Mendiola FC 1991 and University of Santo Tomas recently participated in the knockout stages of the United Football League (UFL) Cup. As the lower seeded teams in the tournament, they were assigned to face the best of Division I in the Round of 16. Both teams may have unsurprisingly ended with defeat to two top-tier powerhouses in Loyola Meralco Sparks and Ceres-La Salle, but their confidence has not dampened one bit. After all, it was experience that they were after.
Mendiola FC 1991 Coach Aris Caslib was happy his players who also play from San Beda College have stepped up against a not so strange opponent. They faced each other earlier in the group stages, wherein Loyola battered them 7-0. In the knockout stage, the margin was lessened by a couple of goals. “We really didn’t have that much strength to compete with this mind if level but at least we have 100% to play a good game against Meralco,” Caslib expounded. He also thought that his team’s defensive line has a lot to learn from matches like these that don’t come very often. “We really wanted this kind of exposure. We lost and we played a good game. It’s a good experience for the kids,” the former National Team coach closed.
As for UST, Coach Marjo Allado disclosed that they had the luxury of choosing either to assume 15th place or go with the 16th. A 16th seed would put them with in a collision course with Kaya who ended the Cup group stages as the best team. They were relishing a competitive battle with a top team so that would have been favourable, but instead they selected to go with 15th and face recently crowned UFL Champions Ceres-La Salle. “Mas maganda Ceres kasi kailangan nila makalaban to gain more experience,” Allado spoke of while pointing out a bunch of talented players the Negrense club boasts.
On paper, a 7-0 loss never looks good. However, Allado believes that his team put up a great fight against one of the best teams in the archipelago. “The boys kept on fighting, pero minsan good teams emerge as winners,” the UST mentor conceded. Two things, he assessed, were to be learned from such an occasion. One of which is marking, as Allado noticed several attacking strategies that exposed his young back line. The other is finishing, which the gaffer thinks stems from winning mentality-something that is currently a shortage in his squad. Fortunately, they still have a vast amount of time in order to resolve their issues.
Their opponents too have been impressed. Loyola’s Phil Younghusband noted a fortified Mendiola squad as compared to what his team faced three months ago in the group stages. “They’re a lot more difficult to break down than in the past,” the Azkal mainstay uttered. It took an extra effort for the Sparks to dispatch their Division II opponents. Also, Ceres mentor Ali Go had kind words to say for UST. “For me, they are good for a college team,” he stated after it took a second-half juggernaut to dissolve the gritty Tigers. In addition, Go even sees UST as a force to be reckoned with in the 78th season of the UAAP.
Aside from the Cup, the Bedans and the Tomasinos also have Ang Liga that serves as a tournament in preparation for the upcoming collegiate football season. The San Beda Red Lions are eager to defend their NCAA football title while the UST Tiger Booters are eyeing a return to the UAAP Final Four and perhaps take the crown from FEU while they are at it. The two traditionally strong teams are definitely ones to look out for once college football resumes. –LGT