Tue, Jul

Trinidad and Tobago's Zoe Mazwell (right) battles Puerto Rico’s Idelys Rodriguez for the ball during a 2024 CONCACAF W Gold Cup qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, on Friday, October 27th 2023. Puerto Rico won the match 2-1. PHOTO BY: Daniel Prentice

FITNESS LEVELS remain a concern for an overall disappointed Richard Hood, head coach of the women’s national football team, following Friday night’s 2-1 home defeat to Puerto Rico in a Group A, League A, CONCACAF Nations League qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.

Hood will now look for a win in the return match between the teams, to be played at the Juan Ramón Loubriel stadium on Tuesday in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, from 7 p.m.

“We have to go for a victory. We lost this one by two goals to one, if we get a 2-0 victory, then we are back in it,” Hood stated, “That is going to be the mindset, to go out there and try to get a victory. We have to try.”

“We will try and address the deficiencies we saw in today’s game and hopefully the medical people can do their jobs, and get them recovered, so that we could go out and try give a performance on Tuesday,” the national coach added.

Hood admitted being displeased with the overall effort two nights ago.

Puerto Rico broke the deadlock in the 30th minute, with Juelle Love making a run to the end-line and cutting back to Skylynn Rodriguez, who fired in a right-footed shot for a 1-0 Puerto Rico lead. Trinidad and Tobago pulled level in the 49th through Alexcia Ali, who gathered a pass on the right wing and fired in from the narrowest of angles to make it a 1-1 affair.

However, Puerto Rico quickly regained the lead in the 54th when captain Jillienne Aguilera, pounced on a loose ball and blasted a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Simone Eligon for a 2-1 advantage.

“Rather disappointed in the result and some aspects of the performance as well, “Hood stated, at the post-match press conference.

“But I believed that the girls tried, they worked hard. They tried to do what we asked them to do, in the second half certainly, early in the first half as well.”

Where Hood thought his team went wrong, was in falling flat after what he assessed as a good opening 20-minute period. And he deduced that composure and fitness may have been contributing factors.

“I thought that we lacked composure in critical times of the game, in the offensive third, in the defensive third as well,” he explained. “The energy level in the first half was not what we were looking for. At the end of the day, we really did not execute like we would have really wanted to.”

Hood also addressed a fitness deficiency within his team, with the likes of Asha James and Chelcy Ralph struggling to run back and keep the middle compact, while attacking players Maria Frances-Serrant and sometimes Ali, were at times ill-disciplined and did not pay attention to their defensive duties on the side of the field.

“Physically we seemed a little short,” Hood admitted, “Fitness remains a concern. The energy level was not there,” he admitted, despite his Women Warriors initially implementing the game-plan of pressing the Puerto Ricans.”

“I though in the first 15, 20 minutes, we did a pretty decent job of that. We won a lot of balls up the pitch and we created opportunities that we should have finished off with a little more composure. Following that, I thought we fell rather flat. We stopped doing the job that we were doing. We allowed them to come into the game.”

Hood might also have been a bit caught off guard that his girls are still short of fitness, given the work they had put in recently.

“Following the Mexico game, we did a lot of work on our fitness. That would have been the people who were here. We would have sent programmes to the people that were abroad as well, but really, we have no real way of monitoring that.”

Hood supported his assessment with his explanation of the reasons for his substitutions, in which he took off goal scorer and exciting winger Ali, one of the top players in the local Women’s League (Wolf) and also James, the team’s most creative midfielder, who just did not fire and looked woefully short on fitness.

“Alexcia was winded from since the first half. She was struggling physically for one reason or another. She started the second half well, she got the goal, but then, we needed to get something else into the game,” Hood said. “We needed to add something else to the offensive thrust, similar to the change with Asha later in the game as well.”

Hood admitted his team’s overall fitness level is not helped by the low standard of the local league and also having overseas-based players who have left college and are currently unattached.

“You look at the Mexicans, everybody is a professional player. You look at our team, you have some players locally in a league that is not of a high standard, and then we have a lot of players (overseas) that are unattached as well. We do not have many professional players. This is what we have at the moment and we are trying to do the best that we can as well.”

To lift his players, Hood had to be forceful with his half-time talk and felt the second half performance was much better.

“I had a bit of an aggressive talk with them at half-time, in terms of commitment and heart and desire and stuff like that, and I thought that basically it gave them a little impetus. We came out with a certain amount of drive in the second half and we were able to score a goal and that lifted us a little bit. Unfortunately, we conceded soon after. So all the good work was kind of wasted.”

Hood did credit his players for trying to do what he wanted in the second half - to get behind the Puerto Ricans and be a little more direct. As a result, T&T got a couple of opportunities but again Hood felt they did not have the composure to finish.

The coach also gave a good assessment of the performances of debutantes Zoe Maxwell, who was good down the middle of the field and Abigail Moos, at left-back, who did not get as much support as she should have from either Serrant ahead of her, or captain Karyn Forbes behind.

“I though Zoe (Maxwell), in the middle of the field particularly, she demonstrated that level of composure that we required from her in that position. Abby (Abigail Moos) struggled a little bit because that (Puerto Rican) player was going at her, and she lacked defensive support as well. I’m actually satisfied with their performances. I thought it was a good debut for both of them.”

Hood also felt that goalkeeper Simone Eligon “did really well”, having replaced veteran Kimika Forbes, who had been between the posts for over a decade. After initially struggling with a couple of high balls, Eligon produced at least three key saves in the first half alone.

“I though she did well in certain circumstances, others not as well. Certainly, she is not big in stature. Cross-balls were a bit of a challenge, high balls,” was Hood’s assessment. “But she is something we can work with.”

SOURCE: T&T Express