They haven’t appeared in an OFC senior women’s competition in 11 years, but American Samoa are keen to prove that they can cut it among the best of them when the OFC Women’s Nations Cup Qualifier gets underway tomorrow.
In 2007 the American Samoa women’s team competed at the Pacific Games in Samoa, which doubled as the OFC Olympic Women’s Football Tournament Qualifier, and although they also appeared at the 2011 edition in New Caledonia, it was not an OFC or FIFA-affiliated competition.
“It has been a very long time since we’ve had a women’s senior national team represent us at a competition, and with that in mind this is going to be a very exciting tournament for our players, our management and especially our association,” Football Federation American Samoa President, Sen. Faiivae Iuli Alex Godinet said.
“This is a step up from our participatin in the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Samoa last year, so our women’s side of the game is slowly, but surely, moving in the right direction.”
Godinet confirmed the planning for this competition has been underway since early this year with locally-based players training at the association’s field in Pago Pago.
Taking charge of the team is Larry Mana’o, the Seattle-based coach who led the men in FIFA World Cup Qualifying in 2015, and also took the women’s team in 2011.
As well as relying on FFAS technical director Ruben Luvu and development officer Tunoa Lui to work with the American Samoa-based players, Mana’o sought out eligible players in the USA and along with assistant coaches Ati Faamau-Samuelu and Craig Tomlinson, settled on a squad of 18 to compete in Fiji.
Of the 18 players, ten are based in the USA, two of which – Ashley Hall and Louisa Mavaega – were born in American Samoa, while eight live in the territory. Only two of the ten US-based players, sisters Alma and Ava Mana’o, have previously represented American Samoa.
“This is a different look for our team, we have more different players from different places,” Mana’o explained.
“We’ve had a shorter amount of time to prepare, but I think the team chemistry is better than the team we took to New Caledonia in 2011.
“The difference is like night and day – I feel this team is definitely stronger. The chemistry, the spirit and technical ability of the girls this time prepares us a little better.”
In addition to bringing in some new faces from the States, Mana’o has included young players who took part in last year’s OFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Samoa.
“The experience this time, a lot of these kids are younger than the teams we’ve taken in the past for our senior women, so it will be a positive experience regardless of what happens,” Mana’o said.
“This will be a great opportunity for them to see the different levels of experience out there from different competitions.”
The squad left home on 16 August and stopped over in Samoa where they played two friendly matches against a Samoa Women’s Development team/
The first match was a 1-1 draw while the second saw them go down 1-0 to a goal scored just two minutes before full time.
American Samoa will open their 2018 OFC Women’s Nations Cup Qualifier against Solomon Islands on Friday 24 August at Churchill Park in Lautoka, Fiji with kick-off scheduled for 12pm.