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UAAP Season 78 Men’s Football Starter Pack

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[nextpage title = “Opener”]

Written by Brian Tamayao & Lorenzo Del Carmen

Season 77 was a milestone year for UAAP Football. Changes had been implemented before the season started. The old twice-to-beat format was abolished in favor of a knockout semi-finals clash. In addition to that, the finals had been stipulated to be a one-off game rather than the traditional best-of-three series seen in other collegiate sports.

The changes to the format had brought about an exciting season. The De La Salle University finished top of the standings at the end of the elimination round, followed by Season 76 champions Far Eastern University, as well as recent championship-winning sides of University of the Philippines and Ateneo De Manila University. A return to the Rizal Memorial Stadium was then booked for the Final Four and Finals after more than a decade.

The Final Four saw DLSU knock out archrivals ADMU via a dramatic Gelo Diamante wonder goal, and FEU do the same thing to UP courtesy of an extra time clincher by Arnel Amita. It was a return to the Finals for DLSU after nine years, while FEU were aiming to clinch a second straight treble in UAAP Football. It turned out to be a dramatic final, as FEU defeated DLSU 3-2 at extra time in front of a huge crowd in Rizal.

As Season 78 dawns upon us, another exciting and dramatic edition of UAAP Football awaits. Here is our preview and prediction for all the schools this upcoming Season 78

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[nextpage title = “Far Eastern University”]

Far Eastern University Tamaraws

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

FEU had come into last season as favorites, as they had kept most of their reliable players in the roster. Despite a rocky start that had seen them lose twice in the first round, the Tamaraws weathered the storm, dropping just four points in their last seven matches in the elimination round. Seizing momentum, Kim Chul Su’s team showed immense passion and flair to eke out big playoff wins against UP and La Salle to defend the coveted UAAP title.

Expectations for Season 78?

The defending champions are predicted to make at least the playoffs this year; most of their experienced players come from the back-to-back title-winning side, and will be gunning for their third straight this season. The Tamaraws are perceived by many as a very attack-minded squad, despite having lost the services of two-time UAAP Golden Boot winner Jesus Joaquin “Jhan Jhan” Melliza. After all, they still have the likes of Eric Giganto, Arnel Amita, and Paolo Bugas who will spearhead the charge. Their eagerness to attack somehow undermines their solid yet aggressive defense, but the “score more than you” mindset seems to have worked well with FEU for a couple of years now. Armed with numerous options on the attacking end, together with the goal of becoming the first team to win three in a row since Ateneo in the mid-2000s, FEU remain this year’s team-to-beat.

Best finish?

Champions for the third consecutive year. No one will want to write the Tamaraws off as contenders in this season’s championship race.

Worst finish?

Losing to a lower-ranked team in the Final Four. A semifinal exit would be quite unthinkable to begin with, but the Final Four does not offer any incentive to a top-seeded team. The Tamaraws may find themselves vulnerable to an upset if they don’t get to play their brand of football on that fateful day.

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

Paolo Bugas.

The charismatic FEU midfielder is one of the most experienced players in the roster. Despite only playing in what is his fourth season for the Tamaraws, Bugas is rich in playing experience, as he has been exposed to several competitions over the past year. Able to play in the middle or on the wings, Bugas can make some things happen on the attacking third.

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[nextpage title = “De La Salle University”]

De La Salle University Green Archers


Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

La Salle had an excellent run of 15 unbeaten games that saw them reach the finals for the first time in 11 years. Getting there, Hans Smit’s boys had relied on the strongest defense in the division. The Green Archers had boasted the meanest defense last year, only conceding at a formidable rate of three goals in every four matches, including the playoffs, throughout the season. Being defensive-minded, La Salle did not need to score plenty of goals. Still, they managed a third-best tally of 27 goals in the tournament, most of which had been timed to perfection. Having maximized their strengths on both ends, La Salle ended the elimination round ahead of everyone else and came agonizingly close to winning the title.

Expectation for Season 78?

La Salle are still among the deepest teams in the league. The Green Archers may have lost key players such as Gio Diamante, Nathan Alquiros, and Matthew Nierras, but they have new recruits such as Jed Diamante, Mikel Maniquis, and Javi Romero-Salas to blend in with the core of last year’s roster. The strong selection gives La Salle the opportunity to pick up where they left off last season. Having one of the oldest teams coming into the season, La Salle also possess experience, which may come in handy as the season progresses. Looking at these aspects, the Green Archers are favored to succeed anew this season. If making the finals had been considered a success in previous seasons, winning the crown will be the standard this time around.

Best finish?

Winning it all. Having made the final last year, La Salle are eager to make a return to the championship round a tradition. Prior to last season, their last finals appearance had come a decade ago. With the heartbreak of having lost the finals still relatively fresh in their memory, there should be no shortage of motivation to reach the summit this time around.

Worst finish?

Bowing out in the semifinals. La Salle are one of three teams to have never missed the Final Four since the format was introduced to football in 2012. With the program gaining traction, it would take an unlikely catastrophic run of results for them to miss out on the semifinals.

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

Gelo Diamante.

Just like his older brother, Gio, before him, Gelo is set to takeover the captain’s armband for the Green Archers. Aside from how he leads his team, it’s the number of goals he will score and the chances he will create which could prove pivotal to bringing that championship back to Taft. The Green Archers had a great defense in Season 77, but perhaps they could have sealed the championship if they had had a great goalscorer who could make things happen in the attacking third. That is where Diamante comes in. Assuming he plays as a striker, Diamante will have to score consistently to help his team win games. If Diamante won’t be played as a striker, he will most probably be stationed as an attacking midfielder to support the likes of young guns Cristian Zubiri and Yoshiharu Koizumi.

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[nextpage title = “University of the Philippines”]

University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

Letdown. Having been perennial finalists for the past few seasons, much was expected from the Fighting Maroons in Season 77. However, the surge of DLSU had relegated the Fighting Maroons to third place at the end of the elimination round. It was then a sad end to the season for them, as they were knocked out by eventual champions FEU in the Final Four stage.

Expectation for Season 78?

It can’t be stated enough that Jinggoy Valmayor will be a massive loss to the UP cause. The former LSGH Greenie had immediately set the UAAP alight with back-to-back championships in his first two seasons. Valmayor had averaged more than 10 goals per season, and finding who can supply that vital contribution will be quite a task. His absence should make the scoring load more balanced. Playing without a renowned goalscorer would also require the UP defense to be more compact than it already has been, particularly against the league’s big hitters. Aside from Valmayor, key cogs Michael Simms, Jacob Ochoa, and Albert Yatco have played out their eligibility. Nevertheless, expect the Fighting Maroons to be championship contenders, with Anto Gonzales still at the helm. After all, they get to keep what is seen as an experienced set of players who know what it takes to reach the semis. Assuming the Final Four is guaranteed this season, who they match up against will be what determines the fate of their championship hopes.

Best finish?

UAAP Season 78 Champions. Anything less than the championship will be a disappointment for the Fighting Maroons.

Worst finish?

Eliminated in the Final Four. The Fighting Maroons should at least be able to reach the Final Four, but elimination at this stage would still be bittersweet for them.

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

Ian Clarino.

Expect major improvement from an already good player because of his stints with Global FC and the U-23 National Team that competed in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games. How he will marshall UP’s backline will be integral to championship hopes this Season 78.

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[nextpage title = “Ateneo de Manila University”]

Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

A return to the Final Four. Everyone should remember that the Blue Eagles finished dead last in Season 76 (seventh place because Adamson had fielded no team then) after their championship year in Season 75. They had then made the Season 77 Final Four in dramatic fashion via a last-minute Kendall Colet goal against the University of Santo Tomas in the final elimination round matchday. That hadn’t been their sole impressive performance in the elimination round, as they had defeated former finalists UP, 1-0, via a Mikko Mabanag penalty. Alas, they were eliminated in the Final Four by archrivals DLSU, but it had been a season of progress for the Blue Eagles after the major collapse in Season 76.

Expectation for Season 78?

The Blue Eagles will definitely be Final Four contenders. Their upward trend suggests that they will retain their Final Four slot come Season 78 and maybe, just maybe, compete for the championship itself. New additions like Jarvee Gayoso and Mashu Yoshioka bring more intensity to an already energetic lineup. However, any talk of a first finals appearance since Season 75 can only be spoken about if they reach the Final Four. In the end, this is a well-drilled team that knows how to grind out results when needed, so expect them to gain numerous wins over the course of the season.

Best finish?

Finals. The Blue Eagles should make the Final Four on paper. A first Finals appearance since Season 75 is possible, depending on the matchups. It’s a tight call over whether they’ll be champions due to the strong squads of FEU, UP, and DLSU.

Worst finish?

Fifth place. At the very least, the Blue Eagles should compete for a Final Four slot. If they fall short, they shouldn’t finish lower than fifth.

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

Mikko Mabanag.

How Mabanag will orchestrate his team from midfield will be important for Ateneo. Mabanag provides composure and leadership from the middle of the pitch. In addition to those factors, his set-piece delivery will also be important considering the Blue Eagles scored a lot of goals in Season 77 via set pieces.

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[nextpage title = “National University”]

National University Bulldogs

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

Season 77 had been a watershed year for the NU Bulldogs. Before last season, the Bulldogs had finished second from bottom in Seasons 75 and 76. The Paolo-Salenga-led Bulldogs had been just three minutes away from at least getting a playoff with ADMU for the last Final Four slot, but Kendall Colet had scored in the 87th minute vs UST to dramatically clinch it for the Blue Eagles. It was an anticlimactic finish for the Bulldogs, but to finish fifth at the end of the Season 77 and just stand two points away from a Final Four slot made it a great campaign for them.

Expectation for Season 78?

The Final Four should be the goal for the Bulldogs. Season 75 had marked the Bulldogs’ first foray into UAAP Football, and the players should have matured by now. How the Bulldogs will navigate Season 78 will depend on their veterans. Potentially spearheading the team are the likes of Francis Abalunan, Patrick Valenzuela, and Alberto Frias. In addition to them, a big morale booster for NU is Paolo Salenga’s return to help the Bulldogs’ cause. Salenga will no doubt want to score more goals this season compared to the nine he had scored last Season 77. Expect the bolder, wiser Bulldogs to go for a place in the post-season. Anything else after that should be considered a bonus.

Best finish?

Final Four. It’s all about progress for NU’s Football program, and a Final Four slot should be the main goal, particularly as they had missed out by a tad the previous year.

Worst finish?

Sixth place. At the very least, the lowest the Bulldogs should place is one below where they finished last season. With that said, anything lower than fifth place is a massive disappointment.

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

Paolo Salenga.

The talented forward will once again be entrusted to lead the Bulldogs from the front. Salenga will also be more experienced now because of his spells with Global FC and the U-23 National Team during the past SEA Games. He will also be buoyed by having scored against Cambodia in the last SEA Games. If he can once again become a constant source of goals for NU, then the Bulldogs will have a strong chance of clinching a Final Four slot for the very first time.

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[nextpage title = “University of Santo Tomas”]

University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

Well, all good things had to end. Season 77 was the first time in fourteen years the Growling Tigers had failed to finish in the Final Four. It had been such a dismal season for them as they only notched four wins in the whole elimination round. Adamson University and University of the East were the only teams they had been able to defeat in Season 77. While they had defeated them quite handsomely, they clearly found other foes daunting. Close calls against La Salle and Ateneo were silver linings but those wouldn’t cut it for a team with a tradition of success like UST. They finished the elimination round with twelve points, eleven behind fifth-placed NU. There could be many reasons why they had an awful Season 77, namely key players who had been ineligible, or it had simply been the end of an era.

Expectation for Season 78?

Simply put, the Growling Tigers must do better. While no UAAP school has a right to a Final Four slot, last season’s meltdown was simply unacceptable for a big school like UST. In a sense, the Growling Tigers are in a similar position to their post-Season 76 counterparts from Ateneo. Just like Ateneo then, a return to the Final Four should be the main objective for the Growling Tigers this season. Based on Season 77’s results, the last Final Four slot will be a three horse race between the Growling Tigers, Blue Eagles, and Bulldogs. All things considered, it might boil down to which one of these three teams gets the most points from the other two for the crucial Final Four slot. With numerous players who had been out of Season 77 reportedly returning this season, expect the Growling Tigers to be more resilient than they had been the previous year.

Best finish?

Final Four. The Growling Tigers need to reassert themselves in the post-season race. Failure to do so will be a huge let down.

Worst finish?

Sixth or seventh place. Surely the Growling Tigers can’t be as bad or worse than last season?

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

Marvin Bricenio.

The winger had been impressive in what became a lackluster Season 77 for UST. A playmaker along the wings, the Growling Tiger will be given plenty of the attacking load, especially following the key absences of last year’s key Tigers Steven Anotado and Gino Clarino.

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[nextpage title = “University of the East”]

University of the East Red Warriors

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

After a very impressive Season 76 campaign, UE seemed lost following the departure of their main man Fitch Johnson Arboleda. The Red Warriors had been on the wrong end of some lopsided results, but it was not all downhill for the boys in red. They also experienced narrow defeats to some of the title contenders, mainly due to the stellar performances of their top keeper Lendon Clores. Unfortunately for the Red Warriors, they had difficulties finding the back of the net, with a league-worst output of eight goals simply not good enough. Fitness and discipline issues had also plagued UE, who had to work with their decent yet then-inexperienced bunch of players. Nearly losing to Adamson in the second round underlined last season’s gloom fate.

Expectation for Season 78?

UE will look to redeem themselves following a dismal season. One area they should have strengthened during the off-season is attacking. The Red Warriors had a poor 0.57 goals per game ratio in Season 77 and they would definitely want more goals than that. One thing UE can capitalize on this season is their youth. Having been exposed early in the UAAP, many of UE’s players have been developing as integral members of their roster. Their previous experiences may help them become better players this season, perhaps even better than what many would have thought. UE, nonetheless, are in a rebuilding phase. A “nothing to lose, more to gain” scenario appears to be the best situation to cultivate raw talent into skilled personnel.

Best finish?

Challenging for the Final Four regardless of where they end up in the elimination round. Like what was said earlier, UE are not seen as a threat by possible semi-final contenders. Should they prove them wrong, mounting a substantial Final Four bid would be taken well by the Red Warriors. Making the Final Four itself would absolutely be a bonus.

Worst finish?

Eighth place. Finishing behind a growing yet far inexperienced Adamson side would definitely raise concerns in the red and white camp.

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

Ariel Mallen.

The midfielder brought a lot of intensity moving forward for the UE Red Warriors last season. His pace and vision are his weapons in unlocking defenses. Unfortunately, he hadn’t been able to stay healthy throughout the season for them to achieve more than they actually did. Intent on regaining pride following last year’s disappointing finish, Mallen is expected to spearhead the UE frontline to greater heights this time around.

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[nextpage title = “Adamson University”]

Adamson Soaring Falcons

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

What happened last season?

The Adamson football program returned to the competition last season and many were curious how they would fare with a young team in the league. Whilst they had suffered some painstakingly lopsided defeats, their run was not without moral victories. Holding UP to a 1-1 draw at the tail end of the regular season had been the main highlight, a feat that they may well want to repeat or even surpass. They have some players to look out for and no team must sleep on these boys, who are determined to prove themselves out to the rest of the competition.

Expectation for Season 78?

As the latest batch of Soaring Falcons have already experienced the nature of competition in the UAAP, they will come into their second season more prepared than they had been a year before. The threat that the likes of the Bless Brian Jumo twins can offer will give Adamson a much needed boost on the attack, while stalwart goalkeeper Carl Viray can become one of the league’s promising shot-stoppers, as some had noticed in his debut year. A new year gives Adamson the chance to exceed expectations once more.

Best finish?

Seventh place. Finishing higher than one team may be considered success in a year where Adamson continue to stabilize their presence in the league.

Worst finish?

Eighth place, with less points and a worse net goals rate than last year. Not getting more than two points in 14 games or conceding more goals would definitely be a step back rather than forward for Adamson.

Player to watch?

Tiebreaker Times UAAP Season 78 Men's Football Starter Pack News

Bless Brian Jumo II.

The rookie had worked wonders in Season 77. It had taken some time for the Soaring Falcons to cope with the demands of the league but Jumo II seemed to adjust quicker than his peers. His five-goal tally is just as impressive as his sublime movement on and off the ball. Now serving as team captain, Jumo II will take charge of a team striving to overachieve in the second year of their comeback season.

Season 78 is just around the corner. Players and fans alike have waited 11 months for the beautiful game to be played by the country’s most exciting young prospects. Another exciting season beckons in the UAAP starting February 7.

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