T&T's footballers dropped their first points at the CONCACAF Under-20 Men Championship World Cup qualifier on Monday night, going down 6-1 to defending champions United States at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, USA.
In what was dubbed as the group decider with both teams recording wins in their opening two matches, the USA took early control against a T&T side which started shakily and conceded two goals in the opening eight minutes and was forced to chase the game for long periods following that.
Head coach Russell Latapy made changes to his starting team from the 5-1 win over Puerto Rico, looking to add fresh legs because of the level of opponents and contest in the third outing in five days for the national side. Jaydon Prowell, Nickel Orr and Judah Garcia whom all played in the opening 3-2 win over St Vincent and the Grenadines on Thursday, we're back among the starters.
Brandon Servania’s strike from 25 yards out put the hosts ahead in the sixth minute and two minutes later, Justin Rennick’s shot deflected off defender Justin Homer into the net off the right post to leave the US in front 2-0.
T&T tried to settle without much success as the hosts kept control of proceedings for much of the half and grabbed a third goal following a defensive lapse through Paxton Pomykal, a minute into added on time. At 3-0 just before the break, the USA was now confident that the game was secured for them.
After Alex Mendez made it 4-0 in the 52nd minute, T&T got on the scoresheet two minutes later when Orr combined with substitute Isaiah Lee who got the ball past goalkeeper Brady Scott with an easy finish.
The USA increased its advantage in the 56th minute through Ulysses Llanez and Juan Pablo Torres got the sixth item in the 93rd minute.
Following the match, head coach Latapy said he knew it was going to be an uphill task to overcome the Tab Ramos-coached opposition.
“We’ll use it as a learning experience. We came into this tournament with three training sessions. We have a squad with players making their debut on the national team in this tournament so we knew it was going to be difficult especially against a USA team that had five training camps and multiple training matches,” Latapy told TTFA Media.
“We asked them to work hard, be determined and leave everything out there and my thoughts are that they did that. If I have to say that I was disappointed with anything, I would say I just wanted us to be a bit smarter in terms of football. We were just playing balls inside the field. Like the sixth goal, for example, I know the game is over but it’s a really poor goal to lose. We’re in possession of the ball, we play it in the middle of the field and lose it and concede,” the former Falkirk FC coach said.
Commenting on T&T’s nervy start which saw the USA race to a 2-0 lead, Latapy stated, “We said before the game that the USA was always two or three goals up after twenty, thirty minutes in their previous matches. We knew they were going to throw everything at us in the first twenty minutes. We wanted to keep the ball off of them a little better and we weren’t able to. They came out with a lot of energy and they were pressing, and on top of that, we weren’t keeping the ball well. So yes, it seems as though the occasion was just a little too much for us but again I still think if we had the time to work and be confident in our organization and our structure, then it would have helped in that first twenty minutes,” Latapy added.
The USA roster consisted of 15 players representing pro clubs from five different countries: Belgium, Canada, Germany, Portugal and the USA with four players being collegiate athletes: Griffin Dorsey and Justin Rennicks (Indiana), Manny Perez (N.C. State), and Frankie Amaya (UCLA). Ten players represent seven MLS clubs: Philadelphia Union (3), FC Dallas (2), LA Galaxy (1), New England Revolution (1), Seattle Sounders (1), Sporting KC (1), and Toronto FC (1). The US has qualified for 15 of 21 FIFA World Youth Championships/FIFA U-20 World Cups since the biannual tournament started in 1977, including 10 of the last 11 and three straight under the guidance of Ramos.
T&T has participated at two FIFA Under-20 World Cups in 1991 and 2009. Luke Singh (Toronto FC), Che Benny with Portuguese side Lexioes and John Paul Rochford (Portland Timbers U-19s) are the only players attached to overseas professional clubs while Jabarry Francis plays with T&T Pro League team Club Sando, goalkeeper Denzil Smith is attached to W Connection, Derron John with Caledonia AIA, Orr (San Juan Jabloteh), Garcia (Point Fortin Civic Centre), Shaqkeem Joseph (Moruga Secondary), Mark Ramdeen (Naparima College) and Justin Homer and Isaiah Lee with Kean University and Monroe Community College respectively.
T&T faces Suriname on today and US Virgin Islands on Friday to close off the group phase.
1.Denzil Smith (GK); 4.Jerrin Jackie, 5.Justin Homer (15.John-Paul Rochford, 27′), 16.Luke Singh, 2.Mikel Mieres, 17.Matthew Beal (6.Isaiah Lee, 46′); 19.Shaqkeem Joseph, 8.Jabarry Francis, 10.Judah Garcia, 9.Jaydon Prowell.13.Nickel Orr (7.Mark Ramdeen, 86′)
Unused substitutes: 20.Jabari Brice (GK), 18.Kerdell Sween.3.Derron John, 11.Che Benny, 12.Kishon Hackshaw, 14.Ethan Bonaparte,
Head Coach : Russell Latapy