Yokohama kicks off Football Cup

Yokohama Tire Sales Philippines, Inc. (YTSP) kicked off the Yokohama Football Cup last May 20 at the McKinley Hill Football Stadium in Taguig City. The Japanese tire brand extends its support to the local football scene with the two-day event that featured over a hundred teams of ten different age groups.

Yokohama has been the shirt sponsor for Chelsea Football Club the past two seasons with the north London club clinching the English Premier League title this 2016/2017 season.

Participating teams played a 7-a-side format with the age groups set on different schedules throughout the weekend. The 8 & 12-under teams opened the festivities Saturday morning with the Womens category closing the tournament on Sunday.

The only tire brand that produces its products in the country is looking to help Philippine football in their own way. “We are trying to somehow push more awareness for football in the Philippines” said Shawn Pamintuan, Marketing head of YTSP. “From this year and to the next few years, we would like to concentrate our efforts in supporting the football events in the Philippines,” Pamintuan added.

YTSP President Satoshi Hariyama highlighted the similar values in sports and in his company. “Sports have always been close to the heart of Yokohama. The effort and discipline that athletes put in to improve their skills can be likened to exacting dedication of Yokohama in consistently producing quality tires. We hope to highlight this similarity in supporting football in the Philippines.”

The event organized by CAN Sports saw at least a thousand spectators in opening day. Aside from the football, participants were also treated to mini-games in between their breaks. The same crowd is expected on the second day for the last day of the tournament.

Is there parity in the PFL?

The Philippines Football League is set to start on May the 6th with its curtain raiser in thKaya-Ceres match at the University of Makati Stadium. With the existence of supposed ‘super’ teams in the league, the average filipino football fans asks: Is there parity in the PFL?

If we look at pre-season friendlies and training matches, no PFL team has come out unbeaten. Global and Ceres have been beaten by Stallion. JP Voltes has made easy work of Ceres. Loyola beat Ilocos but the northern squad has also beat Stallion who also beat the Meralco-backed squad. The results seem to be promising but do these practice games really tell the big picture?

Typical practice game sessions consists of two thirty-minute sessions with another twenty-minute one to complete the match. Clubs can play whatever combination they like in those periods and are usually not required to play the first team. There was one instance when Loyola played a team full of tryout attendees where one period saw Loyola fielding in a foreign eleven and a filipino eleven in another. Practice game sessions are usually used to test players and experiment on combinations that a club can use.

Pre-Season tournaments carry more weight as teams are exposed into a real match scenarios. The Stallion invitational early in the year was a good way for the clubs to gauge their teams performance in a competition environment. The hosts came out as winners of the pocket tournament which they won in extra time against a toughened Meralco squad. The win catapulted Stallion as contenders in the league but it also showed that that other teams can really catch up especially Loyola who they have played tough matches and Ilocos who have beaten Stallion in a separate match.

So what about these ‘heavyweights’? Ceres has announced the signing of Stephan Schröck this week. The Bacolod giants add another piece to what is deemed a very deep lineup where some online football fans regard the move as ‘overkill’. Global was deemed to have won the foreign player lottery with quality signings that compliment a strong first eleven. The added combiantion of Wesley dos Santos, Shu Sasaki, and Darryl Roberts have been instrumental in bringing them to first place in their AFC Cup group.

These clubs have achieved some improbable wins against regional heavyweights in the AFC Cup. Global has beaten Johor Darul Ta’zaim while Ceres has dumped Hanoi FC in their home matches. What our AFC Cup representatives have done has been nothing short of a miracle.

So does this mean the other teams are short changed given Ceres and Global’s AFC Cup success? I don’t think it is the case. The rest of the teams have the upper hand in scouting the ‘favorites’ and at this point already know how to beat them.

Last year’s United Football League had its fair share of title-changing results. Green Archers United put then Ceres-La Salle on its knees while JP Voltes brought Global down to earth with big wins. The win by the Archers altered the title chase gifting Global with a cushion comfortable enough for them to seal the 2016 UFL title. This year is no different.

So is there parity in the PFL? I would say yes. With all the teams consolidating this year together with the unpredictability of pre-season results, we can safely say that were up for a surprise in this inaugural season. 

[April Fools] Philippine Football League delayed to 2018

The upcoming Philippine Football League will be delayed to January 2018 according to a source in the Philippines Football Federation. The league was slated to start this April but was moved because of a major issue.

“We encountered a roadblock for the opening match,” said an anonymous source inside the federation. “We want to make this a very good opening for the league but met an unexpected challenge along the way,” the source added.

An interview with the interested teams also welcomed the delay of the league. “We cant move forward unless this problem is resolved,” said a team manager who requests for anonymity. “I mean we love the sport and we play football week in and week out and we but the federation needs to resolve the issue first before we start the league,” the team manager added.

Unconfirmed reports say that the Federation was planning an opening show in the grandest scale with song and dance numbers from top Filipino celebrities and international artists prior to the opening match. The opening however hit a snag when two teams fought over Lisa Soberano as the team muse in opening day. The issue is largely blamed to the actress’ manager whose a verbal commitment was secured by one team, but offered Lisa to another after cash was offered on the spot.

“It’s very ugly. I’m not talking about Lisa, I’m talking about situation” said the Philippines Football Federation source. “The teams have gone to court and hopefully it will be resolved on time for the opening. I hope it doesn’t reach the Supreme Court. Lisa is a very very beautiful actress and we want her to be in our opening day”. The actress nor the manager could not be reached for comment.

The Philippine Football League is not related to the Philippines Football League of the Philippine Football Federation. The Philippines Football Federation is a federation of American Football enthusiasts in the Philippines and must not be confused with the Philippine Football Federation that is involved with Soccer.

 

 

Azkals vs Harimau: A tale of contrasting fortunes

The Philippine Azkals and Harimau Malaysia are set to square off for a friendly on March 22 in preparation for the 2019 Asian Cup qualifying with both teams coming into the match with contrasting fortunes.

Some luck for the Philippines

It’s no secret that Philippine club football is in a temporary hiatus, with the Philippine Football Federation leadership preparing for its forthcoming National League, putting the domestic game to a halt. The Azkals are lucky however because a good portion of its core players are participating in the AFC Cup for Ceres-Negros and Global removing doubts on fitness issues brought about by the extended break. Both clubs have been playing at a high level regularly since February and players from these clubs are expected to be favorites in the starting eleven.

It also helps that some players are coming in from abroad where fitness and timing is not an issue. Neil Etheridge and Daisuke Sato are coming in from Europe where the football season is at its peak. Javier Patino and Mike Ott are also coming in from China and Thailand whose leagues have already commenced. The rest of the local players will have some catching up to do on their local counterparts. Loyola’s James and Phil Younghusband, Kaya’s Kenshiro Daniels, and Stallion’s Fitch Arboleda have

Issues for Malaysia

The Malaysians however have a different story with domestic and International issues putting preparations for the Asian Cup qualifying on-hold. The Football Association of Malaysia will hold a major election which will include the presidency of Malaysia’s football governing body. A win by favorite Tunku Sultan Ismail, owner of Malaysian powerhouse Johor Darul Ta’zim, could mean a big change for the national squad.

Reports say that current Malaysia Coach Ong Kim Swee could be on his way out with the possibility of a former JDT Coach coming in to manage the squad. Many of JDTs stars have prematurely retired from international football in 2016, following complaints on training methods, but the retirements were largely viewed as political move from the Johorian club in protest of the current FAM administration. Their return and the coaching change could be a big boost for Malaysian football but will somewhat peg the national team back to square one in terms of preparation.

The recent diplomatic tensions between Malaysia and North Korea have forced the Malaysian government to ban the Malaysian squad from playing their March 28 match in Pyongyang. The banhas forced the AFC to move the match to a neutral venue with the date set back to June 8.

What’s at stake

For the Philippines, cohesion leading into next weeks opening match with Nepal is the target for home squad. The schedule between the international break and the AFC Cup has been tight leaving the players with less time to rest and prepare against Malaysia. With players dishing out good performances in the regional stage, the Azkals would be fighting for their place in the starting eleven.

For Malaysia, the current team is determined to get a win for their Coach who has been a true professional in dealing with the current issues and is still grieving with a loss in his family. The match will also serve as an audition of the current squad should changes occur in the new FAM administration.

The recent use of FIFA rankings as a seeding tool in World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying by the AFC would also mean that Asian teams could no longer take International friendlies for granted. A win is necessary as a it could spell the difference in the qualifying draws for future tournaments.

Both teams last played to two 0-0 draws in 2014 with matches held in Selayang and Cebu. The two matches also served as debuts for Thomas Dooley and Ong Kim Swee as coaches of their respective teams.

The match will be played on Wednesday (Mar 22) with kickoff scheduled at 730PM. There will be no local tv coverage but a livestream will be made available at the PFF website.

Azkals vs Maldives: Match Assessment

The Philippine Azkals beat a young Maldivian side 2-0 last Thursday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.  The match comes as a tuneup before they face top ranked Uzbekistan and it gave the Azkals a chance to try new things before the big game.  Here is The Perfect Pass’ assessment of the Azkals performance.

   
Goalkeeping

Its no surprise that Neil Etheridge is the starter for the Maldives friendly. The Walsall shotstopper was the default choice after starting the first two games of qualifying.

Though the Maldives only had a few chances, Etheridge held his own saving three dangerous balls and once charged out the box to clear a possible one-on-one.  Having four keepers in the lineup is a bonus with Roland Muller, Patrick Deyto, and Jun Badelic in reserve.

Defense

Daisuke Sato, Jerry Lucena, and Amani Aguinaldo started in the same order at the back for the Azkals but the combination didn’t last long. Lucena and Aguinaldo eventually switched to their more natural positions.  The defense was modest with Aguinaldo cleaning up with Sato and Jerry were playing by their usual.

At the half, Sato was subbed out with Ingreso moving to his spot. Kenshiro Daniels also came later in the half to replace Lucena.  The young backline was initially nervy which led to a counter attack by the Maldives but the play was closed out well.

Ingreso played very decent at the back showing composure and vision beyond his years and adding another possible defender to the fold.  Daniels didn’t last long in defense as he was switched with Dennis Villanueva who proved his defensive skills at the last quarter of the match.

 
Midfield

Stephan Palla, Kevin Ingresso, Phil Younghusband, and Stephan Shrock made up the attacking midfield of the Azkals.  The combination struggled in the first half because of lack of familiarity, but flashes of brilliance were evident when linking up with the forwards.

Palla, who just flew In the day before, had an average outing linking up well with Ingresso and Iain Ramsey in some ocassions.  Ingresso took on the attacking midfield role in front of Younghusband who took on the holding role.  It took a while for both center mids to adjust as the Maldivian defense was solid in the middle. 

The combination which was replaced in the end wit Paolo Bugas, OJ Porteria, Paul Mulders, and Dennis Villanueva (swapped with Daniels) was a more entertaining bunch showing more fluid passing and familiarity from the UFL.  Bugas showed great defensive awareness while Porteria showed his capacity to spark the Azkals attack.  The untested combination showed that there is a threat even with the most unlikely combination.

Forwards

The forward trio of Iain Ramsey, Patrick Reichelt, and Misagh Bahadoran started for the Philippine squad.  All three were effective but the defensive orientation made it challenging for the three. It took some time for chances to materialize as changes in the midfield affected fluidity in the attack.

Bahadoran was subbed off and Shrock moved up in his place.  The move rekindled the connection between old teammates which led to  more dangerous opportunities. Javier Patiño played in the final fifteen to and with him came some good shots on goal.

Overall

Though the goals did not come from the forwards, the persistence of the team bore fruit with the Maldives’ own goal and Lucena’s header.  The opportunity to play most of the team was good as it allowed the coaching staff to asses combinations available in case of suspensions and injuries.  Though the Maldives may have gained more from this match, the Azkals may have just learned enough in order to be successful in the next big games against Uzbekistan and North Korea.

Kaya FC defy odds, stun Ceres in UFL Cup Final

Ten-man Kaya FC withstood a late Ceres rally to win the 2015 UFL Cup via a penalty shootout last August 28 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.  Goalkeeper Nick O’donnel secured the win for Kaya after saving two shots from Ceres.

  

It was Kaya who took it to the league champions in the early going when Tishan Hanley sneaked a diving header forcing a one hand save from Louie Michael Casas.  Kaya’s Joven Bedic found the back of the net minutes after but the referee ruled it out after contact was made to the Ceres goalie prior to the shot.

Ceres was in the backfoot in the first thirty minutes as the players were still adjusting to the combinations due to the absence of Manny Ott. The Bacolod squad regained some control in the remaining minutes after multiple attempts from their attacking players.  Their best chance came when a Lee Jeong Woo superstrike was parried by O’donnel towards Okunaiaya who’s deflected cross found it’s way to Patrick Reichelts lap.   Reichelt wasn’t quick enough to act causing his shot to be deflected out wide.

In injury time, OJ Porteria initiated a counter attack who laid off to Dieho Barrera in the wings with the midfielder issuing a perfect cross to Hanley.  The striker buried the shot in the bottom corner giving Kaya a 1-0 lead just before the whistle.

Ceres started out strong in the second half with shot attempts from Bienvenido Marañon, Lee, and Martin Steuble.  The strong start was negated by Kaya after forcing a counterattack where Joven Bedic supplied Diego Barrera with a good ball. The Colombian player hit an inch perfect strike where it hit the bar and in stunning Ceres for the 2-0 lead.

  
The Bacolod squad got back minutes later when Lee struck a beautiful curling shot to the second post to the delight of the Ceres fans. Things looked bad for Kaya as Lee was locking heads with Chris Greatwhich and both players were given yellow cards.  Greatwich, who had recieved a yellow earlier, was given his marching orders after fourth official Clifford Daypuyat discussed the violation minutes later leaving Kaya to ten men.

Juani Guirado scored the equalizer in the 73rd after glancing in a cross from Martin Steuble. Ceres put pressure to the Kaya but timely saves from the keeper and the defense maintained the 2-2 scoreline after ninety minutes.

Ceres was pushing Kaya early in extra time but the LBC backed squad was resolute in holding up their 4-4-1 defensive position.  Half chances were made but the defenses held on forcing the game into a penalty shootout.

With the score at two apiece, Ceres’ Louie Casas blocked the shot of Kaya’s third kicker in Kenshiro Daniels. The penalty was ordered to be retaken after the linesman adjudged the keeper to have come off the line before the shot was made. The retake however was also saved by Casas putting the pressure on Kaya.

Paul Mulders’ weak penalty was easily saved by O’donnel while Christian Ayew made no mistake putting the underdogs in the lead.  O’donnel again saved another after a Martin Steuble penalty which forced a Ceres save in the next kick in order to stay alive.  The Ceres goalkeeper guessed the right way but Louis Clarks’ bottom corner strike sealed the deal for Kaya for their first UFL title after many years.

July-August 2015 UFL Power Rankings

The Perfect Pass presents the final edition of the 2015 United Football League Power Rankings.  This monthly feature will showcase who’s hot and who’s not in the Philippines’ top football league.

 

#9 Team Socceroo [ Last month: #9 ]

0 Points (0 Wins, 0 Draws, 5 Losses)

With no wins to show for in the last few weeks allowing 25 goals in the process, the Paranaque based squad will have a lot to work on for next years competition.  Socceroo will have to shape up with Laos FC coming into the first division.

#8 Pachanga-Diliman [ Last month: #8 ]
4 Points (1 Wins, 1 Draw, 3 Losses)

The Diliman-based squad earned four points with a win against Socerroo and a high scoring draw against Jeepney with all losses coming from the the top teams.  Pachanga has shown some flashes of brilliance this season considering many of their players shift from their day jobs to the league during game days.

#7 Green Archers United [ Last month: #1 ]
4 points (1 Win, 1 Draws, 3 Losses)

The Archers were brought down to earth this period as tough fixtures against the league’s top teams.  Though trailing with Pachanga in goal difference, United is up in the rankings because of their impressive draw with Stallion which eased the title race in Ceres’ favor.

#6 Manila Jeepney [ Last month: #3 ]
5 Points (1 Win, 2 Draws, 2 Losses)

Though falling to three places from last months ranking, Jeepney continued to surprise with their league altering draw with Global and their second round finale defeat of Ceres.  There is still some improvement needed defensively for them to push for a better place next season.

#5 Stallion [ Last month: #6 ]
7 points (2 Wins, 1 Draw, 2 Losses)

Up one spot in the rankings, Stallion will have a lot to think about as points dropped in the first half of June made a big difference for their title aspirations considering they were in second place after the first round.  Though the finish is not what they wanted, the team is still commendable for their trust in young players throughout the tournament.

#4 Kaya [ Last month: #5 ]
9 points (3 Wins, 0 Draws, 3 Losses)

Kaya had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performance this period which did not help them with their title aspirations.  The LBC squad lost in their final chance for a league title after being beaten by eventual champions Ceres in their July meeting but their narrow losses against Stallion and Global made it difficult for them to lock the number two spot.

#3 Global [ Last month: #4 ]
12 points (3 Wins, 3 Draws, 0 Losses)

Coming from behind to draw Ceres was a great feat, but their draw with Jeepney became their stumbling block from snatching away the title.  Though being unbeaten for the last six games put them in 2nd place, the result of the current protest against them may have an effect on the final order of the league.

#2 Ceres-La Salle [ Last month: #2 ]
13 points (4 Wins, 1 Draw, 1 Loss)

With Ceres allowing Global to come back and draw them, the title race became interesting early July.  But due to results of other matches, Ceres virtually sealed the deal when they disposed of a tough Kaya squad.  Their final day loss against Jeepney is the reason why they are just in second place.

#1 Loyola [ Last month: #7 ]
13 points (4 Wins, 1 Draw, 0 Losses)

The biggest mover of this periods rankings, Loyola have made a good account of themselves after getting good results and being unbeaten in the process.  Beating Stallion and drawing Global were the highlights giving them number one spot for the final Power Ranking period for this year.

You can also view a summarized table for the league’s Big 5 Teams here: 2015 UFL First Division Big 5 League Table

Hope you enjoyed this monthly feature. See you next year!

By Ivan Gayares (@ivangeoffrey)