Tokyo FC shuts down NMI U18 pool


A team from Tokyo Football Club handed the CNMI U18 boys national pool its second friendly game loss following a 3-0 victory last Saturday at the Oleai Sports Complex Field.

The CNMI’s Yoshi Mafnas kicks the ball as he is defended by a Tokyo FC player near the sideline during the first half of the friendly game last Saturday at the Oleai Sports Complex Field. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

The CNMI’s Yoshi Mafnas kicks the ball as he is defended by a Tokyo FC player near the sideline during the first half of the friendly game last Saturday at the Oleai Sports Complex Field.
(Roselyn B. Monroyo)

The visiting squad shook off jetlag and used its speed and aggressiveness on offense to down the home bets, who fell to another Japanese crew—Aries FC (0-5)—last month after opening their series of exhibition matches with a 2-1 triumph against Japan Soccer College.

Majority of the members of the U18 team arrived on Saipan Saturday afternoon or just a few hours before the 6pm game time and were a bit sluggish offensively, missing several attempts. Goalie Chris Aninzo helped foiled Tokyo FC’s bid to hit the board early in the first half with his couple of saves, including a perfect catch of Sho Koizumi’s free kick a few feet away from the left side of the penalty box.

Despite wasting many opportunities to score, the visiting team remained persistent on offense and was rewarded with its effort in the 31st minute off Kazuki Yamauchi’s header from Koizumi’s left corner kick. Yamauchi, the tallest player on his team, saw the CNMI’s defense sagging to the left, leaving him a bit open for the header near the right post of the goal.

After the defensive miscue, the Commonwealth youth players had a chance to equalize when Yoshi Mafnas led a breakaway and issued a pass on Ryu Tanzawa inside the box at the middle, but the latter overshot his target with the ball going above the goal. Earlier, the CNMI had the opportunity to score first, but Evan Belcher’s attempt inside the box was a bit soft and Tokyo FC’s goalie easily picked the ball.

The CNMI had limited offensives tries in the first half, as its top scorer, Sean Perez, left the game early after colliding with Tokyo FC’s Takuya Kato. Perez and Kato both went up for a header near centerfield and dropped on the floor with the former going under the latter and holding on to his stomach after the collision. Perez grimaced in pain for a while and managed to play for a few more minutes before he was taken out of the match for good. Ryu replaced the injured Perez.

Ryu tried to fill in Perez’s big shoes, but was outsprinted by faster Tokyo FC players every time he chased the ball after getting a long pass from his teammates.

Tokyo FC continued to use its quickness to advance the ball and create a lot of scoring opportunities in the second half. Aninzo tried to hang tough on defense and recorded a few more serves before his diving save failed to catch a left cross from Hatama Naohide in the 70th minute. Koizumi, who almost always led his team’s attack, finally lit up the board in the 82nd as he won a scramble in the box and kicked the ball in against Joshua Galarion, who replaced Aninzo midway in the final half of the rescheduled friendly match.

The Tokyo FC-CNMI U18 pool exhibition game was originally set for yesterday, but Northern Mariana Islands Football Association decided to hold it last Saturday because of typhoon Bavi. It was a good move on the part of NMIFA as the typhoon struck yesterday, forcing the cancellation of many games, including matches in the association’s M-League.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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