General Trias & Stallion do away with the old order
by rick olivares
And the old order is swept away.
Pasargad, two-time UFL champions and Air Force, winners of five major trophies in the last decade, have been bounced out of the 2012 UFL Cup by their upstart offspring.
The face of Philippine football is changing and if one doesn’t go with the more international feel of the game then one is cast aside. The national team has clearly understood that and the sons of the Philippines’ international Diaspora not to mention the foreign influence has changed the football landscape forever.
There are the Fil-foreigners whose overseas training has brought a different dimension to the national team let alone the UFL. African expats have made their mark on teams like Global, Kaya, and Pachanga. Koreans have had a huge impact on the games of Stallion, Loyola, and General Trias (it remains to be seen if Sta. Lucia will move up from Division Two).
General Trias. Who would have thought that an all Korean team of no-names based in Cavite City would be the surprise team of the tournament? Last year it was Pachanga that came out of nowhere to threaten the old order. This year it has been General Trias. And in case anyone hasn’t noticed, they are named after a Philippine Revolutionary War General. Laying waste to everything in their path is something they hope to channel.
General Trias scored first and in only the eighth minute against Pasargad when Ji Hun Song headed in an inswinger towards the unprotected second post. It had to take that early concession for Pasargad to realize the severity of the situation. They began to take control of possession but still could not make any headway against the staunch defending of the Koreans.
Pasargad finally broke through in the 48th minute when scoring machine Masood Shahdideh equalized. It was the first goal that General Trias conceded in the group stages and just as their first score woke Pasargad from their slumber so did the former with even more resolute defending. Try Pasargad did but it was like Hamburger Hill for them in the quagmire that is the University of Makati pitch. The resulting 1-1 draw sent them packing as Pasargad needed the three full points to advance.
Air Force and Stallion. Both with their roots in Iloilo doesn’t mean that blood is thicker than water. This one is for keeps.
For generations, Illongos, most especially the sons of the Philippines’ football capital of Barotac Nuevo, sent their sons to the military teams, Air Force in particular. Stallion, named after the horse that helped establish the town of Barotac Nuevo, took this generation of football stars that should have gone on to Air Force just at the time when the local football world changed.
In this football mad town, bragging rights are important so no quarter will be given. Just as Air Force has been the bane of the Loyola Meralco Sparks, so has Stallion been theirs. And Stallion has had their number dating back to last league season. Stallion routed the airmen, 4-1, with Yanti Barsales claiming a measure of pride with a late goal. In their second round encounter, it was a battered Stallion team that took to the pitch but they still had enough to win, 2-1.
Just as Stallion’s own Korean contingent forever changed the nature of their game, so did the entry of their two Spanish imports in Rufo Sanchez and Joaco Canas.
Sanchez has given scoring machines Phil Younghusband and Masood Shahdideh a run for their money with his prowess at the forward position. His deft touch not to mention his deceptive speed despite his size has caused all sorts of problems for opposing teams.
And his work rate! After being the recipient of a perfect free kick, Sanchez unloaded on the Air Force goal but keeper Tats Mercado blocked the opening salvo. Showing that he is not only fleet of feet but also quick of mind, Sanchez got to the rebound before anyone else did as he banged in his first goal. His second shot, once more off a set piece in the 43rd minute where he made mincemeat of Air Force defender Glenn Bulaquiña, gave Stallion breathing room heading into the half. And somewhere I swear I could hear that quintessential commentator’s bellow of, “Goooooooooooooooooooollllll!”
What did not work for Air Force was their wing play that has served them in good stead since Chieffy Caligdong made the left wing synonymous with his name. Caligdong threatened once but once Stallion’s defense became more compact there wasn’t anymore threat from the defending champions.
Stallion in the meantime improved on its possession and short game. They repeatedly found teammates ahead of them who danced around the Airmen who were a tad slow.
The third goal, off another set piece, saw Canas’ cabeza find the back of the net.
As for the fourth and fifth goals, they best illustrate the marvelous dribbling skills of Joo Young Lee and Ojay Clarino as they weaved around several defenders before scoring on superb strikes. Air Force has shown itself capable of coming back from the grave but the fourth goal by Lee effectively put the game out of reach. Ian Araneta pulled back one in the 83rd minute with a free kick inside the box that recalled a similar set piece goal against Eduard Sacapaño in the Air Force-Army derby but it was too late.
It was a 5-1 win. The five were the most goals conceded by Air Force in a long time. Even worse, the loss effectively ended their reign as UFL Cup champions. The “diesel” allegory is not even apt. Military aircraft have not used diesel since the early 20th century. However, after a poor league season the previous year and now an early Christmas vacation, Air Force will have to take a long hard look at reality and decide how to best compete.
The old order may have been temporarily cast aside (Kaya and Army are among the last of the old clubs still in contention although the former has embraced the winds of change). Aside from the old time football fans, no one remembers Pasargad’s old dynasty. To the new jack football fan, a Persian dynasty went the way of Xerxes. As for military rule in Philippine football, it has fallen, a victim of the perestroika that has swept the structure of the local game.
The old time fans may cringe at the thought. But if anything, it has shown that the beautiful game is flourishing.
After all, it’s the new order.