CNMI soccer welcomes back into its fold MP United Football Club’s Richard Steele.
After relocating to California a little over a year ago, Steele and his family returned to Saipan last August and the striker has since joined the practice sessions of the Commonwealth’s national team training pool at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville.
“It’s great to be back. I’m having a lot of fun with the national team program. Playing with the island’s top players is a cool and competitive experience. The guys on the team, I not only see them as teammates but as good friends as well,” the 16-year-old said.
Steele last played in the 2019 Northern Mariana Islands Football Association Spring Youth League and left a mark in the competition by winning the Golden Boot award in the boys U15 division after scoring a season-high 23 goals.
When he and his family left Saipan in the summer of 2019, the youth player continued his passion and played in club and interscholastic leagues in California. Steele suited up for the junior varsity team of Santa Ynez Valley High School and was named Best Offensive Player of the Pirates.
Though he had a brief stint in various leagues in California, Steele learned a lot from his teams and coaches and the experience and knowledge he gained there are definitely helping him now that he is back on island.
“I wouldn’t say that playing in the States made me a ‘cocky’ player, but I feel that since I was playing against a bunch of bigger and stronger teams in California, I’m not afraid of playing soccer here and I feel like I’m able to compete in the highest level here on island,” said Steele, who also played for the Kickers Soccer Club of Los Olivos and the Santa Ynez’s varsity tennis team.
“I learned in California that coaches love players who are dedicated and focused on the game, and I do my best to carry that attitude into my trainings here,” he added.
CNMI national team assistant coach Jersh Angeles is pleased to finally see Steele in the program.
“I am really glad Richard and his family are back on the island and that he is now part of the national team training pool. He’s been planning to join the national team years ago but it was that time when he and his family were about to move to the US. Richard is committed to the national team, always attentive to the coaches and always does his best during training. His quickness and aggressiveness are his strong points. I’ve already seen huge improvement from him since the day he first joined the team,” Angeles said.
Steele can’t wait to resume playing in regular games at the NMISTC with the national team training pool and MP United and is happy to again enjoy the island life.
“Going to the beach with friends and family has always meant a lot to me, and I try and treasure every moment that I spent with my friends that I grew up with. What I miss the most about CNMI soccer is the passion that my team, MPU plays with. I grew up with most of the guys on the team, and I see everyone on the squad as my brothers. I’ve always had a ton of fun playing with these guys, win or lose.”