Loyola reloads. But can they win it all this time?
by rick olivares
Two years. Two third place finishes.
The onus is now on Loyola to win some serious silverware. They’ve had some terrific players. They’ve gained valuable international experience by playing twice in the Singapore Cup. And they’ve mostly kept the squad more or less intact for two whole seasons.
During the 2012 season, Loyola finished five points adrift of champions, Global, with 38 points. They compiled a 11-4-3 record while scoring an astonishing 66 goals. However, among the top four UFL clubs, they also surrendered the most goals with 37. Pre-Spanish influx Stallion, which finished in fourth in the league, conceded only 20.
For the 2013 league season, the Sparks finished with one point less off an 11-5-2 record. They shored up the defense by adding Rodrigue Nembot and Chad Gould that paid dividends as they conceded only 18 goals (four fewer than champion Stallion). But they saw a sharp drop in goals scored as the team lost forward Freddy Gonzalez who was brought in to ease the pressure on Phil Younghusband who was drawing double and triple teams on a nightly basis.
Phil’s goal scoring dropped from 23, tops in 2012, to 17.
Now, they are in rebuilding phase; version 2.
Gone is midfield stalwart Mark Hartmann who spent three years with the club since moving over from Nomads. Hartmann was a terrific playmaker and the club’s resident free kick specialist. With Anto Gonzales back to Diliman, Hartmann stepped up. But the club also clearly missed Gonzales’ veteran smarts and leadership.
Also out is sub Jayson Cutamora. Koreans Byeong Jeong Yeol and brothers Jang Jo Won and Joo Won who have all opted to attend to their obligated military service. The Koreans were perfect in the passing and possession-based system preferred by Loyola. Jeong gave the team speed and attacking intent on the right side while the latter two were solid players.
Starting goalkeeper Ref Cuaresma will have Ghanaian Baba Sampana, a former youth player for the Black Stars, to back him up. Sampana is good. When he gets more experience, he’ll be Loyola’s answer to Roland Sadia.
The Sparks also have another Ghanaian Samuel Bonney to play defense too.
Their back line could look something like this:
Park Min Ho Joaco Cañas Yves Ashime Roxy Dorlas
Matthew Hartmann Rodrigue Nembot
James Younghusband Boyet Cañedo Lee Joo Young
The addition of Cañas and Ashime will be huge as Loyola hopes to plug their defensive holes. The two have been arguably the best centerbacks in the country. This allows Cañas to join the attack and leave Ashime home. The Spaniard can win those headers off free kicks and corners.
That allows Nembot to move up the middle where he can help out with his passing and speed. He can cover that vulnerable flank where Roxy Dorlas is oft left by his lonesome. Kaya, Global, and Stallion would oft exploit that area in Loyola’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
Cañedo is tasked to replace Hartmann in the middle. He can pass that ball and he’s got those lethal free kicks. However, he doesn’t have Hartmann’s height. On the other hand, he is a tougher player and one who doesn’t mind mixing it up.
Lee Joo Young is one of two former Stallion players on the team. His presence will make up for the absence of Freddy Gonzalez who won’t be back until the league. While with Stallion, he was a fearsome scorer with good instincts. He will no doubt like the passing game of Loyola and find himself the beneficiary of the passes from the midfielders. That gives Loyola another target up front and draw defenders away from Phil Younghusband.
When Gonzalez gets back into the rotation they will have an even more potent attack.
Other holdovers include Simon Greatwich, Alex Elnar, PJ Fadrigalan, Jake Morallo, Chad Gould, and Armand Del Rosario.
Even as that happens there’s real pressure on this club to bring home the bacon.
But what this club needs is to bond and to bond real quickly. Loyola held on to their previous line up for two seasons but even so they’re a team with different cliques -- the Fil-Brits, the homegrowns, and the Koreans. Now you can throw in the Africans – Yves, Rodrigue, Baba, and Samuel. Now that’s quite a melting pot and a potential hot pot.
When the going got tough there was so much finger pointing and aggravation during games that it’s a wonder that no one threw punches at one another.
They’ve got talent. They’ve got skill. They’ve got financial backing. Unfortunately, the key ingredient to them finally winning is chemistry. And that starts with the coaches and the team captain. Fortunately, they’re going to spend some time out of the country when they participate in a short tournament in Indonesia. With only football on their minds, that gives them time to get to know everyone.
Plus, they’ve also gotta stay healthy.
Now, it’s time for everyone to understand that leadership, responsibility, and team unity begins off the pitch first AND not on it.
Loyola to participate in Indonesian tourney
Loyola to participate in Indonesian tourney