Haiti, shown above posing for a team photo prior to a 2014 CFU Caribbean Women’s Cup game, is preparing for the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship. (Photo: Yonel Louis)
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana -- If Haiti women's national team head coach Shek Borkowski could not prepare his squad for the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship in the Caribbean country there was a viable option.
In a fascinating move, nearly the entire roster came to the United States to play for FC Indiana of the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL), a team that is also coached by Borkowski.
The 51-year-old native of Poland hopes the strategy pays dividends in the Confederation event, which serves as the region’s qualifying competition for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“It is almost impossible to get international opponents because not too many teams, or no teams, are willing to travel to Haiti to play us," said Borkowski, who reached out to the Haitian Football Federation about coaching the team after watching it perform at the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament. "We simply can't afford to travel anywhere else. Our limited international experience prevents us from taking a maybe a bigger step in terms of development. It is critical. We need to play international games because teams play different vs. what is played here in the U.S., for the most part. It's a little bit more tactical, more positional play, a lot of discipline."
Many WPSL teams are stocked with talented Division I college players, so the competition level is fairly high. Indiana FC won the Midwest Great Lakes Division with a 7-2-2 mark this past season.
"Playing American teams was good for us because of our opponents' never-die attitude," Borkowski stressed. "We're always under physical pressure. We always have to be smart by working hard. From that perspective, we have made improvement. The players are a little bit more comfortable playing against physical, athletic opponents. The mental component, it's always room for improvement. But overall I would say we have made progress over the last two-and-a-half years."
Haiti qualified for the CONCACAF Women’s Championship by virtue of a third place finish at the 2014 Caribbean Women’s Cup. Its key players include captain and center back Kencia Marseille, the team's most experienced player, and midfielder Wisline Dolce. Forward Kim Boulos is returning from two knee operations since the Olympic qualifiers.
Due to spending so much time together, the players have gained chemistry and bonded through numerous off-the-field activities, including instructing at clinics with local soccer clubs, high schools and churches.
“We do whatever we have to do,” Borkowski finished. “We sell barbeque chicken, sell T-shirts to pay the bills. The players, they've done it so far, so I'm hoping that at the end there will be some rewards for them."
In this case, the best reward would be earning a place at Canada 2015. That process resumes with the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, starting with the October 15 opener against Group A rival Guatemala, and followed by matches against Caribbean champion Trinidad & Tobago (October 17 in Bridgeview, Illinois) and the United States (October 20 in Washington, D.C.).