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Hood forced to freshen up U-20 squad; coach faces dilemma over Concacaf schedule

Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 Team head coach Richard Hood will have the first test of his squad’s depth tomorrow afternoon, as he suggested at least three changes to the starting team that will face the Cayman Islands in their second Concacaf Championship affair.

The young Women Soca Warriors routed St Kitts and Nevis 6-0 yesterday in their opening Group F outing at the Estadio Panamericano in San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic. Haiti thumped the Cayman Islands 8-0 in the group’s second fixture.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago forward Afiyah Cornwall (left) tries to win space from St Kitts and Nevis defender Kaleah Smith during Concacaf U-20 Championship action on 23 February 2020.
Cornwall scored four times as T&T won 6-0.
(Copyright MexSport/Concacaf)

A win over the Cayman Islands would guarantee T&T a place in the Round of 16 and mean they enter their final group outing against Haiti with a chance to top Group F.

The Concacaf schedule is a cruel four matches in eight days—should T&T advance to the Round of 16—which means the confederation expects mostly amateur teenaged girls to shoulder a tougher workload than that asked of full-time professional male players.

Trinidad and Tobago’s opening two group matches were also rostered for 1pm and match officials are obliged to allow water breaks in mid-game, due to the sweltering heat.

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Hood expects that he would need to rotate players at some point. But the question is: when?

“Our main objective is to qualify for the second round and to finish as high as possible—whether it is first or second,” Hood told Wired868. “For that reason, we want to have what we consider to be our strongest team against Haiti.

“We know it is a mountainous task [to win the group] as Haiti are a terrific team and further along in their preparation than us. But we will try to win the group…”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago players Ranae Ward (left) and Shadi Cecily Stoute (right) double-team Haiti midfielder Dougenie Joseph during CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championship action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 18 January 2018.
Haiti won 3-2. Joseph was 14 at the time and is a member of the current Haiti U-20 squad.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

This afternoon, the United States rested six starters for their second group fixture against the Dominican Republic while they are yet to use their sole professional player, Portland Thorns attacker Sophia Smith.

Hood will not attempt something quite as radical. However, he suggested that flanker Tori Paul, left back Nathifa Hackshaw and midfielder Aaliyah Pascall could sit out for various reasons.

Paul was replaced in the first half after a slight knock against St Kitts and Nevis while Hackshaw cramped up in the second half and was also subbed. Both are likely to be given additional time to recover.

Pascall, a versatile, tigerish midfielder, was booked in the opening group win and Hood does not want to risk losing her to suspension for the Haiti outing.

Their places are likely to go to Aaliyah Prince, Arnelle Douglas and Megan Rampersad respectively. Prince scored one goal from off the bench on Sunday while Douglas also gave a decent cameo for the closing half hour.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National U-20 coach Richard Hood makes a pass during training at UWI, St Augustine on 6 February 2020.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/Wired868)

Hood has had just under two weeks with his full squad, thanks to a pre-tournament camp on the island. Despite the pre-game hype, the Warriors were not stretched by an under-strength St Kitts and Nevis team.

“The plan worked from the start [which was] to get behind them as early as possible and is something that we have been working on,” said Hood. “It might have looked a little too direct at times but we got the job done and created a lot of opportunities.”

The Police FC head coach pointed to communication and combination play as two key areas to be improved.

“In our back four, we need to improve our covering and knowing when to drop off and when to compress—and the communication wasn’t always quite there,” he said. “In terms of the offensive part, we need to create more combinations and to get more supporting play to create passing options [rather than] looking for the direct ball too early.

“We also had a lot of crosses, especially in the first half, and people were not always there trying to get on the end of them. So we need two or three more players attacking cross-balls to maximise our opportunities.”

Photo: Attacker Aaliyah Prince (centre) trains with the National U-20 Team at UWI, St Augustine on 6 February 2020.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/Wired868)

Trinidad and Tobago’s 6-0 win on Sunday was a record for the twin island republic at a Concacaf tournament while captain and forward Afiyah Cornwall became the first local player to score four times in one game at this level.

It was a considerable shot in the arm for a group of players who were mauled 22-0 by USA and 11-0 by Mexico at the 2016 Concacaf Under-15 Championship and then failed to advance past the Caribbean semifinal stage at Under-17 level.

Incidentally, Cornwall and company also faced Haiti in 2016. The French-speaking islanders won 5-0.

Five members of Haiti’s current Under-20 Team played at the 2018 Women’s Under-20 World Cup, including 16-year-old captain and prodigy Melchie Dumornay.

Dumornay, a midfielder, was just 14 years old when she played at the Fifa tournament and can feasibly compete at this level for another two editions if she cares to do so.

But Hood is not prepared to roll over for Haiti and will try to keep something in reserve for that fixture, once possible.

Photo: Haiti captain Melchie Dumornay (right) considers her options while Cayman Islands attacker Brianna Poy Fong (centre) looks on during Concacaf U-20 action on 23 February 2020.
Dumornay scored twice as Haiti won 8-0.
(Copyright MexSport/Concacaf)

“We need to have players who can cause Haiti some problems,” he said, “and also who can resist what Haiti are doing…”

First, the Warriors must deal with the Cayman Islands. Despite the heavy loss in their opening game, Hood credited goalkeeper Kiara Lemay for a competent display between the uprights while the Cayman team were fairly compact throughout.

Trinidad and Tobago must find the energy and discipline to match their showing against St Kitts and Nevis.

“I am really happy with the performance [yesterday] and, most of all, I am happy for the three points,” said Hood. “We can play better and we will play better; but the most important thing was getting the three points and that confidence.

“I see you pointed out that we also got some records and that is good. Hopefully, we can continue where we left off against the Cayman Islands.”

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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