Jason Cunliffe tapped to coach Guam U17 national team

COACH CUNLIFFE: Jason Cunliffe observes players during a U17 Guam National Team training session Wednesday afternoon at the Guam Football Association National Training Center. Cunliffe, captain of the Matao, Guam Men's National Team, recently accepted an offer from Guam Football Association to become Guam's new U17 head coach. Photo courtesy of GFA

With more than 50 games as captain of the Guam Men’s National Soccer Team, Jason Cunliffe was the obvious selection as head coach for the Guam U17 National Team.

The Guam Football Association on Thursday announced Cunliffe’s appointment. Cunliffe's two decades of international, professional and NCAA Division I playing experience will aid U17 players as they look to level up and earn promotion.

“I am pleased to announce that Jason has recently accepted an offer as head coach of Guam’s U17 National Team,” said Tino San Gil, GFA president. “With his playing and coaching experience, as well as his pride in the overall development of football in Guam, he is a valuable addition to our coaching staff.

“I look forward to seeing his progress with the youth national program, as well as the success of our youth national team athletes in future competitions.”

After a three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the nearly 40-member squad resumed training at GFA June 8 in a limited format, with each player assigned to individual grids in restricted, noncontact sessions. The team currently trains twice a week, according to a news release.

“My overall objective is to give these players the tools necessary to excel at the highest levels of the game,” said Cunliffe, who also is the current captain of the Matao, Guam Men’s National Team. “The jump - now - for them becomes tactical while they continue to work on individual technique and fitness along the way.

“Communication and decision-making are two big pieces to the puzzle that I’ll expose them to, along with transitioning from more individual styles to a cohesive team emphasis. When the opportunity to compete presents itself (depending on COVID-19), we will look to play to win with an entertaining and intelligent possession-based style.”

Along with a top-ranked playing pedigree, Cunliffe has two coaching credentials, an Asian Football Confederation C Coaching Certificate earned in 2017, and a Union of European Football Associations B Coaching License garnered in 2019.

As head coach, Cunliffe will be under the tutelage of Sang Hoon Kim, the GFA technical director.

“My dad (Randy Cunliffe), along with coaches Vince Naputi, Rod Hidalgo, Tom Renfro, and (Tetsuo) Yamamoto all had a significant impact in my football growth locally at a younger age,” Cunliffe said. “I’ve had some great coaches abroad as well and I’ve always soaked up as much as I could from these experiences.

“Representing Guam is in my blood and it’s the chip I wear on my shoulder, sharing my knowledge and experiences with the youth of our island is part of the natural progression in my development.”

Cunliffe first featured in Guam’s national program in 1998 as the captain of the U16 Boys National Team at the AFC U16 Championship Qualifiers in Nepal. Later, he made his senior level debut in April 2006 in the AFC Challenge Cup Bangladesh 2006 as a starting player against the host country.

Since 2006, Cunliffe has been a mainstay for the Matao, eventually assuming the captaincy in 2012. To date, Cunliffe has featured in 59 of Guam’s fixtures against FIFA member countries, the most for any player from Guam. With 22 goals for Guam against other FIFA member countries, he also leads the team in scoring. His three most recent goals came from his hat-trick performance against Bhutan in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifier of the Asian Zone Round 1 in June 2019.

As a 5-year-old, Cunliffe’s first introduction to the sport began with the Tumon Typhoons Football Club before he moved to Texas. In Texas, he played for the Houston Texans Soccer Club, contributing to the team’s national championships in 2001 and 2002, as well as the team’s Brazil Cup championship in 2001.

As a member of Santa Clara University men’s soccer team, Cunliffe helped the Broncos earn a spot in the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament Final Four in 2003

At the club level, Cunliffe was part of the NAPA Rovers FC team that competed in the 2017 AFC Cup Playoff Qualifiers. Cunliffe traveled with his club team to Kyrgyz Republic, where they played against the host country’s Dordoi FC and Macau’s Benfica Macau.

Cunliffe currently plays for the Bank of Guam Strykers, and had previously played professionally in the Philippines for Pachanga Diliman FC in the United Football League, the precursor to the current Philippines Football League.