Trinidad and Tobago are into the 2021 Concacaf Beach Soccer Championship quarterfinal round, after finishing third in Group C today with a 7-5 win over Turks and Caicos at the Complejo Deportivo Fedefutbol, Alajuela, Costa Rica.
Poacher Dominic McDougall, defender Shallun Bobb and goalkeeper Jabari Gray scored two goals each for the local beach boys, who snared one of two quarterfinal berths available to the best third place teams.
In truth, the withdrawal of Guadeloupe from the tournament made a farce of Concacaf’s qualification system, even before the first ball was kicked. It meant Group A had three teams—Mexico, Panama and Belize—and the third placed finisher there was always likely to end up with zero points.
Belize, as expected, suffered that fate.
So Trinidad and Tobago, like Bahamas in Group B, knew that one positive result from three outings would be good enough to advance to the Beach Soccer knockout stage. For the boys in red, black and white, it marks their fourth successive appearance in the Concacaf tournament’s final eight.
However, captain Ryan Augustine’s troops did not quite enjoy the breezy afternoon they might have expected and there might have been a sigh of relief at the final whistle.
The twin island republic would be happy not to see Turks and Caicos attacker Herby Magny again. Four of their five goals involved the stocky fellah with the corkscrew hairstyle, who ruthlessly punished every lapse in concentration from the Trinidad and Tobago backline.
But it was not enough to cause an upset and the north Caribbean team had to console themselves with running Trinidad and Tobago so close.
At the end of the first period, the twin island republic were already four goals clear—and the fact that Gray, the former Presentation College (San Fernando) goalkeeper, had two of the items spoke volumes.
Goalscoring goalkeepers are not very unusual on the beach but it still requires opposing teams to drop deep and be slow to spot impending danger.
For Gray’s first goal, he juggled the ball on his thigh to the halfway line before beating the partially unsighted T&C custodian Pendieno Brooks with a high blast to his right.
Gray’s second and his country’s fourth came with a shot that skipped off the sand, after the wiry custodian brushed aside opposing attacker Wilkins Sylvins.
Earlier, Augustine opened the scoring with a flick into the far corner—his third goal of the 2021 competition—while Bobb headed in the other item off a McDougall corner kick.
The game looked done and dusted, despite having two more 12-minute periods to go, and commentators began discussing when Trinidad and Tobago forward Kevon ‘Showtime’ Woodley would end his unlikely drought.
Woodley travelled to Costa Rica with a tally of 26 goals under his belt at this level, which placed him sixth among Concacaf’s all-time Beach Soccer scorers. But he did not score in early group outings against Costa Rica and the United States.
It seemed a matter of when Woodley would get his first against Turks and Caicos, not if.
Early in the second period, McDougall was casual in possession and T&C substitute Alex Byran picked his pocket and skipped past an equally sluggish substitute goalkeeper Zane Coker to pull a goal back.
Moments later, alarm bells were ringing as Ledson Jerome headed past Coker to halve Trinidad and Tobago’s advantage, off of a clever Magny flick. 2-4.
McDougall and Bobb combined again with a corner kick routine for Trinidad and Tobago that the latter finished with a looping header. 5-2. Two minutes later, Magny beat Coker with a precise left footer into the corner. 3-5.
Then McDougall had the final word of the second period with his trademark predatory finish, as he pounced on a loose ball to convert after Brooks parried a shot from Bobb. 6-3, with one 12-minute period remaining.
Trinidad and Tobago maintained the three goal lead until six minutes from time when, yep, Magny popped up to score with a flying header off a throw from teammate Jepthe Francois. 4-6.
And, with just two minutes left, Magny slipped a pass through for Jeff Beljour to hit past Gray to pull Turks and Caicos within a solitary goal.
It was as close as they would come to a positive result, though. There were 21 seconds remaining when McDougall collected the ball and fired into the corner on the turn from distance, as casually as if he was in his backyard.
And the final score stood at 7-5.
Trinidad and Tobago play El Salvador next in Friday’s round of quarterfinal fixtures.
El Salvador have one Concacaf Beach Soccer title to their names, which they secured back in 2009. But they have started this competition like a runaway train.
In three games, the Central American nation scored 29 times while conceding just four. And they have Concacaf’s top two all-time scorers in their ranks: Frank Velásquez has 52 goals, including seven in the 2021 competition, while Augustín Ruiz has 51. (United States captain Nick Perera is third with 39.)
Trinidad and Tobago head coach Ramiro Amarelle will hope that Woodley chooses Friday’s high profile affair to remain the confederation of his own potency in front of goal.
Trinidad and Tobago: 1.Jabari Gray (GK); 2.Joash Baird, 5.Omri Baird, 7.Lemuel Lyons, 9.Hakeem King.
Substitutes: 12.Zane Coker (GK), 3.Akinola Gregory, 4.Shallun Bobb, 6.Ryan Augustine (captain), 8.Jesse Bailey, 10.Dominic McDougall, 11.Kevon Woodley.
Coach: Ramiro Amarelle
Turks and Caicos: 1.Pendieno Brooks (GK), 3.Jepthe Francois, 6.Ledson Jerome, 7.Herby Magny, 8.Jeff Beljour.
Substitutes: 12.Sebastian Turbyfield (GK), 4.Wildens Delva, 5.Makenson Cadet, 9.Evariste Peterson, 10.Alex Bryan, 11.Wilkins Sylvins.
Coach: Christopher Bryan