Caribbean teams hunt two of three spots to group stage as prelims gets inaugural Women's Gold Cup going

By Sports Desk February 16, 2024

Four Caribbean teams will be hoping to break into the much-anticipated inaugural staging of the Concacaf Women's Gold Cup when they contest the preliminary round of competition at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, on Saturday.

With only three spots up for grabs, only two teams from the Caribbean, and one from Central America, will progress to join United States, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Paraguay, Canada, Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica in the main event.

Guyana vs. Dominican Republic

Guyana and the Dominican Republic take the pitch in a first-ever encounter. Both teams are no strangers to the hustle, as they won their respective groups in League B of the qualifiers.

Having tallied 20 goals in their five wins and a draw, Guyana arrived in California ready to impress and they certainly possess enough quality to do so. Otesha Charles, who scored seven goals during the qualifiers, and Jalade Trim, who scored a brace in the last win, are key players to watch.

The Dominican Republic also know plenty about success, as they booked their spot in the preliminary stage as Group B winners in League B. Like Guyana, Dominican Republic registered five wins and a draw in six games, with a tally of 24 goals.

Jazmin Jackson, who had four goals in that total, will be the Spanish-speaking Caribbean team’s biggest threat in front of goal, with goalkeeper Odaliana Gomez and the defensive line, hoping to add to the four clean sheets they had in the qualifiers.

With not much separating the two teams, it is left to be seen, who will execute more efficiently, both in offensively and in the defence to come out on top.

Haiti vs. Puerto Rico

By all indications, Haiti will start firm favourites in their contest against Puerto Rico, not only because they have won four of the last six meetings between the two, but also due to the FIFA Women’s World Cup experience under their belts.

Haiti have scored 12 times against Puerto Rico, while conceding five. That coupled, with the fact that last year’s appearance at the global showpiece in Australia and New Zealand, has added impetus to their charge, all but signals their readiness for their next challenge.

Haitian legend Nerilia Mondesir, who scored six goals and provided eight assists, along with Batcheba Louis, who had five goals in their second-place finish in Group C of League A, will again be critical to their chances of clinching a spot in the group stage.

Puerto Rico’s one win, one draw and a loss, is nowhere close to Haiti’s three wins and a loss, but they are no fluke when it comes to important assignments, and this is an important as any. So, while on paper Haiti are favourites, the game has to be played and Puerto Rico could very well capitalise if the opponents slip up.

Goalkeepers Sydney Martinez and JLo Varada, whichever is given starting duties, will be charged with shutting out Haiti’s attackers.

El Salvador vs. Guatemala

El Salvador and Guatemala have faced each other nine times, with the latter holding a seven-win advantage. Now, they will add a new chapter to their history, with Guatemala are looking to keep the positive record going.

They placed second in Group B of League A, after they secured 2-2 and 1-1 stalemates with the Caribbean’s number one team Jamaica, albeit without their best players.

Knowing what it means to leave everything on the pitch, star players like Ana Lucia Martinez, who was the team’s top scorer (three goals), and Leslie Ramirez (one goal), will be key to their chances.

El Salvador will be looking to continue their winning momentum from the qualifiers where they won all six games to top Group B of League B, with their 24 goals coming from different players.

Brenda Ceren led the way in scoring five goals, closely followed by Danya Gutierrez, Samaria Gomez and Danielle Fuentes with four goals each.

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