American Samoa lost 2-0 to Tonga on Match Day 2 of the OFC U19 Championship qualifiers in the Cook Islands on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.
American Samoa was done in by two set pieces, a corner kick seven minutes into the first half, and a direct kick five minutes into the second period.
Atunaisa Namoa of Tonga scored both goals, heading in a corner kick seven minutes into the game, and heading in a direct kick on the 50th minute of the game.
“I think both goals could have been avoided, but it was just bad luck for us that Tonga was able to convert those set pieces,” said American Samoa’s coach, Tunoa Lui.
American Samoa has lost two games of the qualifying tournament, with one remaining against the hosts, Cook Islands, on June 1, 2018.
American Samoa made several changes to its lineup, moving Walter Pati from the front to the back to help Gabriel Taumua and the other defenders, while starting two different players, Junior Choi at defender and Darryl Ulufale as a striker. They also moved Michael Settle from center mid to the right, while bringing in Roy Ledoux from left midfield to occupy the middle next to Kuresa Taga’i.
“Our midfielders, Roy (Ledoux) and Kuresa (Taga’i) played really well against Tonga, they were able to get to the ball and also distribute it up front,” Lui said. “Tonga was just faster and quicker than our players to the ball, winning more of it than we did.”
Settle twice nearly scored for American Samoa on headers, going wide of the goal mouth in the 19th minute. The second one was from a perfectly lobbed pass from Pati that he headed past the goalie, but he was called offside.
Ledoux also had a long range shot that fell just short and into the hands of the goalie during the 16th minute. Had he put more air underneath the ball, it would have had a chance at going into the back of the net.
In the second half American Samoa’s midfielders could not link up enough with their forwards, as their passes were either intercepted or the defenders were just too quick. American Samoa will have two days rest before taking to the field against the Cook Islands on June 1 at 4:30 PM (3:30 in American Samoa).
The management team was thankful that there were no serious injuries, and players are now in recovery mode for their third and final game of the qualifiers.