The man known to his friends and foes as the ‘Mau’ movement has orchestrated team Utulei Youth’s rise from fourth position to champions of the Football Federation of American Samoa 2009 Men’s Outdoor 5-aside Competition.
Penaia Kaleopa, nicknamed Mau, helped guide Utulei Youth to title success by upsetting top-ranked FC SKBC 4-3 in their semi-final match and then whitewashing the second ranked team Jets 1 3-0 in the final match on Saturday at Pago Park Soccer Stadium.
Kaleopa, awarded the Most Valuable Player at the end of the competition, scored the match-winner against SKBC and then broke the scoreless tie in the title match to shoot-down the Jets’ hopes.
As player-coach, and also coach of the women’s team that finished second to Black Roses, Kaleopa – also MVP of the Business House Tournament held in March of this year – chose to sit out the start of the game to gauge the tempo and thus set up a strategy for his players and also himself.
As the oldest player on the field he lacked the pace of his younger opponents but made up for this with a canny knack for being in the right time at the right place.
The final lacked the intensity the fans had hoped for, mainly due to Jets 1 employing a conservative strategy that saw them maintain possession amongst their backs for prolonged periods. It was anticlimactic compared to the very exciting semifinals played earlier between Jets 1 and Black Roses in one match and SKBC and Utulei Youth.
About five minutes into the second half Utulei’s Pesamino Victor struck a powerful shot from midfield that forced an awkward save from the Jets 1’s goalie. The ball was deflected off of the keeper’s body into the path of an unmarked Kaleopa who scored with ease.
The ‘Mau’ goal appeared to break resolve of Jets 1 players as frustration settled into their play. Conversely Utulei Youth played with renewed determination that produced a brace of goals to JP Fa’avae, the MVP for the recent Boy’s High School Junior Varsity competition.
SEMIFINAL ONE: UTULEI YOUTH 4, FC SKBC 3
Again, it was a rebound on a blocked shot attempt that enabled Kaleopa to score the game-winning goal.
A diving William Kali of SKBC stopped Aleki Savea’s shot at goal, injuring himself in the process. The ball bounced off of Kali and straight to an unmarked and wide-open Kaleopa who lightly tapped in the winner for his second goal of the game.
When these two teams met during the round robin competition, SKBC dominated Utulei 6-1. However, Kaleopa was unavailable when these two played.
However, Kaleopa was able to make amends in the semi-final when he helped lead his team to victory with a brace after SKBC had leapt out to a 2-0 lead. Savea scored to peg one back for Utulei and Kaleopa added his first score to level the score 2-2 at the half.
Jin Lee and Gun Chul Kang were the first half scorers for SKBC and Kang again struck in the second stanza for a 3-2 scoreline before Victor again brought Utulei level before Kaleopa’s late game winner.
SEMIFINAL TWO: JETS I 4, BLACK ROSES 3 (OT)
Jets 1 completed a memorable come-back from 0-3 down in normal time to beat Black Roses deep into the second half of extra time. Harry of Jets 1 completed their comeback win by shooting past a diving goalie after being played into space via a great pass from captain Mafutaga Solofa with just 45 seconds left on the overtime clock.
Solofa was the key to his side’s come-back, holding his team together despite the three goals scored against them in the first half of normal time.
Dion Ott led Black Roses in that fast start with a brace while Alapati Sula contributed the third goal.
Solofa started his team’s fight back with the first goal and Sam Taulealo chipped in with the second.
The Jet’s captain continued to lead by example by providing the equalizer with less than a minute to play before again stepping up to lay-on the decisive last minute score.
Courtesy of FFAS Media