With just under a week to go before the opening CONCACAF World Cup qualifier versus Guatemala, National Men’s Under 17 head coach Shawn Cooper is keeping a cool head following this country’s second successive defeat to Panama on Wednesday night.
T&T’s Under 17s went down 5-0 to the hosts after failing to put away the opening two chances on goal for either side in the first half before going on to have two players ejected and conceding further goals in the second half. The result followed a 4-0 shutout to Panama two days earlier.
Cooper though is focusing on maintaining a positive spirit in the T&T camp which was arranged by the TTFA with support from the Ministry of Sport. “It was another tough loss for us but we’re not going to let it push us down. I thought the performance in this second game was an improvement but we are conceding goals badly and the game changed in the second half when the referee send off two of our players,” Cooper said.
“But the players were very disappointed at the end and I’m pleased about that because it shows that they do not like this feeling of defeat and they know they have to dig deeper,” he added.
Cooper said that previous Under 17 teams have gone through challenging builds up in the past including the squad of 2013 which went on to miss out on qualifying for the FIFA Under 17 Word Cup in 2013 short by a single win as they lost 4-2 to host Panama in their final qualifier.
“I’m still seeing us getting up to scratch by the time our first game comes around. We’ve been down this road before. Our opponents in the first game have not had an easy time with us in the past and I believe we can get it right.
“But the main thing is to keep the boys at a good level in terms of spirit and making sure they believe that there is still a whole tournament for them to go out and perform in. The players coming into the squad on this trip have started gelling and generally the team will continue to improve,” Cooper said.
Among the overseas-based players who joined the squad include Philadelphia Union’s Jerren Nixon jnr, younger son of former senior team forward Jerren Nixon, midfielder Morgan Bruce of English club Stevenage Borough, US-based forward Chad Burnett and Joshua Burnett and New York Red Bulls midfielder Noah Power.
T&T’s opening game in Honduras is against Guatemala at the Francisco Morazan Stadium, San Pedro Sula, next Friday. T&T, who qualified as the best third-placed team from the Caribbean, will also face hosts Honduras, Jamaica, USA and Cuba, in Group A. Group B includes Canada, Haiti, Panama, Mexico, St Lucia and Costa Rica.
The tournament will crown the Confederation champion at this age level, and qualify four teams to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup Chile 2015. The top team from each group after round-robin play advance to the World Cup and the other two will be determined by the results of the final day elimination matches.
The new CONCACAF Under-17 Men’s tournament format has increased the number of set games to five for each competing nation, up from two in previous editions of the Championship. The new format has been created to favour development and competition.