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
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
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
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
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
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.