T&T Under-17 men's football team coach Shawn Cooper will be keen to see his players make the most of two friendly international warm-up matches when they tackle host Jamaica on Saturday and Tuesday ahead of their participation at the Concacaf U-17 Championship to be held in Guatemala from February 11-26.
The 20-team Concacaf Under-17 Championship will qualify the four semifinalists to the FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru from November 10 to December 2 later this year.
Cooper and his 21-man squad left here yesterday morning for Jamaica, and were expected to have one training session ahead of today's first encounter with the Merron Gordon-coached U-17 "Reggae Boyz" at the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex in Kingston, Jamaica from 4 pm (5 pm TT time). The second match is carded for Tuesday at the St Elizabeth Technical High School in Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth, with kick-off carded for 5 pm (TT time), as well.
On Wednesday, Cooper announced his squad which was highlighted by the inclusion of five players from the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premiership champions, St Benedict’s College's Lyshaun Morris, Josiah Ochoa, Derrel Garcia Jeremiah Niles and Malachi Webb while Fatima College, who ended as the runner-up to St Benedict's before turning the table on their rivals in the National Inter-Col final, saw the trio of goalkeeper Jaden Ottley, Jaden Williams, and Michael Chaves being named to the squad.
Other notable inclusions in the team announced by Cooper are San Juan North Secondary stand-out Lindell Sween, goalkeeper Ailan Panton (Darlington Soccer Academy /USA), Tyrell Moore (Nashville FC/USA), the younger brother of Shaq Moore who appeared for the USA at the just concluded 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Jeremiah Cateau (Concorde Fire/USA), Armani Rowe (Cedar Star/USA), Rio Cardines (Crystal Palace/England), Dominic Wilson (Nashville FC Academy/USA), Samuel Duncan (Charlotte FC /USA) and national U-14 stand-out Seth Hadid who is the lone reserve.
Following the two matches against the Jamaicans, the T&T squad will depart for Guatemala on January 9 ahead of its opening Group F match against Canada February 11 at the Estadio Pensativo in Antigua, Guatemala at 6 pm while USA and Barbados, the two other teams in the group clash from 9 pm.
The young "Soca Warriors" then face the USA in the second match on Monday, February 13 at the Estadio Pensativo from 9 pm, three hours after Canada tackles Barbados before closing out their round-robin group campaign against the "Bajans" on Wednesday, February 15 from 6 pm, with USA and Canada facing off at 9 pm.
Groups H which is made up of Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, and Suriname will also be played at the Estadio Pensativo in Antigua while
Group E which comprises defending champion and eight-time winners Mexico, Panama, host Guatemala, and Curacao, and Group G featuring Costa Rica, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, and Cuba will be based at the Estadio Nacional Doroteo Guamuch Flores in Guatemala City.
After the group stage, the top three nations in each group will advance to the knockout stage, joining the four 2022 CONCACAF U-17 Men’s Qualifiers (CU17Q) group winners: Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico.
The round-of-16 matches will take place on February 18, and 19, at both venues, followed by the quarterfinals on February 21, and 22 with the semifinals set for February 24, and the finals on February 26 in Guatemala City.
All knockout stage matches will be played in a single-match direct elimination format, and the four semifinalists will qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2023.
T&T National U-17 Squad
Ailan Panton (Darlington Soccer Academy /USA), Jaden Ottley (QPCC/T&T).
Malachi Webb (Club Premier FC), Lindell Sween (Unattached), Tyrell Moore (Nashville FC/USA), Vaughn Clement (Cox Football Academy/T&T), Michael Chaves (QPCC/T&T).
Josiah Ochoa (Point Fortin Academy/T&T), Derrel Garcia (Cox Football Academy/T&T), Jeremiah Niles (Point Fortin Academy/T&T), Tau Lamsee (Pro series events/T&T), Jeremiah Cateau (Concorde Fire/USA), Armani Rowe (Cedar Star/USA), Rio Cardines (Crystal Palace/England), Dominic Wilson (Nashville FC Academy/USA).
Lyshaun Morris (Point Fortin Academy/T&T), Samuel Duncan (Charlotte FC /USA), Jaden Williams (QPCC/T&T), Joshua Figaro (Trendsetter Hawks/T&T), Aydon Caruth (Police FC/T&T).
Seth Hadid (Fatima/QPCC).
Shawn Cooper (head coach), Marvin Gordon (assistant coach), Devin Elcock (assistant coach), Gilbert Bateau (trainer), Declan Squires (goalkeeper), John Jerry (equipment manager), Michael Taylor (medic), Christo Gouveia (manager).
Jamaica U-17 coach welcomes T&T test
Speaking in the Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica national Under-17 coach Merron Gordon is confident his 20 players selected to make the trip to Guatemala can take Jamaica to the U-17 World Cup for the third time in the country’s history and has welcomed the two warm-up matches against T&T.
Gordon said the squad is focused on going into the championships to top their group, which includes Costa Rica, Cuba, and Guadeloupe, and then try to take one of the top four spots to book their place in Peru.
“We are very confident in the team selected. This is what we have to work with now. We are confident that the 20 boys we have chosen can really go ahead and put on a good showing that will push us across the line to make it to Peru."
After a month of intense training and assessment, Gordon said the team is close to where the coaching staff desires, and that their two upcoming friendly games against T&T will provide even more data for their assessment.
“We have played against adults (Premier League teams). That really extended the boys. We saw some really good things. We saw some things we definitely need to work on. But little by little, we are fixing them and we got some good results.
“The team is growing day by day and hopefully we will see them against their age group this weekend. This will be a real test. They really did well against the Premier League teams. So this weekend will be a very good test for us against T&T,” said Gordon.
The team will be without their leader in defence, Javin Williams, who is out injured, but Gordon contends that they have adequate replacements.
“Even though we will miss Javin, we had a huge squad just in case we have things like this. We will have competent replacements,” said Gordon.
According to Gordon, the real work needs to take place at the other end of the pitch.
“We are creating chances. It is just to put some away and we are really sharpening up the boys," said Gordon.
Jamaica U-17 Squad:
Tawayne Lynch (goalkeeper), Joshua Grant (goalkeeper), Ahir Dixon, Alexavier Gooden, Malik Robinson, Adrian Reid, Malachi Molina, Nashon Bolt Barrett, Brandon Bent, Ronaldo Barrett, Jason Whyte, Jahmani Bell, Orane Watson, Dyllan John, Dusting Cohen, Nicholas Simmonds, Adrian Mahoney, Ashton Gordon, Everald Swaby, Jordan Mongatal.