CHESTER, Pa. – Costa Rica sealed its place at the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time with a penalty shootout win over Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship semi-final at PPL Park.
Ticas goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz saved all three of T&T’s spot kicks to secure a 3-0 shootout win after spending most of the game watching her teammates peppering the goal at the other end of the field.
Carolina Venegas and Lauryn Hutchison traded goals during an initial 90-minute contest before T&T held on for another 30 minutes to force the shootout. Katherine Alvarado, Carol Sanchez and Wendy Acosta converted their kicks for the Central Americans while T&T’s Maylee Attin Johnson, Hutchinson and Mariah Shade were all foiled by Diaz.
Costa Rica will face either the United States or Mexico in Sunday’s CONCACAF final.
Las Ticas forced the Soca Princesses onto the back foot in the opening minutes with four corner kicks whipped in by Alvarado that placed T&T goalkeeper Kimika Forbes under duress.
Forbes was again called into action on 17 minutes when Daphnne Herrera gathered a Shirley Cruz pass down the right wing before flashing in a low cross. The 24-year-old goalkeeper did enough to push the ball to safety.
Costa Rica found the breakthrough one minute later with a rapid break down the opposite flank. Acosta burst past Brianna Ryce before pulling the ball back along the 6-yard line. T&T defender Arin King failed to track Venegas into the penalty area and the Deportivo Saprissa forward slotted the ball into Forbes’ net.
Acosta and Lixy Rodriguez continued to test Ryce with their speed and movement down the left side. It was from there that Alvarado curled in a deeper free kick that Forbes was fortunate to direct over her crossbar when she tried to punch the ball clear.
Costa Rica’s domination of the first half continued with Alvarado and Paris St-Germain midfielder Shirley Cruz dictating the tempo. T&T head coach Randy Waldrum responded with a couple of changes at the break. Shade replaced Tasha St. Louis at center-forward. Hutchinson came in at right-back to counter Acosta’s pace. Ryce moved into midfield with Karyn Forbes being withdrawn.
The substitutions failed to alter the flow of the game and Venegas should have doubled Costa Rica’s lead on 49 minutes. Raquel Rodriguez Cedeno scampered away from Rhea Belgrave at the edge of T&T’s penalty area before squaring the ball to an unmarked Venegas on the 6-yard line. The 23-year-old striker mistimed her swing this time and sclaffed the ball high and wide of a gaping net.
Acosta’s pace got her behind the defense on a couple of occasions to force Kimika Forbes into two good saves. Venegas clipped another effort narrowly wide after racing onto a Rodriguez Cedeno flick header.
T&T had shown little as an attacking force as the game entered its final quarter, yet the Soca Princesses found an unlikely equalizer on 73 minutes. Substitute Hutchinson held off two Ticas defenders to steer a header beyond Diaz and inside the goalkeeper’s left post.
Costa Rica shrugged off the set back to threaten T&T’s goal in the closing minutes. Substitute Cristin Granados tested Forbes with a firm strike from 25 yards before the goalkeeper made a point-blank stop from Rodriguez Cedeno’s header. Forbes made another save from the same player with the last attack of regulation time after Shirley Cruz caused problems with her exquisite dribbling inside the penalty box.
Acosta appeared to have put her side back in front after 101 minutes only for the officials to incorrectly flag her as offside. Alvarado’s free kick struck the T&T defensive wall before looping toward the far post where Acosta prodded it over the line. She was in line with the last defender when Alvarado struck the ball, but not in the assistant referee’s view.
Shirley Cruz and Rodriguez Cedeno combined to set up Acosta with another chance on 112 minutes. The lively forward took a touch on the left of the box to steady herself for a crack at goal before firing wildly into the River End behind Forbes’ goal.
T&T’s Belgrave received a second caution in the final minute of extra time to reduce her team to 10 players. She will miss her team’s second chance to reach the World Cup Sunday in the tournament’s third place game.
Costa Rica (4-2-3-1): Diaz – L. Rodriguez, D. Cruz, C. Sanchez, Saenz – Alvarado, S. Cruz – Acosta, Rodriguez Cedeno, Herrera (Guillen 100) – Venegas (Granados 63)
Trinidad & Tobago (4-3-3): Kimika Forbes – Hinds, King, Belgrave, Ryce – Karyn Forbes (Hutchinson 46), Mascall (Debesette 74), Attin Johnson – Cordner, St. Louis (Shade 46), Mollon