By Michael Lewis
FRISCO, Texas — She might have played but a handful of minutes for Jamaica in the 2018 concacaf Women’s Championship Wednesday, but Nicole McClure certainly was a handful for Panama with a couple of two-handed saves during the penalty-kick shootout.
The former East Meadow Shooting Stars standout goalkeeper saved saved her best for last, as in the last two shots the Panamanians attempted during the tie-breaker.
She two shots by Lineth Cedeno and Kenia Rangel of the third-place match to boost the Reggae Girlz to a 4-2 shootout win over the Central American side as they became the first Caribbean team to qualify for the Women’s World Cup. The two teams played to a 2-2 draw.
“This is history in the making,” said a satisfied Jamaica head coach Hue Menzies said. “It’s going to change the mindset of the country.”
Deneisha Blackwood, Ashleigh Shim, Christina Chang and Dominique Bond-Flasza put home their attempts for Jamaica.
Yomira Pinzon and Erika Hernandez converted their chances for Panama.
McClure hadn’t played in the tournament until she replaced regular Sydney Schneider in the 120th minute at Toyota Stadium.
The one-time University of South Florida keeper helped the Shooting Stars (Long Island Junior Soccer League team to the Girls Under-15 title at the 2005 Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association State Cup.
The Panamanians still have a chance to reach France for next year’s tournament as it will play Argentina in a home-and-home playoff.
Brown set up the Reggae Girlz’ first goal as Khadija Shaw headed in her right-wing cross from seven yards for her third goal of the tournament in the 14th minute.
Panama equalized in the 75th minute on captain Natalia Mills’ first goal of the competition. Mills latched onto a pass and ran to the top of the box as she drilled a shot into the lower left corner past Schneider to knot the score at 1-1.
Jamaica’s Jody Brown tallied her fourth goal of the tournament five minutes into the first extra period. She fired a right-footed shot from 16 yards into the near right post past Bailey.
Panama tied things up for the second time in the 115th minute as Adrith Quintero fed Cedeno, who beat Schneider from eight yards.