The CNMI Boys U18 National Team left a good impression in its first training match after downing Kitchee Sports Club’s youth squad, 1-0, last Monday night at the Mong Kok Stadium in Hong Kong.
Joshua Abragan delivered the goal for the Teen Ayuyus around the 10th minute of the second half, but credit half of it to the team’s defense, as his shot came after their midfielders forced the host team to commit an error. The CNMI’s midfield was manned by James Ermitanio, Anthony Fruit, and John Michael Rojas, while the other starters for the team were goalkeeper Christopher Aninzo, Ryan Relucio, Hark Galarion, Dai Podziewski, Thaiphi Austria, Louie Calayag, and Eun Syu Hahn. Sunjoon Tenorio, Jonathan Capayas, and Kirt Andon were the substitutes.
Coming into the game with little knowledge about their foes and dealing with the cold weather, the Teen Ayuyus leaned first on their defense to frustrate Kitchee SC, whose players are either selected to suit up for the Hong Kong national team or its men’s squad that is competing in the Hong Kong Premier League. The club also has the Kitchee Soccer Academy, making the group one of the top youth squads in Hong Kong.
“We arrived early at the facility at 5:30pm (HK time) only to find out that we may need to leave because an athletics group had reserve the venue from 6pm to 8pm. Luckily, with the permission from the athletics group, we were allowed to stay but hidden at one end by the locker rooms. At first we were outside, dealing with the cold, trying to stay warm and waiting for our time to use the field, but after a half hour or so, the grounds keeper had spotted us sitting in the hallway and eventually allowed us to use the locker room. Coach Mita explained to the team that things like this happens, especially when you are the away team and we should do our best to be prepared, adjust to the situation, and stay focused,” team manager Ruselle Zapanta said in a message sent to Saipan Tribune.
The Teen Ayuyus persevered against the odds, holding their ground against Kitchee. Zapanta said the team played pressured defense against the home team and made solid tackles to prevent their opponents from scoring in the first half.
Then after blanking Kitchee in the first half, a more confident CNMI crew showed up in the second part of the game en route to winning their first training match.
“They got more possessions and created more opportunities to score. Eventually, the pressure from our midfield forced mistakes and the team was able to counter with Abragan slotting the ball passed the keeper,” Zapanta said.
The Teen Ayuyus hung on to the shaky lead despite the repeated attempts of Kitchee to score. This time it was the back defenders’ turn to foil Kitchee’s bid to hit the board and avert a loss against the visiting squad.
The close win against Kitchee was timely for the CNMI, as the latter was scheduled to face an equally tough Chelsea FC Soccer School Hong Kong U18 last night for its second training match.
“It was a great result and gave positive vibes to the team,” said Zapanta, who thanked Chelsea FC Soccer School Hong Kong and its coaches and staff for their assistance and warm accommodation.