OVER THE next two months, the Trinidad and Tobago women’s football team will see an influx of new faces and foreign-based talent as interim coach Kenwyne Jones seeks to bolster his squad’s strengths ahead of the Concacaf Women’s World Cup qualifiers in February 2022.
Jones made this disclosure during Sunday’s virtual media conference where he announced a 22-member squad for two forthcoming international friendlies against Dominican Republic on November 26 and 30.
For the Dominican Republic trip, eight changes were made to the team that played to two drawn results against Panama, in October, at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.
Exiting the squad were Anya Decourcy, Malaika Dedier, Maya Matouk, Aaliyah Prince, Laurelle Theodore, Janelle McGee, Jonelle Cato and Meyah Rome.
In their places are forwards Tsianne Leander and Kedia Johnson, midfielder Asha James, defenders Jaasiel Forde, Chelsi Jadoo, Kaydeen Jack and Chrissy Mitchell.
The players retained from the October 21 and 25 matches against Panama are captain Karyn Forbes and her sister Kimika, Maylee Attin-Johnson, Kennya “YaYa” Cordner, Tenesha Palmer, Collette Morgan, Rhea Belgrave, Naomie Guerra, Liana Hinds, Lauryn Hutchinson, Dennecia Prince, Victoria Swift, Raenah Campbell and Chelcy Ralph.
The squad leaves for the Dominican Republic on Monday, with both games to be played at the Estadio Panamericano in San Cristobal from 6pm (TT time) on both days.
Jones believes integrating new, and more competitively active players would boost the team’s overall strengths heading into the Concacaf qualifiers.
“We went a little different (in) this training camp,” said Jones. “There are some faces I actively (sought) out to add to the squad based on their college seasons. There are still quite a few players that we want to be able to have in the camp before the qualifiers.
“What we did, this time, is try to get a better balanced squad than we had last time (against Panama), to be able to go out and tactically perform.
“There are a lot of names out there and a lot that the public will not know that we’ve been scouting and actively engaging with to be a part of the squad. I really do see some exciting players coming into the squad in the future,” Jones added.
He added that his technical staff utilised the TT Football Association’s database to track down some of the lesser-known foreign-based players.
The former TT men’s team captain mentioned, “The difference between some players we had at the last camp and those coming in is that (the new crop) have been in their college seasons. They have been playing competitive matches.
“I know (the TTFA) were after (Jadoo) for a long time and she’s a professional in Portugal. Johnson, Jack and Mitchell also received plaudits from their colleges and it helped us to not only have a stronger squad, but a more balanced one.”
The ex-English Premier League striker continued, “There are some names that you might possibly see in the future that is unknown to the TT public. But we have been doing out homework and actively scouting people. The public should be really excited by the few names that we would be introducing into the squad in the near future.”
Jones said Dominican Republic was chosen as their opponent of choice since he would like the team to acclimatise playing against Latin American opposition in preparation for similar tests at the Concacaf qualifiers.
TT are in group F alongside Nicaragua, Dominica and Turks/Caicos Islands. The tournament serves as Concacaf’s qualifiers to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, as well as for the 2024 Summer Olympics in France.
The top two teams of each group will qualify for the World Cup, while the third-placed teams from each group will advance to the inter-confederation play-offs.
In addition, the winners will qualify for the Olympics, while the second and third-placed teams will advance to the Concacaf Olympic play-off.
Concerning the Dominican Republic team, Jones said, “For a team (TT) that haven’t played competitive matches for such a long time, we are slowly elevating the level the squad is playing at. We’re trying to mimic the opposition we’re going to face.
“At this stage, as we are building and putting philosophies in, the test of Dominican Republic is a good one for us. It will allow us to implement some strategic, tactical changes of what we would like our DNA to be.
“I see it as a really good test. We were offered the opportunity to play Mexico and Costa Rica. But as a coaching staff, we thought it was way too soon for us to be playing them.”
Owing to the nation’s inability to resume domestic competition because of the pandemic, Jones said the lengthy downtime for locally-based players is creating a talent gap between them and those competing for their colleges abroad.
These foreign players will be fused into the squad, over the next two months, to assess and evaluate their effectiveness with the local bunch.
“So far, we’ve had about 70 players and we’ve been going through the list. We have a strong feeling about 35 of them and right now, we’re just going to mix and match to see which players give us the better balance.
“I think also are elements of the type of players that we never had in our women’s team before. Most of these players now are doing well for their colleges.
“Some of them don’t heed the call to come and play for the national team. And that is really based on past experiences they may have had in different set-ups,” Jones said.
TT TEAM –
Players: Tenisha Palmer, Naomie Guerra, Dennecia Prince, Kimika Forbes, Kennya Cornder, Collette Morgan, Karyn Forbes, Tsianne Leander, Rhea Belgrave, Jaasiel Forde, Maylee Attin-Johnson, Chelcy Ralph, Akyla Walcott, Raenah Campbell, Liana Hinds, Kedie Johnson, Asha James, Kaydeen Jack, Chelsi Jadoo, Victoria Swift, Lauryn Hutchinson, Chrissy Mitchell.
Staff: Kenwyne Jones (interim coach), Charlie Mitchell (assistant coach), James Baird (goalkeeping coach), Atiba Downes (strength and conditioning coach), Dr. Anyl Gopeesingh (team doctor), Aqiyla Gomez (team physiotherapist), Terry Johnson-Jeremiah (equipment manager), Alexandria Olton (sport psychologist), Kylla Charles (medical masseuse), Joanne Daniel (manager).