Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team head coach Kenwyne Jones named three United States-based debutantes in his 25-member squad as they prepare for the 2022 Concacaf W Championship from 4 July.
The W Championship serves as the qualifiers for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
The Women Soca Warriors are grouped with Canada, Costa Rica and Panama in Group B, with the top two nations advancing automatically to the World Cup—and going on to compete for an Olympic spot—while the third placed team will enter a Fifa Play Off stage.
Jones said he wanted more firepower for the W Championship and there are four new attackers in his squad. Notably, TTFA 2021 Player of the Year and Turkey-based striker Kenya ‘Yaya’ Cordner is not one of them.
Cordner withdrew from the national team after Jones cut her friend and former international captain Maylee Attin-Johnson, earlier this year, and there was no move from the coach or gifted player to mend their relationship.
Instead, Jones turned to former national youth team flanker Tori Paul (George Mason University—USA) and the overseas-born trio of Edna Konte (University of Connecticut—USA), Jolie St Louis (Seattle University—USA) and Brianna Austin (Florida Atlantic University—USA).
It is the first time that Konte, St Louis or Austin have been involved with a Trinidad and Tobago team.
Jones also summoned former Trinidad and Tobago national youth team goalkeeper Makida Herbert (Corban University—USA). Otherwise, he retained the bulk of his players from the earlier qualifying round with captain Karyn “Baby” Forbes, playmaker Asha James and defender Victoria Swift all included.
Midfielder Shani Nakhid-Schuster and local-based attackers Dennecia Prince (Point Fortin) and Aaliyah Trim (FC Ginga) were the only players on the Women Soca Warriors roster for their 2-2 draw with Guyana who will not head to Monterrey.
The national team will be whittled from 25 to 23 players in time for the W Championship.
“I think in all honesty, bar one player (who had a medical issue)… the training camp squad that we have is quite strong,” said Jones, at a press conference today. “[It] gives us the best chance to go out there and create history.”
Trinidad and Tobago have never qualified for a Fifa women’s tournament, although they appeared as hosts in the 2010 Fifa Under-17 Women’s World Cup. Memorably, the Women Warriors came within touching distance of the 2015 Canada Women’s World Cup, only to lose at home to Ecuador in a Fifa Play Off.
An expanded World Cup tournament, though, means Trinidad and Tobago can qualify with just a single win in next month’s W Championship.
“It is the best time for us to be able to get to that other level,” said Jones. “As we know, we have been close before… My goal is for them to qualify. I told the team that I do believe in them 100 percent and I believe they will qualify.
“It is just about going through the stages, ticking the boxes and working really hard to get there… We do have the talent to do so.
“The composition of the squad is wonderful at this point and we are going to give it our best shot.”
Jones said the pre-tournament camp could also be key as it allows them ample time to adjust to the heat, altitude and cuisine of Monterrey. He will also try to mimic the format of the competition with practice games in a similar environment and with identical recovery times between matches.
“We wanted to get on the ground and get accustomed to that environment, so we will be able to hit the ground running,” he said, “[…] and be settled before the tournament.”
Jones hinted that Trinidad and Tobago’s fixture against Panama, which is their last group match on 11 July, might offer their best chance of success. The nations played to back-to-back draws last October in exhibition matches at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
“We have changed [since then], we have gotten stronger—we have added new players,” said Jones. “The chemistry has gotten better. That game is going to be one we are looking forward to.”
However, he insisted he does not fear Costa Rica either, which is Trinidad and Tobago’s second opponent on 8 July. He described “Las Ticas” as a “fantastic team” with a potent counter attack and “a lot of variation with set pieces”.
“But I believe we have enough in our squad to stand the test and to also be able to pull off a victory,” he said. “It all goes down to how well we prepare and how badly we want it on the day.”
Canada, the reigning Olympic champions, are another story altogether. They will be Trinidad and Tobago’s opening opponent at the W Championship on 5 July.
“We are going to stand on our principles and the way we would like to play and go down playing football not fighting,” said Jones, of their impending battle with the Fifa’s sixth best ranked women’s team. “When you get to the tournament, you want to be able to have your own identity and style of play within the tournament and we are definitely going to do so.”
The Women Soca Warriors are ranked 76th in the world by Fifa while Canada, Costa Rica and Panama are 6th, 37th and 57th respectively.
“Our aim is to pick up as much points as possible with each game that we play,” said Jones, “to put ourselves in the best chance to qualify for the World Cup.”
(Trinidad and Tobago team)
Goalkeepers: Kimika Forbes (Unattached), Tenesha Palmer (Police FC), K’lil Keshwar (St Francis College—USA), Makida Herbert (Corban University—USA);
Defenders: Chelsi Jadoo (Valadares Gaia FC—Portugal), Rhea Belgrave (Police FC), Victoria Swift (Unattached), Shaunalee Govia (Unattached), Shadi Cecily Stoute (University of Georgia—USA), Liana Hinds (Hibernian—Scotland), Kedie Johnson (University of Louisiana Monroe—USA);
Midfielders: Lauryn Hutchinson (Unattached), Karyn Forbes (Police FC), Amaya Ellis (Johns Hopkins University—USA), Chelcy Ralph (Ball State University—USA), Asha James (West Texas A&M University—USA), Sarah De Gannes (Western Illinois University—USA),
Forwards: Raenah Campbell (Unattached), Cayla Mc Farlane (Harvard University—USA), Maya Matouk (Police FC), Edna Konte (University of Connecticut—USA), Tori Paul (George Mason University—USA), Maria-Frances Serrant (West Texas A&M—USA), Jolie St Louis (Seattle University—USA), Brianna Austin (Florida Atlantic University—USA).
Technical staff: Kenwyne Jones, Carlos Edwards (assistant coach), James Baird (goalkeeper coach), Joanne Daniel (manager), Anyl Gopeesingh (team doctor), Rejan Chin (rehab specialist), Terry Johnson-Jeremiah (equipment manager), Atiba Downes (strength and conditioning coach), Andre Sooklal (media officer and video analyst), Alexandria Olton (sport psychologist), Dean Tuitt (trainer), Kylla Charles (massage therapist).