This appears in the Monday January 30, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
Those rampaging Stallions & other UFL stories
by rick olivares
It’s not Zen. It’s total football.
After Phil Younghusband pounced on a defensive mistake to put Loyola ahead 1-nil in only the 10th minute, Dr. Eu Hyung Pe, head coach of Stallion, held his hand up high to his defenders and said, “It’s okay. Make that your last mistake.”
The Korean coach, who also oversees Central Philippine University’s football program, knew that his side clearly had the game’s first decent chances. Fine-tuning the finishing was all the had to do. “We knew the goals were going to come.”
If you saw Stallion during the Smart Club championship or the UFL Cup, you would know that they were damn good. Theirs was an interesting mix of players from Barotac Nuevo and the Korean players based in CPU in Jaro, Iloilo. Under Pe with the managing of Ernie Nierras, the coaching staff has placed strong emphasis on accurate passing, team play, and a commitment to defense. The sum is total football. But in their words, they call it “Koringgo (Korean-Ilonggo) football.”
It’s a potent brew all right and look who they have claimed as victims – Navy 6-0, Air Force 4-1, and now, the star-studded Loyola 4-1. And “star-studded” is right. Stallion thought that the Sparks’ stars were slow if not lazy to get back on defense. “They do not run to meet the ball,” shared Pe. “They get frustrated and they show it. They let it affect their teammates.”
“We don’t care who scores,” underscored team manager JR Robles. Four different Stallion players scored –Antonio Albor, Ruben Doctora, Byeong Jun Yoon, and Joo Young Lee. In addition to the four, Jomar Lestingio and Boo Bae Park (who once played in Korea’s K-League) have also added to Stallion’s league leading goal total of 14. “All we want is the win and to win as a team.”
Added Pe: “Everyone plays a role. One stop on defense. One good pass in the midfield. One cross to look for a teammate. One goal.”
Loyola was somewhat able to stop the first attack but the second wave was even more potent. Stallion quickly overhauled the early deficit and they went into the half up by the score of 2-1. The second half began the same way the first 45 minutes did – with the Sparks looking good with the one-two passing between the Younghusband brothers and occasionally Mark Hartmann. But that was it. The finishing was not there as Stallion crowded the defense while keeper Wilson Muñoz stopped those shots directed at him.
Furthermore, the Sparks made a tactical mistake by leaving midfielder Jake Morallo on the bench too long. He held in reserve as a momentum breaker because the Sparks knew they were in for a fight. When Morallo, who made a huge impact in the wins of Loyola against Green Archers and Army, came in the 59th minute, he provided some creativity to their attack but the ball wasn’t getting into the attacking third.
Stallion tacked on a couple more goals that should make any highlight reel (they also had two other goals disallowed because a player was called for an offside violation).
Quite a few fans thought it looked bad for Loyola that their national players displayed a haughty attitude – calling for the substitution of some players with the match going on, losing their cool when dispossessed, and not looking like a team at all. When the match looked to degenerate into a rough or dirty one, Dr. Pe stood up and waved his hand once more. Filbert Alquiros of Stallion team sponsor Gilligan’s said to his players, “If you do that again we will pull you out of the game.” It does say a lot that during the fracas where Phil Younghusband was shown a red card, all the Stallion players on the field converged in the area while the Sparks were scattered.
After the match, Nierras did not mince his words: “I told them in the post-game interview that we want to be on those UFL commercials they produce. The league is more than the poster boys of the national team. This is the UFL not the Azkals.”
Incidentally, that was warning against the rest of the teams. It’s not zen or any fancy schmancy game. They play a simple 4-4-2 with a predilection for total football. In case you have missed the point, Stallion is for real.
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If Stallion is looking to even up matters with teams that dealt them previous loses, the game I’d pay to watch is seeing this Iloilo-based club go up against Pachanga.
Pachanga, currently playing in Division Two with a 3-0 record, beat Stallion during the Smart Club Championship and the recent UFL Cup. A Pachanga-Stallion match would feature the two best midfields in local club football today. They play similar styles. This would also be a derby in every sense of the word because most of the Pachanga players are from Bacolod. And when it comes to Philippine football rivalries, aside from Barotac Nuevo vs. Santa Barbara, the derby between Bacolod and Iloilo is white hot. The players on both clubs figured mightily in last year’s Suzuki Under-23 National Championship with the Negros team taking home the trophy.
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Loyola was dealt a bad hand prior to the match with the suspension of midfielder Matthew Hartmann. According to Loyola, the suspension was handed down the day before the match against Stallion. And there was no hearing whatsoever. No indication on why he was being suspended. If it was the incident where Hartmann left the national team in the middle of its SEA Games campaign, then it wasn’t clear. Hartmann’s side was not heard at all. Furthermore, that incident was over a month ago and if the Loyola player were to be suspended it should have been decided before the league began because now the Sparks are a man down.
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The 2-2 draw of Air Force and Army has to feel somewhat like a loss for the beleaguered league champions. The airmen were up 2-0 when the physical game of Army took out Chieffy Caligdong from the game. Caligdong left the match and was brought for some tests on his knee (as of this moment it is hoped that he did not suffer an ACL tear). Without their engine in the midfield, Air Force’s game went south. They conceded a late goal that saw Army pull abreast. The draw gave Air Force a point that pulled them momentarily out of the cellar that they shared with the winless Navy, Green Archers United and Pasargad. Army stayed in the middle of pack.
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Speaking of dream matches, I was discussing with noted football anchor Bob Guerrero about the top 11 African players currently playing their trade in the UFL. It would be fun to see them go up against the national team in a friendly.
Here is our selection: Izzo El Habbib (Global) and Eric Dagroh (Kaya) at forward; Prince Mark Boley (Kaya), Oussey Diop (Pachanga), Alu Kigbu (Kaya), and Val Kama (Global) in midfield; Yves Ashime (Pachanga), Kross Ubiam (Pachanga), Angge Guisso (Global), and Dominic Mensah (Nomads) in the back; and Jerome Sylvain (Global) at goal.
Bench: Chris Ojamire and Anu Farah (both with Pachanga) and Alex Obiang (Global) at forward; Gabe Oloweyeye and Shapay Johnson (both with Green Archers United) as well as Ayi Aryee and Badz EL Habbib (Global) at midfield. Lawrence Ikeguwuruka (Loyola) at goal. Kama can also pay goal back up goalkeeper.