American Samoa lost their OFC U19 Men’s Championship qualifiers opener to Samoa 3-0 after running out of gas in the game’s last 13 minutes.
They stood toe to toe with Samoa, led in defense by the team’s captain, Gabriel Taumua, from the first half to the majority of the second. He pushed his defenders to their limit, and had to pull deep from his own reserves to cover them many a time.
Up front Walter Pati and Christopher Faamoana pushed their opponents’ back four to their limits as well, coming close to scoring on several occasions themselves.
Goalkeeper MJ Faoa-Danielson made several good saves too during the intense game, but the team’s fitness was their undoing in the final 13 minutes.
“Samoa is a very talented team, technically sound and they were very fit,” said American Samoa’s U19 head coach, Tunoa Lui. “But today our players played with a lot of heart, and gave everything they had out on the field. It is a tough loss for us, but I am proud of the way they played, we all are, our management team.”
Henry Smith broke the scoreless tie from the first half with a goal in the 77th minute, and completed his hat trick with scores in the 81st and second minute of stoppage time.
American Samoa had their chances in the first half, as Pati had a low shot blocked in the 16th minute, while Faamoana controlled a shot with his chest, turned and blasted one towards goal, but hit it too high as it sailed harmlessly over the cross bar.
Pati also had another shot inside the penalty area in the 32nd minute saved by Samoa’s goalie.
On defense, Taumua made a brilliant tackle in the 23rd minute on a Samoa counter to stop a promising attack. In the second half, Faoa-Danielson saved a driving shot from Samoa during the 50th minute.
Milo Tiatia hustled back from 10 yards away to make a great save by blocking a shot with his foot a yard in front of the goalie’s 6-yard box in the 55th. But their heroics fell short as their tanks emptied in the game’s last 13 minutes.
American Samoa’s next game is against Tonga on Tuesday, May 29 at 1:30 pm Cook Islands time (12:30 in American Samoa).
“Our tournament is not over, Tonga is a tough team and we have told the boys we still have two more games left,” Lui said. “Even though we are proud of the way they played, they still made a lot of mistakes and those goals against us could have been avoided.”
The team has two days rest before they take to the field against Tonga, coming off of a 3-0 win over hosts Cook Islands.