Player of the Year: Rob Gier. Football isn't just about scoring goals. It's also about preventing the other team from doing the same. For that reason, Rob Dazo Gier gets my nod as 2012 Pinoy Football Player Of The Year.
The centerback from Ascot United toils away from the limelight in most Azkals games, but his contributions are massive. The Philippines delivered no less than twelve clean sheets in full International matches in 2012 and Gier can take much of the credit.
Gier organizes the back four into a cohesive unit, no mean feat considering the defense has been a revolving door, with players coming in and out for almost every game. At times Jason Sabio was his partner in central defense, at times Juani Guirado. Dennis Cagara and Carli De Murga were also in and out of the starting eleven.
But one constant remained: the Azkals defense held firm through much of the year. Aside from shutting out opponents twelve times in 2012, on four more occasions the Azkals only allowed one goal.
Although Ed Sacapano did have a very solid Suzuki Cup, one of the big reasons why he pulled off three clean sheets is that the men in front of him, marshaled by Gier, allowed so few chances to filter through them.
Gier is no spring chicken but he uses his smarts to keep an edge. He also serves up scouting reports of other teams that his teammates tell me are extremely useful.
But Gier contributes through intangibles as well. Aly Borromeo says “even though I'm a vet on the team Rob is the one guy that still gets me going. I thrive off his energy and enthusiasm! Every time he steps out on the pitch he gives 110%. If there's one guy you can rely on, it's old papa dawg!”
(Very) Honorable Mentions: Phil Younghusband, Angel Guirado. Phil won the Golden Boot in the Challenge Cup and smashed in the winning goal versus Myanmar, which vaulted us into the Suzuki Cup semifinals. One has the feeling that there are even better things to come from the striker. Angel was a stud in both of the aforementioned competitions. He had a hand in both goals in the Tajikistan win, and in Thailand he was superb, feeding Caligdong for the Vietnam winner. And who can forget the two brilliant goals he scored against Guam in Bacolod.
Coach of the Year: Rodolfo Alicante. The mentor of Green Archers United Globe was the coach when the Archers were in the relegation zone for much of the UFL League. It was a young team but before the UFL Cup they loaded up with some key acquisitions: Ayi Nii in the midfield and Dominic Mensah and Lawrence Ikegwuruku in defense.
They were the revelation of the Cup, besting Kaya to win the group, then eliminating Pachanga via penalties in the quarterfinals to reach the semifinals.
In the Final Four against Stallion they led 1-0 with minutes to go. But the eventual champs equalized in normal time then struck twice in the extension to win.
Nonetheless, Green Archers are a team on the rise. And although they have been boosted by foreigners, it is their core of Philippine-born and raised players who have blossomed. Tating Pasilan is a goal-scoring machine who gets great service from Arnie Pasinabo. Ronnie Aguisanda is very underrated at right back. Jess Melliza is a handful, and is tearing up the UAAP with FEU. Patrick Deyto is heralded as the future of Pinoy goalkeeping.
In the quarterfinal win over Pachanga Alicante started seven homegrown players and inserted three more as substitutes.
“He knows his Football” says Archers Technical Director Hans Smit. Alicante, a former national team player himself from La Paz, Iloilo, is a tactical whiz who helms a team that scores in bunches, witness their 4-0 win over Forza and their 7-2 thumping of Dolphins during the Cup.
Honorable Mention: Anto Gonzales. The Azkal veteran is coach of the U.P. Fighting Maroons, who won their second straight UAAP Mens Senior Football crown last February. His kids love playing for him and as good as Anto has been as a player, he may even be a better coach.
Goal of the Year: Chieffy Caligdong vs Vietnam. Caligdong's late strike cemented his legend as one the Philippines' all-time great finishers. It was a technically sound finish off a terrific ball from Angel Guirado. The goal kept the Philippines alive for the Suzuki Cup semifinals and will be as celebrated as much as his otherworldy strike against Mongolia in Bacolod in February 2011.
Breakout Player of The Year: Patrick Reichelt. The winger has shown pace and vision in his first year with the Azkals. Another bonus: Reichelt can create and score with both feet, which is why he has been employed as both a right winger and a left winger. He's a nifty header of the ball as well, as his goal against Guam in the Peace Cup shows. The 24-year old from Global FC will likely by a handful for Azkals opponents for years to come.
Game of The Year: Loyola 4, Global 3, UFL League. This clash of Division 1 heavyweights last February 1 had everything. Two free kick goals, one from Angel Guirado and another from Mark Hartmann. A bicycle kick goal from Izo Elhabbib that was bizarrely disallowed. A sensational individual goal from Misagh Bahadoran. And a pair of scores from James Younghusband. One wishes every Football game was as entertaining as this.
Save of the Year: Ed Sacapano vs Shaiful Esah. The overflow crowd in Cebu were treated to an epic performance from the Bago City native during the friendly win versus Singapore. Sacapano's previous saves, off the penalty of Shi Jiayi and the free kick off Shahdan Sulaiman, could have also won this award. But this late stop off a surgical left-footed free kick from Esah takes the cake because he is so beautifully stretched out for it.
Controversy of the Year: The YH Brothers are benched for the Peace Cup. Coach Weiss said they were booted because they didn't prioritize Football. The brothers claimed they were treated unfairly. Fortunately it all turned out well, with the Pinoys winning the Peace Cup anyway and the brothers and the PFF kissing and making up before the Suzuki Cup.
Most Underreported Story of the Year: Philippine Malditas win the Viking Cup. The Philippine Women's National team defeated the California Cosmos in a penalty shootout to top the Viking Cup in California. The triumph augurs well for the team, who will play in the Asian Football Confederations' Womens Asia Cup qualifiers in May in Bangladesh. There they will face the hosts as well as Thailand and Iran. A team beefed up by Fil-Americans and Fil-Canadians could spring a surprise. A name to watch out for is forward Jesse Shugg, who found the net repeatedly during the Viking Cup.
What do you think of these choices? Feel free to agree or disagree (respectfully) either on the comments section here or on my Twitter, @bhobg333.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.