Puerto Rico dominate to reach Tier I Final
Published on 26 August 2023
Puerto Rico 6-0 Cayman Islands
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua (August 26, 2023)—The girls from Puerto Rico produced a dazzling semifinal performance on Saturday afternoon, beating Cayman Islands 6-0, to book a spot in the 2023 CFU Girls’ U14 Challenge Series final.
The young Boricuas—unbeaten in the competition—did not disappoint nor did they delay in signaling their intent, recording their first attempt on goal in the 4’ when Natalia Aviles shot from just inside the penalty area. But Sasha Parker, in goal for Cayman Islands, held on to the ball comfortably. Less than a minute later, Naomi Johnson had a chance of her own, and it was another effort handled cleanly by Parker.
Puerto Rico began dominating possession, forcing the Cayman Islands to work hard to maintain defensive compactness. The Caymanians found the going tough with Puerto Rico making it difficult for them to get out of their own half many times. The increased ball possession came to bear with an Amanda Cardona Colon strike rebounding off the crossbar. The recycled ball found its way to the feet of Emily Padilla Baez, whose shot eluded Parker, giving the Boricuas a lead in the 14’.
Mia Criado Diaz should have doubled her team’s shortly after, but her shot went straight into the arms of a well-positioned Parker after the forward did well to create space to shoot. Parker was called into action again in the 26’, this time denying Aviles after some slick passing by Puerto Rico.
With Puerto Rico controlling possession, a second goal was always on the cards, and it came in the 29’ courtesy a Cardona Colon header. The cross from Amanda Echevarria Ortiz was well placed for the forward to apply the finishing touch, allowing Puerto Rico to go into the halftime break with a comfortable two-goal lead.
Puerto Rico did not let up their pursuit and were on the attack again as the match resumed. Lauren Franco Rivera, who was introduced at halftime, shot low and to the left of the wall from a dangerous position, forcing Parker to dive smartly to her right to make the save.
Lindsay Hydes was brought in to bolster the Cayman Island offense and, for brief spells, linked well with Reese Bateson and Jada Dixon, trying to bring their team back into the match.
Aviles again found space in the penalty area to shoot and Caroline Rivera Micheo’s follow-up back-post cross was just too much for Franco Rivera to get to—but it was a warning shot to Bermuda.
Franco Rivera put the match away with a 44’ minute header on a well-timed run to turn in a Camille Adame cross. Seven minutes later, captain Nicole Vasquez Ortiz poked home from close range to make it 4-0.
The Cayman Islands attacks were few and far between at this point, and when they did occur, they were easily handled by the Puerto Rican defense.
Rivera Micheo extended her team’s lead in the 63’, shooting first time from a corner kick after Parker saved brilliantly from an Amanda Figueroa effort. Franco Rivera capped off her outstanding second half performance by bagging her second goal of the match and her team’s sixth. The Boricuas talisman hit home powerfully in the 67’ after an attempted clearance fell nicely to her.
The referee’s final whistle signaled the end of a scintillating Puerto Rican display, and a spot in the final was booked. Puerto Rico will face Aruba for bragging rights at 8:30 am on Sunday.