Trinidad & Trinidad team Maylee Attin Johnson (left) and head coach Randy Waldrum (right) speak at a CONCACAF Women's Championship press conference on October 23, 2014, in Chester, Pennsylvania, USA. (Photo: Mexsport)
CHESTER, Pennsylvania -- Trinidad & Tobago finds itself a victory away from making some history, not only for itself, but for Caribbean women's soccer as well.
If the Soca Princesses defeat Costa Rica in their 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship semifinal on Friday, they will become the first Caribbean team to reach the FIFA Women's World Cup.
"We, as players, have sacrificed a whole lot to this point," captain Maylee Attin Johnson said Thursday. "We realize this is our time. Most of us gave up jobs and job opportunities to prepare for this. Every time we step onto the field and hear the national anthem, we go with all of our hearts, grit, determination and courage. Come Friday, it is the biggest game of our lives."
Playing in a World Cup is "the dream of any footballer's life," Johnson added. "I think it will change a lot of our lives tremendously."
The 28-year-old hoped that her team's success will mirror that of the USA women a generation ago, when they won the first Women's World Cup.
"Hopefully, we will be like the '91 U.S. team, hopefully change women's football back home like that," she expressed. “Women's football hasn't been respected in our country. What this group wants to do is leave a legacy."
Even if it loses at PPL Park, T&T still will have two more opportunities to reach Canada. It can defeat the loser of the other semifinal between the United States and Mexico on Sunday. If not, Trinidad will play Ecuador in a home-and-home series for one of 24 spots in the Canada 2015 field.
T&T head coach Randy Waldrum has witnessed the nation’s progress since he coached the under-17 national side six years ago. Six players from that team earned spots on the current side.
"The game has grown,” he said. “That team was not really prepared to qualify. This team certainly is much, much better. It shows the growth of the last six years of women's football in the country and the work that these guys have put in. I think and I've been told this many times that this probably is the best group that has come out of the islands."
The team learned Wednesday the Trinidad & Tobago Football Association and the Trinidad ministry of sports have secured players’ bonuses for reaching the semifinals.
"It’s great they have stepped up," Waldrum finished. "Hopefully, if we make this dream reality and qualify, there will be more in line for us."