Nick Swaim and Kirk Schuler scored one goal apiece in the Blue Ayuyus’ historic victory. The win was first for the CNMI’s men’s team in any international competition and boosted the team’s chances of advancing to the next round of the EAFF-sanctioned tournament. The CNMI has a 1-0-1 win-draw-loss record in the four-team tournament and another upset in its game against Guam tomorrow, coupled with Mongolia’s loss to the host will help the Blue Ayuyus make the cut. Only the Top 2 teams after the round-robin tournament will march into the second round.
The CNMI nosed out Macau despite playing in heavy rains and falling behind early in the match as the latter found the back of the net in the 14th minute. Down, but definitely not out, the CNMI made several attempts to equalize, but faltered on three occasions, as it was called for an offside, while Joe Miller’s shot was foiled by Macau, and Jonathan Takano lost possession on his way to attacking their foe’s defense.
Macau tried to make it a 2-0 lead when it attempted a corner kick, but the shot was wide. The CNMI then countered with Swaim converting off a corner kick in the 36th minute to force a deadlock. The Blue Ayuyus had a chance to break the tie in the closing minutes of the first half with Miller getting a free kick but Lucas Knecht was called for an offside.
In the second half, Macau unloaded two more shots, hoping to shatter the standoff, but CNMI goalkeeper Johann Noetzel was there for the saves. Noetzel’s second save in the final frame was registered in the 62nd minute and three minutes later Schuler came out for a diving header to put the CNMI on top.
With less than 20 minutes left in the match, Macau rushed its offense in a bid to at least equalize, but failed to convert on two corner kicks with Noetzel saving one more and his teammates stepping up in the other to break up the play.
A two-minute stoppage time gave Macau an opportunity to spoil the Blue Ayuyus’ victory ride, but the latter hung in there to post the historic win.
Noetzel started out for the CNMI’s victory over Macau and was joined by Kennedy Izuka, Knecht, Schuler, Bo Barry, Takano, Joel Fruit, Swaim, Ruselle Zapanta, Miller and Jehn Joyner. Izuka was injured midway in the first half and was replaced by Trey Dunn. Daniel Agulto also saw action against Macau, relieving Joyner in the second half, while Jireh Yobech came in for Zapanta. Kiyoshi Sekiguchi is the team’s head coach and is assisted by Taketomo Suzuki and goalkeeper coach Hon Kit Cheng.
Meanwhile, the CNMI Women’s National Team hopes to ride on the men’s squad’s momentum when it plays Macau today at 5:30pm. The Commonwealth’s female players are aiming to bounce back from a 0-7 loss to Guam during the opening of the tournament last Sunday.