The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team are Caribbean champions again, as the “Women Soca Warriors” defeated Puerto Rico 1-0 tonight in the final game of the regional 2016 Olympic qualifying round at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
United States-based utility player Karyn “Bibi” Forbes decided the affair with a close range blast in the 24th minute.
Puerto Rico did fashion a few opportunities and substitute Annie Lee Mendez came closest, as her effort in the 61st minute was pushed on to the bar by Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Kimika Forbes, who is also sister of the goal scorer.
By and large, it was a much more comfortable game for the W/Warriors than their extra time 2-1 semifinal win over Jamaica on Wednesday. Incidentally, Jamaica were eliminated this evening as Guyana sealed the third qualifying berth for the CONCACAF phase with a surprise 1-0 win over the “Reggae Girlz.”
But, whereas Trinidad and Tobago needed a heroic performance from Kimika to squeeze into the final, Puerto Rico, as well organised as they were, lacked Jamaica’s offensive bite.
Trinidad and Tobago coach Anthony Creece partnered Lauryn Hutchinson with captain Arin King in central defence and the pair restricted Puerto Rico to long range efforts, which offered little more than catching practice for their custodian.
In attack, winger Ahkeela Mollon looked to be closer to her menacing best down the right flank while Tasha St Louis and Karyn took turns in charging the opposing penalty area to receive her crosses.
Karyn should have doubled the W/Warriors’ advantage in the 50th minute but, with time and space, she blasted overbar from just eight yards out.
Trinidad and Tobago might have regretted that error in the 61st minute as Puerto Rico finally got a clear sight on goal.
Hutchinson was caught trying to play Mendez offside and the Puerto Rican substitute ran on to a slipped pass from midfielder Laura Suarez. But Mendez watched in horror as her shot deflected off Kimika’s leg and rebounded into play off the bar.
The hosts had another opportunity to get an insurance goal in the 77th minute, as St Louis collected a Mollon cross but failed to beat opposing goalkeeper Karly Gustafson with a shot on the turn.
And then, in the 85th minute, Puerto Rico got another gilt-edged chance. Trinidad and Tobago left back Danielle Blair, who has been a revelation throughout the competition, was caught napping as substitute Selimar Pagan flew past her to run on to another Suarez pass.
For about 20 yards, Pagan ran unattended towards the Trinidad and Tobago penalty area. Then, distracted by the burly frame of the W/Warriors custodian, she shot wide of the far post.
The Puerto Rico attacker dropped the ground and stared into the heavens.
And Trinidad and Tobago, despite disastrous preparation and internal issues that deprived them of captain Maylee Attin-Johnson and star attacker Kennya “Yaya” Cordner, ruled the Caribbean again.
There was no trophy, medals or fizzy drinks to celebrate with, so the Women Warriors danced and emptied water bottles on each other instead.
They will now take a short break before resuming training to prepare for a glamour exhibition match with the United States on December 6 in Honolulu, Hawaii. CONCACAF competition will follow early next February.
Time will tell if coach Randy Waldrum, Attin-Johnson and Cordner—among others—will be back for that.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.Kimika Forbes (GK); 13.Annalis Cummings, 20.Lauryn Hutchinson, 5.Arin King (captain), 2.Danielle Blair; 8.Naomie Guerra (15.Victoria Swift 64), 6.Khadidra Debesette; 12.Ahkeela Mollon, 14.Karyn Forbes, 19.Chevonne John (11.Janine Francois 63); 10.Tasha St Louis.
Unused substitutes: 17.Nicolette Craig (GK), 3.Melissa Woo Ling, 4.Daniella Findley, 7.Dernelle Mascall, 9.Sharain Cummings.
Unavailable: 18.Tenesha Palmer (GK), 16.Jo-Marie Lewis.
Coach: Anthony Creece
Puerto Rico (4-2-3-1): 1.Karly Gustafson (GK); 17.Adriana Font, 14.Ashley Marie Rivera, 7.Delyaliz Rosario Amber (captain), 4.Jacqueline Marie Cruz; 20.Britanny Cruz, 10.Laura Suarez; 16.Alejandra Carrion (11.Annie Lee Mendez 46), 19.Stephanie Colon (18.Nicole Rodriguez 46), 6.Scout Benson (8.Selimar Pagan 64); 9.Karina Socarras,
Unused substitutes: 13.Sandra Rolon (GK), 2.Franchelies Alvira, 3.Nashila Class, 5.Noella Reyes, 12.Antonella Monreal.
Coach: Garabet Avedessian
Referee: Annia Navarrete (Cuba)
Player of the Match: Arin King (Trinidad and Tobago)
Caribbean Olympic qualifier final
(Friday November 20)
Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Karyn Forbes 24), Puerto Rico 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Third Place Play Off
Guyana 2, Jamaica 1 at Ato Boldon Stadium.