MARK Rodrigues was yesterday named head coach of Guyana Women’s team, the ‘Lady Jags’, by the Guyana Football Federation (GFF), ahead of the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers.
The announcement was made during the GFF’s observance of the CONCACAF Women’s Day at the Tucville ground.
Rodrigues is fondly remembered for coaching Guyana’s most successful football team to date, when he guided the ‘Lady Jags’ to the 2010 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the final stage of the Women’s World Cup Qualifiers.
Guyana are drawn in Group Four in the Caribbean Zone of the 2015 Women’s Olympic Qualifiers, which will be hosted in St Kitts and Nevis from August 21 to 25.
The ‘Lady Jags’ will be placed alongside the hosts (St Kitts & Nevis) and Cuba; two teams they had defeated in their run-up to the 2010 Gold Cup.
Guyana will now look to replicate their performance on August 21 when they face St Kitts and Cuba on August 25.
Group One will be hosted by Puerto Rico and fields Aruba, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Grenada. Group Two features St Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, the Cayman Islands and Trinidad & Tobago, to be staged in Trinidad & Tobago.
The Group Three games will be played in Suriname and the teams in this group are Dominica Republic, Dominica and Jamaica.
While the tournament has an age limit of under 23 years for men, born on or after January 1, 1993, there is no age ceiling for the Women’s Qualifiers.
Three teams will advance from the female category into the CONCACAF Women’s Summer Olympic Tournament for 2016.
Rodrigues, speaking to Chronicle Sport yesterday following the announcement of his appointment, said that most of the players from the 2010 team, who were stand-out players in the USA and Canada collegiate system and “majority of the girls are still actively involved and, putting things into perspective, the team back then was a very young team but those girls are all mature now. They are in their 20s and several of them are playing professionally around the world”.
“One of the key elements, as you are aware, is goalkeeping and something we’ve always struggled with and which hurt us a lot when we got to the Gold Cup in 2010. This time around, one of the girls we’re after, she’s actually the fourth string goalkeeper on the US national team, behind Hope Solo and two others. She’s committed to be a part of the programme,” Rodrigues pointed out.
The recently appointed women’s head coach further noted that all the players from the 2010 united have recommitted themselves to being part of Olympic Qualifiers “because they understood the purpose of having a ‘Lady Jags’ back then and helping football being played in Guyana but now the challenge is, going through the group to see who are match-fit and to find the cream of the crop and putting together another successful team”.
Asked about the composition of the team and if it will feature local players, Rodrigues opined that “the squad that you’ll see will comprise a significant number of players from 2010 and some new players who are playing at a high level”.
In 2010, the ‘Lady Jags’ had qualified after beating Cuba in a home (0–1) and away (3–1) playoff to become the first Guyanese team to feature at the Gold Cup; the pinnacle of CONCACAF football.
At the tournament in Mexico, Guyana grouped with the home side, Trinidad and Tobago, who at the time were coached by Jamaal Shabazz, and Canada.
The Guyanese unit failed to pick up a win at the competition, losing 7–2 against Mexico, 8–0 to Canada and 4–1 to Trinidad and Tobago but in the end, they turned out to be the darlings of the tournament.
By Rawle Toney