Director of local women’s football Even Pellerud and head coach Jamaal Shabaaz have expressed their views on the women’s team’s performance in the second round qualifying phase for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Trinidad and Tobago are one step away from securing a spot in the prestigious tournament, winning their three matches including a 3-0 victory over Guyana on Friday night in what was billed as the encounter expected to be the most testing for the hosts.
Pellerud feels the current team comprises more than a handful of quality players but there is still some sharpening up required.
“I liked what I saw. The team has many good players. With some more time together, this could easily become a CONCACAF contender, but needs to sharpen up on fitness levels and team discipline,” Pellerud said.
The Norwegian said that there was specific reason why Under-17 team goalkeeper Keri Myers was used and that the time will come for other players from her age group to represent the senior team.
“Kerri was included simply because there are very few options at the senior level at this time which is indeed a concern for all of us. There might be a couple of Under-17 players competitive at this level, but the young ones have more than enough time following this year’s Under-17 World Cup. Their time will come,” Pellerud said.
He added that it was vital for the women’s team to keep up their momentum leading up to the World Cup which will be held here in September
“The more high level football we can see, the better (for the young girls). To do well is very important for any women’s team at this time because we are trying to build confidence and long term momentum,” Pellerud said.
Shabaaz was also upbeat in his assessment of the team’s display in the just concluded CFU Gold Cup and CAC Games qualifying tournament in which T&T booked a place for Puerto Rico in July.
“Our girls played with grit and determination and at times real maturity. Given the fact that half the team being foreign-based and we got together the full squad for only three sessions before the tournament. I am happy with the results and the overall performance as a group.
However I think some players underperformed in some cases due to injury in some cases due to inadequate fitness,” Shabaaz said.
The women’s assistant coach said he felt the team handled the pressure of the Guyana match well on Friday. “I thought we did very well against Guyana who with almost their entire team being North Americans proved to be formidable opponents.
Guyana needed a draw to advance and the fact that we had to win was just the kind of challenge our girls needed to take it up a gear.
“I was very impressed in how they stepped up their intensity and while Guyana never stopped playing if their goalkeeper was not so brilliant we would have won the match by a wider margin,” Shabaaz said. He was also high in praise of Arin King and said the decision to shift her to the frontline as a striker was a correct one.
“In Arin King T&T has definitely gotten a player who has made a smooth transition from youth to senior football. For her school and her club in Canada she plays striker but for the national team she is a better defender.
“With Maylee Attin-Johnson nursing an injury we needed someone up top who could hold the ball up and play with her back to defenders. King did this very well and her finishing was almost immaculate.
“While we see her primarily as a defender we will continue to use her as a utility player because she can play well in midfield as well. Shabaaz said the team must now focus in getting prepared for the CAC Games and then head for the Gold Cup.
“Before the Gold Cup there is the CAC games which is what we have just qualified for out of this tournament. So the very next move is to call together a squad of local and foreign based players to start preparations for that CAC tournament which will be held in Puerto Rico from mid-July.
We are looking at no fewer than six sessions a week to get our team into the right shape. This is in itself a preparation for the Gold Cup,” he said. The women’s assistant coach streesed that emphasis will be placed on physical fitness.
“Fitness is certainly an area that needs our immediate attention and one that we will address instantly. Now that we will have 90 percent of our squad home we can also cover a lot of technical tactical areas and raise the overall intensity of our play,” he said.
Shabaaz said he was satisfed with several elements of the team’s performance during the past week. “The camaraderie and team spirit among the girls really pleased me. The majority of them have played together in our national programme since 2000 and I am seeing a more mature bunch of players who really want us to become a force in CONCACAF.
“I see some players wanting to become professional footballers and some showing a desire to help in different ways to take women’s football to another level.
“It is clear that the vision of Dr Iva Gloudon eight years ago to try to get them scholarships in North America has borne fruit. These kids are now holders of degrees in management; sports science and they understand better the kind of work we need to do to go to the next level.
“Seeing them mature like this is a big victory for the programme and having someone with the international experience as the Director of the Women’s Programme Mr Even Pellerud here to add his bit certainly excites me,” Shabaaz said.