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FULL TIME: Stories of the UFL Cup 2015 Group Stage (May 2-12)

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At this point in time, all teams have played at least twice in the group stage of the United Football League (UFL) Cup 2015, held every Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Interesting stories have surfaced throughout the first half of this single-round robin phase en route to the quarterfinals. So far, there are no giant killing acts but there have been notable developments, mainly involving the big boys of Philippine football. Without further ado, FULL TIME presented by Mini Cooper returns after more than two months of absence, this time making sense of the top stories generated in the first fortnight of UFL Cup action.

Ceres-La Salle, Kaya eye pole finish after posting double-digit wins

 

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As top seeds heading into the UFL Cup, Ceres-La Salle FC and Kaya FC are unsurprisingly leading their respective groups. Aside from playing in Division I, the two sides also share the distinction of playing and winning all three of their games in the tournament—the only ones who have done so. Also, both teams currently in the top four of the league demolished their most recent opposition. Ceres-La Salle walloped non-league Bright Star, 14-0, last Sunday and Kaya followed suit two days later by bludgeoning Fleet Marine, another team not in the UFL pyramid, by 11-0.

Ceres-La Salle coach Ali Go and Kaya manager Paul Tolentino, who both witnessed lopsided wins, did not exactly feel the same about their teams’ triumphs. Go expressed delight in seeing his players mercilessly score eight in the first half before adding another six that led to a record-matching victory. Prior to his team’s blowout victory, Go thought his team barely showed up in their 2-1 win against fellow Division I side Philippine Army.

Meanwhile, Kaya pulverized their foes late in the game. It even took a sending off among one of Fleet Marine’s players for them to score more. “It was just too casual,” Tolentino commented on the period where a solitary Louis Clark goal out of an overwhelming number of chances brought Kaya ahead over Fleet Marine. A hair-dryer treatment enlightened Kaya, who poured in a 10-goal haul inside the last 45 minutes. It was clearly something Kaya needed to accomplish in order to sustain their impressive UFL Cup run. To date, the Group B leaders have scored 23 unanswered goals inside 270 minutes, which amounts to nearly a goal in every 12 minutes.

Both teams will be on bye this weekend, giving them more time to recuperate and prepare for their toughest group stage assignments. Ceres-La Salle will lock top spot should they win against Group A’s second-placed team Green Archers United. Kaya have a similar mission when they take on Pachanga-Diliman, also in second spot in their group, in what looks like a battle for top spot in Group B. Their massive goal difference record right now may also mean that a draw may be enough should their next foes fail to score as much as they did recently. If it stays as it is, Ceres-La Salle and Kaya will face the second best team of Group B and Group C respectively.

Alicante happy about GAU’s sharpened finishing in cup play

 

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On bye in the opening weekend of the Cup, Green Archers United (GAU) FC expectedly throttled past weaker opponents Bright Star FC and Pasargad FC. The sixth placed side in Division I scored 10 times over the course of 180 minutes despite not fielding their best unit so far in the tournament. With a noteworthy return of a goal per 18 minutes, GAU coach Rodolfo Alicante is pleased about the team’s seemingly improved efficiency in front of goal.

“This is our first game where we scored six goals so it is good for us, because from the start of the league we had problems with our finishing,” Alicante shared. The GAU mentor also revealed that shuffling his 25-player pool is part of his plans in the cup, where he thinks his team can afford to as opposed in doing so in the league. Amazingly, eight players have found the net for GAU so far. Only Robert Lopez Mendy and Tating Pasilan scored more than once and both just have two goals, highlighting the ability of GAU players to be goalscoring threats by moving the ball together up front well.

The Archers are now bracing for two more games, this time tougher than their first two, as they hope to reach the quarterfinals. Confident that his team can take on the Philippine Army, Alicante singled out Ceres-La Salle as the biggest game they have in the group stage. “[Ceres] I think is a very strong team so we have to prepare for that game. I think we have to strengthen our defense and at the same time, we have to practice also our finishing because playing against strong teams is different from playing weak teams,” Alicante reckoned. The GAU-Ceres clash is set to unfold on May 24, the penultimate Sunday of the month. Before that though, Alicante’s wards will be eyeing win number three against the Philippine Army tomorrow afternoon for them to set up what may well be the match that will decide the winners of Group A.

Fine-tuned Pachanga-Diliman squad due for a squad mix up

 

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Just like Green Archers United, Pachanga-Diliman FC have not been far behind their group’s leaders. Despite being overshadowed by Kaya who won 11-0 against Fleet Marine on Tuesday, Pachanga-Diliman themselves tallied a spectacular 7-0 triumph over Division II outfit Agila FC earlier on that night. Speaking after a second straight victory, Pachanga-Diliman coach Francis Liza spoke highly of his wards.

“So far we’re doing well especially in finishing. We worked on that in training. In attacking, [there is] more fluidity. We have more balls in attacking third and penetrate the flank. In defending, 90 minutes we had no threat. We have balance in the back,” Liza assessed with satisfaction. The young coach also disclosed that his team maximized the privilege of playing a man more after Agila FC were reduced to 10-men inside the majority of the second half. In the said period, Pachanga-Diliman netted four times, including the free kick which came as a result of Agila goalkeeper Enrique Montserrat’s sending off. “That was our chance to score more goals to match Kaya because they also won 7-0 [versus Agila],” he elaborated in a mix of English and Filipino. It looked like their goal of breathing down Kaya’s necks were accomplished after the match but the big win of Kaya that followed right after made their win look like a small feat.

In fine form, Pachanga-Diliman will play against Team Socceroo FC tomorrow. Ahead of that match, Liza has one big concern: making do without young key players. “We have national U-23 players in duty.” he voiced, “For me it’s a big loss. They’re first XI in our team.” Liza added in reference to the forthcoming absence of Jinggoy Valmayor, Daniel Gadia, Patxi Santos, and Ace Villanueva—all of whom are in Australia as part of the Philippine U-23 team that will compete in the Southeast Asian (SEA) games. Many UFL teams will also miss the services of their exemplary young players but no other team will miss them than Pachanga-Diliman, whose Valmayor and Gadia played important roles in their 7-0 demolition of Agila.

A number of Iranians will be taking the places of the UP Fighting Maroons quartet, who will only return to their club by late June. Overall, it presents an interesting conundrum for Liza and Pachanga-Diliman as they finish the group stage with a retooled squad.

JP Voltes top group C ahead of big games against UFL giants

 

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In what is dubbed as the competition’s group of death, current UFL Division II leaders JP Voltes made the most out of their games, winning both in contrasting fashion. JP Voltes uncorked their Cup run with a 7-0 thrashing of University of Santo Tomas, but were tested in a 2-1 comeback win against Division II rivals Mendiola FC 1991. With the combination of results in their group, which included a 1-1 draw between Stallion FC and defending UFL Cup champions Loyola Meralco Sparks, JP Voltes currently find themselves leading Group C with six points. It is an encouraging sign for the team seeking promotion to Division I but they will now face a couple of huge clashes against teams that are making a run for the league title.

For them to avoid defeat to either one of the two big teams at the very least will be an important step towards securing their place in the quarterfinals. More significantly, winning at least one may even put them on top of the table; an event not thought by many to happen before the tournament began. To do just that, it seems that JP Voltes will need more of the same from Yugo Kobayashi. The striker has netted five goals in two games so far, although of those came from inferior opposition. In what appears to be his team’s most important couple of matches, Kobayashi will be instrumental up front considering that both their next opponents have scouted the Japanese marksman. Likewise, all of his teammates, particularly individuals in charge of defending, will be facing massive tests against Stallion and Loyola’s intimidating front lines.

Whether they qualify or not, JP Voltes will surely be able to gauge where they are right now by facing two of the toughest teams in Division I. They are due to clash with Loyola first, which will be on Tuesday, May 19. Afterwards, JP Voltes will be testing their might versus Stallion five days later.

Busy schedule forces Manson to maximize deep Global roster

 

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Restless is one word that may describe the reigning league champions Global FC, who are due for more games than usual this season. The team currently played six games in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup where they finished third in their group; three points shy of advancing into the next round. Add to that a single-match qualification and possibly more should they make it past Hougang United in the Singapore Cup slated later this May. For Global coach Leigh Manson, that simply means deploying as much personnel as he can. Many UFL Division I teams have also been doing the same thing, but it is arguable that Global boast the country’s deepest squad, something Manson is hoping to take full advantage of.

Global’s Scottish mentor revealed his decision to do so after their 4-1 win against Forza FC at the start of their UFL Cup bid. “I’m going to need to do that with all these competitions. We’re going to have to keep rotating players. Players need to understand when they’re on the pitch that they need to make as big of an impact as possible,” Manson said. Matthew Hartmann and OJ Clarino lead a stellar set of their new acquisitions that were brought in to boost Global’s attempt of successfully defending their league crown.

About to join their fourth competition in a single season, Global presently face an enviable situation in virtually representing the Philippines in international club football tournaments. A pitfall of such privilege, however, is selecting the best XI possible while also taking into consideration the players’ match fitness. “I think that’s part of the sluggishness. Some of the players are very tired,” Manson said after another 4-1 win against Manila Jeepney. Global may have registered decent results in the cup but none of those were convincing if Manson were to be asked. “We still missed a lot of chances. I think we were creating chances and not putting them away. That reflects in the score line,” the Global coach added.

Into the coming days, his personnel will be narrowed down a bit too as some of Global’s players have been preparing in Sydney, Australia for the SEA Games football tournament, which will be played in Singapore next month. As more games fill the schedule of Global’s players and staff, Manson will need everyone to be in their best form in order to achieve the squad’s objectives for this season.

That does it for the inaugural UFL edition of FULL TIME presented by Mini Cooper Watches. As we go further, more stories are bound to be told from across the league. Until then, we bid you farewell.

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Football

Composed Ceres-Negros expels Shan United in shootout victory

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Photo from the-AFC.com

2017 AFC ASEAN Zone Champions Ceres-Negros banked on their poise and composure from the spot as they knocked out Myanmar’s Shan United via a 4-3 penalty shootout (1-1 after extra time) triumph, Tuesday evening at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.

The Negrenses punched their ticket to Brisbane, Australia after emerging the better spotkick takers. Four Busmen were on target, while two of their Shan Warriors counterparts fluffed their lines.

The two domestic champions were inseparable after 120 minutes, with the hosts holding their own against the Philippine champions. Ceres-Negros looked the more dominant of the two teams. However, they couldn’t make the advantage count where it mattered, as they failed to breach the sturdy Shan United defense inside the first two regulation halves.

The visitors were visibly more comfortable in the first half, but with the scores staying level at the break, the less-fancied Myanmar champions eventually found their footing in the encounter. While there were several half-chances from either side to open the scoring, both defenses remained defiant en route to unwanted extra time.

“It was a tough game. We weren’t ready to play 120 minutes because we only had four training sessions before the game but everytime we wear this jersey, we represent Ceres, we represent Bacolod, we represent the Philippines, so we have to give our best,” Ceres’ defender Carli de Murga elaborated to the Inquirer after the match. The Asian Football season has yet to start, and with both teams not too busy with pre-season preparations, rust and fatigue in a demanding affair were evident.

Come extra time, Ceres-Negros took the initiative when Stephan Schröck’s deflected effort went past the helpless Thiha Si Thu just three minutes into the first half.

Nonetheless, the hosts refused to go down without a fight, and their resilience was rewarded later in the opening half. Substitute Patrick Asare found the back of the net to restore parity in Yangon.

Another 15 minutes of goalless action took place in the second half as both teams looked more cautious, perhaps with the collective aim of avoiding a costly error or two. Among all the chances, Schröck’s in the 114th minute may have proved to be the closest to changing the scores, as his attempt shaved the post.

Shan United took to the spot first, where Asare made his penalty attempt count. Nay Lin Tun also made his, but not before teammate Chizoba smashed his attempt over Toni Doblas’ goal.

While the hosts squandered a shot, the visitors remained calm in front of a hostile Myanmar crowd. De Murga, Schröck and Mike Ott nailed their turns, with Marañon also not missing a vital kick from 12 yards.

It set up William Biassi Nyakwe, the man credited with the own goal when he deflected Schröck’s opener, with the chance to prolong his team’s campaign in the AFC Champions League. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t atone for his earlier mistake, as his attempt soared high and wide — much to the delight of the visiting team from Bacolod, the Philippines.

The reward for Ceres-Negros is a trip to Queensland, Australia, where they will seek to do one better than compatriots Global-Cebu. The 2016 Philippine champions also played against the Brisbane Roar, who dealt them a staggering 6-0 hammering this time last year. The match will be held at the Suncorp Stadium on January 23.

As for Shan United, a spot in the AFC Cup Group Stage awaits them and they may not have seen the last of Ceres-Negros just yet. If the Negrenses lose to either Brisbane Roar or Tianjin Quanjian, they will be reacquainted with the Burmese champions in Group F.

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Basketball

Abu Tratter plans to work his way to 2023 by continuing to do ‘the dirty work’

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Abu Tratter may have missed the jersey-giving ceremony that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas held for the 23 for 2023 cadets last Monday but he made sure to help out when the current batch needed him the most.

After helping the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers win the Sinulog Cup in Cebu a week ago, the 6-foot-7 Filipino-American did not hesitate to heed Gilas’ call, as they were undermanned for their second session in preparation for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“I think it’s just an honor to put on this jersey, to be able to represent our country, to possibly represent our country in the future. It’s an honor,” shared the Laguna-native.

The 25-year old, who just celebrated his birthday last January 9, admitted that he was in awe of the talent inside the Meralco Gym. Like a fan, he wanted to take a few photo ops with the senior team’s Gabe Norwood and June Mar Fajardo.

“Actually, at first I was just shocked to see June Mar and Gabe, just to be able to be in the midst of them,” gushed the former DLSU Green Archer, who will suit-up for Marinerong Pilipino in the D-League. “I even asked them for a picture, and hopefully they’ll still give me one.

“It’s just humbling, definitely.”

However, the work has only began for Tratter. With five years to go until the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the two-time UAAP champion plans to continue to do what he does best — be the same scrapper that he is and hopefully catch the eye of Gilas’ brass.

“I think just doing the dirty work, of course. Giving whatever the team needs, rebound or any steals, any thing a dirty player would need to pick up on,” he said.

“That’s how it is, garbage into gold. Get anything, sweep up anything and try to put it back.”

Moreover, he will continue answering the call when Gilas needs him, as he himself is learning a lot from being surrounded by the country’s topflight cagers.

“Whenever I can. I want to be able to absorb all the information coming from here and hopefully apply it in the D-League and hopefully apply it on future practices, future games.”

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Terrence Romeo invited to join Pilipinas 3×3 for World Cup

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Stronger than ever

Scoring sensation Terrence Romeo has been invited by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to join the Philippine team in the upcoming FIBA 3X3 World Cup, according to Philippine Star columnist Quinito Henson.

Romeo, who is currently out due to a right knee injury, has been in rehabilitation and is expected to miss the entire Philippine Cup campaign of the Globalport Batang Pier and the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“Baka sa second conference na ko makabalik kasi talagang gusto ko malakas ako pagbalik ko,” the 25-year-old shared during Chooks-to-Go Live last January 2.

SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios personally met with the 6-foot guard, inviting him to be part of the Philippine team.

Romeo has plenty of 3×3 basketball experience under his belt.

Back in 2014, Romeo was part of the Manila West 3×3 team during the Manila Masters. He was adjudged as the tournament Most Valuable Player.

The 2018 3X3 World Cup will take place from June 8-12 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

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NCAA

Red Spikers extinguish Blazers for second win

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Shaking off a forgettable outing against the Perpetual Help Altas last January 11, the San Beda College Red Spikers vented their ire on defending champions College of Saint Benilde Blazers in four sets, 25-15, 25-16, 23-25, 26-24, and claimed their second win of the season, Friday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

“Sabi ng coaches kalimutan na yung talo,” shared captain Lorenze Santos of what transpired after that match.

So, in this game, the San Beda team poured on what they worked hard for to regain momentum. “Binuhos po namin lahat ng ginawa namin sa training [ngayon].”

After tight starts in all the first two sets, the Mendiola-based side pulled away to register the seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead.

Nonetheless, summoning the heart of a champion and led by seniors Isaah Arda and Jethro Orian, the reigning champions pulled off gritty runs to snag the third set and making a tussle of the fourth.

Ultimately, Adrian Viray virtually ended the match with a vicious serve, which the Blazers failed to convert.

The prolific outside hitter finished with 17 points, 11 coming from attacks and five off blocks. Former skipper Mark Encino also registered 17 markers.

The Red Spikers (2-1) will face the Mapua University, also at 2-1, on Friday, January 19.

Orian was such a presence at the net, ending up with 20 points for the Taft-based squad.

The defending champions Blazers (2-1) will try to bounce back later that day against San Sebastian College (0-3).

The Scores:

SBC 3 – Viray 17, Enciso 17, Santos 11, Patenio 7, Amagan 7, Desuyo 3, Zabala 0, Genobaten 0, Manliclic 0, Casin L.

CSB 1 – Orian 20, Arda 18, Bacani 6, Basilan 4, Bautista 4, Magsino 2, Martinez 0, Garcia 0, San Miguel 0, Saldavia 0, Dy L.

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