Guam – The Matao, Guam men’s national soccer team, recovered from a 1-0 deficit late in the first half and prevailed with a 6-2 victory over the Budweiser Men’s Soccer League All-Stars during the Matao vs. All-Stars event at the Guam Football Association facility in Harmon.
“Early in the game we were frantic; we were playing at a very fast pace,” said the Matao’s Jason Cunliffe, who finished the match with two goals. “Our opponents eventually scored first, but we reacted well. After our first goal, we calmed down.
“We’ve made a lot of progress as a team through months of training. There are a few kinks we need to work out, but we’re definitely on the right path,” the Matao captain added.
[The Matao’s Devin Mendiola sprints past the All-Stars’ James Bush toward the goal during the Matao vs. All-Stars event at the Guam Football Association facility in Harmon. The Matao won 6-2]
The All-Stars’ Scott Spindel kicked in the match’s first goal in the 35th minute, getting the ball past the Matao’s goalkeeper Dallas Jaye, who had just arrived in Guam the same morning of the match. Five minutes later, Cunliffe scored the equalizer off an assist from teammate Dylan Naputi. Cunliffe scored again a minute before the halftime whistle. The Matao never looked back after taking the 2-1 halftime lead.
“We’re moving the ball well and understanding our shape on the field – we’ve made some massive improvements,” said Matao head coach Gary White. “We had no issue getting the ball from one part of the field to the goal area, we just need to do better in the final third of the field.”
Randy Espinosa scored twice for the Matao in the second half and teammates Devin Mendiola and Reyn Johnson each scored one. Jude Bischoff scored the All-Stars’ other goal in the second half.
“This team (the Matao) is more organized, thanks to the coaching staff,” Espinosa said after the game. “In each of the 70-plus training sessions we’ve had, it’s always intense – we’re always working hard. We can really feel the intensity, as everyone in training has to compete for a position on the final roster.”
Although White consistently has about 30 or more players training for a spot on the Matao’s final roster, White will only take 22 to compete in the Philippines in an international friendly match against the Azkals. While in the Philippines, that same traveling squad also will play two professional club teams.
The team then will whittle down to just 18 for the East Asian Football Championship preliminary round in July.
During Friday’s event, White officially announced his selection for the Matao’s 22-man traveling squad. Jaye and IIAAG High School Boys Soccer MVP Ryota Nault take the team’s two goalkeeper slots. Other players on the roster are Cunliffe, Espinosa, Naputi, Joshua Borja, Christian Schweizer, Ian Mariano, Micah Paulino, Scott Leon Guerrero, Jonahan Romero, Ian Adamos, Devin Mendiola, Reyn Johnson, Thaddeus Atalig, Michael Leon Guerrero, Shawn Spindel, Zachary DeVille, Anthony Paulino, Marcus Lopez, Mark Chargualaf and Jordan Gregory. Cunliffe has been chosen to captain the team.