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, November 30, 2014

2014 Suzuki Cup: Thoughts on upcoming the Philippines-Thailand home/1st leg match

This appears on the Monday, December 1, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.

Thoughts on upcoming the Philippines-Thailand home/1st leg match
by rick olivares pic from AFF site

Did you feel any butterflies in your stomach after the Philippines drew Thailand in the semifinals stage of the Suzuki Cup?

Sure. After their strong showing in the last staging of Southeast Asia’s top football competition, the Thais are strong favorites to win it all for the fourth time.

The Philippine Men’s National Team are swimming against the tide of history and pressure.

FIFA lists the Philippines with a 15-2 record (that doesn’t include an unsanctioned match that also resulted in a loss) against the Thais and a egregious goal difference of 60-9!

While it behooves us to not ignore history, for all intents and purposes, it’s 0-0, as Thailand as they have opted to parade a wholly different squad while the Philippines has few holdovers from its previous roster in the 2012 games.

Despite the changes in rosters, the last time the two national sides battled, Thailand took the 2012 Suzuki Cup opener, 2-1, but had to fend off a second half surge by the Philippines. Then under former coach, Winfried Schaefer, Thailand booked a finals seat only to lose to Singapore, 3-2, on aggregate.

Under new coach Kiatisuk Senamuang, they have somewhat missed a beat despite finishing atop their group stage, 3-0. They only have a plus-four goal difference  as compared to their plus-seven goal difference in the 2012 games.

Is Thailand beatable? Yes, they are. They are far from the nearly imperious side that romped its way for much of the 2012 tournament. Senamuang only brought back two players from Schaefer’s team – goalkeeper Kawin Thammasatchanan and midfielder Adul Lahso. Conspicuously missing are stars Teerasil Dangda (who is the first player from Southeast Asia to suit up in La Liga with Almeria) and Datsakorn Thonglao.

In their group stage matches in this 2014 tournament, the needed some last minute magic in their first two matches to pull out a win (an 89th minute penalty that Charyl Chappuis converted against Singapore and a 90th minute strike by substitute Adisak Kaisorn against Malaysia). Dispatching Myanmar was a little easier for them.

The Philippines on the other hand, finished with a 2-0-1 record and are coming off a 3-1 loss to Vietnam. The wards of Thomas Dooley looked flustered in the first half where Thailand did all of its damage in the first 58 minutes before the Philippines came back to put some fear into Toshiya Miura’s side. One cannot discount the fact that the PMNT finished strong.

The Vietnamese turned the tables on the Philippines by unleashing its brand of pressure defense. They used their superior speed to harry Dooley’s ball carriers and moved the ball up quickly in hopes of beating the Filipino defenders.

Vietnam was decisive in their approach. Their strikes even from long range were packed with serious intent and sent Philippine number one Patrick Deyto scampering in and around the box.

What must the PMNT must do?
Looking at the upcoming home match on December 6 at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, the Philippines must learn from the loss by immediately setting the tone of the match. They must go back to what got them those first wins against Laos and Indonesia by using their speed, power and pace.

They must redouble their efforts when harrying this dangerous Thai team that can win it all even without Dangda and Thonglao.

I know this team is better offensively but I’d like to recommend a more defensive approach. A defense that is not only stout but forces the opposition to commit errors.

One of the world’s great club managers, Jose Mourinho, has all his teams embracing his tenets:
-       The team that makes fewer mistakes wins.
-       You have to be provocative in your approach in your attack to force the opposition into errors.
-       When playing an away match, instead of trying to be better than the home side, force them to commit mistakes and pounce on them.
-       Whoever has the ball is more likely to make a mistake.
-       Whoever renounces possession reduces the possibility of making a mistake.
-       Whoever has the ball has fear.
-       Whoever does not have is stronger.

The last four sound incredibly radical in its thinking but the man has won everywhere he has managed – Portugal, England, Italy, and Spain so he must know what he is preaching.

And I subscribe to his thinking. The old linear thinking of possession = goals = wins = trophies isn’t as solid footing as it once was the moment Barcelona started slipping away.

While it would seem that shots attempted is a better metric in determining a game winner, it does to an extent. But it doesn’t guarantee a win. The Loyola Meralco Sparks of the 2011 UFL Cup would know that all too well. Ditto with Liverpool against Chelsea late in the last Premier League season.

Having said all that, it’s resolute defending and quality attacks that spell the difference. Furthermore, it is imperative to score early and to score even more. Scoring first forces the team that is trailing to somewhat go for Plan B.

Surely the memory of the scoreless draw against Singapore in the semifinals of the 2012 Suzuki Cup must not be forgotten. You do not squander a magnificent chance to win with the home field advantage.

The Thais have been lucky but in football, it isn’t sorely about skill as there’s an element of luck involved. As young as they are they have show great endgame resiliency when focus starts to slip.

So the Philippines will have its hands full.

What can the fans do?
RMFS must be turned into a bastion of doom. I am not sure where we are in terms of stadium culture but not allowing drums or flags doesn’t help. Four years after “the Miracle of Hanoi,” the chants and fight songs are not yet anywhere. I don’t think chants of “Azkals” will put the fear of God into the Thais or any other team for the matter.

But packing that old joint, cheering every play by the nationals and booing the heck out of the visitors should help.

This is a must-win game for the Philippines. Does that add pressure. The moment the 2010 Suzuki Cup ended, the onus was on the country to show that it was no fluke. PMNT manager Dan Palami is a seer. Even in 2010, he said his dream was to see the country make it to the 120s in FIFA’s rankings. Check!

The other was to become a feared side in Southeast Asia. Check!

Now. We need some silverware to validate that.

We – not just the team but also the fans – have to help out in checking out that last item.

Friday, November 28, 2014

On the Philippines' 3-1 loss to Vietnam in the 2014 Suzuki Cup

On that 3-1 loss to Vietnam
by rick olivares pic from suzuki cup site

How do I look at this 3-1 loss by the Philippines (or a win by Vietnam)?

There’s the Juan Manuel Marquez School of Thought
How’s boxing get into this? In the fourth meeting between the Mexican and Manny Pacquiao, Marquez was fueled by rage and revenge; those two are powerful motivating factors. He felt he was robbed of a victory in at least one of his first three fights with the Filipino. Heck, he would have even fought for free in that fourth fight just to prove a point. And he won it in devastating fashion somewhat erasing the stigma of the past defeats.

Cut to the 2014 Suzuki Cup.

First of all, Vietnam pulled all the stops to win this game. No way were they going to lose three straight. They sure played the emotional hand in this match.

In 2010, Vietnam that told that should they successfully defend their Suzuki Cup title their national team will receive a bonus of at least VND7 billion (US$350,000). According to then Vietnam Football Federation chairman Nguyen Trong Hy, "If they win, they will also get awards from VFF's partners and sponsors," said VFF chairman Nguyen Trong Hy. These could be up to VND10 billion ($500,000).”

Well, we all know what happened.

In 2012, not soon after the 1-nil loss to the PMNT, Vietnam head coach Phan Thanh Hung resigned before his contract ended.

In the Viet Nam Express dated Friday, November 28, it was written that a victory by Japanese coach Toshiya Miura will erase all debts of their previous losses. Money was not going to be dangled but Vietnamese pride.

Second, local newspapers have once more trumped up the “naturalized players” issue that is meant to add fuel to the fire. Written in the VN News, “Among the 21 players brought to Hanoi this time, only two people both have parents who are Filipinos. Many of those remaining on the payroll once played for Chelsea or Malaga.”

And third, Vietnam dropped two places in FIFA’s rankings this November. They were below the Philippines. Don’t think they wanted to remind FIFA who is better.

Motivation – pulling emotional strings – is a powerful weapon and Toshiya Miura and the Vietnamese Football Federation (not to mention their local media), made sure to remind the players of what was at stake.

The PMNT failed to quiet My Dinh National Stadium
In 2010, the Vietnamese crowd cheered for the Philippines against Singapore in the opening group stage match. Being inside My Dinh and about 15 feet away from then goalkeeper Neil Etheridge on the track, the place was electric. The Vietnamese booed the heck out of the Singaporeans who were touted to be contenders for the title. But come the match against the Philippines, every Vietnamese tackle, shot on goal, interception, pass… anything positive against the Filipinos was cheered.

When Chris Greatwich scored in the 38th minute, the place was as quiet as a tomb. Said the television analyst, “That was totally bizarre!” I know it sounds like an insult but I can take it.

My Dinh is smaller than the cavernous Rajamangala National Stadium in Thailand where the PMNT played its group stage matches. The noise at My Dinh bounces onto the pitch whereas at Rajamangala it is somewhat diffused because it is so huge.

Even on television, you could hear how the My Dinh crowd gave their team a lift (I am sure you know how the MOA Arena was a bastion for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships).

Ideally, you want to score first and silence the crowd. That would have placed great pressure on Vietnam that will have to resort to a Plan B if their Plan A didn’t work.

In 2010, Ian Araneta nearly scored in the opening minutes and the My Dinh crowd heaved a sigh of relief. When their team couldn't make any headway past the Philippine defense and Neil, there was an air of anxiety. Even if you couldn't understand Vietnamese you could feel it. When Phil Younghusband scored in the 78th minute, lots of folks made a beeline towards the exits.

Four years later, the Vietnamese scored three straight goals before Paul Mulders pulled back one and even then they went slightly quiet. Imagine if the PMNT scored a second then the home side would have been seriously rattled.

I am sure that many of the Filipinos on that pitch have not faced that huge a hostile crowd at My Dinh tonight. And now they will be better for it.

Vietnam, buoyed by the home crowd, served up a better lesson in speed, power, and pace.
That was the Philippines in a nutshell in its first two matches – all wins. Vietnam beat the Philippines at their own game.

I thought that the Filipinos were too bunched up closely to one another that the short passing wasn’t there and it didn’t allow them to break out for quick counters. In fact, they nearly got a fourth goal but failed to spot an open teammate on the right while the Philippines’ defense was concentrated on the left. The other midfielders are forwards were slow to close down that gap.

The Vietnamese on the other hand quickly passed the ball forward. Something they did with consistency as they PMNT failed to mostly break up their passing game.

They also suckered in the PMNT’s forwards then unleashed long balls in a very opportunistic style to test the Philippines’ defense in the first half. They attempted such six times in the first half and got two balls inside the box. The first was where Le Conq Vinh was carded for diving while the second led to a goal.

Vietnam dictated the pace from the opening whistle. They attacked, harried our ball carriers, marked all the threats, and stopped the speed that has been the advantage. The lack of support or passing triangles hurt and there weren’t much options to pass. So the Filipinos oft forced the issue on one side when they should have swung it the other way.

As much as possible, never give the opposition open looks
As I mentioned about the spacing, maybe we should have had a stopper up front. The Philippines looked pretty vulnerable on top of the box.

Daisuke Sato and Amani Aguinaldo were imperious on defense (except for that third goal that happened when the ball was swung to the right – no sweeper and no one there to mark Vi Minh Tuan whose first touch pushed the ball forward and past Sato. The blast to the far post was exquisite finishing.

Pham Thanh Luong was to Vietnam on a Friday night is what Okto Maniani was for Indonesia four years ago. He set the tone on that left side and his wonderful strike for the second goal was a heartbreaker. In case anyone doesn’t remember, he also gave the PMNT problems in 2012.

The second and third goals were howitzers!

Should we have matched them speed for speed?
Was starting Mark Hartmann right for the pace of Vietnam (no offense but I think Hartmann is better suited to play against side like Laos and Indonesia that prefer to play a slower brand of football as opposed to the speedier Vietnamese game? Or should have Patrick Reichelt started? So possibly, with Bahadoran on the left; Steuble on the right; and Reichelt in the middle, we might have seen some through balls, central midfield pressure on the Vietnamese.

Hindsight of course, is 20/20. But I wondered about that even as the game started and it became obvious that the home side was looking to press Misagh Bahadoran and was determined to not give anyone a chance to maneuver inside.

Isn’t it telling that the first cross inside the box and the Philippines scored? Thanks to substitute Paul Mulders!

The entry of James Younghusband also helped the cause (by then Vietnam’s pace had slackened as the Philippines played better).

What should the Philippines do next?
I don’t want to go into tactics. They already know what they need to do. Besides, I think I outlined it all above. So simply put – defend the home turf. In 2012, the PMNT was unable to capitalize on the home match although it did finish in a scoreless draw with Singapore. But in a frenzied Jalan Besar Stadium, the scored the one goal that mattered.

Vietnam held serve. It is not time to do the same. Score a bunch of goals in order to put pressure on the opposing team when both play the second leg.

Time to defend the home pitch, Filipinos!


Thursday, November 27, 2014

The upside for the KIA Sorentos

The upside for KIA
by rick olivares

At the end of the day, it’s a 77-88 loss to the Purefoods Star Hotshots but for the KIA Sorentos, they can take away some positives from this game.

For the first time, since their Opening Day win over BlackWater Elite, the Sorentos played tough like a veteran PBA side and not an expansion club. Not to disrespect the coaching staff that has able veterans like Glenn Capacio, Louie Gonzales, and Chito Victolero, but the effect of the return of Manny Pacquiao -- who was fresh from his win over Chris Algieri last Sunday in Macau – to the bench was electric. The man simply has boundless energy returning to the PBA hardcourt three days after his last boxing match and his presence sure was an inspiration to KIA that looked dangerous and on another gear.

I don’t believe that people should overlook this aspect of KIA and Pacquiao. Not every head coach is an excellent Xs and Os man. Some are good with it but actually are better motivators while their assistant provide the other technical expertise. One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand the basic rudiments of what is going right and wrong on the court but the proper encouragement and motivation can sometimes turn the trick.

KIA definitely has serviceable parts to borrow an automobile term but they are still lacking a few key pieces to the contender puzzle.

Personally, I wondered why the expansion clubs were not given a chance to land some direct hires in the manner of which Magnolia/San Miguel, Purefoods, and Tanduay to name a few were allowed to do so.

Anyways, it’s done.

Against Purefoods, for three quarters, the Sorentos gave Tim Cone’s Hot Shots lots to worry about. As KIA looked ready to play the night’s spoilers, Cone called time and let his players breathe and relax instead of telling issuing instructions. These Hot Shots after all are a veteran squad that has five titles to their name. They know what to do in these situations.

Led by Mark Barroca, they stopped their upset-conscious foe and turned the tables on the them, a 57-51 third quarter deficit, by playing suffocating defense and dropping a 25-6 bomb from which KIA never recovered. That was 37 points the defending Philippine Cup champions dropped in the fourth period alone!

And perhaps more ominously, sent a message to the rest of the league that they have woken up from their early season slumber and are peaking at the right time.

It would be easy to extol the virtues of Purefoods’ fourth straight win to go to 5-3 (tied with Talk ‘N Text and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel) but I’d like to instead focus on KIA though they are at 1-8. Against their savvy foes, KIA – pun intended – simply ran out of gas.

However, it is good to see Sorentos center Reil Cervantes develop the confidence that was sapped while burning a hole in his shorts on Ginebra’s bench. Cervantes can play. He showed that in the UAAP and the D-League where even if undersized for the center slot can post up and hit the outside shot (including the three-point shot which he has developed further). He was always good in passing the ball especially out of double teams but on the run last night, he found a flashing Rich Alvarez in the lane for a deuce.

LA Revilla is showing the folly of making him sit on the bench (read: GlobalPort). He can score and pass and has a good vision. As court general, he should impose himself more and rather than dribble too much and wait until the shot clock is winding down before throwing up an attempt.

I haven’t seen Rich Alvarez play this much since his days the Shell Turbochargers (I am not sure though during his stint in Alaska) but he is showing what he could do – play defense, rebound some, and attack the basket. Plus, he could pass.

Aside from acquiring a real go-to player who can provide consistent scoring sock and command some double teams on the floor, KIA might want to look on how to get some of their players untracked. They do not need to have a platoon of stars who are doing the rigodon ala Barako Bull.

They (the Sorentos) have other good and serviceable players in Karl Dehesa, Chito Jaime, JR Buensuceso, Alvin Padilla, Mike Burtscher, Rudy Lingganay, and Hans Thiele. A team can be really good with one or two stars to go with role players who can get the job done. They could address this somewhat if they find a really good import to help them in the next conference.

Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see what kind of tinkering they can do for the rest of the season.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

2014 Suzuki Cup: The Philippine Men's National team's Garuda payback

Pic from Suzuki Cup website.
This appears on

Garuda payback
by rick olivares

Somehow the words of some old foes keep coming back to me especially during Suzuki Cup time.

In 2010, there was Raddy Avramovic and Alfred Reidl as well as some of the Indonesian players.

Avramovic, then head coach of Singapore, was asked during the press conference that preceded the Group Stage in Vietnam what he thought of the Philippines.

Maybe it was rude. Maybe it was because the Philippines had not done anything up to that point but the Wizard of Southeast Asia dismissed the Pearl of the Orient by saying, “Ask me when you (the Philippines) make the semifinals.”

On to the third straight semis appearance four years later after Indonesia got waxed, 4-0…. Oh, wait. Indonesia. They who bought the lost home match of 2010 for what $50,000?

They who used to say that the Philippines was made up of European mercenaries conveniently forgetting that Cristian Gonzales is a naturalized player and Irfan Bachdim was born in the Netherlands. For their 2014 Suzuki Cup squad, Raphael Maitimo and Sergio van Dijk were born in the Netherlands! Muhammad Ridwan is half-Filipino, half-Indonesia (when he is Manila he stays in Project 4, Quezon City). And Gonzales has been dusted off for one more stint (although he is far from his Asi Taulava self). Tsk. Tsk.

Indonesia cannot claim that they fielded a wholly new side because in the 2002 Tiger Cup, the Philippine team they crushed by a score of 13-1 (Ali Go scored the only goal for the nationals) hardly had any preparation too.

The 4-0 win will not make up for the 13-1 loss or the 12-0 demolition in the President’s Cup. It will not make up for the previous 86-17 goal difference.

But now, the head-to-head match up is 19-2-1.

And this is how they did it.

Speed and pace
I mentioned this in my breakdown of the win over Laos to open the Suzuki Cup and it was good to see the Filipinos continue to play at a blistering pace.

The Indonesians use to make life miserable for our defensive backs when they unleashed Okto Maniani on the left.

Welcome to PMNT 2K14 version. They have not met anyone like Misagh Bahadoran with speed on the wings and who can dance around foes on a 1v1. And he can find teammates with nifty crosses.

If he wasn’t enough of a bother (Indonesia still remembers Phil Younghusband all too well) there was Martin Steuble and Patrick Reichelt coming from the right and the middle.

If possession was lost, the Filipinos immediately swarmed over the ball carrier to win it back. Shades of Barcelona under Pep Guardiola (I know Thomas Dooley is a fan of Barcelona and Pep)!

Speed also isn’t the physical manifestation of a player moving on the field. It also refers to the speed of thought.

Take for example the indirect free kick inside the box after the Kurnia Meiga handled the ball off a pass by a defender. Phil Younghusband was quick to recognize where Martin Steuble was and to know the exact moment the referee raised his hand to signify that the game had resumed.

We definitely learned a thing or two after Singapore snuck one past us in the last Suzuki Cup when Khairul Amri scored off a hastily taken free kick with the defense still not yet ready.

Now if we can only repay Singapore in spades as well.

Less dribbling, more passing and being aggressive
I remember Thomas Dooley telling me after the AFC Challenge Cup that he was going to work on the team making the quick pass. Over-dribbling and the late pass have been problems in years past.

Under the previous coach, the team worked on keeping possession but the majority of possession doesn’t guarantee a win. If the passing isn’t accurate, it will lead to interceptions and counters.

Although there are still some lapses but overall, the ball moves around a lot quicker. They move up on the field a whole lot better keeping foes guessing and on their heels.

The team is bristling with offensive firepower.
How many have scored – Phil, Simone Rota, Reichelt, Manny Ott, Steuble, and Rob Gier. And Manny Ott! What a thundercracker of a goal!

Now that’s six Filipinos who have found the back of the net and in only two matches.

In start contrast, in 2012, the Philippines scored only two goals – one from Paul Mulders and another from Chieffy Caligdong. In 2010, after two games, only Chris Greatwich and Phi Younghusband scored.

And we all know that James Younghusband (the second leading scorer on the PMNT with 10 strikes) is also adept at finding the back of the net.

And as I previously mentioned, thus far, every time Phil Younghusband scores in a Suzuki Cup match, the Philippines wins. And that’s 4-0. Coincidental but not bad. Not bad at all. In means the PMNT’s all-time leading scorer is in his groove and highly dangerous.

The defense was great. Indonesia was reduced to firing from the outside (in fact, they got off their most shots in the final five minutes). Daisuke Sato has been solid and I believe we have the heirs to Ray Jonsson and Dennis Cagara. Amani Aguinaldo is simply getting better.

And although Patrick Deyto let his excitement get the better of him again when he needlessly rushed out, he was still terrific.

Being a little more aggressive on defense prevents opponents from deliberate build-ups and they leads to passing under duress. In the 65th minute, the ball was given away rather cheaply and almost immediately, two Filipinos converged on the Indonesia. Before he could make a mad dash forward, he was dispossessed of the ball.

It was that kind of play that has been a hallmark of the past two wins – speed, pace, and hustle. Loads of it.

Now to finish strong and make it three straight over Vietnam.

But, hey, Raddy, Alfred, and the Garuda… so what do you think of the Philippines?


Here are the previous results in head-to-head match ups:
30 May 1958
Asian Games
27 Aug 1962
Asian Games
12 Sep 1962
Merdeka Tournament
01 Aug 1967
Asian Cup
10 Aug 1971
Merdeka Tournament
25 Sep 1972
Presidents Cup
23 Nov 1977
South East Asian Games
12 Aug 1984
22 Jul 1987
Brunei Merdeka
23 Aug 1989
South East Asian Games
06 Mar 1990
Pesta Sukan Merdek
30 Nov 1991
South East Asian Games
15 Jun 1993
South East Asian Games
12 Oct 1997
South East Asian Games
27 Aug 1998
Tiger Cup
06 Nov 2000
Tiger Cup
23 Dec 2002
Tiger Cup
16 Dec 2010
19 Dec 2010
05 Jun 2012

14 Aug 2013


This is something I wrote last August 2014 and see how it jives with my piece on the PMNT's win over Laos. And this win over Indonesia. Click on the links please.

Freddy Gonzalez for the PMNT: I'm really happy about this win and I'm hoping we take it a step further and make the finals! We shouldn't step on the brakes! Destroy Vietnam, top the group and try to win it all.