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Trinidad and Tobago’s J'lon Matthews (R) is put under pressure from Jamaica’s Rolando Barrett during an international U-20 practice match at the Larry Gomes Stadium on Thursday, February 1st 2024 in Malabar. PHOTO BY: Daniel Prentice
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THE overseas-based trio of Rio Cardines, Derrel Garcia and Larry Noel were among seven overseas players called up to Trinidad and Tobago’s 21-man under-20 squad by coach Brian Haynes for this month’s Concacaf under-20 championship qualifiers.

T&T, who start their campaign on February 23, are placed alongside Canada, Dominica and St Vincent and Grenadines (SVG) in group D which will be contested at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo. T&T play their first game against SVG, before playing Dominica and group favourites Canada on February 25 and 27 respectively.

Only the winners of the six respective groups will advance to the Concacaf under-20 championship to join Concacaf’s highest-ranked under-20 teams: US, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

Haynes’ squad includes as many as 11 players who were members of coach Shawn Cooper’s T&T team at last year’s Concacaf under-17 championship. T&T managed a third-place finish in the group stage behind Canada and the US, before falling to an exciting 3-2 loss to El Salvador in the round of 16 stage of the tournament.

Cardines and Garcia both scored in last year’s under-17 tournament, with the attacking pair of Lindell Sween and Malachi Webb among T&T’s standout performers with two goals apiece. Sween and Webb have both been included in Haynes’ team for this month’s qualifiers, and they will be expected to provide firepower in the attacking third for the young Soca Warriors alongside Tyrell Moore, Crystal Palace’s Cardines and the Spanish-based Garcia.

The 16-year-old Garcia copped the 2022 Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) premier division title with St Benedict’s College and featured at the beginning of the 2023 school season before making a move to Europe.

Haynes’ team is made up of a number of SSFL standouts and includes former T&T under-17 skipper and St Benedict’s midfielder Josiah Ochoa, 2023 SSFL premier division winners Michael Chaves and Jaden Williams, as well as Presentation College San Fernando’s 2023 national intercol winning quartet of Cody Cooper, Abayomi George, Levi Jones and Duhrell Young.

Meanwhile, St Anthony’s College winger Andell Fraser was named as a standby for the tournament.

In friendly action leading up to the qualifiers, T&T beat Jamaica’s under-20s 3-2 on January 25, before falling to consecutive defeats against their Jamaican counterparts and a locally based T&T senior team.

Despite the losses which showed up his team’s “defensive frailties,” Haynes said he was pleased with the progress his team has made in their preparations for the Concacaf qualifiers.

Canada coach Andrew Olivieri is mindful of T&T’s potential threat in group D.

“(T&T) are right around the same ranking as us at the under-20 level,” Olivieri told the Canadian Press. “We’re playing at their home, in their country, under their environment so that is an additional challenge.”

(Trinidad and Tobago National Under-20 Team)

Goalkeepers:

Ailan Panton (Darlington Soccer Academy—USA), Makaya Taylor (Presentation College, San F’do/ Brother Ry Academy), Bryan Gafiuk (Victoria Highlanders—Canada);

Defenders:

Akil Henry (Arima North Secondary/ Pro Series), Cody Cooper (Presentation College, San F’do/ Dunstan Williams Academy), Russel Francois (St Anthony’s College/ Trendsetter Hawks), Jaden Williams (Fatima College), Lyshaun Morris (St Benedict’s College/ Pt Fortin Civic), Duhrell Young (Presentation College, San F’do/ W Connection);

Midfielders:

Levi Jones (Presentation College, San F’do), Abayomi George (Presentation College, San F’do), Josiah Ochoa (St Benedict’s College/ Point Fortin Youth), Rio Cardines (Crystal Palace—England), Lindell Sween (San Juan North/ Morvant Caledonia), J’lon Matthews (Malick Secondary), Malachi Webb (St Benedict’s College/ Premier SC), Jeremiah Cateau (Southern Soccer Academy), Derrel Garcia (Intercity International Football Academy—Spain);

Forwards:

Michael Chaves (Fatima College/ QPCC), Larry Noel (Salt Lake Community College—USA), Tyrell Moore (unattached).

Standby:

Andell Fraser (St Anthony’s College).

Technical Staff:

Brian Haynes (head coach), Marvin Gordon (assistant coach), Gilbert Bateau (assistant coach), Jefferson George (goalkeeper coach), Natalie Charles (medic), John Jerry (equipment manager).

(Canada National Under-20 Team)

Goalkeepers:

Nathaniel Abraham (Toronto FC II, MLS Next Pro), Ivan Pavela (NK Lokomotiva Zagreb—Croatia), Gregoire Swiderski (Girondins Bordeaux—France);

Defenders:

James Cameron (Vancouver FC, CPL), Christian Greco-Taylor (unattached), Sergei Kozlovskiy (CF Montreal Academy), Adam Pearlman (Toronto FC II, MLS Next Pro), Theo Rigopoulos (Toronto FC Academy), Ethan Schilte-Brown (Kilmarnock—Scotland), Lazar Stefanovic (Toronto FC II, MLS Next Pro);

Midfielders:

Jeevan Badwal (Whitecaps FC2, MLS Next Pro), Alessandro Biello (CF Montreal Academy), Tiago Codinha (Twente Enschede—Netherlands), Jesse Costa (VFL Wolfsburg—Germany); Myles Morgan (unattached), Matteo Schiavoni (CF Montreal Academy);

Forwards:

Oumar Diallo (Inter Milan—Italy), Kimani Stewart-Baynes  (Colorado Rapids—MLS), Kevaughn Tavernier (Forge FC, CPL), Tavio Ciccarelli (Sheffield United—England), Santiago Lopez (Pumas UNAM—Mexico).

Concacaf U-20 Championship qualifiers

(Group D - Friday 23 February)

Canada vs Dominica, 3pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;

Trinidad and Tobago vs St Vincent and the Grenadines, 6pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;

St Vincent and the Grenadines vs Canada, 3pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;

Dominica vs Trinidad and Tobago, 6pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;

Dominica vs St Vincent and the Grenadines, 3pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;

Trinidad and Tobago vs Canada, 6pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium.