, 4.Jordon Britto, 5.Cephas St Rose, 3.Luke Savery; 6.Zachary Welch (captain) (10.Andrew De Gannes 84), 19.Ajani Fortune, 8.Tyrese Pierre; 14.Jerrell Nixon (11.Jean-Heim Mc Fee 67), 9.Justin Araujo-Wilson, 7.Jaiye Sheppard (17.Kevan Kahoussi 67).
Unused substitutes: 20.Kahlil Oliver (GK), 12.Curtis De Leon, 13.Gary Griffith III, 15.Jeremy Lashley, 16.Keilon Burnett-Acevaro, 18.Isa Sayeed.
Coach: Stern John
Jamaica U-17: 20.Shamar Haffenden (GK); 4.Damian Jones, 5.Scott McLeod (captain), 18.Dandre Miller, 6.Kenroy Campbell; 7.Dwayne Atkinson, 10.Jamone Shepherd, 12.Cristojaye Daley, 17.Kenroy Stoddart (14.Isaac Scott 55); 19.Tajay Grant, 16.Rajay Wright.
Unused substitutes: 1.Zemioy Nash (GK), 2.Lamonth Rochester, 3.Prince Christie, 8.Gregory Cousins, 9.Orrett Maine, 11.Revaldo Mitchell, 13.Hasani Barnes, 15.Giovanni Mittoo.
Coach: John Gilchrist