EE push U23 side to brink at Annex

The national youth team had a good test from a district team last week.

Cayman’s national U23 team faced off with East End in an exhibition match last Wednesday.

Coach Thiago

Coach Thiago helped keep East End motivated
Photo: Matthew Yates

Annex Field in George Town was the site of the game from 7pm onwards.

The national side jumped out to an early lead courtesy of three quick strikes in the first half.

Gabriel Godet, Gavin Watson Jr. and Mark Ebanks put themselves into space well and each slotted home goals in convincing fashion.

Gabriel, brother of local players Donovan and Dominic Godet, showed off his football heritage in midfield, making smart passes and giving good help in defense.

Watson played his attacking role well and though his partnership with Ebanks could have been better he showed good footwork.

Ebanks, a national team regular who plays for Future FC, was a star on the night as he had solid dribbling skills and made good decisions with the ball.

National U23 Coach Ernie ‘Gillie’ Seymour watched closely on the sidelines and from time to time hollered out to his players pointers on various aspects of the game from staying onside to avoiding being square in the back.

The small crowd of 25 people seemed pleased with the level of play from both sides as they cheered with every goal and gasped with every near-miss.

At half-time Seymour urged his side to stay alert on defense and keep up the intensity on the backline.

Meanwhile Coach Thiago Cungha and the East End contingent were upbeat and talked about attacking the flanks to get back into the match.

The second half would prove Brazilian Cungha and the East End crew were far from out of it. Led by the likes of Carson Fagan the side got back three goals of their own.

The George Town native normally plays for George Town but came out to play with EE for extra practice.

When the head CIFA official blew his final whistle the score would read Cayman U23 3 East End 3.

In spite of the result Coach Gillie felt by match’s end that his side had nothing to be ashamed about.

‘Certainly we made mistakes in the back. We created enough chances but we never put them away. But, the guys are doing good and they were passing the ball around well.

‘Drawing three-all is not a disappointment for us.’

Seymour went on to say that though the defense could have been better the game achieved its purpose.

‘The emphasis with the team is on defense because overall, from the senior to junior level, one of Cayman’s problems is defending. Last night the guys saw and learned from their mistakes.

‘The games are here for the players to learn from them so that they can be ready in the big matches.’

The East End match is one of roughly seven games planned for the U23 side between now and April.

As Coach Gillie says the importance of the games speaks to the future of local football.

‘The junior World Cup is played every two years. We just got through playing U17 and U20 qualifiers for the 2009 competition.

‘The next set of qualifiers is in 2011 and we’re trying to put the team together from now.

‘In addition the next Olympics are in 2012 and the team plays in Olympic qualifiers. The next set of qualifiers is in 2011 too.

‘Through playing these games we should be prepared for all of those competitions and have a better showing for ourselves and our country.’

Next up for the U23 side is a practice game against Scholars tonight. The match is slated to be at Ed Bush field at 7:30pm.

From there the team will play a more serious exhibition match against Scholars at Ed Bush on Wednesday at 7:30pm.

The team will then take a month’s holiday break before resuming play on Wednesday 14 January. They are set to face Bodden Town at Ed Bush field in West Bay at 7:30pm.

As Coach Gillie explains, there is an issue in regards to player turnout for the national team.

‘We’re a little disappointed because not all of our players are coming out. There are about two/three good players from West Bay and five or six from Bodden Town that don’t show up at all.

‘Some of the coaches don’t support this national team and some players don’t want to play. But that [the absence of those players] could hurt us in the long run if they don’t gel with our core players.’

Coach Gillie went on to encourage the public to come out for the games.

‘I encourage everyone to come out for the games because over 95 percent of the team is made up of Cayman boys and in a few years time they will make up most of the senior men’s national team.’