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.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

UFL Monday: Loyola & Pachanga advance

The title for this was taken from an exchange I had with Nomads midfielder Phil Connolly on Twitter.

Tempting Fate
by rick olivares

It’s a joke, of course. But that’s what makes jokes funny; there’s a grain of truth to them.

At the press conference right before the quarterfinals stage of the 2012 UFL Cup, Nomads midfielder/acting head coach/free kick taker/throw-in guy Phil Connolly quipped that given his side had the odds stacked against them in advancing in the competition, he hoped “that the field conditions are the worst possible, that all the officials make all the right calls, that Laos and Mendiola pull off the upsets of the tournament, and that (Pachanga defender) Yves Ashime score another own goal.”

Connolly got the Kublai’s Rock crowd roaring with laughter with his wishful thinking but he knew that it was going to take a massive miracle for Nomads to pull through.

He got everything he wanted. Only in a different way.

Yes, the pitch at the University of Makati was horrible. The sudden downpour last Sunday afternoon during the WFL Finals turned the field into one that looked like it was ready for farming. The sand that was used to patch up the muddy parts (that seemed to be practically the whole field) gave the Monday night matches the feel of beach soccer. That meant that any slick passing was going to be difficult. Difficult but not impossible.

Loyola, facing all these questions about them after their poor final showing in the late stages of the Singapore Cup, came out executing their offense and firing away at every opportunity. They tweaked their formation of 4-2-3-1 in favor of a more attack-minded 4-1-3-2. They plugged all the gaps in the midfield rendering ineffective any offense by Mendiola. Smelling blood, they attacked.

Phil Younghusband scores five goals, his second consecutive multi-scoring match after his hat trick against Nomads two weeks earlier. Midfielders Byeong Yeol Jeong and Jang Jo Won both added a brace while Mark Hartmann, Chad Gould, and PJ Fadrigalan got in on the act for a 12-0 rout.

It was a disappointing end for Mendiola who once counted the Younghusband brothers, Anto Gonzales, Roxy Dorlas, Ref Cuaresma, and PJ Fadrigalan as teammates when they played as Smart San Beda in the first ever Smart Club Championships of two years ago. Mendiola, suspended for the entire UFL season last year on account of a series of on-field brawls, isn’t the same squad it once was.

“Medyo marami nang nawala sa amin,” explained Mark Villon who won football championships in college with San Beda and Ateneo. “Marami kaming kinuha ng mga bata para dito sa cup and our inexperience and lack of training showed. No excuses. Ganyan talaga. Pero plano namin bumalik at magpakita ng gilas sa Division Two. Goal namin umangat ulit sa Division One. Para saan pa namin gagawin to? This is our goal.”

With Loyola advancing, Nomads’ goal of making it rested on Laos pulling the impossible – a win, a draw, with perhaps, Yves Ashime repeating his blunder of several weeks back.

Several weeks ago during the Nomads-Pachanga match at the Marikina Sports Center, Ashime scored an own goal to give the former a massive 1-0 win. The three points were hardly undeserving as Nomads gamely battled and discombobulated the finely tuned offense of Pachanga. A long ball was intentionally headed back by Ashime who called out his intentions. Surprisingly, even if he was not under threat, Pachanga keeper Manu Saubach went off his line and the ball sailed into a empty net. The fault resides in Saubach although history will record it was an own goal by Ashime.

On this night, Laos, like Nomads before them, took the fight to Pachanga. The latter scored first, a late first half penalty conversion by Boyet Cañedo to give them a 1-0 lead. The reset saw midfielder Hector Zaghi score on a breakaway to double Pachanga’s lead. Just when it seemed like Pachanga would win comfortably, Laos mounted it comeback and they notched the count at an even two goals.

With an air of desperation setting in (and Nomads’ hearts racing because a draw would see them through), Ashime, redeemed himself with a header in the 81st minute of play to make it 3-2. After a Laos player was sent off, that was all she wrote for their side and Nomads (at least in this cup competition) as Pachanga took the win.

It is no doubt sweet redemption not just for Ashime but also for Cañedo and Zaghi, remnants of the Pachanga team that won Division Two only to see its team scattered all over with their sale to Diliman who they piped for promotion.

And for Pachanga, it was a little sweet sending off Laos, the brother team of Global who twice in the past two years, booted them out of the Smart Club Championships and the 2011 UFL Cup.

For Loyola, the pressure has not abated one iota. In fact, it has only increased. There is pressure now to win. They’ll be up against Army this Thursday at 7pm while Pachanga will take on Green Archers United at a later date.

This is where they decide their fate.

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