Player of the Year : Misagh Bahadoran – Scored in World Cup qualifying, scored in the Suzuki Cup. He and his mates in Global captured the UFL Cup, defeating Ceres in the final, then won the League as well. He picks up this award for the second year in a row.
Coach of the Year : Anto Gonzales –The UP mentor won 3 titles in 2016, two of them in one day, when his men’s and women’s teams both triumphed in their respective competitions in the final day of UAAP action. The ladies defeated DLSU 2-1 while the men topped Ateneo 4-1. The men’s victory is Gonzales’ fourth title. He has also finished second recently on two occasions, versus Ateneo three years ago and FEU after that.
A focus on fitness and conditioning are the hallmarks of Anto Gonzales teams. They tend to play with a high defensive line and love to press the ball carrier.
Many thought that the loss to Jinggoy Valmayor this year would have been tough on the Maroons. But they turned up the heat in the second part of the season and got a hat trick from a rookie striker in the final. (More on that later.)
Hans Smit’s Lady Archers were tipped to beat UP in the women’s final but Gonzales led his girls to an upset. This despite the absence of Kali Huff, who missed the season with an injury.
Recently Gonzales took his men to Dumaguete where they were crowned Unigames champs after blowing out the Green Archers 5-1 in the final.
No doubt the death of Rogie Maglinas inspired the UP teams but the 34-year old Gonzales, who still plays professionally for Loyola, can deserve much of the credit.
Honorable Mention: Ravelo Saluria, who coached Arellano to a surprise championship in NCAA football, upending perennial champ San Beda. Saluria then took virtually the same club to Bacolod, as Cavite F.A., and finished third in the Smart-PFF Club championship, narrowly losing to defending champs Negros Occidental before beating Mindoro 4-0 in the bronze medal match. Saluria found success despite not having any prized recruits and relying on a small, speedy lineup.
Breakout Players of the Year: Nelson Gasic and Hikaru Minegishi – Gasic was the Lyceum Philippines University goalkeeper that JP Voltes took a chance on. He played every minute for the team as JPV finished fourth in the league, just missing out on an AFC Cup spot on goal difference. The Baguio native won the UFL Golden Glove Award. (Note: the title-winning goalie, Patrick Deyto, could have won that distinction but it appears that one disqualification rendered him ineligible.)
Minegishi took the UFL Golden Ball prize as the league’s best player. His creativity and scoring touch in the midfield was crucial in Global’s title runs.
Individual Performance Of The Year: Paolo Salenga – The Pampanga native ran riot in NU’s 7-0 thrashing of Adamson, scoring 4 goals and assisting another two. One assist was an outside-of-the-footer and the other a backheel. It may have been against one of the UAAP’s lesser lights, but it still merits the spotlight here.
Save of the Year: Ref Cuaresma. The veteran netminder makes a great diving save to deny Daniel Gadia at 6:00 of this clip.
The stop preserves a 2-2 draw between Cuaresma’s team, Stallion and Loyola, in the final match of the UFL season for both. But the significance of the save is greater than that. Had the Sparks scored on the play and won the game they would have qualified for an AFC Cup playoff spot by finishing second in the league. The next day Ceres lost their last game to JPV, meaning they finished level with Meralco on points but pipped them on goal difference, so the busmen got the last AFC Cup berth.
Ironically, Cuaresma was once the Loyola first-choice goalkeeper. How about that for sticking it to your old club?
Wackiest Match of the Year: Ceres beats Kaya 3-3 AET 8-7 PSO in the UFL Cup semis – The match had everything. A 2-2 scoreline barely 20 minutes into the game. A red card. A hilarious refereeing snafu. A comeback from a shorthanded Kaya squad. Some incredible misses. Nine rounds of a penalty shootout, including one retake. And some great saves by Louie Casas.
If we have seen the last of the UFL, we will miss moments like these.
Honorable Mention: Philippines U19 3, Vietnam U19 4. This match was in the AFF U19 championship. High scoring match here against a team that would go on to qualify for next year’s U20 World Cup. Who cares if one of our goals is a deflection and the other an own goal. Nice work nonetheless from Kintaro Miyagi, JB Borlongan, and Mark Winhoffer.
The weirdness of this match is ratcheted up by the trippy Vietnamese soft-rock music that the uploader curiously decides is a fitting soundtrack.
And now the Top 20 Goals of the Year in no particular order, although the two biggest ones are on top.
Manu’s equalizer and Iain’s historic game-winner. The Azkals beat North Korea 3-2 in World Cup qualifying at Rizal Memorial. These two strikes that overcame a Korea DPR 2-1 lead are simply unforgettable.
Phil’s 43rd –Phil ends his two-year international scoring drought in style with this free kick to square the Suzuki Cup group stage match with Indonesia at 2-2 and keep the hopes of a semis slot alive. Watch at 1:45 of this video.
OJ’s cardiac finish – Kaya’s OJ Porteria clinches the victory at home over New Radiant of Maldives with this dramatic late volley for a 1-0 victory in the AFC Cup. Start watching at 1:00.
BG’s title-winning header – The UP women complete a comeback against DLSU to win the UAAP women’s title thanks to this lovely glancing header from BG Sta. Clara. See it at the 2:00 mark here.
Bless’ big strike for the Falcons – Bless Brian Jumo I finishes a superb team goal for Adamson against UE. The ensuing 1-0 win is the first for Adamson since rejoining UAAP football.
Takumi’s 66-yard bomb – JP Voltes’ Takumi Uesato scores a goal against Kaya that deserved to go viral internationally. According to my Google Maps measurement he hoofed it in from 61 meters away, or about 66 yards. He actually launches the shot from the FAR end of the center circle at an angle. Check it out at 3:55.
Nathan’s sick volley – How to knife in a goal from an acute angle when the ball is about waist-high? Let Stallion’s Nathan Alquiros show you at 1:47 of this.
Javi’s bicycle – Javier Patino might not have been able to suit up for the Azkals in the Suzuki Cup but he sure made us feel proud with this overhead for his Chinese club, Henan Jianye. Start watching at :32.
Mark’s free kick winner – Mark Hartmann is Geylang’s 90th minute hero with this free kick game winner against Warriors FC in the S-League.
Kevin’s one-touch looper – Kevin Ingreso opens his Azkals account with this gorgeous top corner effort against Kyrgyzstan.
Tating’s Super Sub winner – Green Archers’ Tating Pasilan turns back the clock with this terrific goal as GAU upsets heavily favored Ceres. You can see it at 3:20.
Kintaro’s Finals Hat trick – It’s a dream final for the rookie from Cebu, Kintaro Miyagi, as he shreds the Ateneo defense in a 4-1 win.
Mick’s Dink In The Dark – In almost complete darkness because the RMS lights were under repair, Miguel “Mick” Tanton scores the only goal of the game in the 91st minute, giving his Kaya FC a win against Ceres. Catch it at 5:00.
Takashi’s Clincher – Not a bad way for JP Voltes to seal victory against the eventual champs. Admire Takashi Odawara’s work at 4:30.
Gelo’s Deja Vu – Gelo Diamante scored for DLSU in the UAAP semis in 2015 versus the Blue Eagles. The redux, at the same stage against the same school, is even better. The half-volley goodness begins at 1:12.
Eric’s sweet volley and Paolo’s artful flick – A pair of very fine finishes from FEU’s Eric Giganto and NU’s Paolo Salenga.
Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.