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Trinidad and Tobago attacker Talia Martin (right) is congratulated by coach Dernelle Mascall during Concacaf U-20 Championship qualifying action against the Cayman Islands at the Rignaal Jean Francisca Stadium, in Willemstad, Curaçao on 15 April 2023. (Copyright Miguel Gutierrez/ Straffon Images)
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Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-20 Team head coach Dernelle Mascall credited Puerto Rico for their strides in the women’s game, after they eliminated the Women Soca Warriors with a thumping 5-0 win yesterday in a 2023 Concacaf Under-20 Championship qualifier in Curaçao.

However, Mascall’s post-mortem of the team’s emphatic defeat failed to touch on her own tactical game plan—and, in particular, the coach’s decision to start their most important game without her best three players: J’Eleisha Alexander, Talia Martin, and Orielle Martin.

In two matches against Cayman Islands and Guadeloupe, Trinidad and Tobago scored six goals. Alexander got three of them, while Talia had two and created the other, which was converted by Nikita Jackson.

On the eve of their do-or-die game against Puerto Rico, Mascall described Alexander as her best finisher.

“Alexander came up big for us [against Guadeloupe],” Mascall told the TTFA Media. “She is the best one we have in terms of finding the back of the net and she came up big for us with a hattrick.”

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical director Anton Corneal, who was also in Curaçao, was even more complimentary about the two Tobago teenagers.

“[Talia] has good skill—uncanny skill,” Corneal told Wired868. “Her confidence is above average and you want to encourage that and let her do what she likes doing.

“[…] Alexander is physically good and very direct… She is fast and strong and understands how to use her speed; and she kicks very well at goal.”

By their own assessment, it was a big decision to start the match without them. And by the time that Mascall got her best attacking players on the field for the start of the second half, the Women Soca Warriors were already trailing by two goals.

There is no suggestion Mascall tried to sabotage her own team. According to football sources, the hope was that Alexander, Talia and Orielle would come on to run at a tired Puerto Rico defence. (Trinidad and Tobago entered the match needing a win while Puerto Rico would have advanced with a draw.)

As it transpired, Trinidad and Tobago never got close to the opposing goal in the opening 45 minutes—and the only outcome was that Puerto Rico got a two-goal start.

The fact that the Spanish-speaking islanders extended their lead with Trinidad and Tobago’s best players on the field arguably implies that even the talented trio could not swing the game in favour of the two-island republic.

However, why does Mascall, as an international coach, not feel she owes the public any explanation regarding what she does on the job?

Should the lack of accountability at the helm of the local football body—in the shape of Fifa-appointed normalization committee chairman Robert Hadad—now be considered contagious?

Prior to the competition, Wired868 sent the following question to Mascall via assistant coach Rajesh Latchoo and then via the TTFA Media:

“Good day. I noticed a lot of new faces in the under-20 squad. Was that because girls on the former [National] Under-17 Team didn’t turn up? Or just [that the] new girls shone?”

Beyond an acknowledgement from Latchoo, Mascall never responded. Eventually Corneal did give some insight into the Women’s Under-20 Team—although he did not respond to our question about T&T’s starting XI for the Puerto Rico fixture either.

And now Mascall might have made history as the first national football coach to oversee an entire tournament without directly addressing the media even once.

Almost 24 hours after Trinidad and Tobago’s elimination, she read a prepared statement to the public via an audio note on the TTFA’s Facebook page.

“Puerto Rico have invested in the women’s game and are now reaping the rewards,” said Mascall. “We must give them the credit. Fitness, maturity and experience were the deciding factors for us in the end.”

The coach further hinted that the Women Warriors did not recover fully from their 3-2 win over Guadeloupe on Monday and might not have been at their physical peak against Puerto Rico.

She then credited National Under-15 coaches Ayana Russell and Marlon Charles for their development work with her young team and insisted they will do well in the future, once supported.

“Most of the players here still have another shot at the U-20 level and nine players are still eligible for the upcoming [Concacaf] U-17 tournament,” Mascall told the TTFA Media. “So the experience and exposure they gained here in this tournament augurs well for the future of the women’s programme.

“And I strongly believe that with ample time for preparation, this group of players are the ones to put us back on the map in the women’s game.”

From Angus Eve to Pep Guardiola, it is customary that coaches explain their decision-making to their team’s supporters via the independent media.

Mascall has so far denied Trinidad and Tobago football fans the chance to consider the merit of her tactical plan to take her team past Puerto Rico and into the 2023 Concacaf Under-20 Championship.

At this rate, the Warriors are not only struggling to hold their own on the field of play. They are also running the risk of alienating their remaining supporters as well.

T&T 2023 U-20 Women’s Squad:

Goalkeepers: Sadiel Antoine (Holy Faith Convent Couva), Sophia Keel (South Torrance High School, California, USA), Mikaela Yearwood (St Joseph Convent POS)

Defenders: Jeniceia Benjamin (Tranquility Secondary), Sharika Charles (Scarborough Secondary), Kaitlyn Darwent (St Joseph Convent POS), Jada Graham (Mason Hall Secondary), Anastasia O’Brien (Tranquility Secondary), Kanika Rodriguez (St Augustine Secondary), Cicely-Ann Spencer-Wickham (St Robert Catholic High School, Ontario, Canada)

Midfielders: Rasheda Archer (South East Secondary), Carissa Cowan (Goodwood Secondary), Jessica Harragin (Holy Name Convent POS), Orielle Martin (Bishop Anstey East), Cherina Steele (Woodbrook Secondary), Marley Walker (James Island Charter High School, South Carolina, USA)

Forwards: J’eleisha Alexander (Scarborough Secondary), Athena Jackson (Keller High School, Texas, USA), Nikita Jackson (Keller High School, Texas, USA), Talia Martin (Speyside High School), Mariah Williams (Corpus Christi)

Technical staff: Dernelle Mascall (coach), Rajesh Latchoo (assistant coach), Ayana Russell (assistant coach/trainer), Kern Meloney (sport physiotherapist), Raquel Russell (eqiipment), Declan Squires (goalkeeper coach), Sgt Simone Edwards (manager), Kristin Fung (doctor).

RELATED NEWS

P/Rico rout Trinidad and Tobago U-20 Women 5-0, as Mascall’s tactical gamble fails.
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868).


Trinidad and Tobago’s 2024 Women’s World Under-20 Cup campaign ended in Curaçao tonight, after just three matches.

The Women Soca Warriors needed a win over Puerto Rico to advance to the Concacaf Championship, but it wasn’t even close—as the ladies in red, white and black slumped to a 5-0 defeat at the Rignaal Jean Francisca Stadium in Willemstad.

Remarkably, the final scoreline flattered Trinidad and Tobago—and was testimony to a fine performance by goalkeeper Sophia Keel.

Inevitably, any post-mortem of tonight’s game is bound to linger on coach Dernelle Mascall’s decision to start the match without her three best attacking players: forward J’Eleisha Alexander, flanker Talia Martin and playmaker Orielle Martin.

Alexander scored a hattrick in Trinidad and Tobago’s 3-2 win over Guadeloupe on Monday, Talia has two goals, an assist and won two penalties from two group matches so far, and Orielle has been the provider for most of their forays.

None of them started in tonight’s do-or-die contest and word from the camp was that the decision to use them from the bench was “tactical”.

Suffice to say that Mascall’s gamble did not reap the returns that anyone on the two island republic would have wanted.

It is also worth noting that Puerto Rico scored three times without conceding while Trinidad and Tobago had their best players on the field. On tonight’s evidence it is difficult to see any tactical swivel that might have hid the obvious, which was that the Spanish-speaking islanders simply possess the better team.

Technically solid, patient in possession, yet relentless in their offensive probing, Puerto Rico wasted no time taking control of the proceedings.

The Trinidad and Tobago technical staff hinted beforehand that a relative lack of athleticism might be the chink in their opponent’s armour. The big question was: how do we exploit it?

If Mascall’s thinking was to keep your most dynamic players on ice until the second period when Puerto Rican legs tired, the follow-up question might be: are your starting players good enough to extend the opposing backline?

There was nothing to suggest they were and the game was one-way traffic from kickoff, with Trinidad and Tobago’s makeshift offence virtually operating in a different time zone to Puerto Rico goalkeeper Isabel Ackerman.

The Women Soca Warriors defended competently at the start, as they doubled up against opponents on either flank. But the Puerto Ricans just kept coming, and the front-three of utility player Jeniecia Benjamin and attackers Nikita Jackson and Rasheda Archer could not keep the ball long enough for their defenders to catch their breath—let alone trouble the opposing backline.

The opening goal came in the 27th minute, as forward Kenedy Garcia scored off a right side corner that Trinidad and Tobago failed to clear. There was no question about whether they deserved their advantage.

Mascall responded by sending in Orielle for midfielder Carissa Cowan in the 29th minute. Yet, two minutes later, the lead was doubled.

Having manned the flanks so well for the first half hour, right back Jada Graham failed to stop a left side Puerto Rico cross and the resulting volleyed item by Enasia Colon was emphatic.

The score remained 2-0 at the interval and Mascall might have felt the situation was not irretrievable, as she finally introduced the Tobago duo of Alexander and Talia.

Five minutes later, the deficit rose to three. This time, Trinidad and Tobago could not deal with a cross from a free kick and midfielder Ashley McMahon neatly controlled on her chest before scoring a thumping volley.

In the 53rd minute, the Women Warriors finally managed their first goal attempt. The alert Orielle pinched the ball off an opposing defender and flicked to Alexander in one move and the forward had her legs taken from beneath her in the penalty box.

The loose ball rolled to Archer who hit a glorious chance over the bar.

Fortunately, or so it seemed at the time, Honduran referee Merlin Vanessa Soto decided to give Trinidad and Tobago a second bite at the cherry—as she pointed to the penalty spot for the initial trip on Alexander.

The Speyside High Secondary forward scored two penalties against Guadeloupe on Monday, but her effort from the spot this evening sailed into the evening sky. And Trinidad and Tobago were really in trouble now.

In the 65th minute, Puerto Rico coach Wendy Espejel changed goalkeepers as Alondra Iriarte replaced Ackerman. It is hard not to see that as a sign that they felt the game was up.

Even more infuriating is that she was right. And worse? Neither Puerto Rico goalkeeper was tested over 90 minutes.

If Puerto Rico intended to cruise to the final whistle, nobody passed the memo on to Colon. In the 75th minute, the winger scored the goal of the match as she dribbled Benjamin, Cicely-Anne Spencer-Wickham (twice!), Anastasia O’Brien and captain Marley Walker in an outrageous display of skill.

By then, the Trinidad and Tobago defenders were worn out by the quick ball movement and attacking ambition of their opponents. They certainly had no need for super subs.

The Women Warriors had lost all shape by now. Stocky Puerto Rican forward Garcia was merciless though, as she added a fifth goal with a looping header off a right side cross in the 82nd minute—the fourth item to come off a cross.

More than half of Mascall’s players are eligible to represent Trinidad and Tobago at Concacaf Under-17 level later this year—Orielle and left back Kaitlyn Darwent are just 14-years-old.

They are likely to have many more battles to come in the international arena. But tonight was a chastening experience.

Whisper it, but only the likes of the United States and Canada could serve out these kinds of spankings to Trinidad and Tobago in yesteryear.

However, in the last 16 months, the Warriors have conceded five or more goals on seven occasions—against Mexico (10-0) and Panama (5-1) at Women’s U-20 level, Canada (5-0) and St Kitts and Nevis (7-2) at Women’s U-17 level, Mexico (5-0) at Men’s U-20 level, Canada (7-0) at Women’s Senior level and Bolivia (5-0) in a men’s friendly.

There is no easy path to respectability from here for the TTFA, as Trinidad and Tobago attempts to rebuild its football reputation.

Whether or not we have even started in earnest depends on who you to talk to—despite the flashes of talent and application by our youth teams in not only Curaçao but at the Men’s Concacaf Under-17 tournament in Guatemala this February.

(Teams)

Trinidad and Tobago (4-3-3): 21.Sophia Keel (GK); 19.Jada Graham (7.Talia Martin 46), 17.Anastasia O’Brien, 3.Cicely-Anne Spencer-Wickham, 5.Kaitlyn Darwent (18.Shakira Charles 86); 6.Marley Walker (captain), 14.Cherina Steele, 16.Carissa Cowan (10.Orielle Martin 29); 2.Jeniecia Benjamin (4.Kanika Rodriguez 80), 12.Nikita Jackson (9.J’Eleisha Alexander 46), 15.Rasheda Archer.

Substitutes: 1.Mikaela Yearwood (GK), 20.Sadiel Antoine (GK), 8.Jessica Harragin, 11.Mariah Williams, 13.Athena Jackson,

Coach: Dernelle Mascall

Puerto Rico: 12.Isabel Ackerman (GK), 7.Jessica Torres (captain), 14.Gabriela Berrios, 19.Abigail Seawright, 2.Grace Burns, 15.Ashley McMahon, 16.Payton Quinones, 18.Susana Roberts, 9.Madison Krakower, 10.Kenedy Garcia, 17.Enasia Colon.

Substitutes: 1.Alondra Iriarte (GK), 3.Eva Anderson, 4.Erin Smith, 6.Sofia Colon-Gonzales, 8.Estefania Gonzales, 11.Fabiola Martinez, 13.Lisette Gregoris, 20.Jocelyn Chinea.

Coach: Wendy Espejel

Referee: Merlin Vanessa Soto (Honduras)

Concacaf U-20 Championship qualifiers - Group D

(Wednesday 19 April)

Trinidad and Tobago 0, Puerto Rico 5 (Kenedy Garcia [2], Enasia Colon [2], Ashley McMahon)

Guadeloupe 3, Cayman Islands 0

(Monday 17 April)

Trinidad and Tobago 3 (J’Eleisha Alexander 8 pen, 51 pen, 60), Guadeloupe 2 (Laetitia Echard 42, Sergyna Loubli 84 pen)

Puerto Rico 6 (Kenedy Garcia 9, 45+1, Madison Krakower 24, Payton Quinones 63, Susana Roberts 75, Lisette Gregoris 90+3), Cayman Islands 1 (Molly Kehoe 45+2)

(Sat 15 April)

Trinidad and Tobago 3 (Talia Martin 22, 68, Nikita Jackson 66), Cayman Islands 0

Puerto Rico 5 (Kenedy Garcia 12, Enasia Colon 40, Estefania Gonzales 52, Jocelyn Chinea 73, Fabiola Martinez 88), Guadeloupe 0