Nicholas Lochan, manager of the Northern Football Association (NFA) Under-17 boys football team which returned from their 'US Soccer Boy's Winter Showcase' tournament in Tampa, Florida on December 31, 2019 (Old Years Day) said he was pleased with the efforts of players and coaches and the overall trip.
Throughout their six-day stay in the USA, the NFA boys won once and were beaten in their two other matches, but according to Lochan, the USA doesn't cut corners, so from an administrative stand-point it was good to see proper investment (personnel, competition, equipment, facilities) in structured youth development to improve the future for US football.
Lochan noted that it was an intense six days of travelling, driving and competition and a major eye-opener for players to gauge their level against top clubs and players in the USA.
In their opening match, the NFA boys narrowly lost their first match to Brazil/USA by 2-1, with a deflected handball given as an unfortunate penalty in the last minutes of play.
In the second match on day two, the NFA players regrouped to beat Kalonji Soccer Academy (KSA) out of Atlanta with a thumping victory 9-3 which was highlighted by midfield playmaker Daniel David audacious effort from half-line to beat the unsuspecting goalkeeper.
The third game on day three was against Club Ohio Soccer and this was arguably the best team in this Under-18/Under-19 age-group with the visitors ending as 4-2 losers.
Overall, Lochan felt it was a great learning experience for all involved including coaches Paul Decle, and Marlon Phillip.
He said, "The results may not shine brightly but that's a very good thing. These conditions and losses can't be replicated at home and are what helps build character and help the players to continue improving.
Highlighting the fact that the team was not one that played together at club level, Lochan stated: "The NFA isn't a team so these players learned to live, interact, adapt and play for each other in a few days, which is similar in national football."
"Secondly, all players got a taste of elite youth club football, since this wasn't an invitational tournament, but one where merit and performance allowed participation under the youth arm of the US Soccer Federation; US Youth Soccer.
"And thirdly, the guys were seen by US University scouts who have already declared interest in a few players so hopefully education opportunities will open up.
In addition to the matches, a University of Tampa tour under the supervision of former St Anthony's College and National Youth defender Maurice "Madras" Loregnard who is the Associate Head Coach at the school was also done where the team got to see the university and its Bob Martinez Athletics Center; a first-class High-Performance facility equipped with classrooms, indoor courts, Physio and Sport lab and a High-Performance Gym, where Auburn Football team was undergoing a training session."
"Fourth and perhaps most importantly, the players experienced playing in a highly organized foreign environment where climate/temperature, field conditions, accommodation and food are different from the comfort zone of home.
He stressed, "To make it like a pro, this is the environment, and it's all performance and delivery based, which means players need to dig deep and be mentally tough to motivate themselves, adapt, focus and perform.
Lochan ended "It has been a very hectic but rewarding Tour and I hope some of the guys take away the positives and adjustments required to succeed.
This month, the NFA will close off this chapter, with a session or two under the eyes of the new Under-20 and Under-17 national coaches.
The team is split with ten potential candidates for each team, so hopefully, apart from a few scholarships, the NFA could find a few players also stepping unto the national Under-20 and Under-17 teams.
The players come from our top youth clubs like Trendsetter Hawks, Queen's Park Cricket Club, RSSR, North Coast and Petit Valley/Diego Martin United.
NFA Under-17 players: Jacob Castillo, Saeed Pompey Charles, Emmanuel Thomas, Daniel David, Daniel Lake, Malachi Celestine, Jude-Anthony Johnson, Aaron Moruf, Jordan Romany, Andrew De Gannes, Antonio Chee Ting, Delaney Zamore, Shervohnez Hamilton, Jahiem Ashby, Kaihim Thomas, Luke Savery [captaint], Negus Jack, Jumaane McNeil.
Technical staff: Marlon Phillip (coach), Paul Decle (coach) Kerry Castillo (manager), Nicholas Lochan (managers), Donnette Mark (medical doctor).
SOURCE: T&T Guardian