Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ateneo Men's Football Match #3: A Field of Question Marks

A Field of Question Marks
Ateneo 0 vs. La Salle 1
by rick olivares

January 25, 2009
Erenchun Field
Ateneo de Manila University
If there were questions about the resolve of the Ateneo Men’s Football Team entering their match versus De La Salle you can officially add morale and their mental fortitude to the list.

For all the firepower at the team’s disposal, their guns have been jammed and after three matches, the team has two losses and one draw to show for their efforts or lack of it. The last time they sunk this low was two years ago and the last time Ateneo lost to La Salle in men’s football was in 2002.

Since their first match against UE, what has plagued the team has been its ability to finish plays. In every match thus far, they’ve squandered numerous chances to score early and this game was no different.

In the Blue Booters’ first true opportunity of the game, Jolo Peralta and Anton Amistoso found themselves with only the keeper to beat after beating La Salle’s defenders. Inexplicably, Peralta only offered a meek tap that went straight to the Patrick Deyto, DLSU’s rookie keeper who was getting his first start of the season.

Peralta shook his head and silently wished the flub wouldn’t tell on the game’s final results. But it wasn’t only the fifth year midfielder who couldn’t find the target that day. Only once did Deyto, who gave a good account of himself, have to dive for the ball as all the shots went straight to him.

Unlike in the match against UST where the Tigers dominated the attack, Ateneo had more shots on goal with nine as compared to La Salle’s five. And Hans Smit’s rookie-laden team capitalized on two flubs that allowed them to score the winning goal.

Most of the Ateneo Men’s Team watched how UP won its first game of the season against UST when an unmarked Andoni Santos (the nearest Tigers defender was some ten feet away) straddled the outside of the box. With no man on, Santos fired a vicious shot that the UST keeper did not even contest as it curled in to find the back of the net.

And eerily, instead of challenging DLSU’s Nikko Villa, Derrick Candelaria allowed him to powerful screamer that although it went straight to Ateneo keeper Joel Faustino it bounced off his chest and an unmarked Wendy Tee banged in match’s only goal in the 59th minute.

The inability of the attacking third to score has placed more pressure on Ateneo’s defense and all three goals it has surrendered have been to costly miscues that the opposition has taken advantage of.

At the start of the tournament, Hans Smit vowed his team would play tough despite the presence of eight rookies. “Hopefully we can hang in there but watch out next year,” he said before kick-off. Yet after their second win in three matches (they drew with UP last week), the long-time La Salle coach tempered his elation. “We got a very good morale boosting win. It may be tsamba but you create your own luck too. It gives us confidence for the next game and the season.”

His opposite number, Ompong Merida, is left to ponder what is wrong as they had played well in the pre-season.

Quite surprisingly the answers can be summarized in key moments of the game.

It is strange that previously, Ateneo made use of the pre-season tourneys as a learning experience whether they got drubbed by semi-pro club teams or not. But this year, they used it as a barometer as to how good they can be. Instead, they’re getting all nervy.

After the opener against UE, a huffing and puffing Amistoso could only mutter about the pace of the UAAP tournament. “Ang bilis pala ng laro sa UAAP,” he said as he sucked in for air. Welcome to the big leagues, son. If we don’t adjust then it’s going to be one long year before the next one.

In the game versus UST, defender Paul Cheng lagged behind for the overlap run as the team went on the attack and as Gab Siojo whirled around for a square pass, there was no one to pass to. Apparently, the system doesn’t come as naturally to the rookies as everyone thought.

The anticipation for the long pass has been incredibly poor and too often there is a waste of energy as the forwards scramble for a ball they have no hope in catching. And the instead of putting the ball on the ground whether for square passes and a short game, they’ve been sending high balls that defenders have been able to adjust to and fight off.

“We keep saying we’re going to win,” said one frustrated player who refused to be identified. “But so far we haven’t done it.”

While the system still allowed them to get their shots and make the hair stand on Hans Smit’s neck at times, the inability score in the first half has so far contributed to a second half meltdown. The final 45 minutes used to be the team’s strength as they’d make the necessary adjustments to win the game, but thus far, we’d see a breakdown in almost every facet of the game.

As the team milled about aimlessly after the loss, one player asked if they did anything right today.

Yeah, no one got cramps.

Match Statistics
Shots on goal
Ateneo 9 (6)
La Salle 5 (4)

Corner Kicks
Ateneo 2
La Salle 4

Ateneo 2
La Salle 0

Ateneo 4
La Salle 11

Yellow Cards
Ateneo 0
La Salle 2

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