Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 Team head coach Dernelle Mascall credited Puerto Rico for their strides in the women’s game, after they eliminated the Women Soca Warriors with a thumping 5-0 win yesterday in a 2023 Concacaf Under-20 Championship qualifier in Curaçao.
However, Mascall’s post-mortem of the team’s emphatic defeat failed to touch on her own tactical game plan—and, in particular, the coach’s decision to start their most important game without her best three players: J’Eleisha Alexander, Talia Martin, and Orielle Martin.
In two matches against Cayman Islands and Guadeloupe, Trinidad and Tobago scored six goals. Alexander got three of them, while Talia had two and created the other, which was converted by Nikita Jackson.
On the eve of their do-or-die game against Puerto Rico, Mascall described Alexander as her best finisher.
“Alexander came up big for us [against Guadeloupe],” Mascall told the TTFA Media. “She is the best one we have in terms of finding the back of the net and she came up big for us with a hattrick.”
Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical director Anton Corneal, who was also in Curaçao, was even more complimentary about the two Tobago teenagers.
“[Talia] has good skill—uncanny skill,” Corneal told Wired868. “Her confidence is above average and you want to encourage that and let her do what she likes doing.
“[…] Alexander is physically good and very direct… She is fast and strong and understands how to use her speed; and she kicks very well at goal.”
By their own assessment, it was a big decision to start the match without them. And by the time that Mascall got her best attacking players on the field for the start of the second half, the Women Soca Warriors were already trailing by two goals.
There is no suggestion Mascall tried to sabotage her own team. According to football sources, the hope was that Alexander, Talia and Orielle would come on to run at a tired Puerto Rico defence. (Trinidad and Tobago entered the match needing a win while Puerto Rico would have advanced with a draw.)
As it transpired, Trinidad and Tobago never got close to the opposing goal in the opening 45 minutes—and the only outcome was that Puerto Rico got a two-goal start.
The fact that the Spanish-speaking islanders extended their lead with Trinidad and Tobago’s best players on the field arguably implies that even the talented trio could not swing the game in favour of the two-island republic.
However, why does Mascall, as an international coach, not feel she owes the public any explanation regarding what she does on the job?
Should the lack of accountability at the helm of the local football body—in the shape of Fifa-appointed normalization committee chairman Robert Hadad—now be considered contagious?
Prior to the competition, Wired868 sent the following question to Mascall via assistant coach Rajesh Latchoo and then via the TTFA Media:
“Good day. I noticed a lot of new faces in the under-20 squad. Was that because girls on the former [National] Under-17 Team didn’t turn up? Or just [that the] new girls shone?”
Beyond an acknowledgement from Latchoo, Mascall never responded. Eventually Corneal did give some insight into the Women’s Under-20 Team—although he did not respond to our question about T&T’s starting XI for the Puerto Rico fixture either.
And now Mascall might have made history as the first national football coach to oversee an entire tournament without directly addressing the media even once.
Almost 24 hours after Trinidad and Tobago’s elimination, she read a prepared statement to the public via an audio note on the TTFA’s Facebook page.
“Puerto Rico have invested in the women’s game and are now reaping the rewards,” said Mascall. “We must give them the credit. Fitness, maturity and experience were the deciding factors for us in the end.”
The coach further hinted that the Women Warriors did not recover fully from their 3-2 win over Guadeloupe on Monday and might not have been at their physical peak against Puerto Rico.
She then credited National Under-15 coaches Ayana Russell and Marlon Charles for their development work with her young team and insisted they will do well in the future, once supported.
“Most of the players here still have another shot at the U-20 level and nine players are still eligible for the upcoming [Concacaf] U-17 tournament,” Mascall told the TTFA Media. “So the experience and exposure they gained here in this tournament augurs well for the future of the women’s programme.
“And I strongly believe that with ample time for preparation, this group of players are the ones to put us back on the map in the women’s game.”
From Angus Eve to Pep Guardiola, it is customary that coaches explain their decision-making to their team’s supporters via the independent media.
Mascall has so far denied Trinidad and Tobago football fans the chance to consider the merit of her tactical plan to take her team past Puerto Rico and into the 2023 Concacaf Under-20 Championship.
At this rate, the Warriors are not only struggling to hold their own on the field of play. They are also running the risk of alienating their remaining supporters as well.