The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 Team rebounded from their opening tour loss against the Dominican Republic to whip Puerto Rico 3-0 today in their second pre-tournament friendly in Santo Domingo.
Once more, 18-year-old forward Afiyah Cornwall was the bright spark for the Women Soca Warriors as she notched a first half hattrick to sink the opposition.
“Cornwall is a monster for us right now,” said coach Richard Hood, who gave the former Carapichaima East Secondary student the captain’s armband for the first time before kick off. “She is just brilliant and the Puerto Rico defence could not deal with her. Even against the Dominican Republic’s defence, she was dribbling players in the twos and threes.
“She is very strong on the ball and is really showing that leadership we are looking for; and as a consequence she is [now] our captain.”
Cornwall was not the only player credited with a strong showing today in what Hood described as an improved team performance, after their 4-1 loss last Friday.
“I think we showed better energy levels as well as better offensive and defensive organisation and ball movement,” said Hood, who only got his full 20-member squad together on the weekend. “We did some good work on our structure on both sides of the ball and I think we have seen improvement all round; but the work continues.
“[…] The opposition was decent in terms of their technical ability, although they were not as aggressive as the Dominican Republic. I told my players that I did not blame them for that loss because we didn’t do enough together as a group yet. But I can see the benefit of a couple more days together.
“We will continue to improve on our organisation and our transition from defence to offence as we get closer to the tournament.”
Trinidad and Tobago kick off their Concacaf campaign on 22 February in Group F against St Kitts and Nevis. The Women Warriors are also paired with Haiti and the Cayman Islands. The top three nations will advance to the Round of 16.
Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical committee chairman Keith Look Loy has challenged all national coaches to consider the Concacaf quarterfinals as their minimum target. It would be a considerable achievement for Hood’s troops since, at Under-17 level under then coach Jamaal Shabazz, they failed to even get to the Caribbean final round.
Today, Hood made four changes to his starting team as he tries to get the right combinations. He did not see the nine North America-based members of his 20-member squad until they got to the Dominican Republic.
Intriguingly, Hood started with seven local-based players today. K’lil Keshwar, a St Francis College student in the United States, started ahead of Chelsea Ramnauth in goal while US-based forwards Cayla McFarlane and Tori Paul played as attacking midfielders. But Trinidad and Tobago used a totally home-based backline with Pleasantville Secondary midfielder Chrissy Mitchell being a surprise start at right back.
Mitchell was challenged to try a new role as Hood adjusted to the injury enforced absence of central defender Shalisha King but moving first choice right back Lathifa Pascall to a stopper position.
“Chrissy was a revelation [at right back],” said Hood. “She is a very good technical player but was struggling in midfield a bit. We are trying to get all our best technical and functional players on the field; we have to find a way to play to them.
“At right back, she brought a bit more composure in possession and added some good offensive play with her deliveries. She is a warrior but also has good technical qualities.”
Hood had wondered how best to integrate McFarlane into his squad and whether he would need to change from his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation to do so. However, he used the United States-born attacker as his offensive central midfielder against Puerto Rico and was pleased with her returns.
“When I spoke to [McFarlane], she said she can play as the ‘9’, ‘10’, ‘7’ or ‘11’,” said Hood. “We are looking at where we may need her the most. We tried her as the ‘10’ today and saw some decent combinations between her and Cornwall. We may try her on the wing too.
“We will definitely play her but it is just a matter of where we use her.”
Trinidad and Tobago play their final pre-tournament friendly on Wednesday against semi-professional women’s team, Abril LDF. Hood hinted that Pleasantville attacker Alexcia Ali, the 2019 Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) MVP, may start in the playmaker’s role against Abril, after she shook off an ankle injury to feature as a substitute today.
(Team against Puerto Rico)
Trinidad and Tobago U-20 (4-2-3-1): K’lil Keshwar (GK); Chrissy Mitchell, Lathifa Pascall, Tsian Fernandez, Nathifa Hackshaw; Sarah De Gannes, Aaliyah Pascall; Maria Frances-Serrant, Cayla McFarlane, Tori Paul; Afiyah Cornwall.
Substitutes: Chelsea Ramnauth (GK), Megan Rampersad, Aaliyah Prince, Sydney Boisselle, Roshun Williams, Sydni Greaves, Arnelle Douglas, Alexcia Ali.
Injured: Shalisha King.
Coach: Richard Hood
(Monday 17 February)
Trinidad and Tobago 3 (Afiyah Cornwall), Puerto Rico 0.