Trinidad and Tobago Under-23 head coach Angus Eve yesterday announced his 20-man squad to contest the final round of CONCACAF qualifiers for the 2012 London Olympics, to be held in Carson, California from this weekend.
The eight-team tournament will be contested by hosts USA, Canada, Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico. Honduras Panama and T&T.
Trinidad and Tobago begin play in Group B on Friday against 2011 Pan Am Games champions Mexico and will tackle Panama on Sunday and Honduras on Tuesday March 27.
The two finalists from the two groups will advance to the 2012 Olympics.
Dropped from the T&T squad were St Ann's Rangers forward Cameron Roget, Caledonia AIA defender Nuru Abdullah Muhammad, DirecTV North East Stars midfielder Kaydion Gabriel, Jean Luc Rochford (Stars) and Marcus Joseph. Caledonia AIA defender Aquil Selby was also omitted due to a niggling injury.
The seven players will not be travelling on to Carson with the rest of the squad today, following the Under-23s training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Defender Sheldon Bateau of Adam's Construction San Juan Jabloteh will captain the Trinidad and Tobago team, which includes seven defenders, seven midfielders, four forwards and two goalkeepers.
Columbus Crew midfielder Kevan George and Cordell Cato of Seattle Sounders, who both joined the T&T squad in Fort Lauderdale from their Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs, did sufficiently well to maintain their spots for the CONCACAF tournament, while Polish-based defender Mekeil Williams and Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino will both join the team today.
In-form Caledonia AIA striker Jamal Gay is expected to spearhead the attack with support from Shahdon Winchester, Sean De Silva, Trevin Caesar, Molino and Micah Lewis, who turned 22 yesterday.
W Connection midfielder Jomal Williams, at age 17, is the youngest member of the Trinidad and Tobago squad.
"It was a difficult decision because all of the guys have been fantastic. There wasn't a difference in the players in the squad. I think we have a very strong unit going forward," coach Eve told Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) media officer Shaun Fuentes.
"We picked 20 players with two goalkeepers, seven midfielders and defenders, with four out-and-out strikers who can also play on the flanks, as well as a couple defensive midfielders.
"The difficult thing for me is that when we look back at the Pan American Games (last October in Mexico) we did really well and here we have players who came in to strengthen the squad and that made the selection decisions a bit harder," Eve added. "We didn't have players like Daneil Cyrus, Sean De Silva and Kevan George and young Cato in the Pan Am Games.
"I must give credit to the players who helped to bring us this far and will still be part of the overall 35-man roster."
Reflecting on the training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Eve said: "It turned out very well. I got the chance to experiment with the guys and incorporating new guys into the set up. I think we finally have the right blend going into the tournament."
Team skipper Bateau told the players who will return to Trinidad today to keep on aspiring to make the team again for the 2012 Olympics.
"We are one team and every player deserves credit. I want to tell the guys who are not going to LA with us to keep their heads up and keep on working hard to make the team again at a later stage."
Cyrus and Gay also reiterated that the final squad will try to ensure that there is another opportunity for the omitted players to be back in the fray by qualifying for the London Games
T&T U-23 SQUAD:
Goalkeepers--Andre Marchan (DirecTV North East Stars), Sheldon Clarke (Defence Force)
Defenders--Sheldon Bateau, Leslie Russell (Adam's Construction San Juan Jabloteh), Kareem Moses (St Ann's Rangers), Mekeil Williams (Pogon Szczecin), Curtis Gonzales (Defence Force), Daneil Cyrus (Santa Rosa FC), Joevin Jones (W Connection)
Midfielders--Sean De Silva (College of Charleston), Jeromie Williams (North East Stars), Kevin Molino (Orlando City), Kevan George (Columbus Crew) Micah Lewis (Caledonia AIA), Jayson Joseph (T&TEC), Jomal Williams (W Connection)
Forwards--Jamal Gay (Caledonia AIA), Trevin Caesar (Caledonia AIA), Cordell Cato (Seattle Sounders), Shahdon Winchester (W Connection)