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.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bleachers' Brew #287 Galaxy dreams

This appears in the Monday, December 5, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.

Galaxy dreams
by rick olivares

The Philippine Men’s National Team kicked off 2011 with a memorable 2-0 win over visiting Mongolia and they closed out the year with a memorable 6-1 rout by the globetrotting Los Angeles Galaxy.

It’s been a most eventful year for Philippine football with incredible highs and deflating lows. Having the Galaxy in Manila for an exhibition match was a huge thrill and an incredible experience. Yet lost in all the euphoria of meeting and chatting with David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Bruce Arena, and Mike Magee is that 6-1 rout. So I’ve got mixed feelings. Since when are we happy about being on the receiving end of a buttkicking? This is the worst loss since that 8-1 beating to a Thai club team last year before the Azkals went to Vietnam for the Suzuki Cup.

Nevertheless, the match left some indelible impressions and memories that still has me smiling and shaking my head in disbelief (see I said I had mixed feelings) after a friend pointed out that Indonesia only lost 1-0 to Becks and company.

A mutual admiration society
In the very first possession of the game, Azkals’ striker Phil Younghusband tried to win the ball from Beckham and instead clipped the English football star’s foot. Beckham hobbled about in pain for a few seconds leaving the entire crowd and Galaxy bench (and no doubt manager Simon Fuller and Paris Saint Germain FC) stunned and worried. Becks walked it off and made the Philippines pay in the 20th minute with a goal. The night however, ended rather wondrously in spite of the drubbing and Beckham handed over a signed jersey to beaming Phil at the post-match press conference. Younghusband was like a little kid inside a massive toy store. Merry Christmas, Phil!

Los Angeles has its own Big Three
The Galaxy isn’t all Becks. We got to see first hand at how fast and good Keane is. Without the absent Brazilian central playmaker Juninho, Keane filled in magnificently with incredible bursts of speed with pinpoint passing. Becks scored. Keano scored. Donovan assisted Mike Magee and Adam Cristman on a pair of goals. The Galaxy’s Big Three all contributed mightily to their win.

Serving up a clinic
The day before match day, the Galaxy gave a clinic for kids at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. The following day, it was the Azkals who got served. The Carson, California-based club showed how they dominated the game with possession, excellent on and off ball skills, patience and resolve. When the current Major League Soccer Cup champions saw that the Azkals could play some you could see them raise their game a notch higher (and this wasn’t even them at their best). They hardly turned the ball over and made few mistakes. At one point, I counted at least 15 consecutive uninterrupted passes. How on earth do you allow that?

Remember, the MLS Cup ended on November 20. That was 13 days ago. The Galaxy’s intensity and focus has wavered so much from that time. They’ve been traveling and jet-lagged (with one more long flight to Melbourne, Australia and back to Los Angeles before it’s all done). The team is in flux as their starting keeper Donovan Ricketts has been traded to Montreal, some like Donovan and Beckham are looking at the January transfer window in Europe.

Classic Beckham
Beckham at 36 years of age scored on a trademark shot from about 20 yards. Keane sent a forward pass to Magee who in turn attempted a cross to the middle. Azkals centerback Carli de Murga blocked it. Magee retrieved the ball and sent it out to Keane who backed up. The Ireland international set up Beckham but the pass was a little short. Beckham had to double time before de Murga and defender Jason Sabio could get to it. The result was a classic goal that bent right in the second post far from the reach of keeper Ed Sacapaño.

Those goals
In the Galaxy’s second goal, Magee ran up the middle with Keane to the left and Donovan to the right. Magee right footed it to Donovan who pulled up for a brief second and drew two defenders. LA’s captain sent it back to Magee who has moved into better shooting position and fired towards the first post and found the back of the net. 2-nil LA.

The Azkals’ Angel Guirado responded with a deft forward pass to Younghusband outside the box and who only had defender AJ delaGarza to beat. Younghusband fooled delaGarza into thinking he was going right then shifted left. Younghusband fired using his left foot and two-time MLS keeper of the Year Josh Saunders flailed in the air as the Azkals pulled one back.

The second half had barely started and LA won a corner. Beckham’s left corner drifted off the second post but second half substitute, midfielder Jovan Kirovski headed the ball back inside the box as a couple of Philippine defenders raised their hand to signal an offside. The flag stayed down and Keane, showing keen presence of mind, got ahead of four defenders to hammer it home. 3-1 LA. The pressure is lifted from the Galaxy as they had enough cushion to be a little more adventurous.

For the Philippines, the goal was disastrous. The defense subsequently fell completely apart.

On a counter, Donovan sent a perfect forward pass to Adam Cristman who earlier replaced Sean Franklin as a third striker. As Donovan raced up the left flank, Cristman and midfielder Hector Jimenez lined up with him to stay onside. When the pass came, there was only one Philippine defender to help Sacapaño. We had no chance. Cristman headed it home and the rout was on.

In the 81st minute, Kirovski was tripped up inside the box by Anton del Rosario and defender Greg Berhalter, who should be joining the Galaxy as a fulltime assistant coach as his career winds down, scored a penalty kick to make it 5-1.

In another defensive howler in the 87th minute, Cristman struck for a brace when finished off a well-placed header by a teammate that found him open and unmarked to the horror of three flatfooted Azkals defenders following an perfect head flick by a teammate.

LA head coach Bruce Arena, Donovan, and Beckham all praised the Azkals for their competitiveness. They did admit the first half was to close for comfort before they put the game away in the second. They singled out Younghusband (who drew rave reviews from the American commentators on board Fox Sports), Guirado, and Caligdong as the players they were impressed with. Love was thrown around and the Dream Cup, as the game was billed, left many in a dream state myself included. Rizal was packed, the crowd was great and that opens the possibility of hosting other football clubs and international tournaments in the future.

The sobering reality is at the end of it is although we are definitely on the right track, it's going to take a lot of work to become a regional football power.


Josh Saunders
Sean Franklin      Omar Gonzalez      AJ delaGarza      Frankie Hejduk
Chris Birchall        Mike Magee        David Beckham
Bryan Jordan        Robbie Keane        Landon Donovan

Phil Younghusband
Angel Guirado
Chieffy Caligdong        Chris Greatwich        James Younghusband
Manny Ott
Ray Jonsson       Jason Sabio       Rob Gier       Anton del Rosario
Ed Sacapaño


Above: With match referees Jovanie Villagracia, Robert Hernandez, Grant Rojas, and Steve Supresencia about two hours before kick off. Below: with Esquire Philippines' Kissa Castañeda and Ryan Fenix at the lower grandstand.

Moderating part of the post-match presscon (Michael Weiss, Landon Donovan and Bruce Arena).

Some people are saying that had we our full team it might have been different. Really? Since when did we have a full team? How often are they together? How often do they practice as one unit? Even when they were there was the passing great? Until we start beating teams on a consistent and regular basis it's all speculation. Some people are being too hard on Ed Sacapaño when the defense was downright terrible. The Galaxy had their way.


  1. "If we had our full team" - If we had Cagara, Etheridge, Schrock, Maulders, Lucena and Borromeo in that game, it could been closer. Cagara is such a great defender and a offensive threat too. Schrock could pose so much problem to their defence and would likely create more opening for Phil. Maulders with his passing and vision would certainly make our offense more potent. Ed Sacapaño did a great job, but Etheridge would definitely have done much better. Borromeo would have made our back four more solid. As for Lucena, his deep experience will surely help both defensively and offensively. - Just dreaming, right!

  2. Dude, no one expected us to win that night. And around the web forums, most were really expecting a 5 goal difference in favor of the Galaxy boys.

    No shattered illusions so no mixed feelings from my end. I just had a grand fun time cheering for both squads last night.

    Besides, Philippine football was the real winner last night. ANd that is really worth celebrating. No need to second guess the happy feelings associated with it. hehehe

  3. Hey, thanks for the comment. Appreciate that! I didn't think we'd win either. The point is it hurts to lose that bad when the Galaxy weren't even pushing it. The event is good for football no doubt and am happy to be a part of it. Seeing the how the US made great strides in that sport -- it's will power. We've had club football forever but how come none as in none of our teams play this way? The Galaxy simply put on a clinic.

  4. Hi, I'm not arguing with anyone or anything here. Just want to share what the US commentators said about the game. On the first half he said that PHL Azkals were confident but giving too much respect to Beckham and LA Galaxy. And he did not see that LA Galaxy was giving the same, in other words Galaxy really played. On exception of course when Jason de Jong tackled Keane in the 2nd half which he should've done for his country.
    I think he saw the talent of our players right away.

    He mentioned Phil Younghusband multiple times that Phil was really good to set up a play and knew to give himself space. And MLS coaches
    should send him for a try out. He wants to see Phil playing with Beckham, giving Phil his passes. He kept on saying that the Azkals have a lot of talented players that MLS need to look up.
    It felt really good to watch the Azkals here in the US. I have 60' TV which made the match more awesome. The US commentator seemed to know about the Younghusband bros, Etheridge, C. Greatwich, Del Rosario, Burkey, Moy and Borromeo. And knew their ties to the US like Burkey was Adam Cristman's teammate. He even knew Sacapano and Caligdong are in PHL airforce.
    Hearing PHL Azkals, Sacapano, Younghusband's, DelRosario, Caligdong names over and over on US National TV is just so surreal!!! I am used to hear Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Sanchez, Tebow, A-Rod or Jeter's name on TV, hearing Philippines and the Azkals is just incomprehensible.
    You feel proud as pinoys once again even we lost 6-1.

  5. errr...even if we've had club football for years, I don't think it's reasonable to expect that we're anywhere near the level of any MLS club. Especially one that has been playing for years and ended up as champions for their most recent season.

    Quality is definitely lightyears away from our line-up in the Dream Cup which was, let's admit it, not our ideal line-up. Ed Sacapano did well...but if Etheridge was there, with his height alone, we all know Galaxy would change how they target our goal. I also didn't see much effort from Ed trying to organize the backline which is something Etheridge and Muller always do. Those things aside, I still say kudos to Ed for putting up fight :)

    And um...the 5-goal difference predictions in favor of Galaxy were also made under the assumption that Galaxy would not be really playing full throttle since it is a Friendly.

    The Azkals backline (no Aly, no Danish Wunderboys, with only Jonsson and Gier to really step up tapos na-injure pa si Gier kaagad) threw out any expectations that we'd lose with a respectable scoreline.

    Plus, defensive strategy has always been our weakest area ever since Weiss took the helm, even with our first-choice Defenders around.

    ANyway, I also get your point. Not trying to create trouble here. hehe.