THE ROAD to the 2024 Concacaf Gold Cup got much harder for Trinidad & Tobago's Women National football team following a 2-1 defeat to Puerto Rico in a Group A, League A, Concacaf Nations League qualifier on Friday night at Hasely Crawford stadium where just over 700 persons turned up.
Trinidad and Tobago now have defeats from their opening two matches, having been defeat 6-0 away to Mexico on September 26.
Skylynn Rodríguez provided Puerto Rico with the lead in the 30th minute, scooping the ball over new T&T goalkeeper Simeon Eligon and central defender Victoria Swift for the opening goal. Forward Juelle Love blew by Trinidad & Tobago captain Karyn Forbes and cut-back to Rodríguez who lifted her shot high in the net.
Alexcia Ali briefly had Trinidad & Tobago level at 1-1 in the 49th minute, with a dipping shot over goalkeeper Jlo Vasquez from out wide, after running on to Asha James' through ball. But just four minutes later, the Puerto Rican captain Jillienne Aguilera (54th) produced the match winner, picking up a loose ball as T&T defenders ran into each other and unleashing an unstoppable shot past goalkeeper Simone Eligon.
Youth striker Talian Martin had a chance to level for T&T soon after, but was foiled by goalkeeper Vasquez, who got a vital touch when fending the ball away from the T&T striker, who had already beaten her defenders to a through ball. Trinidad & Tobago can still keep diminished hope of appearing in next year's Concacaf W Gold Cup alive, but only with victory away to Puerto Rico in Bayamon on Tuesday.
Trinidad and Tobago showed brief glimpses of good play, but not sustained pressure on the opponent, and so in a cagey opening quarter hour, the Women Warriors manage a couple shots on goal, but nothing strong enough challenge Puerto Rican goalie.
Coach Ricard Hood put captain Karyn Forbes back in the defensive role she played earlier in her career, but she did not excel, often being indecisive, inviting pressure with the ball at her feet, and was far too easy to get around. In contrast, Victoria Swift, the other central defender, was solid as always, and came up with several timely interceptions. Wide defenders Christa Waterman and Yale University left-back Abigal Moos also both looked capable, especially when actually got defensive help from the midfielders.
Following a couple of early awkward moment with crosses, new T&T goalie Simone Eligon also more than proved her worth, with three first half saves to keep Trinidad & Tobago alive and in the match. First, Eligon got a vital top to turn Love's low shot around the post, and also producing a double-save just before the first half ended. There was little she could do about either goal conceded.
Trinidad & Tobago also found a good, creative player in USA-based former Brown University midfielder Zoe Maxwell, while locally-based winger Ali was not just a goal-scorer, but looked exciting going forward. Youth striker Talia Martin also did quite well and looked dangerous as a second half substitute.
However, coach Hood would have expected more from his captain Forbes; foreign-based striker Maria Serrant, who held onto the ball too much and defended too little: and playmaker James, who looked mainly out-of-sorts and below top fitness, although she did provide the pass for Ali's equalising goal.
On Tuesday, Trinidad & Tobago gets a chance to do it all again, and maybe will put together an overall better effort.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-3): 1.Simone Eligon (GK); 19.Christa Waterman, 8.Victoria Swift, 14.Karyn Forbes (captain), 20.Abigail Moos; 12.Maria-Frances Serrant, 4.Chelcy Ralph, 9.Zoe Maxwell; 10.Asha James (6.Chrissy Mitchell 85), 15.Tsaianne Leander (13.Talia Martin 59), 7.Alexcia Ali (17.Jonelle Warrick-Cato 71).
Unused substitutes: 21.Maria Figgener (GK), 22.Malaika Dedier (GK), 2.Crystal Molineaux, 3.Tamara Johnson, 5.Renee Mike, 11.Tsai-Anne Fernandez, 16.Brittney Williams, 18.Naomie Guerra, 23.Taliah Simon.
Coach: Richard Hood
Puerto Rico (4-3-3): 1.Jlo Varda Vazquez (GK); 2.Veronica Garcia, 5.Madison Cox, 20.Imani Morlock, 4.Idelys Vazquez (16.Amber Diorio 71); 18.Josephine Cotto (22.Katsi Bengoa), 14.Jillienne Aguilera (captain), 8.Skylynn Rodriguez (21.Olivia Bevilacqua); 17.Juelle Love, 9.Gloria Douglas (19.Susana Roberts 69), 11.Christina Torres (15.Eva Andersen 90+3).
Unused substitutes: 12.Isabel Ackerman (GK), 7.Jessica Torres, 6.Sarah Martinez, 10.Laura Suarez.
Coach: Keishawn Cordier
Referee: Sandra Benitez (El Salvador)
SOURCE: T&T Express