MANILA, Philippines – For a team that has outstanding players like Chieffy Caligdong, Tating Pasilan, Arnie Pasinabo, Patrick Deyto and Jovanie Simpron in its lineup, it is disappointing that Green Archers United has yet to finish a single United Football League season in the upper half of the table. Their highest finish in a League competition so far has been sixth, coming in 2011 and 2013.
Last season, despite the fanfare brought about by Caligdong’s transfer from the Philippine Air Force, the Green Archers have not been on target, managing short winning streaks only to drop games against the UFL’s big boys.
They were comparatively better in cup tournaments, reaching the UFL Cup semifinals two years in a row in 2012 and 2013, and finishing in fourth place in the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) National Men’s Clubs Championship. Breaking into the League’s top five is no mission impossible for coach Rodolfo Alicante’s boys if they start playing together as a team now.
The Green Archers – who open up their season on Saturday, January 11 against defending League champions Stallion FC at Emperador Stadium – are a talented bunch individually. We have seen glimpses of Caligdong’s brilliance a number of times last season. Pasilan and Pasinabo are among the best homegrown forwards in the league right now. Simpron has impressed National Team coach Hans Michael Weiss with his quickness and sound midfield skills. Deyto is being groomed to be the future of the Azkals in between the sticks.
Then there are players like Sean Saeyoul Lee, Reymark Fernandez and Shag Shapay Johnson, to name a few, who can also give the bigger teams a run for their money.
What’s lacking for this squad, though, are chemistry and confidence.
There are no real shockers so far for the Green Archers as far as its lineup is concerned. They have dropped Powell Schneider, Jake Hugo, and Miguel Angel Garcia but signed a midfielder in Jun Soo Park and a defender Greggy Yang.
No more excuses
When the UFL transferred to its new home at the Emperador Stadium in McKinley Hill in 2013, some GAU players complained that the pitch at the newly-built stadium was too narrow and too short. Two seasons ago when games were regularly held at the bigger Rizal Memorial Stadium, GAU’s speedsters like Ayi Nii Aryee, Pasinabo and Pasilan would often leave their defenders eating dust, outsprinting everybody to the goal.
Caligdong, being the winger that he is, would naturally capitalize on space in the opposing side’s flanks for crosses or runs. The Green Archers, once upon a time, used to live on swift counters and getting through the opposing teams defensive holes.
Their tactics have been rendered next to useless at the smaller Emperador, however. GAU had frequently run out of real estate before they could fire a cross into the box or even mount a counterattack. Opposing defenders can now easily chase and check GAU’s attackers given the smaller space to cover.
If they are to improve their standing – and their reputation – in the league this year, the Green Archers must find a way to adapt to the pitch they are playing on. They had a whole season to adjust and get used to the smaller but better pitch at Fort Bonifacio, and they should be doing better this time.
Another hole in the GAU squad is there defense. Last season, they were clobbered by Global twice by scores of 5-1 and 0-4. Against Stallion last April, they almost got away with an upset against the eventual League champions as they scored 3 goals before Ernie Nierras’ boys overcame them with 4 goals of their own.
With no marquee players on their squad to man their backline, the Green Archers United should rely more on team chemistry. They have a potent offensive arsenal and a pretty decent midfield crew. If they can stop the other teams from scoring and come up with some attacking tricks of their own, then they might just be 2014’s UFL dark horses. -Rappler.com
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