The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team are already facing elimination from the 2018 Concacaf Championship, after they were brushed aside 3-0 by Panama this evening at Sahlen’s Stadium in Cary, North Carolina.
Panama are an unheralded team in the women’s game and Trinidad and Tobago needed a win to have a realistic chance of advancing from Group A to challenge for a place at the France 2019 World Cup.
Instead, an early first half goal and two more after the interval by the Central American nation deflated the Women Soca Warriors and left coach Shawn Cooper facing a monumental task to get anything from the competition.
Trinidad and Tobago play Mexico next on Sunday before closing off their group schedule against the formidable United States on Wednesday night. USA routed Mexico 6-0 tonight and Sunday’s affair could be decisive for the Mexican and Trinidad and Tobago players.
Four years ago, the Women Warriors came within one result of the Canada 2015 World Cup. But their shambolic preparation for the current Concacaf competition did not really suggest that another fairytale run was on the way.
Barely seven months ago, an understrength Trinidad and Tobago team played to a 2-1 loss and 1-1 tie with Panama in two friendlies at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva. Former head coach Jamaal Shabazz was in charge then and he did not have the benefit of lynchpins like Kimika Forbes, Arin King, Rhea Belgrave, Liana Hinds, Kayla Taylor and Kennya Cordner.
Shabazz quit his position in July but his stand-ins, Anton Corneal and Shawn Cooper, would argue that they never really got a chance to improve the side.
Farcical administration meant the Women Warriors did not have a pre-tournament camp—despite the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs agreeing to meet their every expense—and, on match day, it was not until a few hours before kick off that Taylor, Belgrave and veteran defender Ayana Russell finally joined the squad, after visa issues.
Taylor, Belgrave and Russell started this evening’s contest on the bench and Panama took advantage with an early lead. Attacker Marta Cox swept home from close range after captain Natalia Mills stepped inside Trinidad and Tobago defenders Jonelle Cato and Arin King to tee her up.
Midfielder Janine Francois was the closest Trinidad and Tobago player to Cox but never attempted to cover her opponent. Cox, incidentally, was the only Panamanian starter who did not play in Trinidad earlier this year.
The scoreline stood until the interval and, in the 50th minute, Cooper sent on Taylor for Liana Hinds. For about 15 minutes, the Women Warriors flickered.
Mariah Shade came closest to an equaliser with a cross-cum-shot that opposing goalkeeper Lenith Bailey tipped on to the bar in the 52nd minute. And, six minutes later, Taylor blasted a free kick at goal, which the 17-year-old Bailey—one of three teenagers in the Panama starting team—mishandled and was fortunate to see deflect out for a corner kick.
Trinidad and Tobago could not hold on to the ball though and, collectively, they were disjointed and lacked energy.
In the 68th minute, Panama doubled their lead with the Warriors defence at sea, as the Central Americans got two swipes at the ball in the opposing penalty area before Kenia Rangel prodded past the unprotected Forbes, who was between the uprights for Trinidad and Tobago.
And 19-year-old substitute Erika Hernández added insult to injury with a third goal in the 88th minute—just seconds after coming on—as she was on spot to tap home after Forbes failed to gather a low right side cross.
It won’t get any easier for Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday when they face Mexico from 5pm at the same venue.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-3): 1.Kimika Forbes (GK); 8.Patrice Superville, 5.Arin King, 13.Jenelle Cunningham (4.Rhea Belgrave 70), 7.Jonelle Cato; 11.Janine Francois, 14.Karyn Forbes (2.Ayana Russell 84), 10.Tasha St Louis (captain); 9.Liana Hinds (12.Kayla Taylor 50), 3.Mariah Shade, 19.Kennya Cordner.
Unused substitutes: 20.Saundra Baron (GK), 6.Natasha St Louis, 15.Shenelle Henry, 17.Lauryn Hutchinson.
Unavailable: Shadi Stoute, Naomie Guerra.
Coach: Shawn Cooper
Panama (4-2-2-2): 1.Yenith Bailey (GK); 4.Katherine Lineth Castillo, 2.Hilary Jaen, 5.Yomira Pinzón, 3.Maria Murillo; 6.Aldrith Quintero, 8.Laurie Batista; 11.Natalia Mills (captain) (13.Onelys Alvarado 82), 7.Kenia Rangel (18.Erika Hernandez 87); 10.Marta Cox (19.Lineth Cedeño 80), 9.Karla Riley.
Unused substitutes: 12.Farissa Córdoba (GK), 14.Maryorie Pérez, 15.Rebeca Espinosa, 16.Sheyla Díaz, 17.Anuvis Angulo, 20.María Montenegro.
Coach: Victor Suárez
Concacaf Women’s Championship
(Thursday 4 October)
Panama 3 (Marta Cox 12, Kenia Rangel 68, Erika Hernández 88), Trinidad and Tobago 0 at Cary, North Carolina
United States 6 (Megan Rapinoe 3, 71, Julie Ertz 47, Alex Morgan 57, 80, Tobin Heath 61), Mexico 0 at Cary, North Carolina.
(Sunday 7 October)
Panama vs USA, 5pm, Cary, North Carolina;
Mexico vs Trinidad and Tobago, 7:30pm, Cary, North Carolina.