South All Stars prevailed over their Northern counterparts in the first annual SSFL Field of Dreams All Star Combine at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium on Sunday evening.
In an action packed encounter before an appreciative crowd of just over 1,000 fans, Shiva Boys Hindu College goalkeeper Denzil Smith came up trumps in the penalty shootout to lead South to a 4-2 victory after both teams played to a entertaining 1-1 draw in regulation time.
The game was witnessed by some of T&T’s legends including Leroy De Leon, Everald “Gally” Cummings, Steve David, the executive producer of the Field of Dreams Television show, Alvin Corneal, Alvin Henderson, Russell Latapy, Reynold Carrington, Anthony Sherwood and St Lucian Earl Jean among others. TTFA Technical Director Anton Corneal was also in attendance.
Minister of Sport Darryl Smith was also in attendance as he joined SSFL President William Wallace in presenting the Challenge Trophy to South captain Judah Garcia.
Smith saved penalties by North skipper Matthaeus Granger and Fatima College midfielder Andrew Peter-Abraham.
North struck first through San Juan North Secondary’s bulldozing forward Renaldo Boyce before substitute Quinn Rodney drew the South team level in the 85th minute.
Smith, meanwhile, was winning new fans, including US- based coach Zach Ganzberg. The Mount Vernon Nazarene University head coach was the lone foreign coach among SSFL’s list of invitees but he was quite pleased, impressed even with what he saw on display, particularly from the agile “Peng.”
“I liked the goalkeeper. That’s a position of need for us [at Mount Vernon] so that’s kinda part of it too,” Ganzberg told Wired868. “The goalkeeper Denzil [Smith] was good as far as I saw.”
“I told [Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) Technical Director] Anton [Corneal] that this would compare favourably to what I would call a showpiece game in the US,” revealed Ganzberg, who recently completed his first season as the Mount Nazarene coach. “I thought the talent was a little bit better. Obviously, what you get in the American game is a little higher [intensity] and sheer athletes and size. But what I’m looking for are creative players and that’s why I’m here in Trinidad. There’s a lot of that here so I was pleased.”
Both Corneal and SSFL President William Wallace stated that the main aim of yesterday’s exhibition game was to try and market the players to a wider audience. Video footage from the All-Star clash, they said, will be shared on YouTube so many other coaches like Ganzberg could get a good look at the players. Additionally, ACTN (Acts 25 TV) will air a full replay of the match on Tuesday 12 December from 9.30pm.
Yesterday once more, Boyce found himself up against Smith and, despite missing a sitter in the 21st minute, the striker won round one, tapping in from close range in the 50th minute after teammate Kishon Hackshaw had blown past defender Shirwin Noel down the right flank.
Smith eventually grabbed the headlines with his late heroics but Hackshaw dazzled on the day, his blistering acceleration and neat footwork repeatedly leaving South left-back Matthew Beal in a tangle.
North’s Gabriel Nanton, Jaydon Prowell and Anthony Samuel simply couldn’t match the flash of Hackshaw or that of their counterparts in Tyrel “Pappy” Emmanuel, Judah Garcia or Jordan Riley although the Ronald Daniel-coached northerners looked the more cohesive unit at times. South coach Shawn Cooper stated that some of his players’ involvement in Saturday’s Footy Fest tourney had left them weary.
“Some of them would have conserved some energy by not going and play in the seven-a-side Footy Fest yesterday,” Cooper said. “But a number of players from the South team did participate in Footy Fest yesterday and their legs went at certain parts of the game. But all in all, they stuck it out and got the victory.”
South substitutes Tyrell “Sexyman” Baptiste and Rodney combined to get the 85th minute equaliser and take the game down to the lottery that is the penalty shootout.
Junior Asson, Kierron Mason, Yohannes Richardson and Noel all scored confidently for South, while Smith’s “sousou hands” earned him the MVP award.
“We had at least one foreign coach in today and he has earmarked one player he’d like to take out of Trinidad and Tobago very soon,” Wallace stated. “This is a good start for us, and when you put the game up, it gives other persons the opportunity to be looked at. And leaving Trinidad and Tobago on scholarships is a definite opportunity”
Cooper too focused on the benefits of the day’s activities.
“I think they did a fantastic job in getting the folks and the spectators to see the kinda talent our youngsters really have in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said. “I’m very thankful for the event that they put on for the boys. […] The players relished it. I think now that the event has ended, they could see the importance of it.”
South All-Stars : 1.Denzil Smith (GK); 2.Mylz Barrington, 5.Yohannes Richardson, 4.Shirwin Noel, 3.Matthew Beal; 8.Kierron Mason, 6.Judah Garcia (captain); 7.Jordan Riley (16.Quinn Riley 52), 10.Tyrel Emmanuel (15.Tyrell Baptiste 55), 11.Darnell Hospedales (14.Joshua King 55 [13.Jabari Graham 76]); 9.Keon Boney (17.Junior Asson 40).
Coach: Shawn Cooper
North All-Stars : 1.Jacque Poon-Lewis (GK); 15.Lukeman Brooks (12.Stephon Marcano 36), 3.Nkosi Salandy, 8.Matthaeus Granger (captain), 4.Joshua Araujo-Wilson; 11.Anthony Samuel, 10.Gabriel Nanton (5.Andrew Peter-Abraham 69); 13.Kishon Hackshaw, 14.Jaydon Prowell (7.Justin Araujo-Wilson 72), 11.Nickel Orr (16.Tyrese Spicer 60); 9.Renaldo Boyce (6.Nathaniel Perouse 81).
Coach: Ronald Daniel
Referee: Kevin Smart
All-Star MVP: Denzil Smith (South All-Stars)
South All-Stars 1 (Quinn Rodney 85), North All Stars 1 (Renaldo Boyce 50) at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;
(South All-Stars won 4-2 on penalty kicks.)