Trinidad and Tobago today made it two wins in as many competitive outings, as a goal in each half from Asha James and Maria-Frances Serrant secured a 2-0 triumph over Dominica in Concacaf 2022 W Championship qualifying action at the National Track and Field Facility in Leonora, Guyana.
However, there is a source of concern. At present, Trinidad and Tobago have a goal difference of plus three, with four goals scored and one conceded. Guyana, in comparison, have scored 11 times without conceding.
Only one team will advance from Group F and, as the teams take a break before their closing two group games in April, it is the ‘Golden Jaguars’ who are in the driver’s seat.
Guyana host Nicaragua next on 8 April and it is unlikely to be a stroll in the park. But, should the Jaguars come out of that encounter with three points, the Women Soca Warriors will have no margin for error in this tournament.
Trinidad and Tobago face Guyana at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain on 12 April—after a visit to the Turks and Caicos Islands, three days earlier—and, quite likely, the visitors will only need a draw.
On Thursday, the Women Warriors were unfortunate to finish only one goal better than Nicaragua. But coach Kenwyne Jones could point to the handicap of playing roughly half the match with 10 players, after buccaneering left-back Kédie Johnson was shown a red card.
Today, Trinidad and Tobago were again clearly the better team. But the modest score summary and the lack of fizz in their outfield play told its own story. Jones’ troops must improve their output in possession—and fast!
“It was bittersweet for myself, for the staff—for the team really,” said Jones, after the match. “We are happy to have three points obviously [and to get] the six points from the two games but I think we could have done a lot better. I was really dissatisfied with the way we played tonight.”
Jones reshuffled his starting line-up today, as Rhea Belgrave began at left-back with utility player Lauryn Hutchinson taking her place in central defence, while Shani Nakhid-Schuster made her first international start as a midfield sentry alongside Amaya Ellis. And, up front, flanker Serrant gave way to the more powerful Dennecia Prince.
Prince started at centre-forward with captain Karyn ‘Baby’ Forbes used as a left-winger. By now, the only position Forbes has not played for her country is in goal—although, of course, there is already a Forbes there in the person of her sister, Kimika.
Ka Forbes got the first shot of the game in the 10th minute, a blast Dominica goalkeeper Christina Sobers bravely fended away. And the T&T captain made some purposeful runs down the flank too, to win space for her team.
Despite her valiant efforts, though, Ka Forbes is clearly best facing forward rather than being asked to change direction or play between the lines. And in her ceded holding midfield role, Nakhid-Schuster—the niece of former Trinidad and Tobago international stand-out David Nakhid—failed to make an impact.
One statistic said it all at halftime: Dominica had mustered 55% of the ball possession.
Trinidad and Tobago were ahead, though. In the 31st minute, Prince distracted the opposing defence as she tried to get on the end of a Liana Hinds cross, and James capitalised by controlling and then stabbing into the far corner.
James might have had a second in the 43rd minute but for a last-ditch tackle by opposing captain Kira Bertrand.
But a half-time score of 1-0 with just three shots on target was not nearly as emphatic as one would expect against an unheralded Caribbean nation.
The Women Warriors improved after the break, though. Bertrand missed a left-side cross from Ka Forbes in the 53rd minute and it took some feverish defending to keep out snapshots from Cayla McFarlane and Serrant.
Serrant, incidentally, came on late in the first half after Prince went down injured. Curiously, the substitute stayed in the centre-forward position rather than swapping places with Ka. Forbes.
The 57th minute provided a hint of the reason behind Jones’ deployment of his resources.
Hinds collected the ball midway in the Trinidad and Tobago half and blasted a long ball into the channel, where the athletic Serrant was peeling away behind the opposing defence.
Sobers got a hand to Serrant’s crisp drive but could not keep the ball from squirming into the far corner. And Trinidad and Tobago were two goals clear. It was Sobers last contribution before the 34-year-old goalkeeper was replaced with a suspected groin injury.
If Jones felt Trinidad and Tobago could exploit the sluggishness of the Dominica central defence, then certainly the more static Ka Forbes was not the best person for the job.
On the flip-side, Warriors fans might ask why Jones is not getting James on the ball more and wonder about the absence from the squad of more inventive attacking players like Afiyah Cornwall, Kayla Taylor and Summer Arjoon—let alone Kennya ‘Yaya’ Cordner and Maylee Attin-Johnson.
Expectation versus reality.
“Sometimes you can’t win the way you would like to play, but I am trying to be able to impress on the team a way of playing all the time—being in control and movement of the ball,” said Jones. “We are on the way to getting there.”
Jones’ Women Warriors are winning, though. Yet again, there was nothing lucky about the result. And the margin might easily have been wider.
In the 80th minute, another straightforward Ka Forbes cross was horribly misjudged by the Dominica defence and Serrant controlled, moved neatly into space, picked her corner—and hit wide.
Normally, a 2-0 win on the road would be something to celebrate. Yesterday, though, Guyana rested six starters in the Turks and Caicos and still ran up a table tennis score.
The Jaguars already have six different scorers and there is debate about a potential seventh, Brianne Desa, whose item against Dominica Concacaf tallied as an own goal.
If the Women Warriors are held by Guyana in April, Jones will remember the failings of his offence against Nicaragua and Dominica. But if his tactical tinkering keeps delivering the goods, it would be academic; the end would have justified the means.
At this stage, the Warriors need two wins against Turks and Caicos (8 April) and Guyana (12 April). Anything short would be insufficient.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.Kimika Forbes (GK); 7.Liana Hinds, 8.Victoria Swift, 20.Lauryn Hutchinson, 4.Rhea Belgrave; 9.Amaya Ellis, 3.Shani Nakhid-Schuster (17.Maya Matouk 65); 16.Cayla McFarlane (12.Chelcy Ralph 78), 10.Asha James (6.Kaydeen Jack 78), 14.Karyn Forbes; 13.Dennecia Prince (18.Maria-Frances Serrant 38).
Unused substitutes: 21.Tenesha Palmer (GK), 22.Klil Keshwar (GK), 2.Abishai Guy, 5.Shaunalee Govia, 19.Meyah Romeo.
Coach: Kenwyne Jones
Dominica (3-5-2): 12.Christina Sobers (GK) (1.Pearl Etienne [GK] 58); 17.Keanna Francis, 8.Britney Stoute, 18.Kira Bertrand (captain); 5.Alianne George, 7.Briyanna Riah Philip (4.Kasika Samuel 70), 19.Kylee Bertrand, 10.Starr Humphreys, 9.Alanna Finn (13.Briya Philip 11); 14.Sari Finn (21.Alijah Titre 70), 16.China Tulloch.
Unused substitutes: 3.Tyana Hilaire-Thomas, 11.Rosilia Registe, 15.Nyomie Defoe, 20.Tabique Lockhart, 23.Alexina Kishma Etienne.
Coach: Albert Titre
Concacaf W Championship qualifiers results
Guyana 4 (Shanice Alfred 17, Annalisa Vincent 26, Sydney Cummings 35, Britney Stoute OG 63), Dominica 0 at Leonora, Guyana.
Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Asha James 17, Karyn Forbes 64), Nicaragua 1 (Yessenia Flores 90+5) at Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.
Turks and Caicos 0, Guyana 7 (Cameo Hazlewood 10, 40, Hannah Baptiste 30, 72, Mariam El-Masri 48, 61, 84) at Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.
Dominica 0, Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Asha James 31, Maria-Frances Serrant 57) at Leonora, Guyana.
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