American Samoa lost to the Cook Islands 2-1 in their last game of the OFC U19 Championship qualifiers on June 1, 2018 in the Cook Islands.
The Cook Islands jumped to a 2-0 lead in the game, and managed to hold on to that lead despite American Samoa turning up the pressure after halving the deficit to 2-1 in the 51st minute of the game.
Roy Ledoux pounced on a rebound and slotted it in through the near post to record American Samoa’s first goal of the tournament. The rebound came off of a deflected direct kick from Gabriel Taumua outside of the penalty area, and it rebounded off of the goalie’s hands. Ledoux and a host of American Samoa players were first to the ball, and came away with the score.
The Cook Islands scored their two goals in the 37th and 49th minutes. Teokotai Paio capitalized on a mistake in the box when American Samoa failed to clear the ball away, as he was first to the ball and scored from inside the goalie’s box.
In the 49th minute, four minutes into the second half, the Cook Islands were given a PK opportunity after an American Samoa handball inside the penalty area. Conroy Tiputoa converted the penalty kick for the hosts.
“Unfortunately the Cook Islands capitalized on our mistakes and that cost us the game,” said American Samoa’s U19 coach, Tunoa Lui. “Even though our boys made mistakes in the game, they still fought back hard. I give my hat off to my boys, they played well and I am proud of them.”
Junior Choi almost scored for American Samoa in the 25th minute, curling a shot from outside the box that just turned away from the top right corner of the far post at the last second.
Chris Faamoana took a shot that the goalie wrapped up in the 72nd minute, and three minutes later Kuresa Taga’i blasted one from the edge of the box that went straight to the goalkeeper’s gloves.
The team’s captain, Gabriel Taumua, and Walter Pati, played great in the back, and the Cook Islands found it hard to beat those two, who were assisted by Choi and Peni Collins.
Taga’i was all over the midfield, creating space for himself and dishing the ball off to his teammates, while Vaha Tua, starting in his first game of the competition, played well on the left, holding off players twice his size, and making some great runs.
Faamoana was a non-stop motorboat on the field, he sprinted his heart out in the forward position, and winning tackles that gave his team chance on the attack.
“There’s something to take note of with this team, American Samoa is not going to just defend anymore,” Lui pointed out. “If you see the three games we’ve played, we attacked and we had a lot of attacking opportunities. When we did go on the attack, it caused other teams to make mistakes, unfortunately we just couldn’t capitalize on those ourselves.”
Some of the best players on the team are 16 years old, such as Taumua and Pati, and those two, along with five other players, will represent American Samoa at the OFC Men’s U16 Championship qualifiers in Tonga next month.
“This was a good opportunity for our seven players that are going to be in Tonga for the U16 that are on this squad, it’s been a good stepping stone for them to prepare for the next tournament,” Lui said.
The team is expected to arrive in American Samoa on Monday, June 4, 2018.