The Far Eastern University Tamaraws haven’t been their dominant selves early in the UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Tournament.
The Tamaraws have drawn against University of the Philippines and National University; defeated the Ateneo de Manila University; and lost against Season 77 Finals opponents De La Salle University and a resurgent University of Santo Tomas squad. Two draws, two losses and one win shouldn’t spell doom for the Tamaraws, but it does send some warning signs.
FEU midfielder Paolo Bugas was visibly disappointed after the match against La Salle and admitted his side have started Season 78 below their lofty standards. “Halata naman unusual para sa side namin kasi dati maganda talaga yung start namin eh. Ngayon kasi parang we’re not working as a team. Parang nag kanya-kanya.”
His teammate, defender Noli Chavez, said that their loss to La Salle should have served as an eye-opener for the Tamaraws. “’Yung parang wala ng bigay todo. Kulang kami sa puso tapos yung kailangan naming baguhin para maging one team. Mag-unite ulit kami tapos mag-adjust kami sa mga mistakes namin. ‘Yung mental namin parang bumababa eh kasi parang sabi namin ‘uy kulang tayo ng player tapos ganito hindi kaya’. Yung mental namin kailangan naming baguhin na kaya namin lahat ng teams.”
The match against UST should have been the chance for the Tamaraws to bounce back but they lost, 0-1, despite their intricate plays in attack.
If a lack of heart was the main cause of their loss to La Salle, then it was finishing which was missing against UST. Bugas shared, “Paulit-ulit na ‘yun nangyayari. We have a lot of chances kaso hindi talaga namin nakuha and kagaya ng sinasabi ni Master Kim sa amin: ‘kahit gaano kadami yung chances namin, pag hindi naman na-score yun, pumupunta yun sa kalaban’ which is ‘yung nangyari in the game against UST.”
It has been a season of wastefulness in front of goal so far for the Tamaraws. Every game in which they dropped points this season was winnable if only they finished their chances. Bugas stated, “Mas importante ‘yung finishing sa amin ngayon kasi yan yung difference last season at ngayon eh. Last season we have more goals kaysa ngayon.”
The only consolation for the Tamaraws in their losses was that they were able to do what their coach, Master Kim, ordered them to do, said Chavez. “’Yung mga one-two passes namin kanina, tapos other side, tapos parang tiki-taka, tapos yung mga through passes namin. Yun ‘yung mga pinagtatraining namin.”
“Nagagawa namin ‘yung mga play na pinapagawa ni Master Kim sa amin pero nagkulang talaga kami sa mga chance na hindi namin nakuha,” lamented Bugas.
He added that the Tamaraws coach blasted his players after UST defeated them. “Katulad ng sinabi ko kanina, marami kaming chances hindi namin nakuha which is kabaliktaran ang kalaban makakascore so lagi niya sinasabi ‘yun. Kahit sa La Salle game, yan yung sinabi niya sa amin so parang paulit-ulit na lang daw.”
In addition, Chavez noted that there are some tactical tweaks needed for the Tamaraws. “Siguro yung defense, kasi minsan may nagcocollapse. May mga strikers na nag-press agad, so kailangan namin mag-adjust dun sa defending namin, tapos yung mga crosses namin kailangan namin i-maximize kasi dun kami minsan nawawalan ng focus.”
Aside from defense, Chavez stated that the Tamaraws must also rectify their positional play. “May pagkukulang kami sa gitna eh. May agwat sa pagitan ng attacking at defending. Kailangan namin punoin ang space sa gitna, maraming second balls na dapat namin kunin pero wala kaming tao sa gitna.”
Observers have wondered whether the loss of Nano Amita to injury has weakened the Tamaraws this season. Bugas, though, played down his teammate’s absence. “Si Nano Amita, malaking bagay talaga yan sa team pero hindi namin iisipin na madodown ang team kasi may mga players na mag-step up so adjustment na lang ang kailangan.”
All of the opponents whom FEU have faced are contenders for the championship. With six teams treated as viable champions, Bugas feels that Season 78 is a lot tougher than its predecessor. “Lahat ng teams nag step up. As defending champions, kami yung gusto talagang talunin so ok naman sa amin yun. Magandang competition, may second round pa and may chances pa kami makapasok ng Final Four. Importante kasi makapasok ng Final Four kasi knockout round agad.”
In the end both Bugas and Chavez knew what the Tamaraws needed to get their season up and running again. Chavez said, “Siguro yung kailangan naming baguhin ngayon ay teamwork muna kami. Yung parang magkaisa ulit kami. Magkaintindihan tapos magcommunicate ng isang buong team.” On the other hand, Bugas emphasized goals. “Para sa akin kailangan talaga namin mag-work sa finishing namin kasi sayang play namin pag hindi kami makascore.”
No doubt a sense of urgency has crept into the Tamaraws after their poor start. However, here’s still a long way to go this Season 78. It may not have been the best start for the Tamaraws but it’s definitely too early to count them out.