Puerto Rico claim Tier I 2023 Girls’ U14 Challenge Series title

Published on 27 August 2023

Puerto Rico 5-0 Aruba

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua (August 27, 2023)—Puerto Rico continued their dominant and unbeaten run to defeat a resilient and up-to-that-point undefeated Aruba team 5-0 in the Tier I 2023 CFU Girls’ U14 Challenge Series final at the ABFA Technical Centre in St. John’s, Antigua on Sunday.

The Tier l clash was highly anticipated, with both teams unbeaten from the group and semifinals stages. The Boricuas had not conceded a goal and Aruba got past Trinidad and Tobago a day earlier through penalties. Puerto Rico were hungry for the win after placing second behind Haiti in the last iteration of the competition. Aruba, meanwhile, were going for the double having won the Tier II title in 2021 hence their promotion to the topflight. Puerto Rico boasted a total of 17 goals for and Aruba had 9 goals of their own.

Puerto Rico made some changes to their line-up, tweaking tactics a bit with the exclusion of powerhouse Lauren Franco Rivera. Aruba depended on the speed and collaboration of forward Zyana Rogers and midfield general Lorendra Neri Perez to get the job done for them.

A corner started the attack for Puerto Rico, but was it quickly countered by Aruba, and Rogers was sent on her way speedily towards the Puerto Rican goal. Good tracking back by Selymar Centeno Sierra snubbed out the attack to keep the score at nil-nil ion the opening stages.

Rogers would break away minutes later, accelerating past her markers and into the box, but a well-timed tackle by Audriana Lopez saved Puerto Rico her conceding. But the signal was snet that Aruba came to play.

Aruba was evenly matched with the Puerto Ricans within the first quarter of the game—and the only test now was if they could go the distance.

The deadlock would soon be broken after a leg-footed shot by Camila Adame in the 25’ was too powerful for the palms of Tyanne Rafael in goal for Aruba. It was good positioning by Rafael, but the strength of the shot was too much to handle. Amanda Ortiz tried to double her team’s lead almost immediately after, but Rafael flew to her left to make the save and keep the score line within reach.

The point of attack for Puerto Rico seemed to be the left side of the Aruba defense. Sierra was often flying down that side, taking on left-back Jirvianna Kock every chance she got. The coverage was sufficient by the Aruba defense when it came to crosses. They would break at the half with a quite attainable 1-0 lead to Puerto Rico.

On resumption, the game grew much more physical in nature, something affiliated with finals and was all in good fighting spirit. Puerto Rico went searching for the second goal from a Camila Adame corner. Carmen Smith got a good shot off, but, again, good positioning from Rafael allowed her to catch a good hit from inside the penalty area.

The second goal would finally arrive in the 44’ when Aruba was caught playing out the back by Selymar Sierra and her first-time shot caught Rafael out of goal as she attempted to save the overhead shot. By this time, Rogers had to drop deep for Aruba to do damage control as the options going forward were far between for them, and frustration set in.

Two quick goals for Puerto Rico solidified their claim on the title. Amanda Echevarria Ortiz met a cross from Sierra at the back post, and being unmarked, she made no mistake to tap home from close-range for her first of the match to make it 3-0 in the 44’ . Bryant Laboy Vega extended the lead to 4-0 and officially out of reach for Aruba in the 46’.

Aruba continued to work hard as the minutes counted down as did Puerto Rico, who were at that point clearly having fun.

Ortiz would finish off the scoring from the penalty spot in the 65’ after an infringement in the Aruba penalty area. She made no mistake from the spot to end an extraordinary tournament for the Tier I champions.

In addition to lifting the champions trophy, Puerto Rico also claimed the Golden Glove Award via Cameila Marin Cestero, who ended the competition with clean sheets. Captain Camila Adame took home the MVP award. Anguilla’s Kaylee Durand, with 11 goals, hoisted the Golden Boot award.  

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