Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team begin their 2020 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship campaign on Monday 30 September. The fresh-faced squad—more than half of whom are newcomers at senior international level—will face Aruba at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
Head coach, Stephan De Four, said the team was ‘a good, mixed pool of local, professional and college players’.
Newly named captain, Karyn Forbes, her sister, goalkeeper Kimika Forbes, Khadisha Debesette, Janine Francois, Liana Hinds, Aaliyah Prince and Shanelle Arjoon are the only players with national senior team experience.
Monday’s 5pm kick-off will also feature the new face of women’s football that does not include Kennya ‘Yaya’ Cordner, Kayla Taylor, Arin King, Rhea Belgrave, former captains Natasha St Louis and Maylee Attin-Johnson and Ahkeela Mollon—the Women’s League Football (WoLF) top scorer. Goalkeeper Saundra Baron is out injured.
De Four, a former Women’s Under-17 coach and U-20 women’s assistant coach, said his programme is in the process of succession planning.
“What I’m looking for is bridging the teams together from some past players to some new players,” he said. “It’s a building phase we’re in right now. We’re moving forward toward the next World Cup qualification.”
To that end, he and his staff held three ‘combines’ in the US with diaspora players from the US and Canada. They comprised 18 of his initial 29-player squad (the team is now down to 20).
De Four said: “There are some people we tried to get that could not be available or injuries have prevented them from being available for the first round. Hopefully, we will have them for the next round as we move forward in this tournament. But I’m very pleased with the quality that we have now.”
With the full group coming into camp just seven days ago, he maintained he was confident they were fit enough to compete.
“Most of these players have been playing with their club teams and the college players have had their pre-season training with their colleges, so they’ve all come in basically with a level of fitness to represent that level that we’re looking for them to play at,” De Four said.
He did admit that he wished he had gotten at least three months to prepare with the team but says the group’s chemistry in training is already building.
“We have to work with what we have right now. The time that we got them was the earliest that I could’ve gotten them.”
In her role as captain, Forbes, a veteran of the Women’s 2015 World Cup campaign, said she wanted to help keep the team disciplined and motivated and help them understand ‘the magnitude of playing at a national level’.
“Being captain is a new role for me, so I have to make adjustments,” Forbes said. “It’s more responsibility. I have to be able to motivate my players to help them to understand the preparation we did to get where we were [in 2014] and hopefully they could understand what it takes.”
T&T hosts Caribbean Group A and currently sits 61st on the FIFA/Coca-Cola world rankings and fifth in Concacaf.
The five-team group includes the Dominican Republic (107th, 14th) St Kitts and Nevis (134th, 18th), Antigua and Barbuda (154th, 25th) and Aruba (158th, 27th).
Only the top team will advance from the round-robin group and qualify for the 2020 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship.
Five groups: Central America Group A in Costa Rica, Central America Group B in Panama, Caribbean Group A in Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean Group B in Jamaica, and Caribbean Group C in Haiti will determine the final five teams that will play automatic qualifiers, Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Two teams will qualify for Tokyo 2020.
De Four said he expects to be one of them.
“I’m not underestimating anyone. We’re not better than anyone, but we’re good as everybody else. The teams we are playing against, we expect to come out [of] the group as number 1,” he said.
De Four continued: “I haven’t coached against any of them in the past, but I know what we have, and I want them to think about us because we have to get back to the dominance that we had in the Concacaf region with women’s football.”
(Trinidad and Tobago team)
Goalkeepers: 1.Kimika Forbes (Millonarios FC, Colombia), 18.Tennesha Palmer (Police FC, T&T);
Defenders: 3.Amaya Ellis (Uni. of Illinois, USA, CB), 14.Karyn Forbes (CAPTAIN) (Fjaroabyggo, Iceland CB), 4.Maria-Frances Serra (St. Augustine Secondary, T&T, DF), 2.Meyah Romeo (Monroe College, USA, DF), 5.Liana Hinds (Sundsvall DFF, Sweden, RB), 6.Sydney Boisselle (York University, Canada, RB), 7.Khadisha Debesette (Club Sando, T&T, CB), 10.Janine Francois 1(QPCC, T&T, CB), 19.Tori Paul (Olympic High, USA, LB);
Midfielders: 8.Asha James (Florida Int’l Uni., USA, M), 9.Nia Walcott (Uni. Maryland, USA, M), 11.Maya Matouk (Uni. Of Tampa, USA, F/M), 12.Jasandra Joseph (Trincity Nationals, T&T, M);
Forwards: 15.Afyiah Cornwall (QPCC, T&T, F),13 Shanelle Arjoon (West Texas A&M, USA, F/M), 16.Kayla Prince (Club Sando, T&T, F), 17.Aaliyah Prince (North Texas State, USA F/M), 20.Cayla Mc Farlane (Patdadores, USA, F).