Lauren Raimondo (pictured) scored two goals for Canada in the CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Championship third place match against Haiti on November 13, 2016, in St. George's, Grenada. (Photo: Mexsport)
ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada – Canada realized something had to change in order to save its dream of competing in the next FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
The score was 0-0 at halftime of its showdown with injury-riddled Haiti in the 2016 CONCACAF Under-17 Women’s Championship third-place match. Only the winner would book a ticket for later in the year to Jordan.
Inside the locker room after a sweaty first half, a simple – but pointed -- question was asked: “What does it mean to you to go to a World Cup?”
The Canadians had already lost to Haiti, 2-1, in the group stage and, perhaps, some uncertainty was starting to take hold. That’s when a coach does the things that make a difference and impacts a final result.
“At halftime, I just talked about heart,” said Canada manager Bev Priestman. “We tidied a few things up and then injected a Lauren Raimondo, who always, always plays with heart and is a real goalscorer. She came on and did her job.”
Raimondo certainly did her job and more, striking for Canada’s first and last goals in what eventually became a 4-2 win. The streak of being the only team in CONCACAF history to qualify for every FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup was kept alive.
“I just went out there knowing that I have 45 minutes to go give it my all,” said Raimondo. “This is it. This is the game that's either going to send us to World Cup or not, so I knew that I just needed to push. I had my teammates around me to encourage me through it all.”
Priestman never had a doubt about Raimondo’s ability to deliver. After all, it seems as if Raimondo was born to pull on the Canadian jersey.
“I think with Lauren, I look in her eyes and she wants to play for Canada,” Priestman remarked. “She has worked all her life to do that. She knew coming in that she had a job. She knew she would feature and she stuck to her job.”
Confidence, belief and effort, according to Raimondo, ruled the day.
“We did everything we could and gave so much hard work and passion,” finished the 16-year-old forward, who also netted against Haiti in the 2014 CONCACAF Girls’ Under-15 Championship final. “I never met a group of girls so passionate in my life.”