Pago Youth loses to Samoa’s Kiwi club
Pago Youth lost 5-1 to Samoa men’s club champions, Kiwi, in their first game of the 2013 O-League Preliminary at Loto-Tonga Center in ‘Atele, Tonga.
In the other match Cook Islands’ champs Tupapa Maraerenga drew with Tongan title club titleholders Lotoha’apai 3-3.
The winner out of this stage goes on to play New Caledonia’s Mont-Dore of New Caledonia to determine which team gets to compete in the 2013 O-League.
Pago Youth now prepares to take on Lotoha’apai on May 2, local time at 1 p.m.
“Our fitness was our downfall,” said the team’s coach, Ailao Tualaulelei. “We, as a squad, only were able to get together a week before we came to the tournament because a lot of our players were involved in different sports.
“Some were playing in our village’s rugby team while a lot of others were rowing (the Aeto fautasi) for Flag Day.”
He went on to say that the FFAS National League ended in early December and the team did not all come together again until the week before departing for Tonga.
“We had a good talk with our players and management team,” Tualaulelei explained. “I told them, ‘Now you’ve experienced what it feels like to really be out of breath,’” he said. “And they know that the speed in which they play out there, which is a slow paced game like that played back at home, is not fit for this.
“We have to up our tempo in order to finish out the game strong and again that points to our fitness levels.”
Ailao added that Kiwi and other teams were beneficial in that their competitions are still ongoing from last year.
“Kiwi has been running together for at least four to five months. If we had had three months together or even three weeks, I know things might have been a bit brighter of us out there.”One bright spot the coach pointed out was from their goal scorer, 16-year old Puni Samuelu, the son of the club’s president.
“He is the youngest player on our team and for him to score, what a great achievement,” Tualaulelei said.
When coach Thomas Rongen was here to train the American Samoa World Cup qualifying squad, he told the players and coaches that there is fitness and then there is soccer fitness.
Weather was not a factor as Pago Youth President Silasila Samuelu pointed out.
“The weather is great here, it’s a bit cooler than home and our accommodations and food are very satisfactory,” Samuelu explained.
He concurred with the coach that fitness was their weakness against Kiwi.
“Looking at it from a coach’s viewpoint, our biggest worry became true — the fitness of our players,” he said. “We didn’t have enough time together to train together because of all the other activities our players were involved in.”
“I would say that possession was held by Kiwi 60% of the time while the scoring opportunities for both teams was the same,” Samuelu said. “The difference was Kiwi converted theirs.
“We had three straight chances right when the second half started but it was just bad finishing.”
Both Tualaulelei and Samuelu thanked the people in American Samoa, their village of Pago Pago, the FFAS EXCO and staff for their support while competing in Tonga.
“We are not going to make any changes to our starting team and have taken that match against Kiwi as a form of preparation mentally and physically for our remaining two games,” Tualaulelei said. “We thank you all for your best wishes and we will go out and do our best against Tonga.”
(Source: FFAS media release)