Northern Mariana Islands Football Association has scheduled a training camp in San Diego for players wishing to make it to the CNMI National Men’s Team that will compete in the East Asian Football Federation East Asian Cup 2016 Preliminary Round 1.
NMIFA technical director and CNMI coach Kiyoshi Sekiguchi said the camp will run from March 9 to 13 and 13 off-island players have been invited to join the event. The list of participants in the camp has yet to be confirmed, but Saipan Tribune learned that among those invited were former members of the Blue Ayuyus.
Nick Swaim and Kirk Schuler, who scored one goal each in the CNMI’s historic 2-1 win over Macau in the Preliminary Round 1 of the 2015 EAFF East Asian Cup held in Guam in 2014, are on the list along with Jonathan Takano, Darin Kaizer, Lucas Knecht, Michael “Bo” Barry, Jehn Joyner, Jordan Butcher, Mickey Coleman, Hunter Jewell, Michah Griffin, Ethan Dickinson, and Enrico Del Rosario.
Del Rosario, Dickinson, Barry, and Knecht are currently playing in collegiate leagues, while Hunter Jewell is on his last year in high school competition and was one of the two recent off-island players to suit up for the CNMI when he played with the Commonwealth’s U19 crew in the AFC U19 Championship Bahrain 2016 Qualifiers at the SCG Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. The other one was Butcher.
Coleman and Griffin were former youth players and were part of the CNMI co-ed U11 team that saw action in a tournament in Guam, while Takano and Kaizer briefly played in the M-League. Takano was also on the squad Commonwealth squad that defeated Macau in the EAFF tournament two years ago.
“The training camp in San Diego is a tryout for the EAFF tournament in July. This is also an opportunity to share tactical concept among the players and coaches,” said Sekiguchi, who will conduct the camp with the help of Taketomo Suzuki.
Suzuki added that the invited players will have two training matches in San Diego. He also said that the off-island players and the more than 30 on Saipan are part of the training pool list and he will decide the final roster for the Blue Ayuyus at the completion of the camp.
Only 18 players will be selected to suit up for the Blue Ayuyus and compete against four of the nine other EAFF members. The venue of the EAFF tournament has yet to be announced along with the groupings.
On-island players wishing to land a spot on the elite squad will continue their training while Sekiguchi is holding the camp in San Diego. Assistant coach Jershwin Angeles will lead the training session in the absence of Sekiguchi and Suzuki.
Meanwhile, four players from Aries FC will arrive today and join the CNMI training pool’s practice at the Hopwood Junior High School Field. The other members of the visiting squad from Japan will touchdown at the Saipan International Airport tomorrow in time for a friendly match against the training pool this Saturday.