Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team head coach Kenwyne Jones tasted his first defeat as a head coach this evening, just hours after the TTFA confirmed his elevation from interim to permanent appointment, as the Women Soca Warriors fell 2-1 away to the Dominican Republic in San Cristóbal.
The decisive goal came three minutes into stoppage time, as Jones’ troops looked destined for a third successive draw—only for Dominican Republic flanker Manuela Lareo to beat Trinidad and Tobago custodian Kimika Forbes with a free kick from an improbable angle.
There was plenty to admire about the energy and tactical awareness of the Women Warriors today. Yet it must be said that Panama (who drew twice with T&T last month) and the Dominican Republic are teams that would have been put to the sword six years ago—when the two-island republic came within a whisker of the Canada 2015 Fifa Women’s World Cup.
Jones’ charges have time to improve before next July’s Concacaf W Championship. But it is still a reality check regarding their ambitions of qualifying for the Australia/New Zealand 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup and Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
It is best not to get ahead of ourselves. Crucially, the Women Warriors are improving every game.
Today, there was more clarity in Trinidad and Tobago’s defensive efforts as they sought to cut out passing lanes down the middle and win the ball on the sides of the field—just inside opposition territory.
It is too early to tell what Portugal-based defender Chelsi Jadoo has in her locker. The Canada-born player made her debut in the three-member central defence today, alongside the tenacious pair of Victoria Swift and Rhea Belgrave.
But Kedie Johnson was definitely an upgrade on the left flank, while the buccaneering Liana Hinds—who started in central defence against Panama—is unlikely to be moved from the right flank again.
And midfielder Asha James? She was another matter entirely. Mobile, solid and efficient in possession and snappy in the tackle, the 21-year-old West Texas A&M University player was a breath of fresh air in middle earth, where she played alongside captain Karyn Forbes and just behind Maylee Attin-Johnson.
It looks to be the makings of a competitive team. But it is worth noting that Dominican Republic were rarely overawed.
The hosts would have gone ahead after just 10 minutes but for a superb save from Kimika Forbes, who used her legs to keep out opposing forward Vanessa Kara after a through pass from Lareo.
It was not the only time this evening that Dominican Republic carved through T&T’s defensive trap, due to an individual lapse in concentration, and the Warriors coach would know there is still work to be done there.
The Women Warriors threatened at the other end in the 20th minute, as forward Kennya ‘Yaya’ Cordner flicked the ball over an opposing defender and crossed to Johnson, whose downward header rebounded off the bar.
Seconds later, Jadoo made an important stop from Dominican Republic captain Daphne Heyaime, after another incisive Lareo cross. The Trinidad and Tobago debutante might have let her good work go to waste in the 25th minute, as she conceded possession in her own area and was relieved to see Kimika keep out a stinging drive from the other Dom Rep flanker, Lucia Marie.
It was entertaining fare for the spectators and those following via livestream.
After the first half ended goalless, the visitors had the first chance after the resumption as a long-range free kick from Karyn was tipped on to the bar by opposing goalkeeper Claudia Nicole Torres in the 48th minute.
Then, out of nowhere, the hosts went ahead. Johnson allowed Marie to get goal-side of her from a throw-in and the latter’s cross was converted at the far post by Kara.
It was the first time the Women Warriors had trailed under Jones. But the deficit lasted barely six minutes.
Attin-Johnson, who generally struggled to impose herself, rolled back the clock with a clever slipped pass for Cordner, who drove across her marker, Brianne Reed, to win a penalty kick.
James stepped up to take it and completely befuddled Torres for an easy finish, in her fourth senior international match—and her first since her debut under former coach Stephan De Four in 2019.
Incidentally, James, Cordner and the Forbes sisters all hail from Tobago. Call it the ‘Big Sister Isle’ as far as the Women Warriors go.
Neither team managed a good look at goal after that and Jones might have been thinking of preserving a tie when he sent on veteran defender Lauryn Hutchinson in the 78th minute. But there was nothing Hutchinson could do about the winner.
James conceded a free kick in stoppage time with a tug on opposing midfielder Winibian Peralta. Still, the distance and the angle of the set piece did not immediately set off alarm bells.
By the time Kimika got wind of what Lareo was up to, it was too late. The winger’s in-swinging set piece effort from the left was aimed perfectly at the far corner and Forbes, who reacted late in a crowded penalty area, got a hand to the ball but only managed to push it into the corner of her own net.
There was barely time for another kick-off, and Dominican Republic substitutes raced on to the field to celebrate at the final whistle.
The two teams meet again on Tuesday at the same venue. The Dominican Republic Women’s Team are ranked 13th in Concacaf and 111th in the world by Fifa; Trinidad and Tobago are eighth and 70th respectively. (Panama are sixth and 59th.)
Jones’ team might be on an upward trajectory, after two years of inaction. But they have some way to go yet to regain lost ground in Concacaf.
Trinidad and Tobago (3-4-1-2): 1.Kimika Forbes (GK); 4.Rhea Belgrave, 8.Victoria Swift, 3.Chelsi Jadoo (20.Lauryn Hutchinson 78); 7.Liana Hinds, 14.Karyn Forbes (captain), 10.Asha James, 15.Kedie Johnson (6.Kaydeen Jack 69); 9.Maylee Attin-Johnson (13.Dennecia Prince 87); 19.Kennya Cordner, 11.Raenah Campbell (12.Chelcy Ralph 69).
Unused substitutes: 21.Tenesha Palmer (GK), 22.Akyla Walcott (GK), 2.Collette Morgan, 5.Jaasiel Forde, 16.Tsianne Leander, 18.Naomie Guerra.
Coach: Kenwyne Jones
Dominican Republic (4-2-2-2): 1.Claudia Nicole Torres (GK); 3.Lynette Ureña (2.Gionvana Dionisio 62), 19.Gabrielle Cuevas, 20.Brianne Reed, 18.Keisla Gil; 8.Jazlyn Oviedo, 7.Winibian Peralta; 14.Lucia Marie, 21.Manuela Lareo (vice-captain); 13.Daphne Heyaime (captain) (11.Alyssa Oviedo 62), 9.Vanessa Kara.
Unused substitutes: 12.Odaliana Gómez (GK), 4.Gabriella Marie, 5.María López, 6.Yoneldy Peña, 10.Marianelyz Pérez, 15.Kathrynn González, 16.Paola Then, 17.Jazlyn Moya, 22.Renata Mercedes.
Coach: Benito Rubido