For the third time in six days, Trinidad and Tobago’s Junior Women Soca Warriors scored first in a first round match during the CONCACAF Under-20 Women’s Championship at the Ato Boldon Stadium. That’s the good news.
For the third time in six days, Trinidad and Tobago’s Junior Women Soca Warriors suffered defeat, failing to hold onto a lead in their final Group A encounter against Costa Rica and therefore waving a low-key goodbye to the tournament. That is by no means good news.
In front of a significantly smaller crowd than was the case in their first two games, the Jamaal Shabazz-coached women fell 2-1 to a Costa Rican outfit that fielded as many as eight new faces in their starting line-up.
If the tactic worked for Costa Rica, for Haiti, who went with nine changes to their starting line-up, it backfired. They were comprehensively beaten 4-0 by Group toppers Canada in the earlier match of the double-header.
Coach Shabazz was proud of his players’ effort but once again bemoaned their inability to convert a lead into victory.
“I think the girls played their heart out tonight and [I’m] very satisfied that they gave of their best,” Shabazz told the media at the post-match briefing. “We know we’ve got to make a better preparation going forward and try to prepare a team that can be more intense in the battles.
“We have to become a nation that when the hard times come, we show more resilience. We’ve got to improve the battles on the training pitch and in doing so, it can transform on the field.
“I think that the girls gave a great account of themselves tonight […] (It was) unfortunate that we had to go down because of a penalty.”
Within seconds of entering the pitch at the start of the second half, substitute Fabiola Villalobos won and converted a penalty conceded by the once more largely impressive K’lil Keshwar in the T&T goal.
Racing to dispute possession of a ball with Villalobos, Keshwar failed to make any contact with the ball and clattered into the Costa Rican attacker. Villalobos appealed successfully to United States referee Ekaterina Koroleva for a penalty, picked herself up off the ground and calmly put the ball past Keshwar from the spot.
Shabazz is not certain that that is what should have happened.
“I am not one to complain about the referees,” he said, “(but) tonight I wish I was a FIFA referee. […] I feel sorry for my young ladies tonight. […] I think that we have been very unfortunate with some decisions…”
The penalty put the wind in the sails of the Costa Ricans, who went in search of a winner and got it from the feet of tricky attacker Hillary Corrales.
Corrales had started on the bench in the previous match versus Haiti but had come on to score and put a mighty scare into their French–speaking opponents before her side eventually held out for the 3-2 win.
Getting the start against the hosts, though, Corrales merely kicked on from where she had left off, taking full advantage of a laid-back T&T side who were very charitable with acreage on the pitch.
In the 55th minute, capitalising on a deflected header by Sheneika Paul, the unmarked Corrales stole in, beat Keshwar to the ball at the back post and contrived to flick it around the giant keeper, leaving the recovering defenders pressing in vain to clear the attempt off the goal-line.
Alongside captain and Player-of-the-Match Gloriana Villalobos, Corrales had T&T firmly on the backfoot from the first whistle. They were, however, hit with a sucker punch in the 37th minute when, with their first sequence of meaningful possession, the hosts opened the scoring.
Ranae Ward set the overlapping Jaasiel Forde free down the right and she played an incisive lofted pass into the path of hotshot attacker Dennecia Prince. With her first touch, she made a yard of space for herself and then coolly placed the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs.
It was as deft and as clinical a finish as they come.
The item was Prince’s second goal of the tournament and Shabazz certainly sees a bright future for his young attacker if she can maintain her progress.
“She has had some explosive moments,” said Shabazz. “You can see a player that, with a lot more fitness, a higher level of fitness achieved, […] is […] ready to graduate to the senior team.”
While Prince (D) may have been the decisive player in the game, it was her namesake and partner-in-crime Aaliyah Prince and Keshwar who caught the eye of Costa Rica coach Amelia Valverde.
“It’s (T&T) a very balanced team as well as there are many strong players that are the reference of the team,” Valverde told the media after the match. For example, the goalkeeper (Keshwar), she has a very good form and also the number 10 (Aliyah Prince) is very impressive.”
At the end of the narrow 3-2 loss to Haiti on Saturday, Valverde had announced that, in the final game versus T&T, she would be offering playing time to some of her younger players and hoped that they would seize the opportunity to finish the tournament strongly.
At the end of the 90 minutes on Monday, she was pleased with what she had seen.
“We saw that the changes we made were very coherent and the players were able to adjust,” said Valverde. “This game was very tight but we had the goal of knowing that we were not able to qualify (but) we still wanted to win this game. This victory helps us to wash (away) what happened on Saturday.”
Saturday’s Group A encounter between Marc Collat’s Haiti team and Costa Rica had seen a tenacious, aggressive Haitian team taking the fight to their opponents. Against the Canadians yesterday, however, that description was furthest from the truth.
Fielding only Ruthny Mathurin and Tabita K. Joseph from among the starters in the previous game, Haiti were a mere shadow of their true selves and Canada tore into them from the first whistle.
With experienced captain Gabby Carle restored to her starting berth after being rested versus T&T, the North Americans threatened to run away with the game in the first half as a Shana Flynn hattrick left the Haitians reeling 0-3 down within the first 18 minutes.
Although tournament leading goal-scorer Jordyn Huitema couldn’t get her name on the scoresheet, she was involved in everything good that her team did.
She set up Flynn to tap in the opener on the second attempt. Flynn followed that up with an excellent arching shot into the top corner two minutes later before rounding out her hattrick in the 18th minute.
Collat’s introduction of his 15-year-old starlet Daelle Dumonay in the second half brought some much-needed direction and fight to the Haitians. However, when substitute Tanya Boychuk headed home Canada’s fourth after an error by goalkeeper Naphtaline Clermeus, the result was done and dusted and the final standings settled with Canada at the top.
Collat’s team selection—and, arguably, the manner in which they approached the game—seemed to indicate that Haiti’s clear priority was their semi-final match up against whichever of Mexico or the USA runs out winner in the other group.
The final first round matches come off today. With Canada and Haiti having already qualified for the next round before kick-off yesterday, the Group B sides will now know precisely which of the two they will be up against if they win. It might inspire both teams in the second encounter at 6.30pm when the USA play Mexico.
Before that at 4pm, the heartbroken Jamaican outfit, who were mere minutes away from registering their first point of the tournament versus USA, will face Nicaragua as both teams bid the competition au revoir.