Despite failing to secure a spot in neither the Concacaf Women's Gold Cup group stage nor preliminary round, Jamaica's Reggae Girlz made somewhat of a mark in the final window of League A of the qualifying campaign, as Malikae Dayes and Davia Richards etched their names in the Best XI squad from the just-concluded window.

The two were just a few of the standout players for interim Head coach Xavier Gilbert in the failed campaign where they lost 1-2 and then drew 1-1 with Panama, and also registered 2-2 and 1-1 stalemates against Guatemala.

Dayes, 24, vein of form will boost her prospects at Danish club AaB Fodbold, while 19-year-old Richards will continue to hone her craft at Hill College, where she netted 23 goals, complemented by 12 assists, in the season. It is interesting to note that Richards placed her versatility on display by filling the left full-back position at times.

Here are the 11 players that stood out the most at their respective positions on the road to the inaugural Women's Gold Cup.

Goalkeeper

Alexia Estrada, Guatemala

Guatemala advanced to the Gold Cup Prelims with Estrada making five saves and four clearances in the 1-1 draw with Jamaica.

Defenders

Maria Elizondo, Costa Rica

Elizondo went the distance in both Costa Rica matches, making four clearances and helped keep a clean sheet against Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Davia Richards, Jamaica

Richards was tireless for the Reggae Girlz with a goal from four shots, while making a clearance in the back.

Araceli Torres, Mexico

Torres was very solid for Mexico in making a clearance in 95 minutes of action, helping her side qualify for the Women's Gold Cup group stage.

Cristina Ferral, Mexico

Ferral’s sensational strike earned Mexico a 1-0 win at Trinidad and Tobago, giving El Tricolor a perfect RTWGC campaign.

Midfielders

Gloriana Villalobos, Costa Rica

Villalobos had a goal in each game for Costa Rica, totaling six shots. Her biggest contribution was her playmaking, as she chipped in with four assists. 

Alexa Herrera, Costa Rica

Herrera scored a goal that will forever live in Costa Rican football lore, as she found the back of the net on the last kick of the game versus Haiti in the 2-1 win. She finished the window with three goals.

Malikae Dayes, Jamaica

Dayes was a workhorse in midfield for Jamaica in their two matches and had six clearances in the 1-1 draws with Panama and Guatemala.

Forwards 

Maria Paula Salas, Costa Rica

Salas set a Costa Rican Women’s National Team record with a seven-goal performance in the 19-0 victory over St Kitts and Nevis.

Kiana Palacios, Mexico

Palacios came off the bench and scored two goals to help Mexico secure a 3-0 win at Puerto Rico, qualifying her side for the Gold Cup group stage. 

Melissa Herrera, Costa Rica

No player created more scoring chances than Herrera, whose five assists led all players in all leagues during the window. She also had a goal.

Jamaica's Reggae Girls fell short of their goal to qualify for the preliminary round of the Concacaf Women Gold Cup following their 1-1 draw against Guatemala in the final match of Group B of League A of the Road to W Gold Cup on Sunday night at the Estadio Doroteo Guamuch Flores in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

The result also means that Panama have finished in first-place in the group and have qualified for the W Gold Cup group stage. Guatemala will progress to the Prelims, while Jamaica finish in third.

Jamaica came out strong early and almost snuck in a goal through Davia Richards, but instead it was Guatemala breaking the deadlock in the 10th minute.  Ana Martinez was taken down in the Jamaica penalty area and it was Martinez who converted from the spot to hand the home side a 1-0 lead.

That was followed later in the half by a buzzing chance from Andrea Alvarez from 40 yards out that forced Jamaica’s goalkeeper Serena Mensah to make a leaping save with her fingertipping the ball to safety.

 Jamaica were keen to get back on even footing and a long ball played up to the Guatemalan half led to a mix-up between a pair of defenders, allowing Davia Richards to swoop in and score to level things at 1-1 in minute 66.

 But the Guatemalan defense would hold firm the rest of the way to secure the necessary result to earn their prelims place.

Interim Reggae Girlz Head coach Xavier Gilbert will again be without his more established players for the decisive legs of their Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup qualifying fixtures against Panama and Guatemala on November 29 and December 3.

With the players, who achieved the historic feat of making the Round of 16 at the FIFA Women’s World Cup earlier this year still out, Gilbert has once again assembled a squad filled with more youth than experience where senior international caps are concerned.

In fact, Sashana “Pete” Campbell is the only experienced player called up to join fellow 2019 World Cup veterans Chinyelu Asher and Marlo Sweatman in the team.

The Girlz, who lost 1-2 away to Panama and were held to a 2-2 stalemate at home by Guatemala, are faced with a must-win situation in the League A encounters, if they are to secure an automatic berth to next year’s Women’s Gold Cup.

They currently sit at the foot of the three-team standing with a point. Panama heads the standings on six points, with Guatemala on four. Should the Girlz fail to top the standings, they would at least need to finish second to have another shot at Gold Cup qualification through a playoff contest against a League B group winner.

With that in mind, expectations were that the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and the World Cup players –who withdrew their services over lack of payment and general “mistreatment” from the governing football body –would have arrived at an amicable settlement, as it is understood that several meetings were planned.

JFF’s General Secretary Dennis Chung explained that meetings were in fact planned but didn’t materialize.

“We had reached out to them and asked them to specify in writing what the details of the mistreatment they allege are, and also to advise us of two dates they want to meet and who the representatives are from their end to discuss, as per the grievance procedures under the contract, as we want to ensure that we do everything according to contract for the protection of all. We didn’t receive any feedback on proposed dates, so we proposed December 8,” Chung told SportsMax.TV.

“Someone said to us they would speak to the players about meeting earlier (Tuesday), but this was not official communication from the players and there was no confirmation from them. And there is still no response to the December 8 proposal, so we have to wait on the feedback,” he added.

However, SportsMax.TV has been reliably informed that the reason for the Girlz silence is due to the fact that they are still yet to be paid in full.

This is contrary to a JFF release on October 27 which states: “The JFF is pleased to advise that, as committed, we have now paid in full balances due to the Women’s World Cup team.”

A source close to the situation denied the claims.

“The players have not received their money and they want it to be made public,” the source shared.

But Chung rebutted.

“As far as we know we have paid all the monies due. I have heard people say that players are due money still, but no one has come to us and say what is outstanding. So, persons outside can say anything, but I have to go by the records we have. If there is money outstanding, then it should be for the players to state what is outstanding, not for people in the public to say money is outstanding. That is not something anyone can act on,” Chung argued.

“Our focus right now is on the upcoming games, while we wait on the response to the proposed date, as we of course want to understand the allegations of mistreatment so that if it is something we need to address then we ensure that it is dealt with for all our players, current and future,” he noted.

The Girlz will face Panama at the National Stadium next Wednesday, before travelling to lock horns with Guatemala a few days later.

Squad: Lauren Reid, Malikae Dayes, Zoe Vidaurre, Chinyelu Asher, Israela Groves, Ricshya Walker, Marlo Sweatman, Davia Richards, Mikayla Dayes, Shaneil Buckley, Melissa Johnson, Aliyah Morgan, Theanna Burnett, Serena Mensa, Shanice Foster, Destiny Powell, Njeri Butts, Sashana Campbell, Shania Harris, Sydnie Street, Javanae Jones, Lachante Paul, Maliah Atkins.

Former Portmore United striker Maalique Foster and Tyreek Magee make a long-awaited return to international football, as they join newcomer Jonathan Bell in the senior Reggae Boyz squad to face Guatemala on Saturday.

The friendly international is scheduled to take place at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

Foster, who currently represents Colorado Springs Switchbacks in the USL, last represented Jamaica in 2019 in Concacaf Nations League B action when he scored twice in their 6-0 beating of Aruba in Willemstad, Curacao.

Prior to that, the now 24-year-old Foster scored a late equalizer in the Boyz 2-2 stalemate with South Korea in a friendly contest in Turkey.

Now back, the nippy attacker, who is also known for his pace up front, will be hoping to impress Head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson and company, especially with the Nations League quarterfinals against Canada, and possibly an appearance in next year’s Copa America, to come.

Magee, 24, who also plies his trade in the USL with the Switchbacks, made a solitary appearance for the Boyz last year, and like Foster, will be aiming to make this opportunity count.

Bell, 26, is an American-born defender, who currently represents Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit St Louis City.

Meanwhile, Lamonth Rochester is making his transition from the national youth setup, while Shaneil Thomas and Shaqeil Bradford, would have been called up to the senior setup at some point or another without making the final cut.

Squad: Amal Knight, Jahmali Waite, Richard King, Kyle Ming, Jamoi Topey, Lamonth Rochester, Damani Osei, Jonathan Bell,  Javain Brown, Shaneil Thomas, Lamonth Rochester, Trayvone Reid, Shaqeil Bradford, Devon Williams, Demario Phillips, Ramone Howell, Romario Williams, Deshane Beckford, Maalique Foster

Jamaica and Guatemala played to an exciting 2-2 draw on Sunday evening in Group B of League A of the Road to Women's Gold Cup at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.

Guatemala now have four points through three matches, while Jamaica have a point after two games.

The first half was an entertaining one and it was Guatemala who struck first, finding the back of the net in the 28th through Leslie Ramirez, who collected a corner kick and lofted a shot over Jamaica goalkeeper Aliyah Morgan and into net for a 1-0 Guatemala lead.

Jamaica responded almost immediately, and Guatemala could barely settle in with their lead when the scoreboard suddenly read 1-1 in the 32nd minute as Melissa Johnson ran onto a long ball from Malikae Dayes and tucked away a left-footed finish.

Jamaica brought that momentum into the second half and turned it into their first lead of the evening, 2-1, in the 52nd when Zoe Vidaurre fired home a loose ball deep in the area after the Guatemalan defense failed to clear a corner kick.

This time, though, it was Guatemala responding to a goal and Aisha Solorzano evened the score at 2-2 in the 56th with a strong finish after a surgical pass from Ana Martinez.

In the final quarter-hour, Jamaica had a golden opportunity to notch a third goal, but Guatemala goalkeeper Alexia Estrada pulled off an amazing save in the 80th to preserve the point for her side.

Interim Reggae Girlz Head coach Xavier Gilbert is hoping his makeshift team can bounce back quickly to not only take three points off Guatemala, but more importantly, put themselves in a much better position to top the qualifying group on their way to next year’s Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup.

The Girlz, who went down 1-2 away to Panama, are currently at the foot of the three-team Group B in League A of the qualifiers, but a win against Guatemala at the National Stadium on Sunday, would see them back in contention for the coveted top spot.

This, as Panama currently lead with six points from three games, followed by Guatemala with three points from two games, while the Girlz will be contesting their second fixture to be followed by the return leg encounters on November 29 and December 3 respectively.

Sunday’s game is scheduled for 5:00pm.

“I think the ladies can bounce back, but it is going to be a tough encounter similar to what we experienced against Panama. I think the ladies are in a much better place after getting the first game out of the way and we managed to get an extra session in with everybody so that was good,” Gilbert told SportsMax.TV.

“The spirits are high, so we just have to come out and execute. As I said before, it is going to be tough, and we are mindful that they (Guatemala) beat Panama before Panama defeated them. We know that they like to shoot from different areas, and I think offensively they are strong, so we just have to nullify their strengths,” he added.

Reflecting on the first game, Gilbert was encouraged by his team’s display for the most part, given the fact that they were pulled together only a few days prior to that game.

In fact, had it not been for an own-goal and a defensive error by Alika Keene in either half of the contest, Gilbert’s makeshift side would have pulled off a highly unexpected win.

“When you look back at the first game against Panama, they really didn’t break us down to score and unfortunately, we didn’t come away with anything because of the own-goal and defensive error. But we have Marlo Sweatman coming in for this game and with her experience in the middle of the park, I think we should give a much better performance on this occasion,” the tactician noted.

Marlo Sweatman, who didn’t make the trip to Panama, joined the team’s training session on Friday. She along with fellow 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup veteran Chinyelu Asher, are expected to do most of the work in the midfield, both from an attacking and defensive perspective.

Sweatman, 28, who currently plays professionally in Hungary, is eager to ply her part in the makeshift Girlz resurgence.

"I am very happy to be here. I have been playing attacking midfield and scoring a lot of goals, and I feel like I am in good form,” she said.

“This is a very young team, and so I will bring in a lot of experience and some leadership, especially in the midfield, as well as off the field, to help them grow as players and as people off the field as well,” Sweatman shared.

Members of Jamaica’s senior Reggae Girlz FIFA Women’s World Cup squad remain resolute in their latest standoff with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), as they point out that withdrawing from the upcoming Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup qualifying fixtures was a last resort to “end the cycle of mistreatment” they have endured under the Michael Ricketts-led administration.

The Girlz in a widely circulated statement released via social media on Saturday, said the decision to bypass the October international window for games against Panama and Guatemala, was difficult but necessary, given the circumstances under which they were asked to report for duty.

Those circumstances to which the Girlz refer, include the fact that interim Head coach Xavier Gilbert was appointed late Thursday, a mere four days before the team is expected to arrive in Panama for the October 25 fixture.

Gilbert has since assembled a makeshift squad for that game as well as the October 29 meeting with Guatemala at the National Stadium.

“While this has been one of the hardest decisions we have had to make, we feel it is necessary to make such a drastic stance to put an end to the constant mistreatment we receive from the Jamaica Football Federation,” the statement said.

“As always, it is an honour and a privilege to represent Jamaica. It is our job to perform to the best of our ability and put all our efforts into representing our country, making our fans (and) loved ones at home and in the diaspora proud. Due to the current circumstances the Jamaica Football Federation has put us in, we would not be able to do our job,” they added.

Aside from the alleged short notice, the Girlz again called out the JFF for its “unprofessionalism” and disorganization in the way they communicate and, by extension, manage the country’s football affairs.

This, as contrary to reports that the JFF have paid World Cup money in full between Thursday and Friday, the Girlz reveal that they are yet to receive “full and correct payments” for their historic Round of 16 run at the global showpiece, coupled with “numerous outstanding bonuses” for last year’s qualification.

“We received information about our coaching staff, medical staff and equipment staff in an untimely manner and through unprofessional communication. We got confirmation our head coach three days prior to our report date through social media, despite our efforts to have direct communication with the JFF,” they shared.

“We have dealt with this lack of communication, poor organization, poor management and delayed payments from the JFF time and time again. For these reasons, we take our stance in solidarity with hope to end this cycle of mistreatment,” the Girlz noted.

The Girlz statement came as a direct response to a JFF release on Friday which stated that they have suspend any selection of the players in question until these issues are resolved.

“The JFF is uncomfortable with the response of the players and the non-attendance of the player representatives to a scheduled meeting. The JFF is eager to clear up all the concerns that team members may have in accordance with the contracts. If there is a grievance or concern, this must be placed squarely on the table to be addressed and documented to the JFF,” the country’s governing football body’s release stated.

Having managed to pull a full 23-member squad out of the hat, interim Reggae Girlz Head coach Xavier Gilbert is now cautiously optimistic about their chances of springing another surprise in the upcoming Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup qualifying fixtures against Panama and Guatemala.

Gilbert, who was appointed late Thursday, skipped his first hurdle by securing the services of a fairly youthful squad, which also includes some out-of-favour experienced players for the games scheduled for October 25 and 29 respectively.

However, the second hurdle remains the fact that Gilbert has a short window to try and achieve some semblance of cohesiveness with his new squad, as they are scheduled to arrive in Panama on Monday and will train on Tuesday, with the game scheduled for Wednesday. They will then return to Jamaica on Thursday to host Guatemala on Sunday.

“Yeah, it is tough, and I always knew it will be a difficult task but that’s the thing with these FIFA windows and how we manage ourselves will be important at the end of the day,” Gilbert told SportsMax.TV.

“The good thing for us is that we have individuals who understand and know what we have to focus on. So, it is good that we managed to find persons and it is also an opportunity for the younger players to showcase their talent and secure themselves a spot in future camps to come,” he added.

Gilbert’s squad includes a new call up in 32-year-old England-born Melissa Johnson of Charlton Athletic, while Canadian-born Israela Groves, 24, who is also up to earn her first international cap, was a part of the senior Reggae Girlz training camp in Florida earlier this year.

Meanwhile, 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup veterans Marlo Sweatman and Chinyelu Asher highlight the more senior players, along with goalkeeper Chris-Ann Chambers, Jayda Hylton-Pelaia, Alika Keene and twins, Malikae and Mikayla Dayes. The remainder of the team comprises mostly Under-20 representatives now transitioning to the senior level.

The coach’s predicament stems from the fact that all 22 members of the successful 2023 World Cup squad have made themselves unavailable, while Cheyna Matthews has retired.

Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) in a release on Friday, announced the suspension of selection for all 22 players until they meet with the federation's hierarchy to resolve all issues regarding payments among other things.

“It is what it is, I can’t control some of the variables, so I just have to control what I can. At this point in time, we managed to assemble a squad and we must give credit to the ladies who have accepted the offer to represent their country on short notice and we just want to build on that,” Gilbert, who is still without an assistant said.

“We have a lot of players who will be earning their first caps so again, it is an opportunity for them to show the world what they have to offer, and we just hope that they will make full use of it. It is going to be difficult against two tough oppositions, but we are hopeful that we can do what we have to, to ensure we get two positive results,” he noted.

Gilbert pointed to the fact that fitness will not be much of a concern with the selected players as his biggest positive as it will allow him to jump straight into technical and tactical work when they arrive in Panama.

“The good thing is that all the players are currently active with their clubs and colleges, that was of some concern, but these players are coming in with games under their belts which is a positive. So again, we just hope that we can get them together as soon as possible and manage to squeeze out some results,” he ended.

Following the opening fixtures, the 37th-ranked Reggae Girlz will then host Panama on November 29 and close away to Guatemala on December 3.

Squad- Chris-Ann Chambers (Dinamo Sokhumi); Javanae Jones (ultnomah University); Lauren Reid (University of Maryland); Malikae Dayes (AAB (Denmark); Zoe Vidaurre (George Mason University); Nevillegail Able (University of Maine at Fort Kent); Chinyelu Asher (SCU Torreense); Alika Keene (SK Slavia Praha Zeny); Israela Groves (London City Lionesses); Ricshya Walker (LaSalle University); Marlo Sweatman (Viktoria Haladas); Christina Salmon (William Carey University); Davia Richards (Hill College); Mikayla Dayes (Rodez AF (France); Shaneil Buckley (Frazsiers Whip); Natoya Atkinson (Seaward County); Destiny Powell (Frazsiers Whip); Melissa Johnson (Charlton Athletic Women FC); Sydnie Street (Seneca College); Jayda Hylton-Pelaia (Woodbridge Strikers); Alliyah Morgan (George Mason University); Shanhaine Nelson (Cavaliers); Tyiesha Nelson (Reinas Academy)

 

 

Having been appointed to lead Jamaica’s senior Reggae Girlz for their upcoming Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup qualifying fixtures against Panama and Guatemala, Head coach Xavier Gilbert admits it will be a difficult task, but says he is committed to ensuring the team gives of its best.

Gilbert’s appointment, which was announced late Thursday, follows the controversial non-renewal of Lorne Donaldson’s contract, as the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) hierarchy parted ways with the well-rated coach for his tendency to be outspoken.

Prior to Gilbert’s selection, the JFF had reportedly interviewed three potential candidates –two females, who were not named, and Englishman Jonathan Morgan –for the post.

However, SportsMax.TV understands that the JFF is unable to meet the salary request of the main female candidate, who is said to have led a team at the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, while Morgan, the next best choice, was ruled out after reports surfaced that he is under investigation by Sheffield United over his alleged conduct and behaviour.

As such, Gilbert, who was initially being retained as an assistant, has now been asked to take up the mantle. But, while willing to serve, he is under no illusion that his employment will be without challenges.

“It is going to be difficult, but the expectation is to try and get a result out of the two games to put the country in a good position to qualify for the Gold Cup,” Gilbert told SportsMax.TV shortly after the announcement.

“We just have to be smart about our play and give it our best shot. It is very short to get the players in and the turnaround time is also quick for the games. So, it is going to be a lot more mental preparation than even physical, and we have to go over some tactical preparation as well,” he added.

Though the veteran coach’s appointment is for familiarity purposes, given the success he had with the Girlz under Donaldson’s leadership, uncertainty surrounds whether or not he will have a squad for the upcoming games, as well as the quality of that squad.

This as, contrary to the JFF’s release that a “squad of players has been selected” for the two games against Panama and Guatemala, SportsMax.TV has been reliably informed that all 23 members of the successful World Cup squad, are unavailable due to college and other commitments, while Cheyna Matthews has retired.

The Girlz under Donaldson’s leadership had an historic run to the round of 16 at the World Cup, after goalless results with France and Brazil, and victory over Panama in the group stage.

Uncertainty also surrounds whether or not Gilbert will have a full complement of staff to work with, as the timing of the announcement may rule out Laura Thomas and Ak Lakhani, both of whom were also assistants to Donaldson.

Efforts to contact JFF president Michael Ricketts and general secretary Dennis Chung to provide clarity proved futile, as their phones went unanswered.

The 37th-ranked Reggae Girlz are scheduled to visit Panama on October 25, before returning home to face Guatemala on October 29.

They will then host Panama on November 29 and close away to Guatemala on December 3.

The group stage of League A of the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League came to a thrilling conclusion on Tuesday night, with Panama and Trinidad and Tobago emerging as the top two sides in Group A to qualify for next month’s quarterfinals.

Panama topped the group with 10 points, one point ahead of Trinidad and Tobago, who ended with nine points.

Panama vs. Guatemala

Panama enjoyed a commanding 3-0 victory over Central American rivals Guatemala at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City.

Adalberto Carrasquilla has been one of the best players in the Concacaf region in 2023 and he showed why again by scoring Panama’s opener in the 14th when an initial clearance from the Guatemala defense fell right to the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup Best Player Award winner, who volleyed into net for a 1-0 lead.

Panama kept pushing and a pivotal moment came in the initial moments of the second half when a fantastic first touch allowed Cristian Martinez to get past Guatemala’s Nicolas Samayoa in the area, with Martinez then getting fouled. 

A penalty was whistled, and a red card was issued to Samayoa, followed by Eric Davis converting the spot kick in the 48th for a 2-0 lead and a man advantage for almost the entire second half. 

Panama’s dream night was then capped in the 90th when Abdiel Ayarza guided a header past Guatemala goalkeeper Nicholas Hagen to seal the win.

El Salvador vs. Martinique

Martinique came up just shy in their bid for a quarterfinal spot in a 0-0 draw with El Salvador at the Estadio Nacional Jorge Magico Gonzalez in San Salvador.

Martinique finish in third place with seven points, while El Salvador earned their first point of the campaign.

Martinique had some good looks early and almost forced an own goal in the 24th when a back pass forced El Salvador goalkeeper Tomas Romero into a stretch save to prevent the opener.

El Salvador started to find their footing toward the end of the half and Mayer Gil’s strong shot was saved by Martinique goalkeeper Yannis Clementia right before halftime.

The second half saw El Salvador create two good scoring chances. The first fell for Leonardo Menjivar, who ended up missing over the crossbar at the far post in the 66th with the goalmouth open, followed by a Brayan Gil header in second half stoppage time that was saved by Clementia.

Martinique would muster the final chance of the night, as Crifar Mael’s effort in the waning seconds was saved nicely by Romero, who ensured the points were shared.

Curacao vs. Trinidad and Tobago

Curacao earned their first win of the group stage in impressive fashion with a 5-3 triumph over Trinidad and Tobago at the Ergilio Hato Stadium in Willemstad.

It was an ideal start for Curacao, who took a 1-0 lead in the seventh when a long ball was played up to Rangelo Janga and the experienced striker finished with aplomb past Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Denzil Smith.

Curacao were hungry for more and they doubled the lead in the 12th when Kenji Gorre found Godfried Roemeratoe, who fired into net past Smith.

The Curacao attack was unyielding and a hard run from Gorre in the 54th ended in a foul in the Trinidad and Tobago area and a penalty kick. Gorre stepped up and easily converted from the spot, extending the Curacao advantage to 3-0.

Trinidad and Tobago were finally able to pull back a goal in the 68th as Ryan Telfer found Reon Moore with a cross from the right wing and Moore finished.

That goal shifted the momentum in Trinidad and Tobago’s and they further reduced the deficit in the 74th when a rebound fell for Kristian Lee-Him to latch onto and fire into goal.

Curacao had a golden opportunity to restore a two-goal advantage from the penalty spot in the 75th after a Trinidad and Tobago handball, only to see Smith save Brandley Kuwas’ penalty.

But three minutes later it was 4-2 via the penalty spot after a foul in the area. This time Juninho Bacuna stroked it into net for Curacao.

Curacao’s three-goal lead was then restored in the 81st when Roshon Van Eijma’s header hit the crossbar, but Janga was there to head in the rebound to make it 5-2.

Their chances at winning the group were fading away, but Trinidad and Tobago wanted to make sure they held onto the second spot, and they made it a 5-3 final scoreline in the 86th when a free kick was played in front of the Curacao goal and Kareem Moses poked home the loose ball.

High-flying Trinidad and Tobago are expected to seal a first-ever appearance in the Concacaf Nations League quarterfinals on Tuesday, when they square off against Curacao in League A action at the Ergilio Hato Stadium in Curacao.

The Soca Warriors who have been in impressive form in Group A, currently sit atop the standings with maximum nine points from three games, and they are heavily favoured to make it four-from-four against their pointless host. It would also be a significant confidence booster for Angus Eve's side heading into the business end of the tournament.

With the top two teams in the group guaranteed a quarter-final berth from where they could possibly secure a place in the 2024 Copa America, today is the decisive day for Panama (seven points), Martinique (six points) and Guatemala (four points), who are all in contention. Curacao and El Salvador are both yet to register a point and have already been relegated to League B of next year's Nations League.

Fresh off a gutsy come-from-behind 3-2 win over Guatemala on Friday, the Soca Warriors will be brimming with confidence that much like they did with a 1-0 win over Curacao to start the Nations League campaign, they can repeat of even better that performance to end on a high.

Though they only need a point to be safe, midfielder Neveal Hackshaw said their mindset remains the same with a victory being their priority, as the aim is to top the group.

"They (Curacao) will come with everything, but they don't know what we are coming with. They say we need a point, but we are not coming for a point – we are coming for three points," Hackshaw said in an interview with TTFA media.

"That's what we want, that's what we been working for. No one believed we would be in this position, but we came into the group and showed them wrong. We showed we are a fighting team, and everything is possible," he added.

He called on his team-mates to stay grounded and "trust coach [Angus Eve's] decisions and whatever tactics he brings."

Reflecting on the Guatemala comeback, the Oakland Roots SC player said they got the job done by being united.

"We never argued with each other – we fought (for T&T) with each other. If somebody make a mistake, we bring them up and not push them down. That's leadership from everyone. It wasn't just a senior thing," Hackshaw noted.

Meanwhile, HFX Wanderers midfielder Andre Rampersad recalled their first meeting with Curacao and is hoping they can build on that with a statement performance.

"We want to maintain the unbeaten run, for sure. Four wins in a row, top the group, full points and make a statement," Rampersad declared.

"They (Curacao) were excellent keeping the ball in the first half (of the first game). But coming out in the second half we sorted it out, applied pressure and we were able to get the breakthrough goal in the end. It's going to be a physical battle, but I think we are going to come away with the victory," he said.

League A of the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League continued on Friday with Panama, Martinique and Trinidad and Tobago all collecting pivotal wins.

Curacao vs. Panama

Things in Group A got started at the Ergilio Hato Stadium in Willemstad, Curacao where visitors Panama topped Curacao 2-1.

Panama is now in second place with seven points, while Curacao have officially been relegated to League B with their third defeat.

Edgar Barcenas of Panama opened the scoring in the 29th on a play that was crafted by midfielder Adalberto Carrasquilla, who lofted an inch-perfect pass to the running Cristian Martinez and the cutback pass hit Barcenas in stride, making for an easy sweep into net.

Panama doubled their advantage in the second half in the 77th through Jose Rodriguez, who expertly headed in a cross from Barcenas.

Curacao would get on the scoreboard in the waning moments of second half stoppage time, with Rangelo Janga executing a tidy header of his own.

Martinique vs. El Salvador

Martinique made a strong move up the table thanks to a 1-0 victory over El Salvador at the Stade Municipal Pierre-Aliker in Fort-de-France.

Martinique now have six points and sit in third place, while El Salvador, by virtue of this, their third defeat, have officially been relegated to League B.

Just like they did in their Gold Cup group stage meeting over the summer, Martinique struck first in the first half and took a 1-0 lead in the 23rd.

It was a well-crafted goal from Les Matinino, who worked the ball up the field, switching sides before a cross from the right wing by Damien Dussaut hit the cutting Johnny Marajo, whose right-footed shot beat El Salvador goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez.

Martinique then had a great chance at doubling their lead in the 73rd when Brighton Labeau hauled in a pass deep in the area and used an exquisite first touch to have an open look at goal, only to see his shot sail wide.

El Salvador had one final chance in second stoppage time through Mayer Gil, but his shot rang off the post and rolled wide in front of goal, still three points were safe for Martinique.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Guatemala

The day in Group A then concluded with a dramatic 3-2 comeback victory for Trinidad and Tobago against Guatemala at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.

Trinidad and Tobago remain atop the group with nine points, while Guatemala remain in fourth place with four points.

It was a dream start for Guatemala, as Rubio Rubin struck for the opener in the 12th by touching home a shot right in front of goal off a pass from Nathaniel Mendez.

Guatemala doubled their lead in the 32nd when an initial attempt from Oscar Santis was blocked by a defender, but Santis’ follow-up attempt was smashed off the post and in for the goal.

But Trinidad and Tobago responded well and pulled back to within a goal at 2-1 in the 35th when Alvin Jones converted a penalty after Noah Powder had been fouled in the area.

Trinidad and Tobago kept the pressure on and were back on level terms in the 54th when a Neveal Hackshaw header was saved by Guatemala goalkeeper Nicholas Hagen, but Reon Moore was there to hammer home the rebound.

Play remained wide open going into the final half-hour, with Guatemala nearly retaking a lead in the 70th on a Jose Pinto header that hit the crossbar and dropped onto the goal-line before being cleared.

The final says, though, belonged to Trinidad and Tobago, as Nathaniel James, who came off the bench to score a late winner on matchday one against Curacao, did it again, this time firing in a free kick in the 89th to deliver the telling blow.

Trinidad and Tobago's Reon Moore has joined the call for local football fans to be their 12th man, as the Angus Eve-coached team prepares to host Guatemala in a crucial Concacaf Nations League Group A game at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Friday.

Moore's appeal comes as the Soca Warriors hunt three points against their Central American counterparts, to not only secure a quarterfinal berth, but more importantly, move one step closer to confirming a spot in next year's Copa America.

With the twin island republic currently atop the group on six points, following victories over Curaçao and El Salvador, Moore in a recent interview with T&T Newsday, pointed to the significance of spectator support in their charge to maintain a winning momentum.

“We have a good chance (of qualifying for Copa America and the World Cup) because some of us are young in age and we have some great senior players looking over us and guiding us. I, personally, think we can do it," Moore said.

“I would say to the fans: every time you come out and give us a boost, we do well. So, I’m saying to continue coming out and be our 12th man, and the reward will be a victory. Love you guys," he added.

The 27-year-old Defence Force striker has netted five goals in 22 appearances for Trinidad and Tobago, and is known for his direct approach, clinical finishing and tremendous work rate off the ball.

Moore made his international debut in an unofficial friendly match against Guadeloupe in March 2018. His first official match came a month later against Panama in a friendly and he registered his first competitive cap at the 2021 Gold Cup preliminaries against Montserrat, where he netted two goals off the bench in a 6-1 victory.

He also scored against Guatemala in a 1-1 draw in the group stage, a fond memory which will no doubt add to his confidence for the upcoming fixture.

 

That Moore currently has 19 goals for Defence Force, two of which came in the Concacaf Caribbean Cup, while the others came in their Trinidad and Tobago Premier League (TTPFL) and TTPFL Cup triumph, speak volumes of his form, but he remains hungry for more.

Moore pointed out that the current squad is significantly younger than the one that bowed out of last summer’s Gold Cup, and they have been grinding out results as a more cohesive unit.

“I think the youths are hungrier and more eager to do well and to make a better life for themselves. We just have to build on the great start we have made, and I believe that the rest will be history for us," Moore said.

“My goal is to continue doing well for club and country. Hopefully, (I will be able to) get another opportunity to play abroad," he ended.

Outgoing senior Reggae Girlz Head coach Lorne Donaldson stopped just short of saying he is the victim of a personal vendetta waged against him by Jamaica Football Federation’s (JFF) General Secretary Dennis Chung, as he refuted claims about how discussions to cut ties, transpired.

Donaldson in response to a widely circulated release by the JFF, pointed out that the decision not to renew his contract was by no means mutual, as the meeting with Chung and JFF’s Human Resource Manager Suzie George-Gayle, lasted a mere five minutes.

The JFF in its statement said, “after an extended discussion, both parties came to an agreement that the contract would not be renewed.”

But Donaldson in an interview with Sportsmax.tv, rubbished the claims.

 “He [Chung] said they are terminating me. There was no discussion. In a five-minute meeting, he just said congrats on everything and the next thing was, ‘we will not renew your contract.’ There was no reason why, or anything, he just said, we will not renew your contract,” he shared.

Donaldson, along with former Head coach Hue Menzies, was first introduced to the Reggae Girlz programme by women’s football ambassador Cedella Marley in 2015 and led the country to an historic first FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance in France in 2019.

However, after departing the programme in 2020, following the steps of Menzies, who left earlier in 2019, Donaldson was reappointed in June 2022, to replace Vinimore “Vin” Blaine, who was forced to resign a few months into his tenure, after the Girlz expressed their displeasure with his leadership in a scathing letter.

Like he did in 2019, Donaldson again led the Reggae Girlz to the World Cup, jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, where they had an historic run to the round of 16, after drawing with France and Brazil and defeating Panama in the group stage.

The Reggae Girlz eventually bowed out following a 0-1 loss to Colombia.

In their most recent fixtures, the Reggae Girlz suffered back-to-back losses to Canada in a failed bid to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, but the progress the team has made under Donaldson’s leadership is without question.

The tactician doesn’t believe he was judged on that basis.

“Another thing he said is that if they had done well with the Olympic qualifiers, we (the coaching staff) would have carried on. You don’t want to work in a condition where you are being judged based on one game and not your body of work. So, I guess what happened at the World Cup didn’t matter and it never really had anything to do with football,” Donaldson opined.

“It’s because I disagreed with the way they want to treat players and coaches, and I defended the Girlz. They have been waiting for the opportunity to do this (get rid of me) because they have been trying to do this from June,” he added.

The outspoken coach recalled a conversation in which he and Chung didn’t see eye-to-eye and he believes it was from that point that their relationship spiralled.

“From day one when he said women’s football will never catch on in Jamaica and people will never support women’s football, and I told him he is wrong, I realised the relationship has been topsy-turvy since then,” Donaldson revealed.

He continued: “He said nobody cares about women’s football in Jamaica and it doesn’t matter how bad the men’s team is, the men will get more support than the women. That was when we were trying to go to Australia for the (Cup of Nations) tournament and from that day I knew we are always going to be fighting for these Girlz because it revealed to me that they really don’t care about the Girlz.

“He was trying to justify why we shouldn’t have gone to the tournament in Australia, all because they were spending a little money, even though Australia was spending some money as well. And then he came up with these ridiculous flight prices and I said no, it is way less than that. And from February on, he was total against everything that we were doing.”

Despite sensing Chung’s perceived dislike, Donaldson explained that it was his duty as Head coach to remain resolute in his fight for the players, who sometimes felt disheartened by the show of support, or lack thereof, from the country’s governing football body in particular.

“We had to stand up for the Girlz and I stick to that. When they are right, we fought for them and when they were wrong, I told them. And then we had to make sure they had the resources that we can have them perform,” Donaldson said.

“It showed the other day when we didn’t have the proper equipment for them to train. There was no equipment on the first day of camp and stuff like that affected the Girlz because they didn’t feel the love. They kept saying people didn’t care.

“They just went to a World Cup and see all around the world how everybody (other countries) is speaking glowingly of their team, and they come to Jamaica and can’t even get the proper equipment,” he reasoned.

That said, Donaldson wished the JFF and Reggae Girlz well on their future endeavours, starting with the upcoming Concacaf Women's Gold Cup qualifying matches against Panama and Guatemala, next month.

“The JFF, whatever they have planned for the Girlz, I hope they are successful with it, and I wish them all the best from the bottom of my heart. They made a decision, and I am fine with that,” he declared.

“We have a great group of players that are going to come in, and what we have achieved is basically a scratch on the surface because the sky is the limit with this group of Girlz,” Donaldson ended.

Meanwhile, Chung when contacted about the allegations, was reluctant to address what transpired during the meeting.

“I don’t want to comment on those decisions (made during the meeting), I don’t know where those comments are coming from, but from an ethical point of view, I’m just not going to comment on it. We issued a release, and the release speaks for itself,” Chung told Sportsmax.tv.

However, he admitted to an extent that the February conversation in Montego Bay did happen, but not exactly how it was stated by Donaldson.

“I never said that people don’t care about women’s football, I don’t know where that is coming from. What I have said in the past is that no matter how well the women do, it seems like people tend to support the men more in terms of attendance at matches and that is something that has been said internationally. So, I was just echoing it because someone said it on a sports programme I was listening to,” Chung explained.

 “It is an unfortunate comment that he made, but I didn’t listen to it, because the fact is that the JFF has spent a lot more money on the women’s programme than the men’s programme and in terms of resourcing it, has given it equal footing, if not more.

“So, it’s a very unfortunate comment if that was said because when you talk about sponsorship, most of the sponsors have come in for the women’s programme, so that was very unfortunate,” he argued.

When asked about the possible timeline for Donaldson’s replacement given the significance of the upcoming fixtures, Chung said information should be forthcoming by Monday.

 “We are working to ensure that a team is in place so I’m sure that by Monday we will have that sorted in terms of what we are doing. So, something is being worked on and the JFF will communicate that,” Chung noted.

Well aware that many football enthusiasts are not fond of his leadership, Trinidad and Tobago’s Head Coach Angus Eve has encouraged the public’s continued support for the players, despite personal feelings of him.

Eve’s side recently secured two crucial victories over Curacao and El Salvador in their Concacaf Nations League campaign, and the strength of those performances has resulted in a climb up the latest FIFA World Rankings.

Trinidad and Tobago, who currently head Group A of League A on six points, jumped back into the top 100 on the world rankings after sometime away.

They will be aiming to make further inroads during the October window when they engage Guatemala and Curacao and Eve believes they deserve every bit of support.

“(The fans) may not come out and support Angus Eve because they may have an issue with Angus Eve, but let's support these players who are trying to do something positive for their country and nation. It's extremely important that people come out and support and understand that this is a new beginning,” Eve said at a media briefing recently.

"The campaign has started like a house on fire. It's a new beginning. There is a lot more work to be done, but we are well-placed and we have a good platform to build on.

"Our country is in a state where we're losing young people every day through violence and gun violence and to see young people do something positive for the country (is great). They go out and give their hearts to their country. It may be a case where we need to come out and support that," he added.

Given their current position, Eve knows that a win against Guatemala at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on October 13, would book Trinidad and Tobago a spot in the Concacaf Nations League quarter-finals where they will meet one of the four seeded Concacaf nations –Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico or the US.

As such, he stressed the significance of the 12th man to give players an extra lift when the time comes.

"Any team at home is dangerous. Some places don't think home advantage means anything, but we need to capitalise on home advantage and we need to capitalise on this start we have gotten. Hopefully, the fans will come out and celebrate these kids and push them forward so they can continue to achieve excellence,” the tactician said.

On that note, the 51-year-old Eve pointed out that though unexpected by many, the start to the Nations League is confirmation that his players are focused.

"We believe in ourselves and we believe that if we go out and do the work we can do, and match these teams' intensity, we can compete at this level,” he reasoned.

"Our first inclination would have been trying to stay in (Nations League) A, just like any team who (has been promoted) to the Premier League. We have to take it one game at a time. If we get a point, we are guaranteed a spot in the Nations League A. If we get three points, then who knows, the sky's the limit for us,” Eve ended.

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