Six days in Washington DC, four days of training, three friendly matches, three wins, interest from semi-professional teams and coaches from colleges and universities in North America and a bit of sight-seeing.
That is a summary of the St. Leonard’s Boys’ Under 19 Football Team’s tour to the US capital from August 5-11. Invited by Reid Sports and Entertainment, the 17-man squad led by coach Fabian Massiah shifted their dominance from the secondary school league to their equivalent in the US, with 15 goals for and five against.
The Future Soccer Club was the first team to meet the Richmond lads and they were defeated 4-2, followed by a 7-1 win against Doradus Football Club and a 4-2 defeat for Takoma Park Friends, less than 24 hours after beating Doradus.
Midfielder Niall Reid-Stephen scored in all three matches with a hat trick in the second match which was against Doradus, a goal also came from guest player and midfielder Tyrique Belle. Winger Kobe Shepherd scored three goals, strikers Ray Francis had two, Jadon McCollin (guest player) two, 15-year old Renikko Lyte-Griffith scored two and 15-year old Kyle Forde-Blades scored one. Guest player and midfielder Javier Smith had a solid outing in all three games as well.
Outstanding play came from goalkeeper Nashton Browne, right-back Shakielle Beckles, left-back Jaiden Miller, centre-back Triston Bancroft, midfielder Zavion Nurse, left-back Aquile Barrow, midfielder Ronako Brathwaite, central defence Danico Watson and guest player, centre-back Je-Dane Griffith.
Coach Massiah said while there were areas the team needed to improve on, they generally outplayed the DC teams. “I wouldn’t take anything away from the opposition, they were strong. I think in some cases they underestimated our guys. We were better than them technically in certain areas, speed wise as well. I guess down here the tempo of the game is a little slower so our speed and direct approach, they weren’t able to cope with it for the most part,” he said after the final game in Maryland.
Justin Reid of Reid Sports and Entertainment echoed coach Massiah’s comments. “The boys played fast and I was told that they were not at peak fitness, imagine if they were really fit. I am impressed. I am really impressed with St. Leonard’s,” he said.
He added: “I have hosted a lot of teams and when they are down goals in a match, they tend to give up, they never recover. I am impressed with how the St. Leonard’s Boys rebounded, they weren’t defeated, they were determined to win.”
According to coach Massiah this was also the general sentiment of the coaches who trained the team. Two schools have offered places to two members of the SLB team and DC’s Division 2 team Loudon United, which trained Reid-Stephen wants him to come back to the US for further training with the possibility of him being contracted to play with that team next year.
But it wasn’t all football on the tour the team also toured Baltimore City, Washington DC where they visited the Barbados Embassy and met Ambassador Noel Lynch, got a look at the White House, met the head coach at Howard University Philip Goyau and learnt first hand the requirements to get into that university and took in the professional match DC United vs LA Galaxy on the eve of their departure.
Now back home Massiah said there was an avenue to create real opportunities for the SLB team members in all three divisions – Under 14, Under 16 and Under 19.
“From here on now we’ve been given a blueprint of what we need to do to get the guys ready for college, obviously SATs are the main priority now and then into the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) clearing house to make sure that everything is covered for the guys to enter into university.”
With continued support from Reid Sports and Entertainment the team has started preparation for a tour next year to Canada.