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Trinidad & Tobago Head Coach Richard Hood during the Women's Olympic qualifying soccer match between Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photograph by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

National women’s coach Richard Hood is bracing for a difficult time ahead of the 2024 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup qualifying tournament, which will take place during the FIFA Women’s International Match Windows of September, October, and November of this year.

Apart from limitations in their preparation due to financial constraints, Hood and his team are also grappling with a lack of desire by some senior players to represent the country, leaving a cadre of young inexperienced players to don the red, white and black of T&T. And he is also facing the uncertainty of whether his players at universities abroad, will be given permission to play for the qualifiers.

The senior women will begin their campaign on September 26 with a clash against Mexico away. But after just about six weeks into training, Hood can only promise that he and his charges will put their best foot forward, as his charges, are not only far from being ready, but could never be ready for the task ahead of them, Hood explained.

Speaking to Guardian Media Sports yesterday, Hood said: “We are in camp at the moment, we brought in a few foreign players who are new to us, so we will give them the opportunity to demonstrate that they are capable of playing at this level and can add to what we already have.”

Hood explained: “We had a little scrimmage with some under-16 boys and the result and the performance were very encouraging, after basically three days of work. So from that standpoint, I am very encouraged, but there is still a lot of work to do on our fitness levels. Increasing our fitness levels considerably, we have a lot of work to do there, and we have a lot of work to do tactically as well. It’s a work in progress. We have two more days of the camp left, today (Monday) and tomorrow (Wednesday), and we will finish off with a little scrimmage against a Wolf All-star team tomorrow (Tuesday).”

Hood, the former head coach of Police premier league team, was hoping to get two international friendly matches during the camp, but that was ruled out due to issues by other territories.

Asked if he felt that his hands were tied, Hood said: “I wouldn’t say that my hands are tied, but I would say we are in a difficult position. We always knew that we were going to be in a difficult position because there are certain constraints where the TTFA is concerned, financial that is, and we will never get the kind of preparation that we really need in order to excel, but as a staff, we accept that and we will try to do the best we can do with the limited resources available to us. We are going to put our best foot forward, we are going to prepare the team to the best of our abilities, and hopefully on gameday, we get the players to come out and execute the plan and we get the results we are hoping for.”

He said, “Based on what I have seen so far, we have two maybe three players who can definitely be added to our roster. The problem we always encounter though, is whether the university players would be released from their colleges. We have communicated with the players and most of them, who we are interested in, have indicated that they will be available, so for the most part, we ought to get the players that we want.”

He continued, “We are also dealing with a situation where a number of players have indicated that they are no longer interested in playing international football as well, so what we’re left with basically is a very young, very inexperienced team. The majority of players are not really experienced in international football.”

He concluded, “The encouraging thing for me is that there is some talent that we could work with. There are some players I would have liked to be part of it who, for one reason or the other, will not be part of it, some locally and some foreign-based players as well, but we will work with what we have and do the best with what we have.”

T&T is in Group A of League A alongside Mexico and Puerto Rico. After opening on the road, T&T will then host the Mexicans on October 27 before facing Puerto Rico (away) on December 1 and at home on December 5.

After 90 group stage matches, which include home and away play within each League and group, the top finishers in each of the League A groups (three teams) will qualify for the 2024 W Gold Cup Group Stage. Furthermore, the second-place finishers in each of the League A groups (three teams) and the first-place finishers in each of the League B groups (three teams) will advance to the 2024 W Gold Cup Prelims.