COC men’s football makes history by hosting the Tahiti U20 national team
The Cougars are eliminated 2-1 in the first international game in the program’s history
The College of the Canyons men’s soccer team had a historic night on Saturday when they hosted the Tahiti U-20 national team in the first international game in the program’s history.
The Cougars would end up losing the game 2-1 with a goal from Tahiti in the dying seconds of the second half.
“It’s amazing,” Phil Marcellin, Cougars head coach, said of the experience. “I mean, this is a golden opportunity for these guys. And of course it was great when we got the call for an official game.
“Obviously it didn’t go the way we would have liked, right, but football isn’t always about what you earn. Thats how it works.”
COC took the lead with just under 23 minutes to go in the first half with the first college goal from redshirt freshman Julian De La O, assisted by sophomore Drew Leskin. In the first half, Tahiti equalized just over eight minutes from time and after a second half in which both teams created but failed to convert chances, Tahiti finally scored the winner just before the final whistle.
The game, which was considered an official game for COC but was an international friendly for Tahiti, drops the Cougars to a 2-0 deficit in the season after also losing their season opener Friday at Pasadena City College 3-1.
“It’s unfortunate because I don’t think they created as many chances as we might have, but that’s the nature of the game, right,” said Marcellin. “I think at certain moments they were a little bit sportier than us. But we got through it with organization and form.”
Marcellin said he was able to put the game together through connections he made when he brought in some players from France.
“One of the gentlemen who helped me communicate with them to get them enrolled in school has a connection to this group,” Marcellin said. “And so he just called me and said, ‘Hey, do you want to do this?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.’ We’ve tried to expand our reach, improve the experience for the guys in this program, and bring in a little bit more different cultures and aspects. It kind of worked in our favor and on a slightly larger scale than we previously thought.”
The two teams exchanged gifts before and after the game, including autographed balls that each team could take home.
Tahiti is currently preparing for U20 World Cup qualifiers and is touring parts of the United States to gain more experience. The U20 World Cup will take place in Indonesia in the summer of 2023.
“We have them tactically,” said Tahiti head coach Bruno Tehaamoana of translator Nils Niwe Nsabimana, one of three French players in the COC squad. “So [we] applied things we work on at home and [we] apply to them here. and [we] feel like they are on the right track to move forward.”
In the first half, Tahiti had far more possession than the Cougars, although De La O’s goal certainly helped give the Cougars more confidence. De La O was delighted with his first goal of the season after missing out through injury last season and he sees further improvements as the season progresses.
“We get along really well,” said De La O. “Training went pretty well. We have our ups and downs, but this season will be good for us.”
Leskin, a first-team returnee of the All-Western State Conference South Division from last season, was pleased with De La O’s performance. It’s also an important thing given that it looks like the Cougars will play for the rest of the season without sophomore Josh Swanson, who was a first-team All-Conference selection last season. According to Marcellin, Swanson suffered a broken leg in Friday’s loss.
Leskin and De La O are both graduates of the Santa Clarita Valley Schools, Leskin from Canyon and De La O from Valencia, with COC having a total of 23 players from SCV schools. Also from Canyon are rookies Jacob Reyes-Silva, Andy Delgado and Dimitri Marikta, and sophomore Ivan Ledezma. De La O is joined by fellow keeper Ivan Kerum, a second goalkeeper.
From Saugus, COC has freshmen Jason Nakoud, RJ Haring, Alec Fryer and Braden Salazar leaving along with sophomores Josh Truong and Roger Sandino. Out of Hart are sophomores Steven Metzler, Edilson Ramirez and Andranik Soghomonian. Golden Valley has three representatives in freshman Jacob Davila and sophomores Cesar Perez and Jason Arana, while West Ranch has four in freshman Matthew Swanson and Diego Arreola and sophomores Niko Marquez and Josh Swanson.
Marcellin sees nothing but good in having so many players who have played together and against each other for much of their lives.
“That’s one of the things I like, having as many local kids as possible, the chemistry is there, the relationships are there, so we just kind of have to crank it up,” Marcellin said. “We’re well represented in almost every good high school and club program in this community.”
COC will look to get their first win of the season on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. when they host Moorpark. This game will be followed by the women’s soccer team, also playing against Moorpark, with kick-off scheduled for 7pm