Monumental effort equals historic win


In this July 23, 2014 file photo, players of the CNMI Men’s National Team celebrate after beating Macau, 2-1, in the Preliminary Round 1 of the 2015 EAFF East Asian Cup at the Guam Football Association Training Center. (Guam Football Association)

Trey Dunn lagged behind, catching his breath while holding on to his wobbling knees, as he tried to fight off fatigue. Lucas Knecht came up to him and egged him to soldier on as their opponents were making a comeback.

Earlier, Jonathan Takano went for an attack, but lost possession as he was greeted by a phalanx of defenders, bringing more frustrations on the team that has made repeated attempts to hit the board but to no avail.

The CNMI’s Lucas Knecht hustles for the ball during their game against Macau. (Guam Football Association)

Meanwhile, Bo Barry could hear from his back goalie Johann Noetzel yelling and telling them to keep the pressure up while the latter was also busy diving for the save one after another.

All these incidents happened in the Preliminary Round 1 of the 2015 EAFF East Asian Cup at the Guam Football Association Training Centre on July 23, 2014, as recalled by former members of the CNMI Men’s National Team that battled Macau in what turned out to be a historic game for the Commonwealth.

The Blue Ayuyus pulled off a 2-1 victory against Macau, giving the men’s team its first win in an international tournament.

The starting 11 of the CNMI poses for a photo before their game against Macau in the Preliminary Round 1 of the 2015 EAFF East Asian Cup at the Guam Football Association Training Center last July 23, 2014. (Guam Football Association)

Takano, Barry, Dunn, Knecht, and Kirk Schuler appeared on Episode 2 of Footcast with Norman last weekend and reflected on the high and lows that led to that signature victory.

“It took a monumental effort from all of us on the team to beat Macau,” said Schuler, who delivered the dagger to complete the upset.

Schuler connected on a diving header off a feed from Takano, whose persistence on offense was greatly rewarded by the former’s game-winner. Team captain Nick Swaim scored the earlier goal for the CNMI to equalize the match.

The CNMI’s Trey Dunn falls after reaching in to steal possession from a Macau player while his teammate Lucas Knecht stays close in the play. (Guam Football Association)

“We’ve been playing defense 90%, but coach Seki kept on telling us to look for that opportunities to score. I tried and kept on trying. Until now, I still get goosebumps every time I think about how I got the ball to Kirk and he made that unbelievable shot.

Schuler hit the go-ahead in the 65th minute of the 92-minute match (including two minutes of stoppage time), leaving Macau more room to equalize or even retake the lead to save its wounded pride.

However, the Blue Ayuyus showed poise in the remaining minutes of the thrilling game, as every player on the team, including those sitting on the bench, the coaching staff, and even the supporters who traveled to Guam, did their share in keeping the momentum to the CNMI side.

Schuler said that with all those efforts from everyone he felt like they were never more deserving of the win than that day.

Northern Mariana Islands Football Association president Jerry Tan hugs Kirk Schuler after the CNMI pulled off an an upset over Macau. (Guam Football Association)

“Everyone on the team fought for survival after we took the lead,” Schuler said.

“Everyone was tired, but kept on hustling, standing up against Macau’s attackers,” Barry added.

The players were so exhausted that after the referee blew the final whistle some of them fell on their knees before eventually joining their teammates in celebrating the significant win.

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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