Trinidad and Tobago’s dream of qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia/New Zealand 2023 ended in a whimper tonight as they were beaten 1-0 by Panama in a disjointed affair. at the Estadio Universitario in San Nicolás, Mexico.
The Women Soca Warriors needed a win in their last Concacaf W Championship Group B outing to make it to the FIFA Playoffs. Instead, they managed just one attempt on goal and two shots in total, both from captain and midfielder Karyn Forbes in the opening 20 minutes of the game.
Trinidad and Tobago’s toothless attack has been a recurring feature of this competition. Coach Kenwyne Jones started Brianna Austin at centre-forward against Canada, Jolie St Louis against Costa Rica and Maria-Frances Serrant against Panama tonight. None of them tested the opposing goalkeeper once.
Jones, of course, hadn’t traveled with Trinidad and Tobago’s most prolific active striker, Kennya “Yaya” Cordner, who scored against Panama in a 1-1 friendly last October.
Wired868 asked if Jones regrets not selecting Cordner and talented 20-year-old striker Afiyah Cornwall, whose seven goals at the 2020 Concacaf Women’s Under-20 Championship took Trinidad and Tobago to the quarter-finals and were the sixth highest total of the entire competition.
“Kennya Cordner decided not to play because her teammate [Maylee Attin-Johnson] was no longer selected,” Jones said at the post-game press conference. “She decided not to play for the country.”
Jones’ summary was largely true – although Cordner could argue that his problem was Why Attin-Johnson was fired, rather than the fact that she was dropped. But should the coach have returned to the Turkey-based professional marksman after the qualifying round and tried to mend their rift?
In the end, coach and player stuck to their guns and Trinidad and Tobago got poorer for it.
The fact that Liana Hinds, a useful player but certainly not a playmaker, started tonight in the deep midfield role that Attin-Johnson has appropriated for the past eight years has told its own story.
Jones suggested the team was better off without the veteran duo. Team camp was probably quieter for their absence; but certainly not more competitive.
In the case of Cornwall, Jones said the former Carapichaima East Secondary star also refused a national call-up, although he gave no reason for her supposed exile, beyond suggesting she had disciplinary issues.
He alleged Cornwall was fired for indiscipline by his predecessor as national coach, James Thomas, as well as an unnamed US college.
“During my term, I invited her to come to the training – I spoke with her parents […] before we started training and they never showed up,” Jones said. “So they had no intention of playing for their country. I think the repeated questioning of why they weren’t selected needs to stop.
The female warrior trainer did however have the services of attacking midfielder Asha James in Mexico. James, a player from West Texas A&M University (USA), is Trinidad and Tobago’s top scorer under Jones’ tenure so far, with four goals in six appearances before kick-off.
However, James didn’t get a minute of playing time against Costa Rica and was only a second-half substitute tonight.
” Those last weeks, [James] was totally irrelevant — she didn’t look like her old self,” Jones said. “[…] We brought her in today to hopefully get some magic, but that didn’t happen.
Arguably, Trinidad and Tobago does not have a large enough player base to omit players of this caliber without them being missed.
This does not mean that a coach should be beholden to unruly players. But it could mean that a rookie coach unable to inspire his most gifted assets may have needed the intervention of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical committee – which disappeared under the standardization committee appointed by Fifa – or its technical director Anton Cornéen.
In defence, central defenders Victoria Swift and Rhea Belgrave were alert, decisive and authoritative. But there was no such cohesion at the other end of the field, where the front three of Raenah Campbell, Austin and Serrant played as if they had just met.
“Not being able to win the game hurts,” Jones said. “I thought we would have won the game against Panama today. I think we started pretty well…”
Trinidad and Tobago had 51% of the ball at the interval which was by far the best control they had exercised so far in the tournament. But aside from a firm long-range free kick from Forbes, they never seemed to hurt Panama.
And after Cox gave the Central American team the lead in the 43rd minute, Trinidad and Tobago didn’t manage a single shot for the rest of the night.
“I think the team needs to build on that experience, learn from it and grow,” Jones said.
Even the most patriotic fan would struggle to find anything from the W Championship to hope for, as T&T dutifully walked out on the same night Jamaica qualified for their second FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Trinidad and Tobago have played nine competitive Concacaf matches in 2022 – at senior, under-20 and under-17 levels combined – and have lost every game.
The national Under-20 and Under-17 teams, both coached by Jason Spence, were outscored 2-15 and 1-19 respectively. Jones’ ladies conceded 11 times without scoring a single time. That’s a total of 45 goals conceded and three scored in nine outings.
Raise your hand if you think: more of that, please.
Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-3): 1. Kimika Forbes (GC), 3.Shadi Cecily Stoute, 4.Rhea Belgrave, 8. Victoria Swift, 2. Chelsea Jadoo (23.Sarah DeGannes 88); 14. Karyn Forbes (captain), 7.Liana Hinds, 13.Amaya Ellis (ten.Asha James 64); 9. Brianna Austin (16.Cayla McFarlane 88), 18.Maria-Frances Serrant (17.Jolie St Louis 77), 11.Raenah Campbell (15.Tori Paul 72).
Unused Substitutes: 21. Tenesha Palmer (GC), 22.K’lil Keshwar (GC), 5. Shaunalee Govia, 12.Checy Ralph, 19.Maya Matouk, 20.Lauryn Hutchinson.
Coach: Kenwyne Jones
Panama (3-4-3): 12.Yenith Bailey (GC); 5.Yomira Pinzon, 14.Yerenis De Leon, 13.Wendy Natis; 3.Carina Baltrip (23.Rosaria Vargas 73), 6.Deysire Salazar, 8.Laura Batista (captain) (19.Lineth Cedeño 35), 2.Hilary Jaén; 10.Marta Cox (vice captain), 9.Karla Riley (17.Gabriela Villagrand 73), 20.Schiandra Gonzales.
Unused Substitutes: 1. Sasha Fabrega (GC), 22. Nadia Ducreux (GC), 7.Kenia Rangel, 11.Shayari Camarena, 15.Maria Guevara, 16.Rebeca Espinosa, 18.Erika Hernandez, 21.Whitney De Obaldia.
Arbitrator: Astrid Gramajo (Guatemala)
VAR: Carol Anne Chenard (Canada)
Concacaf W Championship
(July 11, 2022)
Panama 1 (Marta Cox 43), Trinidad and Tobago 0 at the Estadio Universitario in San Nicolás, Mexico.