Trinidad and Tobago and United Petrotrin winger Mariah Shade was an unlikely hero tonight as the “Soca Princesses” overcame a potentially awkward assignment to whip Antigua and Barbuda 3-0 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
The result assured the Soca Princesses of their place at October’s CONCACAF Women’s Championship in the United States alongside fellow Group B outfit Martinique and Group A teams Jamaica and Haiti.
But Trinidad and Tobago’s progress was anything but smooth.
Star attacker Kennya “Ya Ya” Cordner was ruled out of the match for a heart issue, one hour before kick off, while defender Ayanna Russell missed the game through injury.
Twenty minutes into the first half, Trinidad and Tobago captain Maylee Attin-Johnson picked up her second yellow card of the competition for a high boot and was ruled out of Sunday’s group decider against Martinique.
Head coach Randy Waldrum, who replaced his son at the helm of the national team on Thursday, has had much to digest in the past 48 hours. But he was happy to point out the most important fact.
And that is the Soca Princesses are through to the next round in their Canada 2015 World Cup qualifying campaign.
“I’m very pleased obviously with the result,” said Waldrum. “The objective was to qualify for CONCACAF…”
A draw on Sunday against Martinique would be enough for Trinidad and Tobago to advance to next Tuesday’s Caribbean Cup finals.
Martinique laboured to a 1-0 win yesterday over a St Kitts and Nevis team that conceded ten times against Trinidad and Tobago. But it was enough for the French islanders to qualify for the CONCACAF round as well.
Elsewhere in Group A, Jamaica routed Bermuda 9-1 on Thursday to top the group while Haiti whipped Puerto Rico 4-0. The Jamaican women only need a draw at 6.15 pm this evening to top the group and contest the maiden Women’s Caribbean Cup title.
Hopefully, Trinidad and Tobago will stand in their way.
There was no repeat of the goal spree in the Princesses’ opening match and Waldrum admitted that he was not pleased with the pace of his team’s ball movement. But he was happy to face a different sort of challenge and believes his team is better for the experience.
Antigua coach Rowan Isaac decided on Wednesday night, as he watched Trinidad and Tobago pummel St Kitts, that damage limitation was the best he could muster against the host nation. So he sent his ladies out in a 5-4-1 system that kept compact and defended deep.
Without Cordner’s speed and dynamism, it took the Princesses longer than they expected to get the breakthrough.
“We definitely missed Kannya with her speed and tenacity up there,” said Attin-Johnson. “But we got the result and hopefully we will be better next time.”
St Louis, who scored a hattrick against St Kitts, crashed a penalty off the underside of the bar in the 25th minute. But it was a rare opening for the host team as the Antiguans clogged up the space on top of their box and waited defiantly.
Antigua’s inability to conjure up anything capable of troubling the opposing central defensive pair of Arin King and Rhea Belgrave meant the pressure was intolerable and a Trinidad and Tobago goal was a matter of when not if.
Shade, the versatile Petrotrin attacker, did the honours in the 36th minute with a fine header at the back post after an impeccable left footed cross from deep-lying playmaker Karyn Forbes.
The duo combined again, four minutes into the second half, but, on that occasion, Shade stabbed Forbes’ cross off the upright on the half volley.
Four minutes later, Shade again demonstrated her penalty box prowess; this time converting a diagonal cross into the area from left back Linda Hutchinson.
It was clinical fare but not exactly pulsating stuff from the host team.
“It was different to what we faced two days ago,” said Shade. “But we listened to the coach and worked it out for the second half.”
Waldrum explained that he urged his full backs to be more adventurous in the second half and asked his winged attackers to play narrower. He appreciates that the Caribbean tournament barely resembles what Trinidad and Tobago will face in two months at CONCACAF level; so he is more interested in intensity and speed of thought than lopsided results.
“The number of goals is not important to me,” he said.
If Shade’s second goal was orchestrated during the halftime talk, Trinidad and Tobago’s third goal owed much to a move of individual brilliance.
Attin-Johnson won a yard of space in the 64th minute and threaded through to St Louis who turned on her marker before slapping into the far corner from 22 yards. St Louis put her hands behind her back and glared cheekily at Antiguan goalkeeper Nikisha Samuel who had managed to keep her off the score card for just over an hour.
Waldrum admitted Attin-Johnson would be missed on Sunday.
“Maylee is a very big part of what we do,” said Waldrum. “She is our captain for a reason… She helps galvanise the troops.”
But there was not all gloom.
Russell, who has a bruised ankle, will return in central defence on Sunday and is likely to captain the Princesses in Attin-Johnson’s absence.
“(Russell) could have played tonight,” said Waldrum, “but we gave her an extra day’s rest.”
There is even a chance that Cordner would return to face Martinique. The gifted attacker is due to take a MRI tomorrow and there is the possibility that she will be cleared to play.
Waldrum explained that Cordner’s absence was as a safety precaution and the player was disappointed to miss out.
“Hopefully, she will be ready to go for the next game,” he said.
Trinidad and Tobago football fans may spend the next few hours whispering private prayers.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-1-3-2): 1.Kimika Forbes (GK); 6.Khadidra Debesette (15.Patrice Superville 75), 4.Rhea Belgrave, 5.Arin King, 12.Lauryn Hutchinson (8.Afiyah Matthias 81); 14.Karyn Forbes; 3.Mariah Shade, 11.Janine Francois, 9.Maylee Attin-Johnson (captain); 10.Tasha St Louis, 7.Darnelle Mascall (16.Jo-Marie Lewis 68).
Unused substitutes: 21.Tinesha Palmer (GK), 13.Shenelle Henry, 18.Annalis Cummings.
Coach: Randy Waldrum
Antigua and Barbuda (5-4-1): 1.Nikisha Samuel (GK); 11.Breanna Humphreys, 6.Shakima Benjamin, 2.Karen Warner, 14.Amelia Green (captain), 15.Arrianne Whyte, 13.Portia Davis;, 12.Kitanya Hughes (17.De’vikka Tittle 73), 10.Marley Jarvis, 18.Anik Jarvis (19.Tritch-Ann Grant 46); 4.Shery-Ann Bertrand (16.Kanika Buckley 65).
Unused substitutes: 20.Dominique David (GK), 3.Nikesha Gage, 5.Kai Jamie Jacobs, 7.Argell London, 8.Lakeisha Samuel, 9.Shanell Henry.
Coach: Rowan Isaac
Referee: Irazema Aguilera (Cuba)
2014 Caribbean Cup results
(Fri Aug 22)
Martinique 1 (Aurelie Rouge 52), St Kitts and Nevis 0 at Hasely Crawford
Trinidad and Tobago 3 (Mariah Shade 36, 53, Tasha St Louis 64), Antigua and Barbuda 0 at Hasely Crawford
(Thu Aug 21)
Jamaica 9 (Donnakay Henry 5, 92, Alicia Wilson 28, Shakira Duncan 32, 45, 47, 76, Venicia Reid 78, Keunna Dill OG), Bermuda 1 (Shuntae Todd 70) at Couva
Haiti 5 (Yves Gervil 9, Kencia Marshall 47, Samantha Brand 75, Marie Yves Pierre 79), Puerto Rico 0 at Couva
Bermuda v Puerto Rico, 4 pm, Group A, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Haiti v Jamaica, 6.15 pm, Group A, Ato Boldon Stadium;
St Kitts v Antigua and Barbuda, 4 pm, Group B, Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Trinidad and Tobago v Martinique, 7.15 pm, Group B, Hasely Crawford Stadium.