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Bulls Abroad: Derrick Etienne and Haiti men's national team preparing for CFU Gold Cup playoff

The Haiti men's national team squad is already in Trinidad, getting ready for January's Gold Cup playoff games.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Haiti men's national team has started its preparation for January's Caribbean Football Union 2017 Gold Cup playoff games. Les Grenadiers will play Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname in early January, to determine (in effect) the fifth-placed team in the 2017 Caribbean Cup and therefore the CFU's representative in a playoff against the fifth-best team from the 2017 Copa Centroamericana for a place at this summer's Gold Cup.

All the team's involved in the January games are constrained by the fact they are taking place outside the FIFA window for international matches, meaning clubs are not obliged to release players to their national team squads.

Suriname has tended to select players based in its domestic league anyway, and has opted to prepare for the upcoming games with a local training camp. Head coach Roberto Godeken is keeping his players' time in Trinidad (where the matches will be played) to a minimum: the squad will leave Suriname on January 3 and return on January 7 - basically playing its scheduled games on January 4 and January 6 and heading home before the tournament is even technically over (T&T and Haiti play on January 8).

Home team and at-a-glance favorite to win the CFU playoff, Trinidad and Tobago, has recently appointed a new head coach (Tom Saintfiet) and he has taken a squad to Nicaragua for training and a couple of friendlies. The first of those did not go well for the Soca Warriors: on December 27, Nicaragua celebrated its first ever win over T&T.

The teams will play again on December 30, and then the Soca Warriors will return home to finalize preparations for their January 4 fixture against Suriname.

That leaves Haiti as the only team playing in the tournament currently in Trinidad. Les Grenadiers have established a training camp, scheduled a couple of games against local clubs, while also getting acquainted with a new head coach. In a statement on the team's plans for the Gold Cup playoff games, the Haitian Football Federation announced it had lost contact with erstwhile men's national team head coach Patrice Neveu and his assistant, Nicolas Santucci:

At this time the FHF is not in a position to indicate whether they are still in the country

Jean Claude Josaphat has stepped up from his position as a national team assistant coach to lead the team for the January games.

A new coach inevitably brings new ideas. It is rumored Derrick Etienne (who is in training with the team) may have a significant part to play in the lineup Josaphat deploys to try to advance Haiti a little closer to the 2017 Gold Cup.