By Ivan Geoffrey Gayares (@ivangeoffrey)
It was good as advertised. With larger than average crowds and exciting games, Matchday 2 was the perfect second to what was the biggest opening weekend in the UFL Cup thus far.
Nomads FC 0-4 Green Archers United
Don’t let the final score fool you. Nomads FC, who consist of a few veterans and a lot of youth players, had an outstanding first half in their opening game. Holding the Archers scoreless in the first half, Nomads were on point with their defense, even forcing a save during a first half penalty. Newcomers Dalir Lord Jamal and Juan Sebastian Gonzales almost scored for the Merville-based side, keeping the Green Archers on their feet in the opening half.
The Archers paraded some new recruits, namely Gary Eppeso, Joo Yong Lee, Hossein Doustdarsefidmazgi, and former Nomads U19 player Matthew Custodio. The veteran squad were clearly in transition as passing and finishing on the final third were still suspect and the inability to get shots on target on several occasions arose.
A quick chat with Nomads skipper Eric Antoine revealed that the club is running on zero sponsorship and have veteran players playing pro-bono. Majority of the squad teenagers, however, did get much needed experience at a higher level of football.
The veteran Archers turned on the heat in the second half exploiting the gaps in the defense to score four goals to deflate Nomads FC. Former Loyola player Lee Joo Yong debuted in a more central role for the archers unlike his winger/striker duties in his two previous clubs. Eppeso was the like for like replacement for Robert Lopez Mendy who transferred to Kaya FC. Team Captain and Man of the Match Chieffy Caligdong was his usual self, outwitting the Nomads defense to allow his teammates to pad the goals in their opening win.
Kaya FC 0-1 Stallion FC
It was new faces versus old reliables. A retooled Kaya squad was on full display against a Stallion team showcasing the same core. It’s always tough to call this matchup as it has always been close.
Interestingly enough, playing coach Chris Greatwich started the match from the stands as he was suspended for a red card infraction in last years Final. The coach opted to start with new faces such as former GAU Striker Robert Lopez Mendy, UFL Returnee Antonio Ugarte, ex-Loyola Spark Charlie Beaton, and newcomers Michael Acton and Sean Kane. OJ Porteria, Louis Clark, and Miguel Tanton were on standby.
Stallion featured new signings: former Kaya player Joshua Beloya and newcomer Ernest Qorda. As expected, the match was intensely close, only for veteran Jordan Mintah to break the deadlock just before halftime. Kaya chased for an equalizer in the second half but Stallion were equal to the task.
Loyola FC 1-2 Ceres-La Salle FC
The Bacolod squad featured new signings, Azkals Stephan Schrock and Kevin Ingreso, together with returnees Carlie de Murga and Adrian Gallardo. Schrock, who was probably the biggest name in the transfer period, brought with him his array of skills that made him the biggest crowd drawer this weekend.
Loyola, who were without injured players in Phil Younghusband, Simon Greatwich, and Joaco Canas, had some interesting players to start in their opener. Unknowns Kou Belgira, Akira Miyayama, and striker Alvaro Castiella were mystery men in the game. Jason de Jong also started his first UFL game for Loyola.
Many emotions came into play with the goals in the match. De Murga scored his first goal after being injured in the final of the 2014 FA League Cup. The former Azkal was overcome with emotion after scoring on a rebound from a saved penalty, erasing frustrations from a gruesomely long recovery.
Former Pachanga-Diliman striker Jinggoy Valmayor came on as a substitute in the second half providing the equalizer for the Sparks. The San Carlos Negros Occidental native jumped in jubilation rushing to hug his former UP teammates in the Loyola sidelines. Valmayor and company very recently lost their former UP teammate Rogie Maglinas to complications due to cancer.
Another de Murga reaction from a set piece piece in injury time proved to be the difference as he completed his brace to punctuate his emphatic return. Orman Okuinaya’s delivery from the cornerwas redirected by de Murga into the goal.
Biggest Opening Weekend
The opening weekend for this years UFL Cup featured a combined crowd of almost 3,000 for the two match days. It’s a great start so far for the United Football League, especially given that the UAAP football tournaments also ran on the same play dates. — CAL