“It was an easy game,” said Cunupia FC coach Michael De Four, as he mused over his outfit’s 5-2 thrashing of FC Santa Rosa in Ascension Invitational action last night. “[…] We didn’t get much from the game in terms of learning as a team because they didn’t offer us any real opposition. [If we had] put away our chances early, the score would have been eight or nine goals…”
Familiarity, goes the maxim, breeds contempt. And it seems fair to assume that the two long-standing Super League neighbours, De Four and Rosa president Keith Look Loy, do not send each other Christmas greetings.
Post-game barbs aside, the night belonged to the young men on the field as the two second-tier teams served up a captivating feast of attacking football at the Arima Velodrome with seven goals – each memorable in its own right.
At the final whistle, Cunupia captain Kevon “Showtime” Woodley would have been the happiest man in Arima, as his fine double and enigmatic showing was just too much for the home team to handle. Yet the 400-plus patrons who turned out might remember the night that 19-year-old John-Paul Rochford opened his senior football account with a sumptuous brace for Rosa.
Ultimately, though, the “Big Cannons“ were outgunned on their own turf.
“Congrats to Cunupia [but] defensively we were awful,” said Rosa manager Charissa Delzin. “Defensive mistakes cost us the game… They had one game plan, which was kick the ball long. And for some reason, [our] defence did not adjust to their one game plan.
“They kept getting beat by the same ball for the entire game.”
Of course, part of the problem was who Cunupia’s long balls were directed to: the towering bag of tricks who goes by the pseudonym, Showtime.
Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence raised eyebrows when, just months into the job, he summoned part-time Rosa forward Keron Clarke for an international friendly away to Ecuador. But maybe he missed a trick in not taking Woodley to the United States for last month’s Concacaf Gold Cup.
Sure, he is 33 years old, plays “beach soccer“ and looks more like a bricklayer than a suave hitman. But are there many better six-foot frontmen who can hold up the ball, throw their weight around and pull the occasional rabbit from the hat?
Well, there were none better last night anyway.
Journeyman utility player Dwane James started in central midfield last night and oozed class in the first half-hour – somehow managing to glide across the field sidestepping flying tackles, like the Road Runner making a mockery of Wile E Coyote.
“[James] brings composure and quality, which we really don’t have much of on the team, besides Kevon Woodley,” said De Four. “Most of the players we have are guys who just want to play and are willing to work hard. We play a fast-paced game or try to and he will bring that calmness and help moderate the game.”
Still, it was Woodley who decided the game.
Cunupia got off to a flying start as Woodley had one “goal“ disallowed and failed to take advantage of another good opportunity while attacking midfielder Hakeem Legall forced a fine save from Rosa custodian Jesse Peters – all within the first 10 minutes.
Woodley, the target of virtually every aerial ball, then headed the “Cunupia Predators“ ahead in the 29th minute after beating his marker to an inswinging corner kick.
Rosa do not list a head coach on their team sheet, and Delzin and assistant coach Timothy Rochford presumably share the duties – with Look Loy, as always, just a shout away behind the technical area. Last year’s title-winning Rosa coach, Derek King, is now assistant to Stephen Hart at Canadian outfit HFX Wanderers, while his replacement, Shurland David, failed to make it past their pre-season.
But the Cannons technical department sensed that things were going awry and, in the 31st minute, the pint-sized JP Rochford replaced attacking midfielder Carlon Nicholas.
“The formation that we started with wasn’t working, so we decided to take off one of the attacking midfielders to solidify and went to three in the midfield,” said Delzin, as their 4-2-2-2 system became 4-3-1-2.
The swap meant the centre of the field became a bit too crowded for James’ liking, as the dreadlocked maestro began drifting into more innocuous areas to get a touch.
But, as Rosa looked to have finally limited the danger from the Predators, disaster struck.
Peters conceded possession to Cunupia attacker Michael Yaw Darko in the 51st minute and the Ghanaian motored past opposing defender Shabaka Mahluli to drive low into the far corner.
And within the next five minutes, Rosa conceded two more. Mikhail Peters stepped in off the left flank and unleashed a speculative strike that his namesake, Peters (J) allowed to squirm between his legs in the 54th minute. Then, two minutes later, Peters (M) again cut inside and released Woodley, who beat the Rosa goalie with a screaming effort at his near post.
Cunupia 4, Santa Rosa 0.
“We are familiar with Santa Rosa, so it is easy to understand who are their key players and so on,” said De Four. “Having played them in the past, they haven’t changed their style – so we know where they would have been strong and where they would have been weak.
“It was just a matter of time before the floodgates opened in the game…”
Darko should have increased the visitors’ lead to five in the 57th minute but was too casual when clear through, and Peters restored some pride with a low save.
In the 65th minute, Rosa supporters finally had something to celebrate as JP Rochford – the third of three brothers to represent the Arima-based club – opened his account with a brilliant low volley off a right-side cross by fellow substitute Lincoln Brown.
If only the two teams had agreed on: “best goal win”.
Rochford, the former National Under-17 and Under-20 Team captain, doubled up in injury time with a stunning free kick. Somehow, the pint-sized Rochford got his shot to climb, swerve and dip at pace from barely 20 yards.
Veteran Cunupia custodian Cleon John, a former Pro League champion with North East Stars, barely had time to flinch.
By then, though, Darko had already put Cunupia well out of reach with a looping header that kissed the upright before rolling home in the 77th minute.
“I would just like to thank the supporters and hope they come back, even though we lost 5-2,” said Delzin. “We would do better next game – I can guarantee that. Look out for a victory from Santa Rosa next game.”
Rosa play away to Prison Services next Sunday and the Big Cannons would be in deep trouble if they still have one point after that game, particularly as their first three opponents were TTSL teams.
Cunupia play high flying Pro League outfit Club Sando next Sunday at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium Training Field. But on Friday night, De Four could not be bothered if it was Manchester City.
“They should be careful now that we are up and running,” he said.
FC Santa Rosa (4-2-2-2): 1.Jesse Peters (GK); 8.Noel Williams, 19.Jesse Reyes, 10.Shabaka Mahluli, 15.Osei Sandy; 21.Durwin Ross, 12.Shaka Pilgrim; 16.Carlon Nicholas, 11.Ryan Stewart (captain); 6.Kadeem Riley, 14.Giovanni Abraham.
Substitutes: 2.Nicholas Petit, 3.Lincoln Brown, 4.Sherwayne Morris, 9.Kevon Cornwall, 18.Kheelon Mitchell, 20.Jade Allman, 23.John-Paul Rochford.
Assistant coach: Timothy Rochford
Cunupia FC (4-2-2-2): 1.Cleon John (GK); 2.Kaleb Douglas, 3.Kadeem Graham, 18.Maestro Mensah, 15.Tevin Mungo; 20.Dwane James, 22.Kristian Meloney; 7.Stephen Julien, 11.Hakeem Legall; 21.Mikheil Peters, 19.Kevon Woodley (captain),
Substitutes: 13.Kevin Graham (GK), 4.Abraham Phillips, 5.Dillon Charles, 6.Darion Thomas, 9.Gerald Meloney, 10.Michael Yaw Darko, 12.Albert Mejias, 14.Antonio Centeno, 16.Gershom Byng, 17.Domonique Roberts, 23.Darieon Bernard.
Coach: Michael De Four
Wired868 Man of the Match: Kevon Woodley (Cunupia FC)
Ascension Invitational Tournament
Division One results
(Fri 19 Jul)
FC Santa Rosa 2 (John-Paul Rochford 67, 90+7), Cunupia FC 5 (Kevon Woodley 29, 56, Michael Yaw Darko 51, 77, Mikheil Peters 54) at Arima Velodrome.
(Sat 20 Jul)
Defence Force v Prison Service, 3.30pm, Larry Gomes Stadium;
Matura ReUnited v Guaya Utd, 4pm, Matura Rec Gnd;
(Sun 21 Jul)
San Juan Jabloteh v Police FC, 4pm, S/Juan North Sec;
Mv’t Caledonia AIA v Club Sando, 4pm, Mannie Ramjohn T/Field.