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UFL Roundup 1: Stallion leads pack after 1st half

 

MANILA, Philippines -- It's been an enjoyable first half of the 2013 UFL season. We were all very excited for the ball to get rolling as this season brought us important changes.

The much-awaited and freshly-built turf, the Emperador Stadium at One McKinley Hill, brings football fans games all year long, with aficionados not having to worry about rains to be able to witness matches. The teams signed new players both local and foreign alike while football fanatics were treated to more live games on TV, 

We have 10 teams in the 1st division, with Philippine Navy dropping down to the second division and the second division champs Pachanga moving up to the first division.

Let's start off with the league leaders at the half.

STALLION FC --  The team ended last season by winning the UFL Cup aided by Spanish signings Rufo Sanchez and Joaco Canas from Inter Madrid. But the team didn't do well at the national championships, getting eliminated by eventual champions Ceres FC.

So when the 2013 season began, there were high expectations on their side afer adding new faces to their lineup like Daniel Matsunaga, Fabio Ide, Hideo Muraoka, Hector Zaghi, Jeremy Hohn and Prince Boley.

Old hands Ruben Doctora, Joo Young Lee, Hyo Kim and Won Hyung Lee returned for another tour of duty as Stallions only suffered one loss in the first half of the tournament --- against champions Global FC. They've had a few close games, but the team has been able to pull off the wins.

Rufo leads the team with 9 goals while Joo has contributed points as well. With their strong showing so far, Stallion will be one of the teams tipped to contend for the championship.

GLOBAL FC -- Defending champs Global also started strong, with roster reinforcements and a new coach in Brian Reid helping improve and stablize the team after major coaching changes in the past few years.

Recruits Ben Starosta and Nino Ochotorena made good impressions right in their first game as both scored as Global beat PSG, 2-0, in their first match. The team has had huge results in the first half of the tournament, but dropped five crucial points near the tailend after drawing with Loyola and losing to Kaya. 

Will Global bounce back or will their President's Cup campaign affect their chances of winning back-to-back UFL titles? 

LOYOLA MERALCO SPARKS FC -- Loyola began the season with a coaching change, as assistant mentor Vince Santos took the reins of the team. Matthew Hartmann also returned after a long layoff while Davide Cortina came back from an injury.

The Sparks have had a good first half, with Mark Hartmann off to a fantastic start. They haven't had problems beating lower-rung teams, even showering them with a lot of goals. But Loyola has never won against the top three teams and only managed to snag two out of nine points possible. 

KAYA FC -- A lot of things have happened to this club in the past two years -- a period in which the storied team has not won any major trophy. 

Kaya began the season with Uruguayan Maor Rozen coaching the team and just after three games, Rozen quit, eerily reminding the club of what happened last year with ex-coach Juan Cutillas. 

Kaya played without a coach in the next two games before Australian David Perkovic came in and turned things around for the club. Kaya won 10 of 12 points possible to end the first round with a massive win over Global FC.

With the big win and reinforcements like UAAP champs Nick O'Donnel and Carlo Liay coming in, expect Kaya to move up in the standings and even clinch a top-three spot.

PACHANGA DILIMAN FC -- After getting promoted to Division 1, Pachanga has had a decent run in the first half of the season. The team started their campaign by beating Kaya while also notching wins over lower-ranked squads.

But those have not allowed Pachange to shoot up in the standings, with the Diliman XI spending most of their time in the middle of the pack even with big signings like Anto Gonzales and Guam internationals Jason Cunliff and Ian Mariano. Nevertheless, Pachanga has shown very good and organized defending and has proven to be a very difficult team to score on. - Rappler.com