The Cayman women’s national football team may have lost 1-0 in their friendly game against a visiting American university side, but head coach Alan Purvis could see many positives from the experience as they prepare for big tournaments later in the year.
In an evenly matched game at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Sunday, the University of New Haven Chargers had the satisfaction of victory in the first of two friendly games. A Cayman select side will play the Connecticut-based Chargers on Wednesday.
The match was evenly poised before Taylor Szyarto scored a wonder strike midway through the first half.
Picking up the ball just inside the halfway line, Szyarto advanced before lobbing Cayman keeper Jovani Hessing with a well-placed shot from 30 yards.
Chargers head coach Laura Duncan and Purvis both made several changes to test their players’ capabilities and work out their best formats.
“This game was very competitive and I am glad it was,” said Duncan. “This is our first game of the spring and we played a lot of kids tonight. We had a couple of players that it was their first college start. I’m very pleased with how we performed but I am also very pleased with how Cayman performed. It was a very competitive game.”
“It was a decent performance” said Purvis.
“We got a bit better as the game went on. The first 20-25 minutes it took us a while to get our shape at the back.
“Once we sorted that out we restricted their chances to get behind us and it showed as they didn’t get many shots. If we can improve the first 20 minutes we will be a lot better team.”
The Chargers played in a beach soccer festival on Public Beach on Saturday.
Purvis said that substitute Jessica Ebanks made a big difference when she came into defense for Cayman captain Brittni Ebanks who had been struggling with flu since they got back from Guadeloupe last week. “Jessica organized well and marshalled the team from the back and was very composed on the ball,” said Purvis.
“Our right back Deondra Kelly and center back Shanai Allen also had very solid games. Jovani made some crucial saves in the first half and was very unlucky with their goal which was a speculative long range effort.”
He also praised Shanelle Frederick who came on just before half-time and gave the Chargers defense a hard time and Amy Mobley who “showed great energy up front too.”
Purvis said that Janel Ebanks also had a good game because she was trying to create opportunities throughout.
“Chelsea Green also looked very comfortable when she came on and showed good maturity for a young player,” he said.
He added that the main plus was that this was another competitive game for a very young and inexperienced squad, with an average age of around 18.
“Playing against this type of opposition gives them an insight as to the level of fitness and technical quality they need to aspire to,” he said.
“This game and the Guadeloupe trip gave me a chance to assess some of the local talent we have available and overall I have been impressed with the players that have been involved. Their attitude, work rate and effort has been excellent.”
Wednesday’s match will give some of the locally based non-national players the opportunity to play, integrating with some national team players.
After playing two hard matches in Guadeloupe, Purvis said he thinks the players need a break and to recover, as a few picked up injuries on the away trip and some got sick from the cold and torrential Guadeloupe rain in the last game, and were not fully recovered against the Chargers.
“After that, we need to keep the group together training regularly and start planning for the Olympic and World Cup qualifiers,” he said.
“There may be another team from the U.S. visiting in May, which would be great if it happens, and we also need to train the girls hard over the summer when the women’s league is finished.”
He added that the Chargers play around 15 games a season together, which is similar to Cayman’s league season, but as a national team they need more games together to build cohesion and understanding.
“The squad also needs to stay together through the calendar year instead of coming together seven to eight weeks before a scheduled game,” he said.
He feels the players also need more specialized fitness and strength training as part of their preparation and guidance on good nutrition.
“We traveled with 15 players to Guadeloupe and used 19 players against the Chargers,” Purvis said.
“Our youngest was only 12. There are still a lot of areas we need to work on but what I have seen from the group has impressed me and I think there are a lot of reasons to be positive about the future.”
Purvis said that Cayman also has a number of good players studying abroad that can add a lot of strength to the current group, however, trying to make that work logistically will not be easy.