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 27, 2016

More Points to ponder for the Azkals

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More Points to ponder for the Azkals
by rick olivares

Seems to me that there are a lot of unhappy people at the Philippine Men’s Football National Team not making it passed the group stages for the first time in the past four stagings of the Suzuki Cup.

The PMNT accrued only two points from the available nine, and scored only two goals (while conceding three).

I do not know the dynamics or how this team is run on a daily basis having only started writing about football again a few weeks ago. So my thoughts are from what I see from afar and could possibly be uninformed.

Nevertheless, here are some thoughts I’d like to offer and possibly answer some of the contentious points that followed the Suzuki Cup.

Phil Younghusband playing deep instead of the customary forward position.
I see nothing wrong with this. Some of the former managers even had him playing behind some like Angel Guirado and Javi Patiño. Phil is an underrated passer and in this tournament, he showed his terrific work ethic (maybe except the final minutes of the Thailand game where he stepped off the gas pedal).

Sure Phil is our all-time leading scorer. And he has five goals in four Suzuki Cups. He usually scores one goal per tourney but he had two in the 2014 edition with one coming off a penalty. So he hit his quota in this series.

When Phil is upfront, opposing defenders guard him like a leech sometimes rendering him ineffective. I like him playing in the secondary where he has more freedom to move around.

I like how you have two dynamic forces in the middle in Phil and Stephan Schrock moving that ball up and chasing everything. My concern is that force up front.

I always thought that Misagh Bahadoran should always start. I do not know the reason for him coming off the bench. This isn’t hindsight. I wondered about that when I saw the starting XI. Yet even so, we need that dynamo upfront.

Bahadoran is at his best when he is darting in and the field is open. That is not to say he cannot weave around defenders for a goal.

If Phil is given a target upfront, then he can slip those throughballs the way his older brother James used to do before. Mark Hartmann could be that – he’s got power in his boot, height, and has a great free kick. The knock on Mark is he is slow. Angel Guirado was like that too. If they can dance around defenses like Phil or Chieffy Caligdong used to do, that would solve the riddle up front.

I found the wingback attack sorely missing.
Was Patrick Reichelt injured? In bad form? That sort of player -- and you can add Dennis Cagara to this conversation – in my opinion was sorely missed. You know, that Dani Alves type who can raid and fly up and down the flanks with speed and that ability to send crosses with aplomb.

None of the current wingbacks played that way and sometimes, I felt that we didn’t load up on the attack.

Since this team doesn’t have that stud scorer, then we should keep sending those crosses inside because they can wreak havoc on opposing teams no matter how good their defense.

Pass and go. Quickly.
As much as I like the better flow of the game, I’d still like to see the PMNT release the ball. You can see opposing defenders double on Schrock and Phil when they would bring up the ball. The result was a tackle and a foul. I thought that opposing teams did what they oft would do to Phil years ago – knock him down a lot. Make him think twice. I had this fear that Schrock would get seriously hurt. He was the recipient of some nasty tackles and fouls.

The train players to quickly assess the situation. Move the ball up if space is granted to you. See where players are moving and where best to send the ball. It takes a second to process all this because you know opposing midfielders will harry you. Especially teams like Indonesia and Singapore that played five midfielders with a few of them defensive in nature.

Again, I am not sure how they train for this or what their rules are, but I’d like to see them play those small triangles to quickly move up that ball. For safety and to be less predictable.

Is it all right to be disappointed the PMNT didn’t go through?
Of course. In a Group of Death, anything can happen and that is what occurred. What we should regret is not taking advantage of Singapore going down to 10 men and being unable to score against Thailand.

I believe this also serves a strong reminder that we aren’t there yet. The quality of Philippine football has definitely gone up. Technically, it has only been six years since the breakthrough of the 2010 Suzuki Cup.

I have previously said that it will take a generation, maybe even two, before we see bigger and much better results.

This loss will serve as fuel for that fire.

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