UFL Cup quarters commence amidst tragedy; Azkals roster analysis
MANILA, Philippines - This is supposed to be an exciting time for the United Football League, with its Cup competition in its late stages. But the shocking death of one of its youth players on Tuesday has put a downer on proceedings.
Sixteen-year old Eddie Whitwell, captain of Manila Nomads' U17 team, died on Tuesday after falling from several stories high in a Taguig mall. There is apparently an ongoing investigation on the cause of the fall.
Whitwell's father Tom is a longtime youth coach for Nomads, which are believed to be the oldest football club in the country. They have been in existence since 1914.
“You couldn't find a better example of what youth football should be about. Nor a better example of a young man. Devastated for his family, and for all those at Nomads who loved him,” wrote former Nomads coach Alasdair Thomson on a Facebook comment.
The UFL will honor Whitwell's memory during its quarterfinals matches on Friday and Saturday with a moment of silence.
The side posted this photo in memory of the lad on their official Facebook page.
Nomads took a leave of absence in the second division of the UFL this past season but did join the Cup. They sneaked into the round of 16 but were eliminated by Kaya last week via a 10-1 score.
The 8 remaining sides are in a single knockout bracket after winning their round-of-16 assignments. A few months ago a group stage was held to reduce the field to 16.
On Friday Kaya takes on newly-promoted JP Voltes in the first quarterfinal. Kaya will be favored to proceed into the final 4 against a Voltes team that won promotion to the top flight after defeating Socceroo over two legs in a promotion-relegation series.
Voltes should be full of confidence despite laboring to beat Pasargad 2-1 in the round of 16. JPV centerback Takeshi Odawara will likely have his hands full against the potent Kaya attack led by Englishman Louis Clark. The winner of this match faces either Stallion or Pachanga on Wednesday.
Kaya loaned out U23 NT player Dominic Del Rosario to JPV and the Kaya club will allow Del Rosario to suit up for Voltes against them. In a loan deal the receiving club is usually prevented from fielding the player against the loaning club but it appears that Kaya are gracefully making an exception with Del Rosario.
Also on Friday pre-tournament favorites Ceres continue their drive for a league and cup double against Green Archers in a La Sallian derby. Ceres will be tipped to win this game, especially after dismantling GAU 7-0 last month during the league.
Ceres have already won the league title and would love to stamp their dominance further with another trophy. New Spanish signing Bienvenido Maranon has been terrific in attack for the Bacolodnons. Ceres swept aside UST 7-0 in the last round.
Archers, meanwhile, were the beneficiary of a walkover in the previous round when their opponents, MSA Agila, defaulted because of a lack of players.
The winner of that match plays the winner of Loyola and Manila Jeepney, the other game on Saturday. This is an intriguing matchup with its share of subplots.
Once upon a time there were quite a few FEU Tamaraws who played for Loyola thanks to Vince Santos, who was then connected to both squads. But now the likes of Arnel Amita and Chy Villaseñor have shifted to Jeepney, which, like the two-time UAAP champs, is coached by Kim Chul Su. Jeepney appears to also been revitalized by new sponsorship from Korean firm El Power Tech and Wisco.
The beep-beep gang were given a massive confidence boost when they ended their league season on a high with a stunning 2-1 upset of Ceres a few weeks ago. The team played mostly FEU players that day against a Ceres team that was virtually full strength.
Now several ex-Spark Jeepney players will square off against Phil Younghusband and the rest of the Sparks. There is one more subplot too in the person of Jake Morallo. The midfielder from Bacong, Negros Oriental was a longtime Spark before moving to Jeepney last year. Earlier in the season he even scored for Jeepney against Loyola. During the transfer window he returned to Meralco. If he scores against Jeepney it could be one of the rare times a player scores against and for two teams in one season in the same fixture.
In the last Saturday game Stallion plays Pachanga Diliman. PD overcame Division Two champs Laos last week via a 2-0 score.
The semis will be played on Tuesday, August 25 and the final match on Friday, August 28. All games will be in Rizal Memorial.
Here is the full elite eight schedule plus the telecast schedule on AksyonTV.
CUP (QUARTERFINALS): 21 Aug 2015 (Fri) / Rizal Memorial Sports Complex
17:15 Kaya FC vs JP Voltes FC
20:15 Ceres - La Salle FC vs Green Archers United FC
To be aired on Aksyon TV on 22 Aug 2015 (Sat) from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM
CUP (QUARTERFINALS): 22 Aug 2015 (Sat) / Rizal Memorial Sports Complex
17:15 Loyola FC vs Manila Jeepney FC
20:15 Stallion FC vs Pachanga Diliman FC
NOTE: To be aired on Aksyon TV on 23 Aug 2015 (Sun) from 2:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Azkals release roster for September games.
Coach Thomas Dooley has named his squad for the friendly against Maldives on September 3 and the World Cup qualifier versus Uzbekistan five days later.
Aside from most of the usual suspects, centerback Rob Gier is out with a knee injury. Another surprising omission is Mark Hartmann, who was big in Global's two-legged Singapore Cup win over Geylang.
Tommy Trigo, Loyola's netminder, was dropped, and Challenge Cup hero Roland Muller is recalled in goal, presumably to compete with Neil Etheridge for the starting spot. Patrick Deyto is still in the lineup, and astonishingly, a fourth keeper, Junjun Badelic, is also in the list.
Badelic, from Bukidnon, has had a breakout year in 2015, performing well for Global in the AFC Cup and also playing for the Philippines in the AFC U22 championship qualifiers in Cambodia. He was first-choice for the SEA Games team, with mixed performances against Singapore, Indonesia, and Cambodia.
Obviously Badelic is being considered as a potential goalkeeper for the future, alongside Deyto, his clubmate in Global. This is likely in preparation for the 2016 Suzuki Cup, where European-based players usually don't get to play, since the matches are usually not during FIFA international window dates.
The chances of Badelic actually playing in September for the Azkals are remote, but the experience of training alongside the more experienced keepers will be invaluable. Perhaps Pascal Zuberbuhler, the Swiss legend who has mentored the Philippines keepers in the past, will also be on hand to help develop him.
It's interesting to note that Badelic got the nod over Ceres' Louie Casas and GAU's Paolo Pascual, who have both sparkled of late as starters for their respective clubs.
Paul Mulders, the 34-year old Filipino Dutchman, is brought back into the side. Perhaps Dooley needs more experienced midfield options for his 3-4-3 formation. Mulders, another Ceres star, has two international goals for the Azkals.
Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH.