Cooper checks positives as fresh-faced T&T U17s fall 2-1 to Jamaica

Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Under-17 Team head coach Shawn Cooper said his troops will leave Jamaica with their heads held high, despite losing 2-1 to the host team today at the Jamaica Football Federation’s Technical Centre in Kingston.

The young Soca Warriors edged Jamaica 1-0 on Friday, thanks to a late goal from substitute Akel Vesprey off a Seth Hadeed corner kick. Today, Trinidad and Tobago opened the score summary in the first half—with defender Salim Soanes heading home off an Alejandro Harper corner—but could not hold on to the result.

The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 starting team pose before kickoff against Jamaica in Kingston on 5 May 2024.
(via TTFA Media)

However, Cooper noted that Jamaica were full-strength with eight overseas-based players to boot while Trinidad and Tobago travelled with none of their potential overseas-based players as well several of their more experienced local boys too—like playmaker Caden Trestrail, utility player Criston Gomez, defender Adam Pierre, defensive midfielder Stephen Ollivierie, winger Elijah Diaz and goalkeeper Makaya Taylor.

A win and a loss with level goal difference, Cooper suggested, is not bad at all in the circumstances.

“Coming out of here with a 1-1 in the series is very good for us,” he told the JFF Media. “We have a lot of new guys here—there are only three guys from the original Under-15 team—[and] Jamaica had about eight overseas boys.

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Alejandro Harper (right) tries to block a cross during friendly international action against Jamaica in Kingston on 3 May 2024.
(via TTFA Media)

“For the group to get this result here… it was a hard-fought 2-1 victory [for Jamaica]. We thought we came out on top here today.”

Cooper named an unchanged starting team, which defended deep in a 5-4-1 formation. Trinidad and Tobago conceded possession to Jamaica but tried to ensure they did not get behind their defence.

Soanes put the young Warriors ahead with a thumping header after 15 minutes, but Jamaica levelled just before the break—after attacker Orel Miller capitalised on an unsuccessful clearance by defender Jimally Renne.

The Jamaica goalkeeper (left) is emphatically beaten by a header from Trinidad and Tobago defender Salim Soanes (not in photo) during friendly international action in Kingston on 3 May 2024.
(via TTFA Media)

By then, the visitors had been forced to make changes to their backline as defender Antonio Hills and right back Jeremiah Daniel both came off with knocks.

Keston Richards replaced Daniel in a like-for-like swap while left back Jaydon Caprietta was moved inside with midfielder Jayden Cristophe introduced to deputise on the left side of the Trinidad and Tobago defence.

Cooper suggested that the unfamiliarity of his defenders might have led to Jamaica’s winner, which came off the boot of Jahmari Nolan after a ball over the top.

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Nikosi Foncette (centre) tries to thread a pass for a teammate during friendly international action against Jamaica in Kingston on 3 May 2024.
(via TTFA Media)

“Our approach was the same, their approach was the same,” said Cooper. “We made two errors and [at the time of] the errors, we had a makeshift backline—so the communication wasn’t there.

“We saw a long ball, which was a trigger for us to pull off, but we didn’t pull off… And this is what they were trying to do all game, but when we had the first-choice back five, they dealt with it.”

Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Mikhail Clement, a Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) National Under-14 champion with Naparima last season, kept the scoreline respectable with a double save off a penalty kick in the second half.

Trinidad and Tobago defender Jimally Renne carries the ball during friendly international action against Jamaica in Kingston on 3 May 2024.
(via TTFA Media)

Clement was also replaced with a suspected hamstring strain, with Necose Moore coming in for his debut.

In total, nine players made their international debuts for the Soca Warriors on this tour while midfielders Kyron Baptiste and Eran Mc Leod will hope to see action on Tuesday in an exhibition affair.

Trinidad and Tobago will play one half against the Cavalier academy and a half against Mt Pleasant.

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Riquelme Phillips (left) tries to keep the ball in play during friendly international action against Jamaica in Kingston on 3 May 2024.
(via TTFA Media)

Cooper said the trip has been a very useful one thus far, although the intensity today saw players from both teams break down.

“Most of our players were playing on astroturf for the first time, and playing on it at 9am with this heat here, it’s difficult and telling on your legs,” he said. “We picked up a couple of injuries [and so did Jamaica].

“The game was played at a terrific pace… It is always beneficial playing Jamaica [because of the] rivalry.

Trinidad and Tobago National U-17 coach Shawn Cooper (second from left) talks to his players as they prepare for action against Jamaica in Kingston on 5 May 2024.
(via TTFA Media)

“This game was played like a proper international game, it wasn’t played like a training game or a friendly. Some of our guys saw what it takes to play at the international level and it augers well for their development.”

Cooper hopes that Trinidad and Tobago also get the chance to tap into their diaspora for this age group, with contact already made with three potential players at Inter Miami CF.

But he expressed satisfaction with the showing of his current roster.

The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 team pose with former West Indies and Trinidad and Tobago cricket legend Deryck Murray in Kingston, after their 2-1 loss to Jamaica on 5 May 2024.
(via TTFA Media)

He identified defenders Caprietta, Renne and Hills, along with forward Jonathan Mason and midfielder and stand-in captain Nikosi Foncette as players who stood out on the tour.

Hills, who represented Naparima College in the SSFL Premier Division last season at just 13-years-old, Renne and Caprietta both played their first international games in Jamaica.

“The boys did really well,” said Cooper. “[…] We are leaving Jamaica with our heads held high.”

Naparima College defender Antonio Hills in action during the 2023 SSFL Premier Division season.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

(Squad)

Trinidad and Tobago (5-4-1): 1.Mikhail Clement (GK) (21.Necose Moore [GK]); 2.Jeremiah Daniel (13.Keston Richards), 3.Salim Soanes, 6.Jimally Renne, 4.Antonio Hills (12.Jayden Christophe), 5.Jaydon Caprietta; 7.Jasai Theophilus (18.Antuan Louison), 10.Nikosi Foncette (captain) (16.Adasa Richardson), 8.Alejandro Harper (23.Seth Hadeed), 11.Riquelme Phillips (20.Akel Vesprey); 9.Jonathan Mason (14.Josiah Simmons).

Unused substitutes: 15.Dimitre Jones, 17.Kyron Baptiste, 19.Eran Mc Leod.

Coach: Shawn Cooper

Trinidad and Tobago flanker Akel Vesprey (centre) celebrates his winner against Jamaica in an international friendly in Kingston on 3 May 2024.
(via TTFA Media)

Under-17 friendly international

(Sunday 5 April)

Jamaica 2 (Orel Miller 38, Jahmari Nolan 61), Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Salim Soanes 15) at Kingston;

(Friday 3 April)

Jamaica 0, Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Akel Vesprey 90) at Kingston.

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One comment

  1. 1.”Cooper named an unchanged starting team, which defended deep in a 5-4-1 formation. Trinidad and Tobago conceded possession to Jamaica but tried to ensure they did not get behind their defence.”

    This is evidently the Trini default strategy at every level now, no matter the opponent or the ostensible purpose of the match.

    2. “Cooper hopes that Trinidad and Tobago also get the chance to tap into their diaspora for this age group, with contact already made with three potential players at Inter Miami CF.”

    TTFA turned down the Florida trip that was supposed to allow scouting of US based/born players in favour of this Jamaica trip ahead of a tournament scheduled for 2025. I’m lost…

    3. “For the group to get this result here… it was a hard-fought 2-1 victory [for Jamaica]. We thought we came out on top here today.”

    Please. A win is a win. A loss is a loss. The world doesn’t care about “moral victories” or spin.

    4. Kevin Jeffrey made the point after the first match – we always beat Jamaica in the first match and lose the second. One is led to the conclusion that they somehow always out-manoeuvre us in the latter.

    In the end, not bad results but the claim that this trip was “pivotal” (as described by TTFA after the switch from Florida to Jamaica) is fantasy or politics. Or both.

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