The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 Team are through to the Concacaf Championship Round of 16, after a 2-0 win over the Cayman Islands today—but it is probably not a game that head coach Richard Hood will enjoy reviewing.
The Women Soca Warriors laboured for much of the game before an opportunistic strike by flanker Maria-Frances Serrant finally gave the twin island republic breathing space. And, in second half stoppage time, captain and forward Afiyah Cornwall continued her prolific run to add gloss to the scoreline.
Cornwall has five goals from two matches in the Concacaf tournament and, counting her warm up outings, has scored nine times from her last four appearances. She generally struggled today though, as Cayman Islands ensured Trinidad and Tobago could not find space behind their defence and often got two and three players around the talented Carapichaima East Secondary forward.
Perhaps it is unsurprising that Cayman Islands, who lost their previous outing 8-0 to Haiti, were at their dogged best today. They are coached by Trinidadian Stephan De Four, after all.
De Four was in charge of the Women Warriors up until December 2019 and would know most of the players better than Hood!
Familiarity, today, led to constipation, with neither side able to squeeze much life into the midday contest.
At least De Four could point to a rousing start, as Cayman Islands nearly scored within the opening 60 seconds—but for a fine block on midfielder Molly Kehoe by Trinidad and Tobago custodian K’lil Keshwar.
The minnows got another good look in the seventh minute, only for Alexia Bromfield to drag her shot wide at the far post. And Serena Nelson got the best chance of the lot in the 12th minute but hit wide, with time and space, from barely eight yards.
The Women Warriors had not even managed a good glimpse of opposing goalkeeper Satiah Miller yet.
In the 29th minute, Trinidad and Tobago had their first real opportunity as Miller failed to reach a Tsai-Anne Fernandez free kick and Cayla McFarlane headed wide with the goalmouth vacant.
McFarlane went closer in the 31st minute, after being teed up by Cornwall from 20 yards, but her shot crashed against the underside of the bar before bouncing in the wrong direction for the girls in red, white and black.
Hood would have hoped to be able to take his foot off the gas by the hour mark and turn his attention to Haiti. Instead, Cayman Islands were right in the game and his biggest asset, Cornwall, was also their chief liability.
It is one of life’s great ironies that one’s strength and weakness is often other sides of the same coin. Cornwall can dribble past defenders with contemptuous ease; but what happens when a team keeps sending more and more players into her path?
Well, she tried to glide past them as well. And although the first opponent was a piece of cake and the second often manageable, the third and fourth defenders were a challenge too far.
Cornwall did not consider another line of attack and Trinidad and Tobago looked to be running repeatedly into a Cayman wall. Fortunately, Hood did find a plausible ‘Plan B’—or maybe that should be ‘Plan C’.
Aaliyah Prince was first off the bench to offer an additional penetrative presence but the stingy Cayman backline dealt with her too.
Tori Paul, a USA-born flanker, offered a different sort of threat. Within seconds, Paul flashed a left footed effort inches over the bar while her simple but effective wide play finally began to unsettle the Cayman defence.
Trinidad and Tobago’s first goal, ironically, came from Cornwall’s presence in the box. The defenders closed her down again but the ball broke fortuitously for the alert Serrant, who rammed home off the underside of the bar.
And, funnier still, when Cornwall did write her name on the score sheet, it came from simply getting on the end of her teammates’ work rather than trying to do it all herself. Paul whipped in a cross from the flank, Cornwall’s warden, Lauren Scott, could not cut it out and the Waterloo Institute attacker diverted the ball first time past the opposing goalkeeper.
There is more than one way to skin a cat. It is a lesson Cornwall should take on board as the level of the opposition invariably improves.
Trinidad and Tobago are guaranteed a top two finish in Group F now. But Thursday’s clash with a formidable Haiti team will indicate whether fans can look forward to the knockout stage with excitement or trepidation.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-2-3-1): 1.K’lil Keshwar (GK); 11.Chrissy Mitchell, 4.Latifha Pascall, 5.Tsai-Anne Fernandez, 15.Arnelle Douglas; 7.Sarah De Gannes, 13.Megan Rampersad; 12.Cayla McFarlane (20.Tori Paul 67), 10.Alexcia Ali (19.Aaliyah Prince 46), 8.Maria-Frances Serrant (6.Aaliyah Pascall 83); 9.Afiyah Cornwall (captain).
Unused substitutes: 18.Chelsea Ramnauth (GK), 2.Roshun Williams, 3.Nathifa Hackshaw, 14.Moenesa Mejias, 16.Sydni Greaves, 17.Cecile Loraine.
Coach: Richard Hood
Cayman Islands: 12.Satiah Miller (GK); 4.Artemis Deslandes, 13.Lauren Scott, 15.Shayana Windsor, 8.Daniella Gourzong (captain), 19.Ashlyn Evans (6.Ethana Villalobos 82), 10.Molly Kehoe, 2.Shanelle Bennett, 17.Tamoy Phillips, 20.Alexia Bromfield, 7.Serena Nelson (14.Sabrina Suberan 15).
Unused substitutes: 1.Kiara Lemay (GK), 3.Avigail Ramírez, 5.Jhosta Williams, 9.Brianna Poy Fong, 11.Shayla Connor, 16.Riley Doyle.
Coach: Stephan De Four
Wired868 Player of the Match: Maria-Frances Serrant (Trinidad and Tobago)
Concacaf Women U-20 results
(Tuesday 25 February)
Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Maria-Frances Serrant 78 Afiyah Cornwall 90), Cayman Islands 0 in Group F;
(Monday 24 February)
Dominican Republic 0, United States 4 (Mia Fishel 3, 12, Rebecca Jarrett 8, Brianna Pinto 65) in Group C;
Honduras 1 (Maylin Menjivar 54), Cuba 6 (Maristania Mengana 21, Analía Céspedes 44, 57, Giselle Guzmán OG 53, Katheryn Rodríguez 70 pen, Cecil Aldana 73) in Group C;
Jamaica 4 (Jody Brown 2, 11, Lacey Murray 58, Chantelle Parker 82), El Salvador 1 (Maria Rodriguez 45 pen) in Group E;
Guatemala 0, Canada 0 in Group E.