San Juan Jabloteh can create history on Saturday August 29 as the 2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup comes to a dramatic finale with six semifinal fixtures and three finals at the Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar.
Jabloteh ensured that the “San Juan Kings” will be competing on all three fronts after they progressed through the quarterfinal rounds of the Under-11, Under-13 and Under-15 competitions today at Constantine Park, Macoya. No team has ever managed a clean sweep of titles before in the 20 year history of the competition.
It goes without saying that it won’t be easy then. And Jabloteh did not exactly saunter into the final four either, as the club’s Under-11 and Under-15 teams both needed penalties to advance.
Standing in their way next weekend will be some familiar faces as well as newcomers. Arguably, Jabloteh’s biggest obstacle is an employee at the club.
Anthony “Dada” Wickham is a valued youth coach within the Bourg Mulatresse-based club. But he is also a founding member of the Trendsetter Hawks and he takes that job very seriously too.
“Dada has been with us for more than a year and he is in charge of our under-13s,” Jabloteh CEO Azaad Khan told Wired868. “He is very good with little children… We know Trendsetter Hawks is his life and we don’t have an issue when he plays with them in these competitions.
“It is the same with Dave Quamina who coaches our under-15s and also coaches La Horquetta.”
Jabloteh’s Under-11 team needed penalties to overcome La Horquetta this morning and might have an even tougher time if they meet Dada’s Hawks in the final.
The Hawks are defending the National Under-11 title and gave a glimpse of their steely resolve this morning against a talented and enthusiastic Malabar Young Stars outfit.
In some ways, the contest was over as soon as it began.
Barely two minutes after the opening whistle, Hawks attacker Quddoos Hypolite went down over an outstretched leg, just inside the penalty area, and the referee pointed to the spot.
Malabar custodian Shadrach Rambaransingh barely had time to blink before Hawks captain Jaheim “Jah Jah” Marshall’s penalty kick whizzed past him for the opening goal.
Where was Marshall when “Soca Warriors” coach Stephen Hart needed specialist marksmen at the CONCACAF Gold Cup?
Malabar could not pull a goal back but not for want of trying. And, in coach Yunus Abdullah, the East Zone outfit did not lack motivation.
Abdullah’s philosophy seemed simple enough. Get it right, or get off.
“I’m not taking that from you today!” shouted Abdullah, as he hauled young defender Shakiem Jack off the field after he dozily kept the Hawks attacking line onside.
“Anthony (Wells), this is the worse game I’ve seen you play in your life!” yelled Abdullah. “You know what your problem is? You’re not listening!”
But was the problem that the Malabar children were listening more than they were playing?
“You doing real stupidness,” Malabar midfielder David Lawrence told teammate Anthony Wells, as they gathered around the water cooler at halftime. “You only running down the line and losing the ball!”
Wells brushed aside the put-down with a sneer and a ‘steups.’
“Boy, that is what the coach telling me to do,” said Wells.
There was less creative tension within the Hawks’ ranks. Wickham’s instructions were often collective rather than individual and there was no obvious sign of dissent.
“Not every ball we have to run to goal with,” said Wickham. “Pass, pass… We need to get comfortable; and the only way to get comfortable is to score again.”
Marshall did double the Hawks’ lead with another rocket in the second half. This time, Jah Jah’s shot flew through Rambaransingh’s hands and into the back of the net off the underside of the bar.
Hypolite, a true live wire upfront, headed one effort off the bar while midfield maestro Luke Williams was never short of tricks. But it never did get comfortable for the Port of Spain-based club as Malabar defended energetically with numbers and attacked the flanks at every opportunity.
“We didn’t really get together the passes that we wanted to,” said Wickham, who coached in all 20 years of the competition. “I think the players were a little anxious because it is a quarterfinal and if you lose, you’re out… In the end, I think we had a bit more experience than them.”
Abdullah lamented some of the refereeing decisions that went Hawks’ way. But he took his defeat in good grace otherwise.
“I thought we did well,” he said. “Most of our players are nine (years old). So we will be alright next year.”
Almost certainly, Malabar will not be caught dead without what appeared to be the most valuable weapon at Under-11 level—a player who can relieve pressure and initiate attacks by launching spot kicks into the other half of the field.
“We couldn’t bring out the ball (from the back) today,” said Abdullah. “But we were missing Tayshaun Cummings who is really good for us with that.”
Hawks play Uprising Youths in one Under-11 semifinal match next Saturday while Jabloteh tackles Cap Off Youths in the other fixture. A final between Hawks and Jabloteh might be akin to seeing Venus and Serena Williams clash.
Then again, Uprising and Cap Off both have a shot at two trophies as they also have teams in the Under-15 category.
Cap Off, the Central Zone juggernauts, downed Marabella Family Crisis Centre in the Under-11 category and then edged 1976 FC Phoenix in the Under-15 division. But, in the Under-13s, St Ann’s Rangers knocked Cap Off out—as clumsy as that sounds—to deny them the chance for a treble.
Uprising got their Under-15 team through to the semifinals too, after a 1-0 win over Crown Trace FC in another tense battle.
The Under-13 clash between southern newcomers WEZ Pro and Tobago’s St Clair Coaching School was probably as close as it got though. It was one of four youth matches decided today by kicks from the penalty mark.
Rashad Webb opened the scoring in the 15th minute with an improvised flick into the roof of the opposing net, off a right side Atiba Augustus corner kick. But the talented midfield duo of Joshua Moses and Jaheim Harry brought St Clair level from another set piece.
Moses rolled the ball to Harry, off a free kick, and Harry had time and space to take another touch, look up and pick his corner with a blast into the near post vee.
Maybe WEZ Pro’s ‘ball attackers’ had wandered off for a snow cone.
Harry was a hulking figure in his age group who could kick like a mule and possessed decent footwork and understanding of the game. But he never ran after his passes to support teammates and only defended when his personal pride was at stake.
There were more than a few youth coaches today who could not quite extract the necessary effort from their ‘star’ players.
Dada was not one of them.
And, while his Hawks did face stubborn opposition from Malabar, there were few problems for his dazzling Under-13 Jabloteh team.
Quick, robust and cohesive, the young San Juan Kings, marshalled by pacy central defender Nathan Guy, were too much for Ralph’s Coaching School.
Upfront, Tyrique Sutherland wore the ‘number seven’ shirt and a short pants which was so absurdly tight that he could only be a Cristiano Ronaldo fan. There were a few more factors worthy of comparison as well.
Sutherland was tall, strong and fast with a powerful shot and decent first touch. Although, unlike the Real Madrid ace, his concentration wandered often.
Sutherland did score twice anyway. And his first item, a low strike into the far corner after running on to a through pass, was a fine goal.
Jabloteh winger Kaihim Thomas was referred to as “Diamond” by his teammates and supporters and, with his number 11 shirt, it is easy to picture his icon as Barcelona attacker Neymar.
Diamond produced the move of the day. Confronted by an opposing left back, he stepped over the ball once, then twice, before flicking it, with the outside of his right boot, through the leg of his opponent.
There was an uproar in the stands.
Thomas got on the score sheet too although the Coaching School custodian should have done better, as the speculative shot from outside the area spun deceptively off the bumpy surface and squirmed past him into the near corner.
Thomas did not even celebrate.
But Jabloteh’s outfits can have a lot to be pleased about next Saturday as they chase history on the 20th anniversary of the Republic Bank National Youth Cup.
2015 Republic Bank National Youth Cup Quarterfinal results
Saturday August 22
La Horquetta 1 (Ayden Williams 31), San Juan Jabloteh 1 (Jordan Ferguson 5);
*—Jabloteh won 3-0 via kicks from the penalty mark
Trendsetter Hawks 2 (Jaheim Marshall 3 pen, 25), Malabar Young Stars 0;
Cap Off Youths 2 (Omari Charles 14, Tyrek Harding 30), Marabella Family Crisis Centre 0;
Uprising Youths 0, 1976 FC Phoenix 0;
Uprising won 4-3 via kicks from the penalty mark
Marabella Family Crisis Centre 1 (Naseem Duncan 47), St Ann’s Rangers 4 (Keron Manswell 14, 31, 46, Jaheem Mc Fee 47);
SKHY FC 3 (Justin Wilson 32, Jasiel Edwards 39, Justin Seabrun 42), Adrenaline FA 0;
San Juan Jabloteh 3 (Tyrique Sutherland 13, 22, Kaihim Thomas 29), Ralph’s Coaching School 1 (Kyle Jattan 40);
St Clair Coaching School 1 (Jaheim Harry 20), WEZ Pro 1 (Rashad Webb 15);
Cap Off Youths 0, St Ann’s Rangers 2 (Saleem Peters 12, 50);
Trendsetter Hawks 0, WASA FC 3;
*—WASA won by default
San Juan Jabloteh 0, Santa Cruz FA 0;
*—Jabloteh 3-2 via kicks from the penalty mark
Cap Off Youths 3 (Amant Cox 11, Triston Lewis 21, Kern Cedeno 41), 1976 FC Phoenix 1 (Basil Cox 33);
Crown Trace FC 0, Uprising Youths 1 (Zyon Bristol 50).