CNMI stands proud, stays upbeat


The CNMI’s Joel Fruit, center, collides with Guam’s Marcus Philip Lopez as they battle for the ball during the opening game in the EAFF E-1 Football Championships 2019 Round 1 last Sunday at the Mongolian Football Federation Stadium in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. (Contributed Photo)

The CNMI Men’s National Team players and officials are keeping their heads up high and remain positive despite losing their opening game in the EAFF E-1 Football Championships 2019 Round 1 last Sunday at the Mongolian Football Federation Stadium in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

Guam shut down the Blue Ayuyus, 4-0, but not after being forced to work double time on defense, as the CNMI made multiple attempts to score. The Commonwealth players’ effort and persistence did not go unnoticed as Guam’s coach and a long-time national player praised the Blue Ayuyus.

“I want to begin by praising NMI, it was a good match because they have improved a lot lately,” Guam coach Karl Dodd said during the post-match press conference.

“Both teams worked hard and play well. Northern Mariana Islands have a young squad, they are trying to bring in new players, as we do. We are both limited in terms of resources, but it was a good game,” Matao’s Jason Cunliffe said in the same press conference.

As for CNMI coach Michiteru Mita, he said the Blue Ayuyus showed much improved chemistry as proven in the scoring opportunities they created and the way they played defense in the early minutes of the first and second half of their match against Guam. However, Mita admitted that the lack of game experience and playing under a rainy and cold weather took its toll on his team.

“Guam has some experienced players and the team was well organized. In this situation, at the beginning, we played better and controlled our opponents. We played as a team, but gradually Guam took advantage and also we lacked game experience and these had effects to the game results,” Mita said.

“But I’m very proud of the boys for giving their best till the end and also for trying to do our own football. We keep our heads up and now we focus on the next match against host Mongolia. I know they are the best team in this tournament, but we will improve game by game and do our football in the next match,” he added.

Team manager Norman Del Rosario explained what Mita considered as the CNMI’s own brand of soccer.

“The CNMI has its own style of football now, aggressive, yet patient and very resilient no matter what the score line is, we still give our best to get a goal. Coach Mita did a great job in preparing the team with this kind of high-level tournament. They followed the game plan and executed some plays that created chances,” Del Rosario said.

One of those scoring opportunities was a breakaway from John Michael Rojas, who was able to knock in a goal, but the shot was nullified, as the referee had already called an offside.

Despite the missed chances and the loss, team captain Jonathan Takano said they are sticking to the positives.

“We are a young team, we need to make more experience. If we look at the result, we lost, 4-0, but there also a lot of positives, our boys learned a lot from this match,” Takano said.

Del Rosario seconded.

“This team always have that positive vibes, they share some laughs, discuss the thing they can do, and encourage each other,” the team official said.

Meanwhile, the Blue Ayuyus game versus Mongolia will be played today at 5pm (7pm Saipan time), while the CNMI women’s team dueled the host in the second match last night and results of their showdown were unavailable as off press time.

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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