Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team head coach Stephan De Four said his players are already showing signs of improvement in their ‘rebuilding process’ after they followed up on Sunday’s 4-1 defeat to St Kitts and Nevis with a goalless draw against the Dominican Republic at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
The result saw the host team finish third in one of three Caribbean qualifying groups for the 2020 Concacaf Gold Cup and Tokyo Olympic Games.
St Kitts and Nevis, who thumped Antigua and Barbuda 10-0 in the opening game of today’s double header, topped Group A and will advance to the Concacaf round while the Dominican Republic finished as runners-up. Both St Kitts and Nevis and the Dominican Republic were unbeaten in Group A after their head to head clash also finished 0-0.
De Four, who vowed to ‘finish the tournament strong’ despite being eliminated with a game to spare, saw the brighter side of their closing result.
“It was a good contest with the Dominican Republic and I was very pleased with the performance tonight,” said De Four, in the post-match press briefing. “I would say the take-away for us is seeing the rebuilding process happen—in the camp and on the field. It’s just going to take time.
“[…] I would say that I got to see all the young players, playing at this level and we have a lot of work to do in terms of connecting the senior players to the younger players. We are looking to rebuild the program and, even though we didn’t achieve what we wanted to achieve at this tournament, [we are] looking forward.”
De Four offered tournament debuts to goalkeeper Tenesha Palmer and midfielder Jasandra ‘Mama’ Joseph this evening but retained the core of his team from their earlier rounds. There was still pride to play for but, in the end, both teams produced a lacklustre showing.
Palmer did take the opportunity to show her worth, though. Soon after the kick off, defender Liana Hinds—who led the team with captain Karyn Forbes on the bench—sliced an attempted clearance into the path of Dominican Republic’s Daphne Fernandez in T&T’s penalty area. Fernandez could not believe her luck but snatched at the chance with Palmer well positioned to deny the visitors an opening goal.
That early scare aside, the Women Soca Warriors were fairly well organised and maintained their shape, much to the delight of team captain Forbes.
“Having seen us play, I think we were a little bit more organised, a little bit more attack-minded [and showed] more cohesiveness,” said Forbes, after the game. “I think definitely tonight was a step in the right direction. We have a lot of young girls and as I said, at some point we have to incorporate them because the youth is the future.
“[…] We could look at tonight’s performance and build on that.”
One player who made the most of the opportunity is teenager Maria-Frances Serrant, who gave another promising showing at right back.
“[Serrant] is just like 17 and she has been playing as though she has been playing in that position for a very long time,” said De Four. “I was very proud of her with her play for the whole tournament. She stepped up.”
De Four’s other full back, Meyah Romeo, almost created the opening goal though. Given the freedom of the Ato Boldon Stadium, she burst forward down the left flank with intent, powering past one, then two opponents before playing a give and go with Asha James to find space in a threatening position.
Romeo collected her thoughts before whipping in a clever ball to teammate Shanelle Arjoon but, much to the dismay of the few supporters in the stands, the lively attacker couldn’t sort out her feet and the chance went begging.
The second 45 minutes continued much like the first with Forbes, who replaced the injured Afiyah Cornwall in the 38 minute, spraying her trademark long passes but not finding enough productivity at the end of them.
The game seemed to be winding to a somber conclusion when one rash moment by Trinidad and Tobago flanker Aaliyah Prince almost gifted the Dominican Republic the decisive goal. Prince was booked after cynically scythed down an opponent and must have breathed a sigh of relief as Jazlyn Oviedo hammered the resulting free kick off the frame of the post.
In the end, the Women Warriors, who were Caribbean champions in 2014 and runners-up in 2018, might have been relieved to even finish third in one of three regional groups.
De Four did not appear discouraged in the slightest though.
“I said we’re not stopping,” said De Four. “It’s a rebuilding process so this team isn’t going to stop training. Most of the girls are going to go back to school and maybe around December we bring them back again.
“The association brought me here, I sent them my strategic plan very early and I think they intend to support that. This setback here is just not going to stop us from moving forward.”
The Women Warriors coach pleaded with the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) for more opportunities to get his players together to continue the process.
“This is our first game out from since the team played last year October or something like that,” he said. “It’s to start getting them to play more games and the cohesiveness will come in and our fitness levels will start picking up. Games [are] what we looking for next year during all the FIFA windows.
“[…] I am going to try to get more international games for us to play. So we’re not stopping!”
De Four also revealed plans to hold more combines in North America to scout players who qualify to represent Trinidad and Tobago through their parentage. By the time the Women Warriors take the field again, he suggested they may be a new-look team.
“From here I go back and start doing more combines to start looking for more players to build the program as much as possible in all different age groups,” he said. “We have a lot of players like I said who are out there […] and surely when the next team starts playing we will see a whole new different team most likely.”
Trinidad and Tobago (4-1-4-1): 18.Tenesha Palmer (GK); 4.Maria-Frances Serrant, 7.Khadisha Debesette, 5.Liana Hinds, 2.Meyah Romeo; 12.Jasandra Joseph (19.Tori Paul); 15.Afiyah Cornwall (14.Karyn Forbes), 9.Nia Walcott, 8.Asha James (17.Aaliyah Prince), 13.Shanelle Summer Arjoon; 16.Dennecia Prince.
Unused Substitutes: 1.Kimika Forbes (GK), 6.Sydney Boisselle, 10.Janine Francois, 11.Maya Matouk, 20.Carla Mc Farlane.
Head Coach: Stephan De Four
Dominican Republic (4-3-3): 1.Claudia Torres (GK); 18.Alicia Victoria (13.Alexa Pacheco), 3.Denny Vargas, 2.Lissy Sanchez, 6.Gabriella Marte; 14.Kristina Garcia, 7.Winibian Peralta, 8.Nicole De Jesus; 11.Alyssa Oviedo, 9.Daphne Fernandez (5.Brieana Hallo), 17.Dayari Santos (15.Jazlyn Oviedo).
Unused Substitutes: 12.Nayelis Lopez (GK), 20.Carmen Nivar (GK), 4.Linette Urena, 10.Vanessa Fernandez, 16.Marianelys Perez, 19.Liliane Clase.
Head Coach: Kenneth Zremeta
Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying
(Monday 30 September)
St Kitts and Nevis 0, Dominican Republic 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Aruba 0, Trinidad and Tobago 3 (Nia Walcott 2, Afiyah Cornwall 73, Janine Francois 90+1) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Wednesday 2 October)
Dominican Republic 2 (Dayari Balbuena 7, 69), Aruba 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Trinidad and Tobago 5 (Nia Walcott 13, 89, Karyn Forbes 45+2 pen, 74, Aaliyah Prince 81), Antigua and Barbuda 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Friday 4 October)
Antigua and Barbuda 0, Dominican Republic 2 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Aruba 1, St Kitts and Nevis 6 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Sunday 6 October)
Antigua and Barbuda 2, Aruba 1 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Dennecia Prince 59), St Kitts and Nevis 4 (Ellie Stokes 6, Phoenitia Browne 14 pen, 23, 83) at Ato Boldon Stadium;
(Tuesday 8 October)
St Kitts and Nevis 10, Antigua and Barbuda 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium;
Trinidad and Tobago 0, Dominican Republic 0 at Ato Boldon Stadium.