T&T U-20 Women end campaign with 5-0 loss to Canada, as Walcott tallies over a dozen saves

Trinidad and Tobago closed off their Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship campaign tonight with a 5-0 defeat to Canada in their final Group G fixture at the Estadio Panamericano in San Cristóbal.

It might say something about their short-lived Under-20 World Cup campaign that tonight’s result might genuinely be considered their high point so far.

Photo: Canada forward Holly Ward (number 17) celebrates her country’s opening goal during Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship action against Trinidad and Tobago in San Cristobal on 1 March 2022.
(via Concacaf)

The junior Women Soca Warriors conceded just once in the first half and three times within the first hour against Canada. In contrast, after just half-hour against St Kitts and Nevis on Sunday, coach Jason Spence’s charges were already trailing by four goals.

Thankfully, any concerns that the scoreline in today’s contest might reach double figures proved unfounded.

Goalkeeper Akyla Walcott deserved much of the credit for that. Walcott, who represents Essex County College in the USA, made over a dozen blocks tonight—none better than her thrilling double save in the 46th minute.

Walcott flew high to her right to keep out a drive from Canada playmaker Keera Melenhorst and then dove low to prevent poacher Holly Ward from pouncing on the rebound.

It encapsulated a welcome return to form for the custodian, who did not do herself justice against the Sugar Girlz.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Akyla Walcott collects the ball safely during Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship action against El Salvador in the Dominican Republic on 25 February 2022.
(via Concacaf)

Spence swapped formations too as Trinidad and Tobago exchanged their 4-3-3 formation for a more conservative 5-4-1 shape. And he would feel justified as the Women Warriors did not end up on the wrong side of an eye-watering score.

Trinidad and Tobago’s 10 outfield players worked hard all night as they tried to apply pressure on white Canadian shirts so as to at least complicate life for them. However, it was hardly a clinic in how to effectively keep your opponents at bay.

Canada got 48 shots, with 18 on target, while hogging 76% of the ball possession. Trinidad and Tobago did not manage a single shot, whether on or off target, and had a passing accuracy of just 48%—meaning that roughly one in every two passes went astray.

In three outings, Trinidad and Tobago allowed 113 shots, with 48 of them on target. At the offensive end, they managed 20 only shots themselves with nine on target.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National U-20 Team head coach Jason Spence gestures from the goal line during a training session in Couva.
(via TTFA Media)

It is uncertain too what any of the young women will take away from the competition. The players were thrown together by the normalisation committee just 48 hours before their first match and Spence was so unsure about his pre-game guidance that he spent the entire duration of each match trying to talk players through every play.

By the end of the second match, Spence was referring to the team as ‘they’ rather than ‘we’.

The Women Warriors head coach suggested before kick-off that the teenaged players hoped to ‘redeem themselves’ today. It would be surprising if he did not think his own reputation was also on the line. But, to the players’ credit, there was no shortage of effort.

Nicaraguan referee Tatiana Guzmán whistled a foul on Ward when she poked past Walcott in the seventh minute. And, in the 14th minute, Ward struck the post off a cross by right-back Elisabeth Tse.

Photo: Canada forward Holly Ward in action against Trinidad and Tobago during a Concacaf 2022 Women’s U-20 Championship fixture on 1 March 2022.
(via Concacaf)

Otherwise, Trinidad and Tobago had a fairly tranquil start to the match. Canada, unlike El Salvador and St Kitts and Nevis, opted not to utilise a high press against Spence’s troops and allowed them to make the first two passes under minimal pressure.

Was Canada coach Cindy Tye afraid that the Trinidad and Tobago backline had learned overnight how to make a 50-yard diagonal pass to beat a high press? Was Tye, who made eight changes to her team’s starting XI with three players making their first starts of the competition, being charitable?

Or is it that Canada were already preparing for the knockout stage of the competition where more organised teams might know how to play their way out of a press?

Regardless, Trinidad and Tobago were within sight of the halftime interval and their first 45-minute period without conceding when Canada went ahead.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Sarah De Gannes (left) chases Canada playmaker Keera Melenhorst during Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship action in San Cristobal on 1 March 2022.
(via Concacaf)

Off a corner kick in the 37th minute, Canada forward Serita Thurton headed goalwards and, as Walcott and midfielder Darrianne Henry got in each other’s way trying to deal with it, Ward swooped in to score her third goal of the competition.

“Keep calm!” Spence shouted, from the sidelines. “Keep calm!”

The biggest problem was Trinidad and Tobago could not keep the ball. Over their three outings, the Women Warriors’ pass accuracy was 35% (El Salvador), 61% (SKN) and 48% (Canada).

To put that into context, despite failing to win a single match, the Men’s National Senior Team managed a pass accuracy of 75% (Mexico), 90% (Guatemala) and 84% (El Salvador) at the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.

For much of the match, Canada’s full-backs were streaming forward and pinging crosses into the area and their next two goals came from the left flank. First, Annika Leslie went around Ashante Wilson-Campbell and crossed for Thurton to head home at the far post in the 48th minute.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago defender Derisha Bristol (left) tries to stay close to Canada forward Serita Thurton during Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship action in San Cristobal on 1 March 2022.
Thurton could have represented either Jamaica (through her mom) or Trinidad and Tobago (through her father’s parents) on the international stage.
(via Concacaf)

Then, in the 57th minute, Leslie passed inside to Melenhorst, who fired into the far corner from just inside the box. 

Canada’s fourth item was the move of the match as Thurton and substitutes Brooklyn Courtnall and Miya Grant-Clavijo exchanged passes with the latter cradling the ball for Florianne Jourde to crash high into the corner.

Still, Walcott kept her head up and as many shots out as possible. She produced another fine double save in the closing minutes to deny Olivia Smith and Courtnall.

But Canada were not denied their handful. In the 89th minute, Smith headed a cross from right-back Courtnall off the far post and, after Chrissy Mitchell and Lathifa Pascall both failed to clear, Kaila Novak, another substitute, converted from close range.

It was the last highlight of the match.

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 Team pose before kickoff against Canada in a Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship fixture in San Cristobal on 1 March 2022.
(via Concacaf)

Two years ago, eight members of the current Under-20 squad progressed all the way to the quarterfinal stage of the Concacaf Championship under then head coach Richard Hood, despite playing against opponents who were often two and three years older.

But a lot has changed in Trinidad and Tobago’s football over the last two years, with the imposition of a Fifa-appointed normalisation committee.

Dream over for Maria-Frances Serrant, Sarah De Gannes, Pascall and company. Presumably, Spence will return home to take charge of the Women’s Under-17 Team now. 

Thanks to the muddled leadership of normalisation committee members Robert Hadad, Nigel Romano and Trevor Nicholas Gomez, Spence has no technical committee to report to. 

Photo: Fifa-appointed normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad (right) and TTFA acting general secretary Amiel Mohammed look on from the covered stands as Trinidad and Tobago and Nicaragua clash in a 2022 Concacaf W Championship qualifying fixture at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on 17 February 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

Time will tell if newly returned technical director Anton Corneal, who replaced Dion La Foucade last month, can be of any assistance in that regard.


Trinidad and Tobago (5-4-1): 1.Akyla Walcott (GK); 2.Ashante Wilson-Campbell, 4.Latifha Pascall, 6.Chrissy Mitchell, 5.Derisha Bristol, 3.Moenesa Mejias; 10.Maria-Frances Serrant (captain), 7.Sarah De Gannes, 8.Marley Walker, 20.Darrianne Henry; 19.Shurelia Mendez (15.Ternia St Clair 65).

Unused substitutes: 16.Chelsea Ramnauth (GK), 9.Tori Paul, 11.Charlize Hood, 12.Celine Loraine, 13.Aaliyah Trim, 14.Lillian Selvon, 17.Jhelysse Anthony.

Coach: Jason Spence

Canada (4-2-3-1): 1.Anna Karpenko (GK); 15.Elisabeth Tse (14.Brooklyn Courtnall 46), 4.Jade Rose (captain) (3.Mia Pante 62), 12.Vivianne Besette, 5.Annika Leslie (vice-captain); 6.Vanessa Frelih, 13.Simi Awujo (11.Kaila Novak 62); 19.Serita Thurton (18.Olivia Smith 75), 16.Keera Melenhorst, 7.Florianne Jourde; 17.Holly Ward (9.Miya Grant-Clavijo 46).

Unused substitutes: 20.Sierra Giorgio (GK), 2.Zoe Burns, 10.Nikayla Small.

Coach: Cindy Tye

Referee: Tatiana Guzmán (Nicaragua)

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Maria-Frances Serrant (right) tries to close down St Kitts and Nevis captain Cloey Uddenberg during Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship action on 27 February 2022.
(via Concacaf)

Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship results

(1 March)

El Salvador 5 (Isabella Recinos 1, Josseline Uribe 16, 45+5, Victoria Sánchez 37, Andrea Amaya 64), St Kitts and Nevis 0 at Estadio Panamericano, San Cristóbal;

Trinidad and Tobago 0Canada 5 (Holly Ward 37, Serita Thurton 48, Keera Melenhorst 57, Florianne Jourde 64, Kaila Novak 89) at Estadio Panamericano, San Cristóbal.

Photo: Canada attacker Keera Melenhorst (foreground) in action against Trinidad and Tobago during a Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship contest on 1 March 2022.
(via Concacaf)

(27 February)

St Kitts and Nevis 7 (Iyanla Bailey-Williams 6, 8, 30 (pen), Jahzara Claxton 22, 45+4, 48, Ellie Stokes 61 (pen), Trinidad and Tobago 2 (Maria-Frances Serrant 33, Shurelia Mendez 75) at Estadio Panamericano, San Cristóbal;

El Salvador 0Canada 4 (Miya Grant-Clavijo 26, Olivia Smith 53, Serita Thurton 63, 77) at Estadio Panamericano, San Cristóbal.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Marley Walker (right) tries to get past El Salvador attacker Lesly Calderon during Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship action in the Dominican Republic on 25 February 2022.
(via Concacaf)

(25 February 2022)

Trinidad and Tobago 0El Salvador 3 (Lesly Calderón 23, Josseline Uribe 43, Linda Guillén 86) at Estadio Panamericano, San Cristóbal;

Canada 7 (Nikayla Small 9, 33, Olivia Smith 17, 30, Holly Ward 21, 44, Keera Melenhorst 89), St Kitts and Nevis 0 at Estadio Panamericano, San Cristóbal.

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About 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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