Caribbean representative Haiti had a positive start in their hunt to secure qualification to this year's FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup, as they opened the Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship with a 2-1 win over Costa Rica in Group A action in Toluca, Mexico, on Thursday.

Lourdjina Etienne scored both goals for the Haitians in the 45th and 60th minutes, while Daniela Ocampo (89th) pulled one back for Cost Rica.

This was the second meeting between the two nations at this stage of the tournament, the first coming back in 2010 when Costa Rica blanked their Haitian counterparts 2-0. However, Haiti, were in their element and returned the favour on this occasion.

They broke the deadlock in the waning moments of the first half on an excellent team goal in transition, as Pierreline Nazon found Desert Dominique, who then slotted a pass over to Etienne, who applied the perfect finish to put Haiti 1-0 up at the break.

Etienne got her second on the hour mark with a well-struck effort from just outside the 18-yard area that gave the keeper no chance at a save.

Costa Rica desperately sought a response and almost got one in the 75th, but Alondra Gonzalez’s shot was deflected wide.

The Las Ticas eventually pulled one back courtesy of Ocampo's firmly struck right-footer from a distance. But too little too late was the cry, as Haiti held firm defensively to pocket the three points.

With the win, Haiti sits second behind hosts Mexico on goal difference, after the latter blanked El Salvador 3-0 in their encounter.

Abril Fragoso (7th and 61st) and Dana Sandoval (57th) got the job done for the El Tricolor.

Mexico hit the ground running and opened the scoring in the seventh minute through Fragoso's sensational left-footed strike.

El Salvador had their moments in an attempt to pull level, but instead, the Mexicans doubled their lead when Sandoval fired home from just outside the area.

Fragoso then completed her brace a minute past the hour mark via from the penalty spot.

Meanwhile, United States and Canada are scheduled to face Panama and Puerto Rico in Group B action on Friday.

After Group Stage round-robin play, between February 1-6, the two group winners and runners-up will advance to the Knockout Stage. The Knockout Stage will begin with the Semi-finals on February 9, followed by the third-place match and final on Sunday, February 11.

The two finalists and third-placed team will join host Dominican Republic as Concacaf's representatives at the 16-team Under-17 Women's World Cup later this year. This will be the first time Dominican Republic hosts a FIFA World Cup, and their first participation at this age level.

Jamaica's Oshae Haye and Zandre Roye found the going tough in the opening round of the ninth Latin America Amateur Championship and were hoping to play catch up in the second round of action in Panama.

With some 108 golfers from Latin America and the Caribbean parading their skills at the Santa Maria Golf Club, Roye and Haye are faced with a daunting task of ascending up the order from seven over par 77 and nine over par 79 respectively. Both are now in danger of not making the cut, as the cut line will be announced at the end of the second round.

Oral Morales and Santiago De la Fuente, both of Mexico, and Guatemala's Jose Arzu of Guatemala, all locked on one under par 69 at the top of the standing.

Roye, who started out well and was in 17th position at one point, had some issues as he approached the end of the round, which resulted in a slip down the leaderboard.

"Day one completed. I shot a 77 today with a bogey and a triple bogey on the last two holes. Not the ideal finish, very bad finish, but all in all, I really hit the ball today. Hit a lot of greens, made a lot of putts. In a positive trend going into tomorrow, I think we can better that score tomorrow definitely," Roye said.

Both golfers are representing Jamaica at the championship for the first time. Justin Burrowes, who turned pro late last year, and William Knibbs have represented Jamaica in recent times.

Other representatives include Ian Facey, who is also now among the professional ranks, as well as Sean Morris and Jonathan Newnham. The island’s best placed golfer in the championship to date is Facey, who tied for 24th position in 2015 with a best round of 68 on the first day.

Expectations are high as Jamaican golfers Oshae Haye and Zandre Roye departed the island for the ninth edition of the Latin America Amateur Championship.

Thought it will be their first time at the event, both Haye and Roye boast a wealth of experience competing in local and regional tournaments and, as such, is banking on their potential to represent Jamaica well at the January 18-21 Championship in Panama.

Haye, a former national golf champion expressed excitement at the opportunity, which he is hoping to capitalise on.

"I really and truly was very, very excited after I heard that I am in. Thanks to Mr. Johan Campbell, he is the one who have us playing all the courses around the island, so we work pretty hard on the game headed in for this tournament. My main (intention) is to make that cut and then we take it step by step from there," Haye said.

For Roye, who has won numerous golf tournaments locally, including the Heroes Golf Classic, described the opportunity as an honour.

"It's an honour to represent the country in this championship. It has been a long way coming. I have been working really hard on the game and to get this opportunity, it really means a lot. I couldn't ask for a better person to be on this trip with me, my best friend Oshae Haye, to be leaving the country right now to play in one of the biggest amateur tournaments in this part of the world is 'goose bump' moment," he shared.

As it relates to the level of competition expected, Roye believes he is just as capable as his opponents.

"My game is there. I hit the ball just as well as any of those guys over there. It's all about putting the four rounds together and see where it ends up at the end of the week," he declared.

Meanwhile, Jodi Munn-Barrow, president of the Jamaica Golf Association is expecting both golfers to give a good account of themselves.

"The Jamaica Golf Association is very proud to have Zandre Roye and Oshae Haye represent us at the LAAC this coming week. Zandre and Oshae have been playing in regional events and they have garnered a lot of experience which I am sure will augur well for them as they face new challenges at this prestigious event," she said.

CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani believes next year's Copa America will serve as perfect preparation for the 2026 World Cup.

Joining the 10 South American teams in the 2024 Copa America, which will be held in the United States, will be six teams from CONCACAF.

The USA, Mexico, Jamaica and Panama are already assured of their places in the tournament, with Costa Rica or Honduras and Canada or Trinidad and Tobago to take the remaining two spots.

With the expanded, 48-team World Cup in 2026 also taking place in North America, CONCACAF president Montagliani hopes the Copa America presents the perfect opportunity for the federation's teams to prepare.

"It's evidence of when leadership and two very important confederations come together and put football first. The game is going to win here because you're going to have a great tournament next year," Montagliani told Concacaf.com.

"I think we realised early on that we needed to make sure that we made our own competitions better, like our Nations League, our Gold Cup.

"This was an opportunity, after speaking with my counterpart, Alejandro Dominguez, to come together and partner with them, not just on the men's side like we have now with Copa America, but also on the women's side with a Women's Gold Cup.

"This fits in well with our strategy to increase not only the quantity of competitions, but also the quality of competitions, and this will help our teams prepare for the World Cup in our backyard.

"FIFA is also going to have the Club World Cup here in 2025 and I think from a fan's perspective, I'm not sure we've ever had this, so it's a great time to be involved in the game, at whatever level you are.

"I think it's a bit of a coming out party for our region. Obviously, we've struggled in the past at many levels, but I think, as I said a long time ago, for the work we've done in the last six years, we deserve the right to think long-term.

"We also now deserve the right to enjoy the present and all the football that is coming our way."

Reigning Copa and world champions Argentina were placed in Group A in Thursday's draw, alongside Peru, Chile and Canada or Trinidad and Tobago. The USA will face Uruguay, Panama and Bolivia in Group C, while Brazil will go up against Colombia, Paraguay and Costa Rica or Honduras in Group D.

Two CONCACAF teams should also fancy their chances of progressing from Group B, with Mexico and Jamaica – who count the likes of Leon Bailey, Michail Antonio and Demarai Gray in their squad – going up against Venezuela and Ecuador.

The draw opened up as such that another Argentina-Brazil final could be on the cards.

United States head coach Gregg Berhalter feels his side have been handed a tough draw in the 2024 Copa America, but he knew that was always likely to be the case.

Tournament hosts USA will take on Uruguay, Panama and Bolivia in Group C after the draw was made in Miami.

USMNT and Uruguay will be the initial favourites to progress from the pool and reach the quarter-finals.

But securing first place could be even more important on this occasion than in other tournaments, because the runners-up are likely to face Brazil, who will be expected to top Group D, in the last eight.

"It is a tough group," said Berhalter.

"I think any group that was going to be drawn was going to be difficult - the Copa America is a very difficult tournament. 

"For us, we’re excited to finally know our competitors. Now it’s about planning our game plans and getting ready to compete."

Berhalter is aware that getting the fans on side will be crucial to USA's chances of success at the tournament, which starts on June 20 and features 16 teams.

What was clear from the coach's reaction to the draw is that USA are thinking beyond just progressing from the group.

He added: "The important thing is we want to capture the fans. We want to get the country behind us and go on a run. 

"We know you have to get through your group first. After you get through your group, then it’s about a knockout tournament. 

"We’re trying to compete in that stage of the tournament and hopefully be competing for a trophy.

"It's really a dream come true for us that we’re hosting the tournament and we get to play at home. The guys are really excited about it and it’s really something to look forward to for us.

"There are no disadvantages [to hosting]. We are really looking forward to trying to get the home supporters behind us and really creating great momentum."

USA's first game will be against Bolivia in Dallas on June 23.

Jamaica's senior Reggae Girlz remain in a tough position to make next year’s Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup, despite coming from behind to secure a 1-1 stalemate with Panama in their penultimate qualifying fixture at the National Stadium on Wednesday.

Marta Cox gave Panama a 31st-minute lead from the penalty spot, but that was cancelled out by Shaneil Buckley's 45th minute strike, which ensured the Jamaicans a share of the spoils.

With the point, Panama inched up to seven points and booked their spot in the inaugural women's Gold Cup, while the Jamaicans, who were earning their second point, must beat second-placed Guatemala (four points) on Sunday to get into the Gold Cup prelims.

Though disappointed that they didn't secure all three points on this occasion, interim Head coach Xavier Gilbert is backing his team to get by Guatemala on Sunday.

"It was a competitive game, unfortunately things didn't go entirely according to plan, of course we wanted to win, but we also wanted to ensure that we didn't lose tonight, that was our first objective.  We are still in with a shot with just have to get the job done against Guatemala, in terms of speed and depth, we have a better unit and so I fancy our chances more against Guatemala," Gilbert said in a post-match interview.

The contest started at a decent tempo with the Jamaicans using their pace and athleticism to exploit the wide channels, as they were more threatening in open play, but were unable to make the most of their half chances.

In the ninth Melissa Johnson broke down the right channel and should have at least tested Yenith Bailey in goal for Panama, but the build-up was undone by indecision.

Nine minutes later, Buckely broke down the right and played a pass inside, and Davia Richards couldn't connect at close range.

Panama patiently played their game and went close in the 28th minute when Cox played a through pass in for Natalia Mills, but Serena Mensah, in goal for Jamaica, left her line well to avert the danger.

However, the visitors were given the opportunity to break the deadlock when Lauren Reid seemingly got ball in a challenge on Mills, but Honduran referee Melissa Borjas Pastrana awarded the penalty, which Cox converted.

The Reggae Girlz probe for the equalizer came on the stroke of half-time when a weighted cross from the left by Malikae Dayes was well finished by Buckley from close range.

Gilbert's side again started purposeful and applied consistent pressure throughout but didn't really put anything meaningful on goal.

In fact, there best effort of the stanza came in the 68th when Njeri Butts cross inside was skipped by captain Chinyelu Asher for Marlo Sweatman, whose shot lacked the power to beat Bailey.

From there, but teams nullified each other, as their search for the winner proved fruitless.

"I don't think we did anything wrong; we just didn't score. We have to score goals to win games and we just didn't get on the scoresheet when we got our chances," Gilbert said, as he also fielded questions about the substitutions.

"We are in a different dynamic from the other teams. They are playing one game and they are finished, while we are playing two games in five days. I know what I am working with, we had to be smart in terms of our approach to each game, so we couldn't be erratic and make a number of substitutions here, I also understand the situation that we are in and we are just going to give it our all on Sunday," he declared.  

Interim Reggae Girlz Head Coach Xavier Gilbert is well aware of the need for his players not only maintain their focus, but also to execute efficiently and consistently for the next over 180-plus minutes, if they are to achieve the desired results in two must-win Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup qualifying fixtures.

The first will be against a gritty Panama outfit that will be riding high on the fact that they defeated the Jamaicans 2-1 in their first meeting and, more importantly, hold pole position in Group B on six points, which means they only need a point at the National Stadium on Wednesday.

Kickoff is at 7:00pm.

For Gilbert and his Girlz, who sit at the foot of the three-team table on a point, the objective is pretty straightforward –win and they are into the group stages of next year’s Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup.

But the tactician is well aware that it is much easier said than done and, as such, is cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances of taking three points at home, before visiting second-placed Guatemala (four points) away, on Sunday.

“We had three good sessions, and things went well, one player joined us let, but apart from that, all the players have settled in well. They know what is at stake, and you can tell by the mood in the camp that they are ready to give it their best shot,” Gilbert told SportsMax.TV.

“They have responded well to our request in terms of adjustment to the system of play, which is good, so what we did, was use the final session (on Tuesday) to tighten up on a few things and areas in which believe we need to strengthen. So, I am optimistic that once they execute how we want them to, we will come out with a positive result,” he added.

Should the Reggae Girlz defeat Panama, it would mean all three teams in the group, could take the top spot, and the outcome would rely on Sunday’s clash between Guatemala and the Jamaicans.

While finishing tops is the priority, the second-placed team would also have a second shot at Gold Cup qualification, as they would enter the preliminary phase of the tournament to oppose to group winners from League’s B and C.

That means, the Girlz could draw with Panama and then beat Guatemala to book the runner-up spot. But, that is no comfort to Gilbert, who is hoping to get the job done the right way.

“The game was a couple of weeks ago. This is a different situation and different circumstances. There is some unrest in their country, I am not sure if that has affected them mentally on this occasion, but we just have to be on our A game,” Gilbert said as he reflected on their away loss to Panama.

“We have to be better than what we were in the last game, and I am sure Panama is also looking to do better, so it's going to be extremely tough for us. Obviously, we've looked at a few things that we're looking to implement as we look to impose more of our will on the game,” he noted.

Gilbert, who is still without his World Cup players due to a prolonged standoff with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), is making do with a squad that boasts more youth than experience –2019 World Cup veterans Chinyelu Asher and Marlo Sweatman being the experience.

Still, the likes of Ricshya Walker, Melissa Johnson and Zoe Vidaurre, who all scored in the last window, are very much capable of doing more damage.

Panama will turn to their core group of playmakers in Riley Tanner, Marta Cox and Lineth Cedeno to get the job done, and Gilbert is very much wary of that and is aiming to nullify the trio.

“We are still working to finalize the best 11, so far, we are close to it, but there are still some other pieces to put in place. But the overall expectation heading into the game is to make sure that we get something out of it, which is our objective, and then we will see how it goes,” Gilbert ended.

The final window of the Concacaf Women's Gold Cup qualifiers begins on Wednesday, as the race for spots to the 2024 Women's Gold Cup intensifies.

League A

 

By the end of the window next Tuesday, December 5, three teams will know if they have qualified for the Women's Gold Cup group stage and another six teams will be slotted for the Women's Gold Cup Prelims.

Mexico will get their first crack at winning Group A of League A on Friday at Puerto Rico with El Tricolor holding a two-point edge on the Boricuas. If Puerto Rico and Mexico draw, Mexico win the group and Puerto Rico would seal their place in the Prelims, as they currently sit three points ahead of Trinidad and Tobago, who close the window against Mexico on December 5.

Panama can win Group B in a Wednesday visit to Jamaica, as the Canaleras own a two-point advantage on Guatemala. However, should Panama drop points, it could open the way for Guatemala or Jamaica on Sunday to win the group. A Jamaica win against Panama could set the stage for a dramatic final matchday on Sunday, with all three teams alive for a first-place finish.

Haiti only require a draw at Costa Rica to clinch Group C of League A on Thursday. However, a Ticas win could make for an interesting final matchday in the group next Monday. Costa Rica host St Kitts and Nevis, but would need to win by a wide margin, with Haiti currently at plus-25 goal difference.

League B

 

The winners of the three League B groups will advance to the Women's Gold Cup Prelims versus the second-place group finishers from League A.

Guyana can win Group A of League B with victory over Dominica on Wednesday, provided Suriname drop points at Antigua and Barbuda. Should Guyana and Suriname win their first matches of the window, Guyana can clinch the group win and a Prelims spot with a draw in their final fixture against Antigua and Barbuda.

El Salvador have already punched their Prelims ticket as winners of Group B of League B, but in Group C, Bermuda and Dominican Republic are in a dogfight, with the former slightly ahead by a point.

On Friday, Bermuda host St Vincent and the Grenadines, while Dominican Republic head to Barbados. Should those two sides win, a final matchday clash between the Dominican Republic and Bermuda in Santo Domingo, would be a winner-take-all affair.

League C

 

A group win is there for the taking for three teams in League C. With a six-point cushion, Belize can win Group A with a draw at Bonaire on Thursday.

Cuba can clinch Group B should St Lucia fail to beat Guadeloupe on Friday. However, a St Lucia win, would set up a final day contest, with Cuba only needing a draw to win the group.

Grenada have already emerged as winners of Group C, but Curacao still have work to do in Group D. They have a two-point lead over Anguilla and face Anguilla on Thursday. A draw would be enough to win the group for Curacao.

The November window of League A of the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League is now complete and even though many players delivered top performances over the course of the matches, only these 11 players stood out the most at their respective positions.

Goalkeeper

Andre Blake, Jamaica

Blake was superb in both legs against Canada, making four clearances and eight saves, including two reaction stops from point-blank range early in the first half in the second leg.

Defenders 

Alvin Jones, Trinidad and Tobago

Jones has a habit of being a thorn in the side of United States, and he did it again in the 2-1 second leg win for the Soca Warriors with a sensational free kick goal and an assist. He also had four steals and 10 clearances in the two games.

Antonee Robinson, United States

Robinson played a big role in United States success with a goal and an assist in the 3-0 first leg win, and then the lone United States goal in the second leg. He also had four steals.

Michael Murillo, Panama

Murillo was the one to get things rolling for Panama, scoring their opening goal in the first leg. He finished the two-legged series with two steals and a clearance.

Midfielders

Edson Alvarez, Mexico

Alvarez scored a goal that Mexico fans will never forget, finding the back of the net in the final seconds of the second leg to bring Mexico level with Honduras 2-2 on aggregate. He also made two clearances and had a steal.

Adalberto Carrasquilla, Panama

Carrasquilla was masterful yet again for Panama in the midfield with a pair of assists while completing almost 90 percent of his passes.

Luis Chavez, Mexico

Chavez has become Mexico’s free-kick specialist and he scored again from a dead ball in what was Mexico’s first goal in their series with Honduras. He completed an astounding 91 percent of his passes.

Gio Reyna, United States

Reyna scored one of the three U.S. goals in the first leg against Trinidad and Tobago and then also had a steal in 140 minutes of action.

Forwards 

Luis Palma, Honduras

Palma set the table for the opening goal for Honduras in their 2-0 first leg win versus Mexico and also collected two steals in addition to his assist.

Jose Fajardo, Panama

Fajardo scored in each game for Panama against Costa Rica, giving him goals in three straight games against the Ticos.

Shamar Nicholson, Jamaica

Nicholson scored three of Jamaica’s four goals against Canada and completed more than 95 percent of his passes. He now has a whopping nine career CNL goals.

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.

United States are through to the Concacaf Nations League semi-finals, despite a 1-2 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago in their League A second leg quarterfinals encounter at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, on Monday night.

While the result will serve Trinidad and Tobago well going forward, it is United States that have much to celebrate as the 4-2 aggregate scoreline, also secured their spot in next year's CONMEBOL Copa America.

Trinidad and Tobago will next contest the Concacaf Nations League Play-In. The winner of each Play-In, will also qualify for the CONMEBOL Copa America 2024.

Fresh off his one goal, one assist performance in the first leg, Antonee Robinson was back on the scoresheet and gave the United States an 25th-minute lead, when he got on the end of a Sergino Dest cross and headed into net.

However, United States were later reduced to 10 men when Dest picked up a pair of yellow cards in less than a minute in the 39th and was given marching orders.

With the numerical advantage in their favour, Trinidad and Tobago certainly made it count, as Reon Moore outmuscled off a defender in the 18-yard box and fired home to put the Soca Warriors back on level terms in the 43rd minute.

The momentum was squarely with Trinidad and Tobago and the home side took a 2-1 lead in the 57th courtesy of screamer from Alvin Jones on a free kick that gave United States goalkeeper Matt Turner no chance at a save.

Trinidad and Tobago remained on the front foot and continued to create chances, but United States were resolute in defence and kept the hosts at bay.

PANAMA vs COSTA RICA

Panama also punched their ticket for the semi-finals and Copa America following a 3-1 triumph over Costa Rica in their second leg League A quarterfinals at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City.

With the result, Panama topped the two-legged series 6-1 on aggregate.

Costa Rica, like Trinidad and Tobago, will contest the Play-In for another shot at CONMEBOL Copa America qualification.

Despite entering the encounter with a handsome three-goal lead, Panama were in no mood to relent as they took the lead in the 20th minute when Jose Fajardo fired home, after Michael Murillo's effort was initially blocked by Costa Rica's goalkeeper Kevin Chamorro. That took Fajardo's tally to three straight in CNL matches against the Ticos.

It was all Panama from there, and Jose Rodriguez gave the home fans another reason to cheer mere minutes later. He finished off a stinging a left-footed effort from la distance in the 24th.

The host added a third before halftime when Edgar Barcenas converted a 43rd-minute penalty, after Rodriguez was fouled just inside the area.

Costa Rica tried to make some inroads in the second half and pulled one back in the 52nd. Joel Campbell's free kick was expertly headed in by Francisco Calvo.

But there was nothing more in it for Costa Rica, as Panama's wide margin allowed for free and patient football to see off things.

United States and Panama both placed a foot in the Concacaf Nations League semi-final and, by extension, next year's Copa America, after they registered identical 3-0 victories in the first legs of their respective League A quarterfinals on Thursday.

United States vs. Trinidad and Tobago

A late surge earned the United States victory over Trinidad and Tobago at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas.

Antonee Robinson had a goal and an assist, as the United States scored three goals in the final 10 minutes of regular time to secure a healthy cushion going into Monday’s return leg.

As expected, United States dominated proceedings from the start, but they posed little threat in front of goal against a well-organised Trinidad and Tobago defence.

A second yellow card to Noah Powder in the 37th, saw the Soca Warriors down to 10 men with more than a half to play, and that prompted their host to commit numbers forward even more in search of the opening goal.

Trinidad and Tobago were stout-hearted and defiant at the back, especially goalkeeper Denzil Smith, whose confidence grew by saving a Yunus Musah attempt from distance and then a Sergino Dest shot.

However, their resistance was inevitably broken in the 81st, when Robinson’s cross from the left wing was flicked in by Ricardo Pepi to make it 1-0 to the home side.

While the goal inspired United States to push for more, it broke the hearts of the Trinidadians, and they imploded defensively as a result. Minutes after supplying the assist on the go-ahead goal, Robinson added a goal himself with a powerful left-footed finish in the 86th.

United States were keen to tack on one more before the final whistle and they did it in the 89th when Gio Reyna gathered a pass Folarin Balogun and fired into net to complete the 3-0 scoreline.

 

Costa Rica vs. Panama

Panama for the second straight time outclassed Costa Rica in a Nations League fixture at the Estadio Saprissa in San Jose.

After defeating the Ticos 1-0 in Costa Rica in the 2022-23 Nations League group stage, the Canaleros achieved the same feat, this time by a wider scoreline.

It was a dream start for Panama, as a picture-perfect fourth-minute free kick Michael Murillo went blazing into the top right corner of the net.

Panama remained on the front foot, and they doubled their advantage in the 29th when a miscued clearance from Costa Rica's defence allowed Jose Fajardo to swoop in and finish a right-footed effort.

Costa Rica sought a response and Jimmy Marin went close to pulling a goal back with a 33rd-minute shot that grazed the post.

Costa Rica mounted pressure to start the second half, but it allowed Panama to counterattack with space, and the visitors made the most of a break in the 60th. That play ended with Adalberto Carrasquilla sliding a pass into Cecilio Waterman, whose finish made it 3-0.

With the three-goal cushion, Panama played to their liking, but also kept the Costa Rican attack at bay, as they saw out the remainder of the contest for the win.

The 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League resumes this week with this being a decisive window for teams in all three leagues.

League A

The stage is set for the eight quarterfinalists in League A to take the final step to qualifying for the Concacaf Nations League showpiece and, by extension, next year's CONMEBOL Copa America.

The first legs of the four two-legged quarterfinals kicks off on Thursday with the United States hosting Trinidad and Tobago at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas, followed by Costa Rica welcoming in fellow Central American rival Panama at the Estadio Saprissa in San Jose.

A day later on Friday, it will be Jamaica and Canada crossing swords at the National Stadium in Kingston, while Honduras host Mexico at the Estadio Chelato Ucles in Tegucigalpa.

No doubt that all the teams will be aiming for a strong performance ahead of the return legs the following Monday and Tuesday.

League B

The battle for promotion in League B will be hot and heavy across all four groups with so many decisive matches to be played. By the end of the weekend, it will be known which team has won Group A to capture promotion to League A.

St Lucia and Guadeloupe are tied on nine points, with the latter just ahead by a one goal difference. St Lucia are at St Kitts and Nevis on Thursday, and then home versus St Maarten on Sunday, while Guadeloupe travel to St Maarten on Thursday, and then host St Kitts and Nevis on Sunday.

In Group B, Nicaragua holds the advantage heading into the final window, as they sit three points in front of the Dominican Republic. If Dominican Republic drop points on Wednesday at Montserrat and Nicaragua win at Barbados on Friday, Nicaragua clinches promotion.

It is a three-horse race in Group C, with French Guiana (seven points) a nose in front of St Vincent and the Grenadines (six points) and Bermuda (five points). Bermuda host Vincy Heat on Friday to kick things off in a must-win match-up, while French Guiana will look to consolidate their lead atop the table ahead of the final matchday, with a full three points at Belize.

Things are more straightforward in Group D, as Guyana sit on a six-point lead going into their final two matches. The Golden Jaguars only require a point in their Saturday visit to Bahamas to secure promotion to League A.

League C

League C also reaches its climax, and Thursday could be a momentous day for British Virgin Islands, who can clinch promotion to League B if they defeat Dominica at home in Group C.

It is a similar story in Group B, as promotion is there for the taking for Aruba, who can nail down their rise to League B with victory at US Virgin Islands on Thursday.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Bonaire can keep themselves in the mix in Group A with a win at Anguilla. Bonaire are currently six points behind leaders St Martin. But if Anguilla earn a result on home soil, the group and promotion will belong to St Martin.

Live action of the Concacaf Nations League will be on SportsMax, SportsMax 2 and the SportsMax app.

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.

Lineth Cedeno scored in the final minutes to lift Panama to a 2-1 win against Jamaica in Group B of League A of the Road to W Gold Cup on Wednesday night at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, Panama.

The victory gives Panama six points through three games and the first-place position in the group, while Jamaica are still hunting for their first points after one match.

Jamaica enjoyed the better start and grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 21’ through Ricshya Walker, who got on the end of a cross from Malikae Dayes and redirected into net for the game’s opening goal.

Panama would have a response, though, and the home side pulled level right before halftime in the 44’ when Marta Cox got on the end of a through ball and sent in a cross from the left flank that Jamaica DF Alika Keene headed into her own net to make it 1-1 at the break.

Panama really started to apply the pressure as the second half wore on in search of a go-ahead goal, with Cedeno adding a spark from off the bench and Riley Tanner drawing fouls near the Jamaica area.

Tanner was presented with a gilt-edged opportunity to score in the 80’ when she beat the offside trap and was one-on-one with Jamaica GK Aliyah Morgan, but Morgan came up with the big save.

Panama’s efforts would finally be rewarded though, as Cedeno took advantage of a loose ball in the area after Jamaica failed to clear a corner kick and fired into net in the 84’ to deliver the 2-1 victory to the home side.

 

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