Stallion FC vs Green Archers FC
Players to watch:
STA: Jordan Mintah, Fitch Arboleda, Balot Doctora
GAU: Chieffy Caligdong, Gary Epesso, Lee Joo Young
Jordan Mintah is still a reliable goal scoring machine and together with new attacking options in Josh Beloya and Ashley Flores, Stallion will be a different animal to match up with in the quarterfinals. Chieffy Caligdong is leading the way for the Archers as the team’s spark plug, ably supported by influential players such as Garry Epesso and Lee Joo Young. Lee has been playing a more central role, far from his usual wing role while Epesso is the new target man filling in for the spot vacated by Rober Lopez-Mendy.
Stallion has breezed through the competition, topping Group A with an unblemished record of five wins and zero losses. The Gilligans-backed squad had their toughest challenge in the first week against Kaya, scoring a slim 1-0 victory. After which, they completed the eliminations with big wins against lesser squads.
The Archers meanwhile had a difficult elimination round having to face Ceres, Global, and Loyola in the group of death. The Green and White squad would often perform very well in the first hour but would fade in the end allowing their tormentors to snatch the wins from them. This was evident in the games against the higher seeded teams.
Both squads have been the standard bearers for homegrown player development the past two years allowing local talents to shine in the UFL. Stallion has the edge with a more youthful core while the Archers considered the veteran squad. If the Archers can keep up for a full ninety, they can steal this game and move on to the next round. With a long break from tough competition, Stallion FC just needs the correct fitness and focus to progress to the semifinals.
Advantage: Stallion FC
Loyola FC vs Kaya FC
Players to watch:
LMS: Alvaro Castiella, Jason de Jong, James Younghusband
KAY: Robert Lopez-Mendy, Aly Borromeo, OJ Porteria
Castiella is a phenomenal signing for the Sparks scoring plenty of goals in the group stages. De Jong is his usual tenacious self providing the coverage and physicality in the midfield. James Younghusband has been a true captain in the eliminations after filling in on key positions for his team. Lopez-Mendy has been on a tear in the UFL Cup group stages but his team has learned to play better without him in the UFL Cup. Aly Borromeo has been silently working his way to goals even as a centerback while Porteria has been on point this season with his shooting and passing.
Loyola came into the Cup knowing full well that the extent of their pre-season injuries would force them to field an untested side. This however was a blessing in disguise as it allowed unknown gems like Kou Belgira to flourish while the team slowly recovered from injuries. The Meralco-backed squad still relied heavily on experienced players like De Jong, Castiella, and James to get the desired results.
Kaya was also a team-in-transition similar to Loyola. The LBC-backed squad started a youth movement with their acquisitions and the weaker Group A allowed these players to familiarize themselves more with their teammates. This was evident in their AFC Cup performances where Kaya has grown overnight and now have six points to show in the first three games.
Loyola has the chance to snatch a win if they get most of their injured players in full fitness including Phil Younghusband who has logged zero game minutes this year. Kaya though has the clear advantage in this matchup after scoring wins against Asian squads even without Lopez-Mendy and Louis Clark who’s still recovering from an injury.
Advantage: Kaya FC
JP Voltes FC vs Global FC
Players to watch:
JPV: Masaki Yanagawa, Yu Hoshide, Takashi Odawara
GLO: Omid Nazari, Matthew Hartmann, Daisuke Sato
Yanagawa has been dominating for JP Voltes this season. After a move from Global with Yu Hoshide, he has been controlling the back while scoring goals for his squad. Hoshide has been pulling the strings in the group stages as both midfielder and playing coach. Odawara is clearly the team’s best offensive player partnering well with Hoshide to score convincing wins for the Japan-Philippines team.
Newcomer Omid Nazari has shown quality over the group stages and was dangerous together with Matt Hartmann on the attack. Sato has returned from his Japan trial along with renewed quality and fitness. His return has made an impact after his team started out slow in this competition.
JP Voltes has won games convincingly against other teams but has clearly struggled against the top clubs in Kaya and Stallion. Global has been on a tear after beating Ceres convincingly in their final group match. The renewed hunger from Global makes them hard to beat especially in the money stages.
Advantage: Global FC
Ceres-La Salle FC vs Forza FC
Players to watch:
CER: Adrian Gallardo, Stephan Shrock, Martin Steuble
FOR: Arvin Gaspe, Kyul Park, Rhon Reyes
2015 UFL League topscorer, Adrian Gallardo has been on a spree lately scoring big goals in the AFC Cup. Shrock has been as good as advertised while Steuble has on point this season for the Bacolod-based club. Local Boys Gaspe and Reyes have shown that they are threats while Park has been the consistent bright spot for the Alabang club.
Forza has been lucky to reach the quarterfinals as both of their wins came from opponents’ mistakes such as the own-goal win against Agila MSA and the default of Laos FC. Ceres will have the luxury to rest their players for the long grind ahead as the knockout stages will only last for eight days.
Advantage: Ceres-La Salle FC
All Photos are courtesy of the United Football League (www.uflph.com)