They made football look simple and they are now TT$7,000 richer.
On Monday evening, at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, the Arouca/Trincity-based Soccer Made Simple (SMS) team copped the Next Level Consultant Ltd (NLCL) Under-19 Community Cup as they strolled to a 4–1 win over their southern counterparts Cox Football Academy (CFA) in the grand finale.
Coach Dennis Cox and his academy have been going strong for 35-plus years in Palo Seco, helping to produce talented national footballers such as the Garcia brothers—Judah, Levi and Nathaniel—and their cousin, Isaiah.
However, in overcast conditions in Couva on Monday, it was coach Stephen “Bison” Williams and his SMS upstarts who virtually locked up the NLCL trophy from early doors.
Williams indicated that the SMS project was only started in late 2020, as young players who were vying for scholarships or on the cusp of turning pro would be facilitated for one-on-one training. Word quickly spread and Williams and his technical staff soon assembled a team worthy of competing in a nationwide youth tournament.
“This team actually never trained together before the first kick-off because we were planning to play another tournament and the other tournament said we can’t use the players there,” Williams told Wired868. “We basically brought this team together and went from strength to strength during the tournament.”
SMS certainly cut the look of a slick, organised and cohesive outfit.
“After the first round, I said we’d definitely come out of the group and we’d see what the Tobago and south zones have [to offer],” said Williams. After seeing, he concluded they could win.
Only Trendsetter Hawks and Malabar Young Stars were able to get the better of SMS this season—with the latter game being halted by the Arima Borough Police who instructed that the lights be turned off at the Arima Velodrome with about ten minutes still left in the encounter.
There was a visible police presence in Couva on Monday following last week’s brawl between CFA and Cantaro United, which saw as many as five players receiving red cards. However, there would be no fan invasion or need for police intervention, while both sets of suspended players were instructed to watch the games from home for security reasons.
Cantaro’s game was a more pleasant spectacle, as they got a nervy 3–2 win via penalty kicks over Tobago’s Eagles FC in the third-place playoff.
Again, Cantaro’s talisman Nathaniel “Bubba” Perouse was instrumental in his team’s success, as the 21-year-old playmaker scored both items in regulation time to force a 2–2 scoreline. He also dispatched his team’s second goal in the shootout before attacker Quincy Eustache sealed third spot and the TT$2,500 purse with the final-spot kick in the shootout.
Bubba, a former Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Intercol winner with both San Juan North Secondary and Naparima College, walked away with the award for the best midfielder in the NLCL tourney, and finished with 13 goals to his name.
Cantaro certainly benefited from Bubba’s presence as one of the overaged players, and that kind of seniority was reflected within the SMS camp as well.
(The NLCL Community Cup allows each team to register three Under-21 players and have two on the field at any given time.)
Terron Miller was the shining star in the latter stages of the tournament for Williams’ squad, netting a first half hat-trick as his team got by Eagles in the semis, while he helped himself to a double on Monday as SMS easily deflected the CFA threat. The leadership of 20-year-old captain, Israel Copeland, was just as instrumental for the SMS team. His calm, yet decisive play at the back ensured that they were rock solid in the defensive third.
Paired with centre back Yohance Atherton, Copeland snuffed out danger quickly and wasn’t afraid to use all of his lanky frame in his tackles. Williams said he told Copeland what kind of leadership he wanted.
“Knowing that he’s one of the overaged players, he needed to lead the younger team and also lead by example and not just lead by quarrelling and talking down to the players,” Williams said. “He needed to show up, be there and have a captain’s performance every game he could. And for the last four games, he’s definitely done that.”
Copeland played as a defensive midfielder, centre back and left back, filling all positions admirably. Cox FA failed to read the scouting report on Copeland, allowing him way too much room on the left in the 39th minute as he was able to set up their second goal with a cross-field ball to the predatory Miller.
In truth, Miller had no business in getting a deft touch past Kenzel Adams in the Cox FA goal. However, defender Shiheem Taylor critically allowed the lofted ball to bounce in the penalty area, and Miller gave his team a two-goal lead.
Taylor, Cox indicated, started the season as the CFA skipper. However, he only made his way into the playing eleven because of the suspension of the centre back pairing of Gesiah Bishop and Yohan Romano—both of whom had flying roles in the fracas against Cantaro in last week’s semifinal.
CFA looked to be back in the game for a short period as the lively Mordecai Brown prodded home from close range in the 42nd minute, after SMS goalie Tyrece Romain dealt with an initial Darrel Garcia corner. The CFA goal was reminiscent of the game’s scrappy opening item scored by SMS winger Jaheim Patrick in the 12th minute.
The tireless Patrick wowed the crowd before setting up the fourth goal just past the hour mark. Patrick showed the balance of a ballerina as he danced down the left flank and left Hernandez on his backside before playing a pass in-field to Micah “Lemmy” Nelson who buried a low, right-footed shot from outside the area after finding himself in acres of space.
The 16-year-old Miller finished the tournament with 18 goals and walked away with the MVP award.
Williams and his SMS team have 7,000 reasons to smile after copping the top spot in the second edition of the NLCL competition, and tournament organiser, Brian Jordan, promised a return of the Community Cup in December.
“After playing 14 games into the tournament, the boys definitely deserved it. They played their hearts out today and I can’t ask them for anything better,” said Williams.
Soccer Made Simple (4-1-4-1): 1.Tyrece Romain (GK); 2.Levi Smith, 4.Yohance Atherton, 8.Israel Copeland (captain), 5.Tyree Sammy (17.Nicholai Alexander 56); 3.Shaheim O’Brian; 20.Liam Dayal (19.Jaeden Bobb 74), 12.Daniel Ramcharitar (6.Javon Thomas 57), 9.Micah Nelson, 18.Jaheim Patrick (16. Alexi George 67); 7.Terron Miller.
Unused substitutes: 13. Alex Piper, 14. Elijah Wong.
Coach: Stephen Williams.
Cox Football Academy (4-4-2): 1.Kenzel Adams (GK); 4.Adam Pierre, 13.Joshua Kanhai (captain), 18.Shiheem Taylor (21.Darion Hernandez 54), 17.Darius John (16.Tejohn Fortune 76); 9.Vaughn Clement (8.Keeghan Simmons 60), 10.Terrell Abraham (19.Warren McDonald 81), 6.Maliki Clement (14.Jeremiah Joseph 81), 3.Mordecai Brown (12.Kesean Jacob 62); 7.Tyrique Ramjit (20.Flex Lewis 67), 24.Darrel Garcia.
Unused substitutes: 31. Mikhail Clement (GK).
Coach: Dennis Cox.
Referee: Anton Gill.
NLCL Under-19 Community Cup Final
(On Monday 20 June)
Soccer Made Simple 4 (Jaheim Patrick 12, Terron Miller 39, 47, Micah Nelson 61), Cox Football Academy 1 (Mordecai Brown 42);
NLCL Under-19 Community Cup 3rd-place playoff
Eagles FC 2 (Jabari Alexander 39, Keanu Boatswain 50), Cantaro United 2 (Nathaniel Perouse 29, 79);
Cantaro won 3–2 via penalty kicks. Both games played at the Ato Boldon Stadium.