When the CONCACAF U-17 Championship kicks off Saturday night in Panama, two players from the Dynamo Academy, presented by Statoil, will begin a journey that could potentially end at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates in October.
Neither Johan Welch (pictured, above) nor Sterling Noreiga were born in Trinidad & Tobago. But that doesn’t mean they don’t relish the opportunity to play for their parents’ native country in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
“To represent where my dad was born and where he grew up, it would be a great accomplishment,” Welch said before departing to Panama for the upcoming qualifiers.
The Dynamo Academy goalkeeper had only been to Trinidad & Tobago once as a child. He was in third grade visiting family and the experience left a lasting impression on him. So it would be an understatement to say he was ecstatic when he got the call from the Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation to come in for a training camp in 2012.
“The first time they contacted me was last summer,” Welch said. “I went down there for a camp and played games against some professional teams. They liked my performance and invited me back this past Spring Break.”
Welch and Noreiga (pictured, right) missed last week’s Dallas Cup to participate in the camp with the Trinidad & Tobago U-17 national team in Miami. The camp included scrimmages against the U.S. U-17 national team and the University of South Florida.
Welch believes that his time with the Trinidad YNT will only aid his development as a goalkeeper with the Dynamo.
“It’s extremely fast and extremely physical,” he said. "The players are all technical, but it forces me to be a better player and hopefully I can bring those skills back to Houston with me.”
Success is nothing new for Welch and Noreiga. Both players featured on the Dynamo U-15 squad that won their division in 2012 and advanced to the National Premier League Champions Cup last July.
Noreiga now features for a U-16 team that is in first place in the division and is riding an eight-game winning streak in league play. Welch stayed with the U-15s and has the led the squad to a 12-2-4 record and a first place tie with FC Dallas with two months to go in the season.
“Johan and Sterling were mainstays on last year's U-15 squad,” said Dynamo director of youth development James Clarkson. “They played every minute that season and having a goalkeeper and center back as the backbone of your squad makes a huge difference. They have learned a lot from those experiences and have continued their growth and development through this year as well.”
Welch and Noreiga will look to translate club success into country success when they kick off the CONCACAF U-17 Championship Saturday night. The squad will take on Canada and Costa Rica in Group B with the top two teams from the four groups advancing to the quarterfinal round. The four semifinalists from the tournament will advance to the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
|4/6 - Sat||Trinidad & Tobago vs. Canada||4:30 pm||Estadio Agustín Sánchez, Panamá Province|
|4/8 - Sun||Trinidad & Tobago vs. Costa Rica||7:30 pm||Estadio Agustín Sánchez, Panamá Province|