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.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Smart National Club Championship preview: Kaya vs. Loyola

Preview Kaya vs. Loyola
by rick olivares

Quarterfinals: Kaya vs. Loyola
January 19, 2013
630pm Rizal Memorial Football Stadium

Prepare to be treated to another bout of the classiest football this side of Southeast Asia when these two talented clubs collide once more in a knockout game.

Both Kaya and Loyola of course, figured out in that memorable 2011 UFL Cup semifinals when the Sparks famously came back from a 3-0 hole to win 5-4. It is the match that has haunted Kaya since as they have been unable to beat the Sparks since its transformation from an all-Ateneo football team to a more cosmopolitan squad very much similar to what pervades international club culture.

Kaya finished second to Global in last year’s UFL season while Loyola after its infamous freefall tumbled to third.

However, heading into this match, Loyola knows they have Kaya’s number. They remain undefeated in UFL play, 3-0, in the last season and a half and in friendlies. No doubt that has to play in Kaya’s collective heads.

Uruguayan Maor Rozen who has been in the Philippines for a few years now and is familiar with local players and club competition now coaches Kaya. Rozen is the club’s fourth coach in the last two and a half seasons. They had club founder Rudy del Rosario, former national coach Juan Cutillas, and then Kale Alvarez.

For this club to win the UFL title, they will have to find stability, discipline, and health to get through. They have been plagued with numerous injuries to key players like Aly Borromeo, Anton Del Rosario, Jason Sabio, and OJ Porteria to name a few.

Sabio is gone for the next season or so as he went back to the United States to finish his law school studies. Adrien Semblat has moved to Nomads. Lexton Moy is with a club in Hong Kong.

Yet not everyone is exiting the club. Long-time Azkals mainstay Chris Greatwich is in Manila for the season or so where he will take Moy’s place in Kaya’s midfield. If Greatwich can work himself back into shape and be his old dangerous self finding teammates or knocking in timely goals then

But the onus is on the club’s offense. Yes, they killed M’Lang, 5-0, in the Smart National Club Championships Round of 16, but that was expected as most of the opposition do not have the resources that most UFL Division 1 clubs do.

Eric Dagroh is Kaya’s biggest weapon up front. With his speed and strength, he can score goals with the best that local football has to offer. Just don’t ask him to make those runs from the midfield because he’ll draw a crowd and be stripped of the ball.

Kaya’s midfield is key. If they move the ball up and down field (for possession and resetting their offense), they’ll do well not only against Loyola but also against other top squads like Global and Stallion to name a few. Anton Ugarte showed promise but his transition to the UFL wasn’t as smooth as he thought it would be. After learning what the UFL and local club football is all about, he should be adjusted now. If he can impose himself in the middle then he will be a huge link to Dagroh and Nate Burkey up front.

They’re up against a Loyola team that like them is building on the players they have. Kaya has always had trouble with Loyola’s midfield and possession-based game.

Like Kaya, Loyola has brought in only one new player and he’s also a national player. Make that ex-national player in Freddy Gonzalez who has demonstrated that when in top shape can conjure his frightening goal scoring ways.

Loyola has the height and the bench depth now to challenge for a title. They have players who can play multiple positions. Remember that this current lineup is relatively new. They have only been around since the 2011 UFL Cup.

While undoubtedly an offensive juggernaut the likes the UFL, let alone local club football, seen, their Achilles’ heel has been their defense. One would think that rather than bring in a striker like Freddy Gonzalez they should have shopped for a defender in the mold of Val Kama or Jerry Barbaso. But as we mentioned earlier, the club would like to build on its current players rather than acquiring new ones that will mean another learning curve again.

Loyola is at a point where there is pressure to win. It is time to seriously bring in the silverware given their star-studded line-up. But all-star lineups again do not necessarily guarantee immediate success. Talent alone does not win it. Teamwork, communication, chemistry, and trusting teammates is just as crucial.

Loyola usually starts off well but tapers off. We saw that last season and in the Singapore Cup. It’s winning time for the Sparks.

Beginning with their third place battle with Green Archers United, the Sparks have moved Phil Younghusband back to an attacking midfield role, one he was used to back in his Chelsea days. That has given the team a massive lift in having another excellent ball carrier who can fire deadly crosses into the box.

With David Cortina still not 100% after his early cup injury, Younghusband has been terrific in the secondary.

If the recent rise of Mark Hartmann and the sudden impact of the returning  Matthew Hartmann, back from a yearlong suspension, will continue, Loyola will no longer be one brother act but two. And that’s going to spell double trouble. And once Freddy Gonzalez jells with them – yikes.

The promotion of assistant Vincent Santos to the head coaching position will help Loyola in many ways because he will be able to communicate better with the players than Kim Chul So who remains with the club as team consultant. The language barrier was clearly a detriment to the team last season for all the Korean’s coaching chops.

It will be a huge clash no doubt. Kaya has to play above themselves as they will be against a Loyola team that is finding its identity. They are no longer just talking about scoring goals but stopping foes from doing the same.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting to see Phil YH in this new role in PH football at least at club level. Playing the support role behind the strikers would give him more time with the ball facing forward rather than behind the goal. Exciting match indeed