The dream of a regional crown is over for the Cayman Islands.
Cayman was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the inaugural Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football Under-15 Girls Championship. Truman Bodden Sports Complex saw over 1,500 people witness Honduras defeat the home team, 3-2, on Wednesday night. Cayman’s coach, Ruben Flores, says the result was disappointing.
“It’s a little bit disappointing not getting the result,” Flores said. “When you have a team like this, you play this way, when you see how they give their hearts to all of these people, you guys should all be proud of these girls because that’s the way to do it.
“Everything was going well. The preparation, the heart of these girls, the way they work out, the way they follow instruction, the way they improved and developed over the last two months is incredible. Too bad there is a team that has to lose, we didn’t deserve it. I’m not going to talk about the referees, I’m not going to talk about the extra things that happened out there because that’s part of the game and they have to learn it at some point. But I think they are a fantastic team and they deserved even more than they achieved.”
Cayman went into the contest undefeated in group play, topping Group A at 3-0. The home team enjoyed landslide victories: 5-0 over British Virgin Islands, 4-1 over the Bahamas and 6-0 last Sunday over Curacao. Cayman, behind youngsters like Shayla Connor, Amanda Frederick and Rochelle Foster, was the only squad to gain the full nine points during the opening phases while scoring a competition-best 15 goals. Honduras had a much tougher road, barely getting past Bermuda to the knockout stages.
Wednesday’s match started well for the local girls, who scored. In the 17th minute, Cayman took the lead after captain Lauren Scott slotted home a loose ball in the box sent in by a Halle Medina corner kick. The visitors would reply with a spectacular free kick goal by Honduran captain Lisbeth Bonilla. The midfielder would put Honduras ahead in the 47th minute with another brilliantly taken free kick past Cayman keeper Shimari Fisher.
After a missed penalty midway through the second half, the local girls would finally equalize. Defender Tyra McField would take advantage of a great center pass by defensive mate Sabrina Suberan on the wing and slot home a low strike in the 64th minute. Cayman’s joy would be short as midfielder Sharon Moreira got an excellent center pass in the 66th minute and fired in what would prove to be the winning goal.
For Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden, Cayman has plenty to take away from the result.
“These young ladies are relatively inexperienced, playing with a lot of structure, a lot of confidence that we didn’t expect of them,” Bodden said. “I think that at the end of the day, topping their group was a major, major achievement. The way they represented, the pride that they felt, I know each one of them their little hearts are full right now. Trust me, it was hard for me not to be crying with them because they were really, really hurting.”
The turning point in the match came in roughly the 54th minute. On a breakaway toward the Honduran goal, Cayman forward Chelsea Green was tackled from behind and the result was a penalty kick. Scott would take the shot but send it way over the crossbar. Amazingly, there was no card given on the play. Flores said it was a decisive moment.
“Of course the penalty that we missed but it’s not only that. That wasn’t the penalty we missed, that was a foul and it’s a red card that is not given. There were plenty calls against us that I didn’t think were all of them and the team that scores the goals wins. They had two chances, two free kicks in the top corner, you needed a team like Honduras – under the circumstances – to beat this team.
“In a normal game, they wouldn’t have lost. They fought to the last minute and with two balls in the top corner, what else can you ask for from these girls? They gave their lives out there and I repeat it again, everybody here should be very, very happy with them and it’s the future of Cayman.”
The contest was a tense affair, especially late in the match, with a number of hard challenges on both sides. Interestingly, not one card was issued and Honduras employed a number of stalling tactics. For onlookers like CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb, the officiating was an issue.
“Tough game, very difficult game, playing against a big country and against a huge football country from Central America,” Webb said. “Tough game for us I think, the result could have been better. I, of course, have to question the penalty, which of course we appreciate. Definitely the red card should have followed, being the last defender. But it’s one of those things.
“Bonilla decided the game, she was the difference in the game and she is a tremendous player, a tremendous talent. Congratulations to the [Cayman] coach and to the team, great job, great tournament and the girls represented this country with everything that they had.”
With the victory, Honduras moves on to the semifinals on Aug. 15 at Truman Bodden. At 7:45 p.m., the Hondurans will battle Haiti and at 5:30 p.m., Trinidad faces Canada. The Haitians booked their semis berth with a 2-1 triumph over Jamaica. In the other quarterfinal matches, the Trinidadians clobbered the Bahamas, 4-0, and Canada embarrassed Costa Rica, 8-1. The finals are scheduled for Aug. 17 at Truman Bodden at 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.
Bodden says Cayman residents should come out on Friday and Sunday.
“I’m very proud of the Cayman team. They went down but continue to come out and support these young ladies as they are ambassadors for their countries, whether they are from Cayman or not.”
Webb reiterated those sentiments, saying the tournament is on pace to surpass previous efforts on these shores.
“The turnout has been excellent for all of the games. I believe, in excess, we had close to 16,000 people who have attended the tournament so far, which is great. Of course, last year had 26,000. We still have semifinals and finals to go so I believe it shows that Cayman has a football culture and our people love football.”