The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Team made a gallant effort to make history as the first Caribbean team to qualify for a FIFA Women’s World Cup, in a third-place game against Mexico in the 2014 CONCACAF championship and qualifying tournament last Sunday afternoon at PPL Park in Chester, PA.
The Soca Princesses made a gallant effort because as the underdog to a more experienced Mexican team, they went the distance and more, taking Mexico team into overtime before succumbing to Veronica Corral’s winner in the 103rd minute, during the first of two 15-minute overtime periods. Corral scored a second goal in the 106th minute to complete the 4-2 score line as Mexico secured the third automatic berth to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup scheduled for several cities in Canada next summer.
The USA and Costa Rica have secured the first two of the three automatic berths for CONCACAF. As the fourth-place team in CONCACAF, Trinidad and Tobago gets another chance to make history when it plays Ecuador in a home-and-away playoff series for a final berth. The first game will be on Nov. 8, in Quito and the return match on Dec. 2, in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Trinidadians revealed their inexperience by allowing Mexico to recover and tie the game at 2-2 within a minute after Maria Shade had given the Soca Princesses a 2-1 lead in the 77th minute. Trinidad didn’t adhere to the principle that a team is most vulnerable just after it scores: amidst the euphoria of taking the lead, the Trinidadians lost focus and intensity for a moment and the experienced Mexicans took advantage. Trinidad trailed, 1-0, in the 24th minute when Sandra Stephany put Mexico ahead, but equalized, 1-1, in the 57th through a header by Kennya Cordner. Monica Campo scored Mexico’s crucial equalizer and then the winner at 3-2.
The Soca Princesses need better organization in their attack; the movement off the ball, composure and decision-making in front of the goal has to improve if they are to defeat Ecuador. They also must improve their heading on defense, a weakness that led to two crucial goals for Mexico – the equalizer then the game-winner.
Trinidad is the Caribbean champion and is the only team to compete in all nine CONCACAF Women’s Championships. The Trinidadians came into the game after an opening 1-0 loss to the USA and wins against Haiti, 1-0, and 2-1 versus Guatemala in the group stage. In the semifinal stage, the Soca Princess lost to Costa Rica on penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation.
Mexico lost to Costa Rica, 1-0, but bounced back with wins versus Martinique, 10-0, and Jamaica, 3-1, at the group stage. The Tricolors lost to the USA in the semifinals; Mexico made eight appearances in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournaments which resulted in two trips to the Big Dance, 1999 and 2011.
The winner of the Trinidad and Tobago-Ecuador series will earn one of the three remaining available berths to complete the field of 24 teams in the World Cup. If Trinidad wins, it will be the fifth CONCACAF team in the tournament since host Canada automatically qualified. The USA won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999 and now has qualified for its seventh straight tournament. Costa Rica is making its debut in the Cup. The 2015 Women’s World Cup draw will be on Dec. 6, in the National Capital Region of Ottawa-Gatineau.
The Trinidad and Tobago-Mexico game was the first of a doubleheader as automatic qualifiers USA and Costa Rica later contested the 2014 Women’s CONCACAF Championship, which the USA won, 6-0. Forward Abby Wambach, who won the Golden Boot award as the leading scorer of the tournament, scored four goals, her second such feat, and became the U.S. leader in World Cup qualifying goals with 18. Carly Lloyd, who won the Best Player of the tournament award, scored for the U.S. and so did teammate Sidney La Roux. In other wards, second-place finisher Costa Rica won the Fair Play Trophy and U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo copped the Golden Glove award as the top player at the position.
WRIGHT-PHILLIPS SETS RECORD
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored twice to lead the New York Red Bulls to a 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park last Sunday and a fourth-place finish in the MLS Eastern Conference. The performance earned Wright-Phillips a record as he is now tied with Roy Lassiter (1996) and Chris Wondolowski (2012) for the most goals scored in an MLS regular season with his 27th tally. Wright-Phillips also won the 2014 MLS Golden Boot award for the most goals scored this year, the first Red Bulls player to win the award.
The Red Bulls (13-10-11, 50 pts.) now have another date with Sporting Kansas City (14-13-7, 49 pts.), Thursday night, 8:00 PM at Red Bull Arena in a single elimination game. The winner will play Conference leader DC United in a home-and-away semifinal series starting on Sunday, Nov. 2; the other Eastern Conference semifinal series pits the New England Revolution versus the Columbus Crew.
Other players with awards this season are Captain Thierry Henry, who finished with a career-best 14 assists, tying him for second in the league this season, and goalkeeper Luis Robles, who tied for second in saves with 111. In scoring, second to Wright-Phillips is Dom Dwyer (22) of Sporting KC, then Robbie Keane (19) of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Lee Nguyen (18) of New England and Seattle Sounders’ Obafemi Martins (17).
In other MLS games on the last weekend of the regular season, Columbus knocked off Philadelphia, 2-1, as Columbus finished third in the Eastern Conference. Chivas USA, won its last game in MLS when it beat San Jose, 1-0. The Vancouver Whitecaps topped Colorado rapids, 1-0, and Portland knocked off FC Dallas, 2-0; the Whitecaps won the fifth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference, edging out Portland and will play fourth-place FC Dallas in a single elimination game.
The Seattle Sounders won the Supporter’s Shield as the team with the best regular season record with a 2-0 victory versus the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Sounders won the Western Conference and will play the winner of the FC Dallas-Vancouver Whitecaps game in a semifinal series. Second-place Los Angeles will play third-place Real Salt Lake. New England Revs defeated Toronto FC, 1-0, and the Montreal Impact beat DC United by the same score. Chicago was 2-1 better than Houston.