“Songshine was a kind of miracle. I was lucky enough to be part of making it happen.” — Gillian Moor
US-born T&T Soca Princesses coach Randy Waldrum says his team will enter the inaugural eight-team Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women’s Cup in an attacking frame of mind when it face off with St Kitts/Nevis in the second match of a Group B double-header at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo from 7.15 pm tonight.
In the opening match of the group, Antigua & Barbuda will do battle with Martinique from 5 pm. For tonight’s match, the 55-year-old Waldrum, who enjoyed a stellar career as the women’s coach of Notre Dame University will not be available as his current US Women’s Soccer League club, Houston Dash has a re-schedule fixture.
And in his place, former national women’s youth and senior team coach Marlon Charles, who was axed, and then re-hired a few months back to work as an assistant to the team will assume the head coaching role before Waldrum links up with the national team ahead of Friday’s second group match versus Antigua & Barbuda at the same venue, also from 7.15 pm.
While the Soca Princesses were on a bye in the CFU first round qualifiers and had to make do with a couple friendlies against Venezuela and the Houston-camp, St Kitts/Nevis had wins over Cayman Islands (5-0) and Turks & Caicos (4-0) before a 1-3 loss to Bermuda in their Group Three decider.
Antigua & Barbuda topped Group One with similar 1-0 triumphs over US Virgin Islands, Aruba and St Vincent and The Grenadines while Martinique won Group Two after beating Barbados 3-1 and drawing 1-1 with Puerto Rico. Speaking from Houston to T&TFA Media, Waldrum who completed the training camp with the T&T squad on Saturday said he expects that captain Maylee Attin-Johnson and her teammates will be firing on all cylinders against St Kitts/Nevis.
“We want to take on a very attacking mentality right from the opening game. I love attacking football, and feel that we have the personnel to play in this manner throughout the CFU matchess.
There will be times later on when we have to drop deeper and play off the counter, but at the CFU level we’ll want to attack our opponents,” Waldrum said on Monday night.
With regards to the local squad, Waldrum, who previously worked with the national Under-17 women’s team said he was quite pleased with the composition which includes seven North American-based players.
“Overall I’m pretty happy with the squad I selected. They are certainly the best 20 that are available to us right now. I think there were some good players left off the squad that simply are not fit enough at the moment but I’ll work with them after the CFUs to improve this. So there are some players not selected who may ultimately be in the Concacaf qualifiers, and there are some players who were not available for selection at this time with their respective clubs, etc. The good thing is the roster evolves and it will help to keep all the players in the mood to fight for their positions on the roster, and that is when you make improvements,” Waldrum continued.
Waldrum added that there are some more aspects of T&T’s game that needs working on but the main focus is to qualify from the CFU Finals for the Concacaf Final round in the United States towards the Fifa Women’s World Cup in Canada next year. “The important thing now is to qualify through the CFU’s, and then we’ll have more time to hone in on these various elements of our game. Seattle Sounders prolific forward Kennya “Yaya” Cordner, the reigning T&T Football Assocaition “Women’s Player of the Year” will lead the Soca Princesses attack with veteran Tasha St Louis.
Boston Breakers goalkeeper Kimika Forbes is also in the mix along with the likes of Dernelle Mascal of Texas Gulf Coast, Canadian-born defender Arin King, Rhea Belgrave of West Texas University and Lauryn Hutchinson of Richmond United. Former Under-20 captain Mariah Shade of Petrotrin and talented forward Jo-Marie Lewis of St Ann’s Rangers have also made the cut while Khadesha Debesette has been ruled out by injury and her spot taken by US-based winger Taylor Mims.
At the end round-robin play in both pools, the top teams will meet in the final on August 26 at Mucurapo while the second placed teams in each group face off for third with all four certain of qualification to the Concacaf tournament. Already through to the Concacaf round are host USA and Mexico, who both received byes where they will be joined by Costa Rica and Guatemala, the winner and runner-up of Central America qualifying.
At the end of the Concacaf qualifiers, both finalists and the third placed team will qualify automatically to next year’s Women's World Cup while the fourth placed team will meet the third placed team from Conmbol (South America) for an additional World Cup berth. Admission to the CFU matches for each match day is $20 while the final which will be a double header including the third place playoff will be $50.
Last night, Group A kicked off with a double-header at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva with Jamaica and Puerto Rico facing off in the opener followed by Haiti and Bermuda while tomorrow its resumes with another double-header at Couva from 5pm. In the first match, Bermuda tackles Jamaica from 5pm and Haiti meets Jamaica from 7.15 pm.