Kanoa Football Club grabbed the co-ed U12 division championship from MP United after pulling off a 3-2 victory in their playoff match in the 2016 NMIFA Youth Fall League last Saturday at the Hopwood Junior High School Field.
Kanoa took its first U12 title, which MP United held for three straight seasons (2015 spring and fall and 2016 fall). MP United and Kanoa had to play the rubber for the fall championship after they ended up with the same record (7-0-1 win-draw-loss mark) in the double-round robin regular season.
Jim Kurt Maniago, probably the smallest player on the field, but the fastest too, towed Kanoa to the division championship after scoring a pair of goals in the playoff game. His first came just one minute after MP United equalized, 1-1, off Rohan Basnet’s goal in the 40th minute.
Basnet’s goal was recorded after his numerous attempts in the first half went into futility. The first half ended with Kanoa holding on to a 1-0 advantage, thanks to John Mark Anastacio’s goal in the 25th minute off a follow up from Daniel Mar Pablo’s miss. Pablo let go a right cross, but MP United goalie Richard Steele deflected the ball. Fortunately, Anastacio was at the right place at the right time to kick the ball anew and made the goal.
Kanoa retained the shaky lead in the early goings of the second half before Basnet’s persistence was rewarded 15 minutes into the second half.
After Basnet’s shot, Kanoa quickly ran an offensive set with Pablo making a forward past. Maniago then went after the ball, while MP United’s Jeremiah Diaz was lagging behind thinking the Kanoa player will dribble out, but he did not. Instead, Maniago went for a cross, catching Steele flatfooted and giving Kanoa the lead anew.
Maniago was not done yet as three minutes later he chased another forward pass, this time coming from goalie Merrick Toves, whose long heave drop at the center near the box and again with no MP United defenders in sight. Without any help defense from his teammates, Steele was forced to move closer to Maniago, who managed to kick the ball just before the former clamped down on him for Kanoa’s 3-1 advantage at the 43rd mark of the division-title deciding game.
Now down by two with the clock ticking, MP United made repeated attempts to score, but Kanoa’s defense was almost always there to stop its foe. Kanoa knew well that MP United will frequently go to either Basnet or Rintaro Miyawaki. Miyawaki then finally delivered off a pass from Basnet, but the former’s goal was a little bit late as it came with only four minutes left in the match.
Kanoa went on to spend the remainder of the game preventing MP United from getting clear position to save its lead and eventually dethrone the three-time champion and join its opponent and TanHoldings (2014 fall season champion) in the elite circle of the division.