The national Under-17 men’s football squad will be trimmed to 23 players this weekend, as coach Shawn Cooper looks ahead to the upcoming Caribbean Football Union zone of World Cup qualification, for the 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in United Arab Emirates.
Cooper has been overseeing preparations with assistant coach Leonson Lewis over the past few weeks and has been afforded some additional time to prepare after the CFU confirmed a change in dates of the matches, from July 3-10 to July 24-28.
T&T will face British Virgin Islands at home in their opener on July 24 before facing Suriname (July 26) and Guyana, two days later in its round-robin group. While the push back in dates is affording Cooper additional preparation time, it has resulted in him having to enter the tournament without a couple of his North American-based players.
Both goalkeeper Johan Welch and Sterling Noreiga of MLS club Houston Dynamo had been slated to join the team for the initial dates but are now unable to travel due to other commitments in late July.
“The change in dates gives us more time to prepare the team but it also means that a couple of the guys who we have been looking at from North America will be unable to join the team for the tournament,” Cooper said.
“They have other commitments during that time and initially all arrangements were made for their travel to Trinidad for the original dates,” Cooper said.
Cooper, who also has Ross Russell and Terrance Marcelle as his other assistants, will name a 23-man squad on the weekend that will train together before he submits his final 18-man squad for the tournament in the final week leading up to the opening clash.
Two other US-based players , attacking midfielder Dre Fortune and Mani Walcott from Maryland are almost certain to make the final squad. Fortune has been training with the T&T squad.
Attached to Triangle United Soccer club, Fortune was also invited to train with the USA Under-15 team in April 2011. He is eligible to play for T&T through parentage.
The five group winners and the best second-place team will advance to a final round of qualifying August 19-30 at a venue to be determined later to decide the Caribbean's five berths in the Concacaf finals, set for April 6-19, 2013 in Panama.