Goalkeeper and Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director Johann Noetzel heads the squad, which also has goalie Ethan Dickinson, Trey Dunn, Joe Miler, John Taisacan, Jonathan Takano, Jireh Yobech, Joel Fruit, Daniel Agulto, Sean Perez, Ruselle Zapanta, Jehn Joyner, Kennedy Izuka and five off-island players Nick Swaim, Lucas Knecht, Bo Barry, Kirk Schuler, and Dae Won Jeon.
The returning Kiyoshi Sekiguchi is the team’s head coach and will be assisted by Taketomo Suzuki and goalkeeper coach Hon Kit Cheng. Completing the squad are team manager Joon Seoung Lee and physiotherapist Jungsang Park.
“Well, I could say that after coaching teams here in 2010 and 2011, this squad is the best assembled so far because we have experienced players and lots of young ones. We have a former pro in Johann and then J.J. (Takano), who played in Brazil. The young players who I saw and coached several years ago are now taller, stronger, and better players,” said Sekiguchi, who returned to Saipan early this month in time for the CNM’s stint in the EAFF event, which will be held in Guam from July 20 to 25.
In Guam, the Blue Ayuyus will be facing the host, Macau, and Mongolia. The CNMI players’ first match will be against Mongolia on Monday at 3pm, while the second game will be versus Macau on July 23, also at 3pm. The anticipated CNMI-Guam duel will be played in the last day of the tournament on July 25 at 5:30pm. The winner of the competition in Guam will advance in Round 2 to play against Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, and North Korea for the slot to the 2015 EAFF East Asian Cup.
Sekiguchi sees Guam as the favorite in the qualifier with its homecourt edge, but believed each match will be tightly contested with Macau and Mongolia also on a mission.
“It will be an interesting tournament and I believe our team will do well this time,” Sekiguchi said.
Meanwhile, Schuler, who is on his second stint with the Blue Ayuyus, hopes the young players on the team will provide the needed stamina and energy as they battle the tough Guam squad and the equally competition Macau and Mongolia crew.
“There are new and young faces on the squad and that’s good news because they will complement our experienced players. We need their energy and speed to keep up with our opponents,” said Schuler, who was talking of young guns Joyner, Izuka, Perez, Agulto Fruit, Yobech, Taisacan, Knecht, and Barry.
“It’s also good that I used to coach (with MP United) several of our players, so I kind of know how they play and it will not be that hard making adjustments once we’re on the pitch,” said Schuler, who arrived on Saipan last Monday and joined the team’s training session the following day.
Kirk’s wife, Carrie is also on island and is part of the CNMI Women’s National Team that was introduced, too at the send-off ceremony yesterday. Other members of the squad are captains Jeralyn Castillo and Mykki Vargas, Jhaneeka Atalig, Elaine Enriquez, Emily Maxberry, Michelle Masga, Marielle Gariguez, Jeraldine Castillo, Megan Silberberger, Melody Johnson, Alexa Vergara, Diane Pablo, Thea Minor, Elizabeth Phan, Gabrielle Race, Krizelle Mae Tuazon, and Chevy Kate. Luam Khen Koo is the head coach with Wai Wo Lee assisting him, while Chi Ming Tang is the goalkeeper coach. Mae Angeline Ito is the team manager, while Pam Carhill is the physiotherapist.
The Commonwealth’s female players will play against Guam and Macau.