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, May 27, 2012

Bleachers' Brew #312 Red Phoenix rising. On Pachanga's UFL Division Two campaign.

This appears in the Monday, May 28, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
This is Pachanga's very own water bottle.

Red Phoenix rising
by rick olivares

The Red Phoenix are focused.

On Pachanga’s first possession of the match, they strung up eleven consecutive passes before they attempted a shot. A throughball was attempted before a Manila All-Japan defender intercepted the ball. The expatriate team of Japanese nationals attempted a counter-attack before Pachanga defensive back Janrick Soriano stole the ball to restart their offense.

Eight passes later, Pachanga’s forwards – Jovin Bedic and Freddy Gonzalez – raced forward like a pair of sleek sharks moving in for the kill. The finish was less than exquisite as Gonzalez blasted wide but the Red Phoenix were coming closer. The Japanese had all their players on their defensive half of the field and that meant any shots on goal were to be contested.

That’s when Pachanga sprung a trap. Deliberately opening the midfield, the Japanese saw an opening and raced forward. Once more Japanese players committed to the attack, Pachanga closed their net. The speedy Soriano stole the ball and sent the ball up to winger Gino Palomo who sent a long cross inside the box.

The backpedalling Japanese defenders tried their best not to let any Pachanga player win the aerial battle for the ball or control of the first bounce. But Red Phoenix defender Neckson Leonora, who joined the attack, won the ball. Unable to get off a shot, he tapped to ball Bedic who was swift in his reaction. Bang. Goalkeeper Yuta Aoki never had a chance.

One-nil, Pachanga. More importantly, the Red Phoenix scored their 100th goal of the season. It was an incredible feat. One they had earnestly looked forward to. Pachanga would score six more goals against Manila All-Japan in a 7-0 shutout for a total of 106 goals; an astounding tally in any contest. Yet aside from their offensive juggernaut, the Norman Fegidero Jr. coached squad was more proud of the fact that this was the 13th time in 18 matches played so far where they’ve kept a clean sheet.

Since that disappointing 2-2 draw with Diliman to close out the first round (the Red Phoenix scored the first two goals before Diliman equalized), they’ve not conceded a goal in the second round.

In less than a year’s time, Pachanga reached the semifinals of the Smart Club Championships and the quarterfinals of the last UFL Cup. In their first year in Division Two football, they have been on top of the standings for all but two weeks save for the time that their closest pursuer, Diliman FC, played one more game.

Eighteen minutes following Bedic’s historic goal that went largely unnoticed (the match was not televised), Gonzalez, a ruthless and relentless predator up front, scored to double Pachanga’s score. Gonzalez would add another later in the match bringing his league total to 29. Now consider this -- that’s 13 more than Sunken Garden’s Romnick Jover (who wasn’t really known as a scorer during his college days at FEU).

Gonzalez is in the midst of an amazing comeback into competitive football following his long career with Kaya, the national team, Ho Chi Minh Police Football Club, and Persebaya Surabaya. Not only does he bankroll Pachanga but also he’s provided needed scoring sock up front with the departure of Alu Kigbu for Kaya. Alongside Bedic who himself is a fantastic scorer (13 goals thus far) with a superb first touch, that’s a deadly strike partnership.

The scores may be lopsided but that is because the team’s collective eyes are on the prize – promotion to the top-flight division. They are a well-organized, well-coached, and well-run team that takes its football seriously.

Although they are playing in a different time with more teams (and arguably a diluted talent pool), the team cares about leaving its mark. Global was promoted with a 13-1-0 record with a plus-50 goal difference during the 2009-10 season.

This year’s Division Two features 12 clubs that arguably had four clubs at the start of the season capable of challenging for the title – Pachanga, Diliman, Laos, and Agila.

Currently, Pachanga totes a 17-1-0 record with 106 goals and seven conceded. They have a plus-99 goal difference. In their next match, they not only get an opportunity to hike their scoring total but they also increase their goal difference to over a hundred.

The team still remembers the loss to Global and how they felt they were dealt a bad hand in the match preceding Global where Navy played them tough and dirty that resulted in cards and suspensions to four starters.

They are becoming accustomed to difficult situations. They’ve had to face questionable referees (one suggested that if they wanted to complain about the rough and dirty play then maybe they should opt out of football and instead do the laundry), a difficult promotion (three teams from Division Two were promoted last season while this year it’s only one), and opponents parking the bus.

Instead, Pachanga has hunkered down and focused on laying the smackdown on foes. They’ve also managed to keep many of their players who were being wooed by other Division One clubs while running their affairs professionally.

Against Manila All-Japan, the team was missing four starters – goalkeeper Kenneth Dolloso who was still nursing a shoulder injury, defender Yves Ashime and forward Chris Ojamire, both out on cards, and midfielder Shirmar Felongco who along with reserve defender Ronald Batisla-Ong were with the U-22 team. But Pachanga is deep and talented with most of the players coming from head coach Norman Fegidero Jr.’s West Negros University with some from assistant coach Marjo Allado’s team from the University of Santo Tomas.

Playing their finely tuned passing game, they repeatedly went back to their offense to dissect Manila All-Japan and never let them into the game after that.

With four matches left in their schedule and five points clear off Diliman, the Red Phoenix are not taking any chances. They want to collect the maximum points to complete their promotion to UFL’s Division One. Like a phoenix from the ashes.


Listen to the Bleachers' Brew podcast with Pachanga striker Freddy Gonzalez here

With Freddy Gonzalez at the Coffee Bean @ Burgos Circle where I hold a lot of my meetings. No, I am not a stockholder although I wish I was.

Some may dismiss the 106 goals scored by Pachanga as done against inferior competition. Really? Some Division One teams are built on national players. Let's see how you fare without them. And this calls to mind a time when the Chicago Bulls won 72 games (out of an 82-game season) and critics dismissed the accomplishment as coming during a time when the NBA expanded. Said Michael Jordan: "Any one else win 72 games? I thought so." My sentiments exactly.

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