Its knockout season once again in the United Football League and The Perfect Pass presents its semifinal preview of the Philippines’ top cup competition.
SF1: Kaya vs Stallion
Head to Head
12-04-2015 Kaya FC 0 – 3 Stallion FC
26-07-2015 Stallion FC 2 – 1 Kaya FC
Last 2 Cup Games
vs Nomads 10:1
vs JP Voltes 8:0
vs Socceroo 8:0
vs Pachanga 5:0
Both teams have been hot the last two games as they have been scoring from left and right producing astronomical scorelines against their opponents. Kaya has been riding high on Tishan Hanley to score the goals even while ace winger Louis Clark is out injured. Stallion meanwhile are banking on the combination of Reuben Doctora Jr and Jordan Mintah for their attack and have consistently gotten results from them.
Kaya has a slight advantage on the midfield with seasoned veterans in Chris Greatwich, OJ Porteria, and Alfred Osei while Stallion uses their young but dependable guns in Fitch Arcoleda and Nate Alquiros and veterans in Christian Nana and Simone Rota. The Ernie Nierras-mentored squad have used multiple midfield combinations the whole year while Kaya have been pretty consistent of their mids from the start.
Defense for both have been fairly even with Stallion having a slight advantage with a veteran keeper in Johann Neotzel. Stallion though have a yellow card situation with Doctora, Mintah, and Serge Kaole having yellow cards in the quarterfinal and Ian Araneta and Christian Nana in the round of sixteen,. Kaya meanwhile only have a suspension from Jorge Butron who was given a red card two games earlier.
Keys to Victory
The LBC-backed squad has been in adjustment the two weeks after their interim manager had to leave for personal reasons and with Clark and Joshua Beloya out the last game. It took a while for them to score against JP Voltes but when they scored, the flood gates opened which saw a relentless Kaya attack for 90+ minutes. Kaya must make the most out of the ascendancy of Hanley’s scoring and deal with Stallions physicality to get a result from this game. Getting Louis Clark back would be a big plus as it would set the game to a faster pace. Kaya’s defense must consistent enough to cover Stallions counters and chances created from set pieces.
The Iloilo-affiliated squad has been exceptional this year escpecially when playing Kaya. Their known physicality has dampened Kaya’s energy in their two games. Stallion have always started out well in their games most of the time taking the lead early in the match. But as seen in some games, the energy seemed to drift at the end where their opponents take advantage and erase the victories from them. If Stallion can maintain their quality for ninety minutes and get at least two early goals, they will find themselves in the final come Friday.
It will be tough as both teams are fairly even at this point. Kaya has been scoring well of late but the quality of the opposition would render it meaningless. Stallion have had a better test against a tough Pachanga-Diliman squad. The game will be a high scoring affair with Stallion edging out Kaya after extra time.
SF2: Ceres-La Salle vs Loyola
Head to Head
11-04-2015 Ceres La Salle FC 5 – 2 Loyola Meralco Sparks
20-06-2015 Loyola Meralco Sparks 1 – 6 Ceres La Salle FC
Last 2 Cup Games
vs UST FC 7:0
vs Archers 5:0
vs Mendiola 5:0
vs Jeepney 3:0
The two teams have barged in to the semifinals with convincing victories with Ceres scoring an average of six goals while Loyola has four. Ceres’ league top scorer in Adrian Gallardo has left for his home country but Lee Jeong Woo has easily taken his place and scored the opener for Ceres in the semis. Loyola’s Bradley Grayson meanwhile has brought a complimentary game to Phil Younghusband providing added speed and goalscoring. Its fairly even up top with Lee teaming up with Patrick Reichelt versus Loyola’s duo.
The midfield though is a different story as Ceres is loaded in all aspects. Azkals standouts in Manny Ott and Martin Steuble occupy the middle and Bienve Marañon and Orman Okunaiya in the flanks. Loyola has high quality wingers in Lee Joo Young and the returning Napo Bustillo but they might just cancel out with Ceres’ wings leaving hte Bacolod squads advantage and familiarity in the central midfield.
Both teams have a fairly even defense boasting of tough centerbacks but both defense’s have been struggling against very quick attackers, something they both have. Goalkeeping will be a key battle as Loyola’s Tomas Trigo, who will be awarded the league’s Best Keeper after having more clean sheets, will be pitted against Louis Michael Casas, who allowed the least number of goals this season.
Ceres has Marañon, Ott, and Reichelt on yellows while Loyola has Jorel Arisorenas, Grayson, James Younghusband, Simon Greatwhich, and Joaco Cañas
Keys to Victory
The Vallacar Transit squad had an uninspired outing against Green Archers in the quarters as it took a while for them to gain control of the midfield and score. When Ceres plays with urgency, nothing is impossible for them. The Bacolod squad however should unlock the Loyola defense from the build up as the latter will definitely use a lower defensive line to cancel out Ceres’ counter attack.
The Meralco-backed squad will need to bring their A game into play as they chase for a return to the UFL Cup final. In their last league outing, Loyola banked on a high defensive line which was heavily exploited by Ceres for six straight goals. This will not happen again. Bustillo and Lee will need to be at their best to showcase what was missing from Loyola’s attack from their two previous outings to compliment Phil Younghusband and Grayson up front. The Loyola center halves would need to push themselves to cancel out their counterparts in order to get a favorable result for this match.
The previous matches in the league this year will not matter in this game. Loyola is highly motivated to capture a spot in the final to have a chance for an AFC Cup playoff berth while Ceres will go on its quest for a double. This game will be a tough defensive battle as Ceres will claim a slim victory over their toughest opponent yet.