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 13, 2012

Loyola hits Kaya with a stone cold stunner

Loyola hits Kaya with a stone cold stunner
by rick olivares

This one has to hurt. How does Kaya expunge the ghosts of failed and drawn matches against Loyola after this?

It was a masterpiece of a game plan that was drawn up by Kaya head coach  Kale Alvarez. They played a 4-5-1 with a diamond in the middle to bottle up Loyola’s Anto Gonzales. They had speed on the flanks where they hoped to raid the Sparks’ makeshift back four. And they had plenty of motivation to get back at Loyola.


There was that December 5 match that team captain Anton del Rosario will have mixed feelings from hereon. In 2010, the Philippine Men’s Football National Team defeated Vietnam, 2-0, in the Suzuki Cup. Then one year later to the exact date, Kaya spotted Loyola a three goals to none lead after nearly sixty minutes of play before the Sparks launched the mother of all comebacks to win the match, 5-4. Then last February 4, Loyola dispelled all notions that their win was a fluke as they outplayed Kaya in their first round meeting during the league competition.

As the box inside forced the ball out of Gonzales’ magical feet, wingers Jake Morallo and Hyo Il Kim seemed out of it further making it hard for the Sparks to move the ball up and down the field. Mark Hartmann, perhaps the best technical player on Loyola, seemed to be in a funk.

Their passing game that has become superb since that crushing 4-1 loss to Stallion was virtually non-existent. Thus the Sparks resorted to the long ball. For the first half, Loyola launched a total of eight long balls to forward Phil Younghusband. Every time the ball went high, Kaya’s defenders, including the taller Kross Ubiam, denied Younghusband the ball.

In the meantime, Kaya’s Eric Dagroh and Adrian Semblat were routinely beating Loyola right back Dexter Versario, starting for the first time in a while and lacking in match confidence. That forced Gonzales and Mark Hartmann to play deep in their defensive half to help out. Gonzales saved Versario’s bacon on a number of incursions. But the Sparks’ defensive woes continued. In the 21st minute, after Kim gave up a ball to Nate Burkey, (and the Korean midfielder fell to the ground), the Virginia native found himself wide open and he unleashed a cracker of a shot from just outside the right of the box towards the far post. Kaya 1. Loyola 0.

Kaya went into the half having established their mastery of the midfield. With Alvarez playing Ubiam as a marauding defensive midfielder to stymie Phil Younghusband or whomever threat was coming up the middle, Kaya looked solid.

While Loyola is a team that is very good in adjusting, Kaya was unshakable in their game plan. At the resumption of the game, Kaya went deep and it took a Gonzales tackle to break up a promising attack.

On offense, the law of averages caught up. In Long Ball #9, Morallo’s long ball cross from the right flank served up a delicious equalizer by Phil Younghusband. The ball was as perfect as perfect could be. Masa Omura, who had been playing well at center back jumped as high as he could to head the ball away but the ball evaded everyone’s noggin and into the golden feet of Loyola’s striker. That forced Kaya net minder Saba Garmaroudi to come out and it was a delicious chip by Phil into an empty net. Two minutes into the second half, it was Kaya 1 and Loyola 1.

This was where it was gut check time for Kaya. Conceding the goal showed on their body language as the Sparks stepped up their attack. Burkey finally re-awakened Kaya’s attack when he blasted a shot that Loyola was able to block. In the next sequence and in one fortuitous moment that was much to Loyola centerback Alex Elnar’s folly, Kaya’s Jonah Romero stripped him of the ball on the left wing of the Sparks’ defensive half. Elnar should have sent the ball forward but didn’t. Romero raced down the line and was able to unleash a cross that seemed to sail out of bounds. Burkey headed the ball into the center of the box hoping to find a teammate. And the ball found its way to an unmarked Lexton Moy who had gone up in support. Moy, cracked in a shot from close range that keeper Gabby Vorbeck never had a chance. It was Kaya 2 and Loyola 1 in the 61st minute.

Kaya had found its verve. And they looked confident the rest of the way. Loyola only attempted four more long balls from here as they had better build ups from the back.

In a moment that reminded me of Loyola’s late substitution of Gonzales in the game against Air Force in the second round with the Sparks up 3-1 (and perhaps thinking that the match was over), Alvarez substituted Ubiam for Aly Borromeo who was on the field for the first time since tearing up his knee in the last UFL Cup. Alvarez waved his hand to instruct his players to adjust and play a little more defensive. But Borromeo was in an attacking position and tried to find Dagroh with head flicks and forward passes.

Loyola, in a moment of desperation, stepped up their attack. Kaya on the other hand, kept fouling. In the 94th minute of the game, in Loyola’s final offensive thrust, Kim sent a free kick from some 45 yards away inside the box. Late Loyola sub Alex Camara nearly headed the ball in but instead it found James Younghusband who headed in the equalizer at death’s door.

Several Kaya players sunk to the ground in stunned disappointment. This game was theirs to win and exorcise the demons of Loyola games past. Instead, they have to face all these mental questions about having what it takes to defeat the Sparks. Many fans in the stands  asked, had they learned nothing about playing the entire 90-94 minutes?

If the second round loss to Pasargad might hurt Loyola’s chances of copping the league title, this one gives them further confidence that they can really come back. If there’s a game that will hurt Kaya it is this match. Now both clubs are a point ahead of Global although the latter has a game at hand. Both Loyola and Kaya will have to win every point from hereon to win the league. The last time they let a game of massive proportions slip away (that cup semis loss to Loyola), they stumbled further in their next match (a loss to Global in the battle for third place).

It’s gut check time.


Loyola played minus four starters in Pat Ozaeta Hamstring), Davide Cortina (suspended), Ref Cuaresma (out of the country), and Byeong Yeol Jeong (illness). Kaya was without Nico Bolzico (suspended) had finally shown what he is capable of with Kale Alvarez giving him playing time. 

For me, the best four playmaking midfielders in the UFL right now: Loyola's James Younghusband and Anto Gonzales, Global's Angel Guirado (who I think is one of the best players in the league and on the national team), and Pachanga's Ousseynou Diop. Think of the surplus of that on Loyola although James has a different role. But Anto is the classic playmaker.

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