The shot stoppers of the upcoming football generation came to the fore at the quarterfinal stage of the Republic Bank Youth League (RBYL) on Saturday 15 June, as four of the nine matches at Constantine Park, Macoya were decided by the dreaded kicks from the spot.
After their comfortable victory over Petit Valley/Diego Martin United (PVDMU) in the national Under-17 final on 5 June, Trendsetter Hawks set their sights on a sweep of all four age group categories in this year’s RBYL competition.
Their lofty aspirations came crashing down to earth early in Saturday’s proceedings, though, as Trendsetter’s Under-15 outfit fell 2-1 to Trincity Nationals to become the first team to succumb in a penalty shootout.
Trincity, who were last year’s National Under-14 victors and kept most of that core intact this season, were never going to be easy prey for coach Travis Mulraine’s Hawks. And like true champions, Trincity showed their resilience as they offered a rapid response to Trendsetter’s opening goal to take the game to the penalty shootout.
Trendsetter attacker Christon Calder gave his team the lead with a close range effort against the run of play in the 59th minute. But Trincity got the leveller in a matter of seconds through lively flanker Caleb Hill whose speculative long range volley ballooned over custodian Xavion Haynes and clipped the underside of the bar before going in.
It was no more than the Trincity outfit deserved, and they could have snatched their semifinal spot three minutes before time. But attacker Keshaun Lashley shot straight at Haynes from point blank range, after a nice solo run.
Haynes went on to save two spot kicks in the ensuing shootout. Still, he wasn’t able to come away the hero as Trincity custodian Nicholas Whiteman stole the show with a whopping four penalty saves before calmly stroked his own attempt past Haynes to seal the contest.
Trendsetter did fare much better in the Under-11 and Under-13 divisions, as they registered wins in all three quarterfinals contested—two of those, in the Under-13 division, coming from the penalty spot.
In an almighty Under-13 tussle with FC Santa Rosa, Trendsetter ‘A’ took the lead through a close range item by Zion Harley in the eight minute, only to be pegged back by an Areelo Niles leveller, some two minutes later.
Unlike their Under-15 colleagues, Trendsetter ‘A’ upped the ante after Rosa’s equaliser and twice rocked opposing goalkeeper Joshua Charlerie’s woodwork—the first occasion came off a demonic left-footed shot from distance by towering Trendsetter midfielder Ryan Radellant in the 13th minute.
Rosa’s luck finally ran out in the shootout as Trendsetter ‘A’ held their nerves to emerge 5-4 victors in sudden death.
Trendsetter ‘B’ followed suit in their Under-13 quarterfinal match against San Fernando Sports Academy (SFSA), as they snatched a 4-2 winners shootout win after a goalless stalemate.
There were no goals but it was far from dull and the southerns may regret squandering decent scoring opportunities, as attackers Akini Ramsey and Jaheem St Bernard were both thwarted by Trendsetter goalie Sherkieem Dick after lovely solo runs by SFSA skipper Malachi Webb in the second half.
Dick was well beaten by Webb and Ramsey in the shootout but had the last laugh with two impressive saves to send Trendsetter ‘B’ into the semifinal round, which is tentatively scheduled for 29 June.
Point Fortin Youth Football Academy had a more enjoyable trip east than their southern counterparts, as they spanked Matura ReUnited 3-0 thanks to a stylish second half hattrick by Jeremiah Niles.
The Point Fortin outfit spent most of the game on the front foot although poor finished left open the chance that Matura might nick something on the counter.
Enter Jeremiah Niles. The youngster was having absolutely none of that and he turned the game on its head with three goals in a 12-minute span.
Niles opened the scoring in the 47th minute with a close range effort before celebrating with a somersault. More impressive than the somersault was Niles’ next item, as he curled a sweet left-footed shot into the far corner from the edge of the area in the 57th minute. And mere seconds later, the youngster had his third as he headed past hapless opposing goalkeeper Emmanuel Lewis from point blank range.
The Point Fortin U-13s are the lone southern representative through to the national semifinals and they will certainly hope that Niles is at his flipping best when they face Trendsetter ‘A’ in the semis.
Jared Titans, who won all three divisions in the Tobago zone this season, will tackle Trendsetter ‘B’ in the other U-13 affair this weekend, after the Tobago champions downed Giving Back Sporting Club 4-3 via kicks from the penalty mark after a 3-3 regulation time draw in regulation time in Bon Accord on Saturday.
Winners of all three divisions in the Tobago zone this season, the Titans were losing finalists in the National Under-14 finale last season. And they are still alive in this year’s RBYL Under-15 competition as they downed RSSR 2-1 on the ‘Sister Isle’.
Joining the Titans and Trincity in the Under-15 semifinal round are Santa Cruz United and Ginga FC, who emerged victorious from nervy quarterfinal match-ups in Macoya.
Ginga, the RBYL debutants who topped the East Zone Under-15 table, had to come from a goal down against Ste Madeleine Strikers before prevailing 4-1 on penalties.
Ste Madeline took the lead in the 31st minute through Nathaniel Riley, who tapped home from close quarters after Jah-Malee Barclay’s goalbound effort was stopped by the feet of goalkeeper Shayrik Christopher.
But Ginga kept plugging away and got their equaliser in the 58th minute through a Kyle Waldron strike before snatching victory in the dreaded lottery.
Santa Cruz did not need a shootout in their Under-15 quarterfinal as they squeezed past Giving Back, thanks largely to a brilliant showing by goalkeeper Tristan Edwards who battled through a shoulder injury.
Attacker Shakeil Walters put Santa Cruz ahead with a rasping shot into the top corner in the 12th minute. However, Giving Back outfit aren’t South Under-15 champions for nothing and they gave their northern opponents as good as they got.
Tyrese Alexander restored parity for Giving Back with a 55th minute item, and it seemed as though the southerners would seize the momentum and go on to nick a winner.
However, buoyed by Edwards’ performance between the sticks, Santa Cruz got the game clincher themselves when their skipper and potent attacker Christian Browne fired home from inside the area in the 58th minute to cue wild celebrations.
Santa Cruz qualified as the North Zone’s third place team behind RSSR and Trendsetter, after a nervy comeback victory against St Mary’s College in their final preliminary match on 25 May. Now, they are just two wins away from tasting national silverware—although they will be sweating over the fitness of Edwards.
The northern teams are certainly showing their dominance in the Under-11 category with Pro Series, Queen’s Park Cricket Club (QPCC) and Trendsetter Hawks all advanced to the semifinals. SKHY FC will carry the flag for the East Zone in that division after a 3-2 win over Gasparillo Youths in a seesaw encounter.
Kai Williams was SKHY’s man of the moment who bagged a hat-trick to will his team over the line, despite Gasparillo taking an early lead through items by Malik Young and Jaheim Noel.
Fellow eastern outfit, Febeau Government Primary School, never stood a chance, though, as they were drubbed 4-0 by a Pro Series team that has been a breath of fresh air in this year’s RBYL competition.
On Saturday, the Paul Decle-coached Pro Series continued to impress with their fluent brand, with Jasai Theophilous scoring the pick of their four items with an audacious long range free kick that seemed to leave opposing players and spectators spellbound.
“I get this one on camera though,” said one member of Pro Series’ coaching staff. “I know you have that in your locker boy. Well done son!”
QPCC took care of business against Jaric Titans in Tobago while Trendsetter edged Marabella Family Crisis Centre 1-0 in a contest that warranted more goals.
Trendsetter’s diminutive forward Jaseem Celestine was a handful for Marabella all game with his nifty footwork in and around the area. And although he was a bit wasteful on the day, Celestine inadvertently gave his team the lead and their eventual ticket to the semis.
In the 10th minute, Celestine was in the right place at the right time, as dogged Trendsetter midfielder Jaeden Samuel uncorked a bullet of a long range shot which ricocheted off the wily forward’s back and trickled past Marabella keeper Tevez Houlder.
Marabella came close to levelling on a couple occasions in the first half.
In the 13th minute, Dejosiah Cyrus—son of Marabella head coach and former Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team striker Dexter Cyrus—spanked a low free quick which squirmed under the wall and hit the base of the post.
It was an end-to-end game that was there for the taking, and coach Cyrus tried to get that message across during a halftime chat with his players.
“Fellahs, this game is evenly matched but we have to keep on applying the pressure,” said the Marabella coach.
Celestine seemed to be the one applying pressure in the second half, though, as his mazy runs down the right flank bamboozled the opposing defence and even won him fans among the Marabella faithful.
“You can’t do all that dribbling and miss boy” said one member of Trendsetter technical staff, after Celestine weaved his way through the opposing defence but fired inches over bar. “You have to put in one for me.”
Marabella had one last chance to draw level in the 46th minute but attacker Samuel Balfour shot just wide after being played in by teammate Macario Morton.
Thankfully for Trendsetter, they were just about able to avoid the shootout on this occasion. Next up is a meeting with fierce zonal rivals, QPCC.
The semifinal round awaits.
RBYL National Quarter-final results
(Saturday 15 June)
Pro Series 4 (Preston Watkins 5, Jasai Theophilous 25, Hashim Portillo 40, Jake Barclay 45), Febeau Government Primary 0;
SKHY FC 3 (Kai Williams 2, 26, 39), Gasparillo Youths 2 (Malik Young 18, Jaheim Noel 20);
Marabella Family Crisis Centre 0, Trendsetter Hawks 1 (Jaseem Celestine 10);
QPCC 3 (Lucas Simon-Thompson, Edmund Chamely, Zayden Suite), Jaric Titans 2 (Kai James, Marcus Phillips);
Point Fortin Youth Academy 3 (Jeremiah Niles 47, 57, 58), Matura ReUnited 0;
FC Santa Rosa 1 (Areelo Niles 10), Trendsetter Hawks ‘A’ 1 (Zion Harley 8);
*—Trendsetter won 5-4 on penalty kicks.
Trendsetter Hawks ‘B’ 0, San F’do SA 0;
*—Trendsetter won 4-2 on penalty kicks.
Jaric Titans 3 (Denton Alleyne , Brendon Allum), Giving Back SC 3 (Akeal Neverson , Alejandro Simeone);
Trendsetter Hawks 1 (Christon Calder 59), Trincity Nationals 1 (Caleb Hill 60);
*—Trincity Nationals won 2-1 on penalty kicks.
FC Ginga 1 (Kyle Waldron 58), Ste Madeline Strikers 1 (Nathaniel Riley 31);
*—FC Ginga won 4-1 on penalty kicks.
Giving Back SC 1 (Tyrese Alexander 55), Santa Cruz United 2 (Shakeil Walters 12, Christian Browne 59);
Jaric Titans 2 (Orlando James 6, Yeshua Prescod 55), RSSR 1 (Shiron Hendrickson 29).
Pro Series (North) vs SKHY FC (East);
QPCC (North) vs Trendsetter Hawks (North);
Point Fortin Youth FA (South) vs Trendsetter Hawks ‘A’ (North);
Trendsetter Hawks ‘B’ (North) vs Jaric Titans (Tobago);
Trincity Nationals (East) vs FC Ginga (East);
Santa Cruz Utd (North) vs Jaric Titans (Tobago).