Head coach and Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director Michiteru Mita is pleased with the results of their training matches against Guam last week.
The NMI Boys U18 National Team earned a draw and a win in the pair of games at the Guam Football Association National Training Center in Dededo and in both matches, Mita was proud of how the group embraced the “team concept” that the coaching staff have been preaching since the pool was formed about two years ago. The NMI first dueled the Guam U20 Manhoben with last Tuesday’s match ending in a draw, 3-3. Then in the second and last training match against Guam U17, the NMI pulled off a 2-1 victory.
Brian Lubao and Kaden Church delivered the two goals for the NMI in their close win over Guam U17 last Thursday. Lubao scored first off a pass from Church, who was hounded by a couple of Guam defenders and swung the ball over to his teammate that was left open a few steps in at right mid.
The NMI’s second goal also came off a good passing play between Ariel Narvaez Jr. and Church. The NMI attacked with Guam’s left defense intercepting a pass intended for Narvaez, who managed to recover the possession and with two other Guam players closing in on him, he lobbed the ball to Church. The NMI forward used his body to receive the pass before taking the shot that missed the hand of the diving Guam goalie. After giving up two goals to the NMI, Guam could only counter with one, allowing the visiting team to escape with the win.
“The boys proved that even if we are from a small island, but we play collectively, with discipline and confidence, and we give our 100%, we can compete against Guam,” Mita said.
For their other training game, Mita’s wards raced to a 2-0 lead and was still head at 3-1 early in the second half before Guam fought back and forced a draw. Taka Borja delivered the first goal for the NMI when he converted a header from a corner kick play, while Kohtaro Goto fired the last two goals for the visiting group. Guam U20 got its goals from Morgan McKenna, Brian Nakamine, and Levi Buckwalter.
“The team is not perfect, but has been showing good potential and is heading to right direction. To go to the next level, the boys need to further improve technically, including their ability to play under pressure and work on small spaces. They also need to play with consistency throughout the 90-minute match and extra time,” Mita said.
“Football is a team sport. We have to have quality individuals who can play as a team. If a player is technically good but cannot play as a part of a team, the team cannot make good combinations. In this camp, the boys played as a team and got good results,” the NMIFA technical director added.
The training matches against Guam were a first for the NMI Boys U18 since the COVID-19 pandemic struck early last year and Mita thanked GFA for giving his players the opportunity to play outside Saipan.