Kanoa Football Club showed poise in a tightly contested playoff game for the coveted boys U15 title in the 2019 NMIFA Spring Youth League, escaping past MP United Football Club, 3-2, last Saturday at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville.
Markus Toves delivered all three goals for Kanoa, as he broke MP United’s heart with back-to-back shots in a span of four minutes in the second half.
The second and final half of the match started with Kanoa and MP United in a deadlock. Toves found the back of the net right in the second minute of the first half to hand Kanoa the shaky lead, while Richard Steele nailed the equalizer 10 minutes later.
Steele then ended the standoff in the opening minute of the second half when he received a pass from Andy Kim and attacked with Kanoa defender Joe Emil Antonio chasing him, but was a step late. Goalie Merrick Toves was the last line on defense for Kanoa and gambled on moving forward in a bid to grab the ball, but before he could do that, Steele was quick to let go of a kick and the leather rolled straight to the net, putting MP United on top.
However, MP United’s hold to the driver’s seat did not last long, as four minutes later (43rd minute), Markus got his second goal off a series of good passes. The play started with Andrew Sablan stealing possession from an MP United player past the halfway line and sending the ball over to Jim Kurt Maniago. Maniago then dribbled to the left and fed Markus, who was sprinting on the opposite side against Jeremiah Diaz. With Diaz a few feet behind Markus and MP United goalie Dane Hodges deciding to stay at his post, the Kanoa lefty went for a cross using his right foot. Hodges dove, trying to get the save, but was unsuccessful, as he shifted to his right late after anticipating the ball will roll to his left.
Pandemonium broke after Markus hit the game-tying goal, as he was mobbed by his teammates. Four minutes later, another Kanoa celebration erupted, as Markus nailed another goal off an almost similar play.
Again, the smaller, but quicker Manigo initiated the attack, as he dribbled and ran to the left field, while Markus went to the opposite side. This time, it was Cody Shimizu who tried to chase Markus to prevent him from scoring, but the latter’s longer stride moved him way ahead of his defender and closer to Hodges. The MP United goalie then leaned to his left anew, as it seemed Markus was gearing toward the corner, but the Kanoa forward tricked Hodges and went for another cross to bring the lead back to his team.
Kanoa managed to protect the precarious lead, as it read majority of MP United’s offensive attacks, which were focused mainly on Steele. Every time the MP United player got the ball, Kanoa defenders hounded him and unfortunately, Steele’s teammates were nowhere to be found near the play to give the trailing squad more offensive options.
Steele then made one final push to tie the match, giving Kanoa quite a scare, as he was fouled by Daniel Mar Pablo while trying to break away. Steele was given a 20-yard free kick and sent the ball over Kanoa’s wall of defenders. However, the lob was a bit way off the upper left crossbar. A few seconds after the sorry miss, the final buzzer sounded, handing Kanoa the close win.
“It was definitely a tough victory. I am glad that the boys kept their focus in the game and their emotions in check,” said Kanoa coach Irish Pagarao, admitting that Steele’s goal early in the second half gave her some anxious moments.
“Of course, that goal got me worried for a while. However, I know we still have a lot of time to catch up and the boys just have to stay calm, work on our plays, and continue moving,” she added.
Kanoa had to play MP United for the third time this season to take the division title after the rivals ended up with similar 9-0-1 win-draw-loss records in the double-round robin competition.
The victory in the rubber last weekend was an advance birthday gift for Markus, who is celebrating his birthday today.