UFL Cup semis preview: Loyola plays Global, Stallion takes on Archers

James and Phil Younghusband. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

The UFL Cup Final Four kicks off with Global-Loyola at 5pm, Tuesday, Nov 13, Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Stallion-Archers follows right after.  Live TV coverage on AKTV.

Global vs Loyola Meralco Sparks

These two teams sure can put on a show. Last February Meralco bested Global in a wild 4-3 shootout in the league. Check out my highlights of that match here. Misagh Bahadoran scores one of the best individual goals of the year at the 1:08 mark.

But it appears Bahadoran and his Azkals mates will be absent, a shame since the team was  was magnificent in the 2-1 quarterfinal extra-time victory over Kaya.

Global will now have to improvise and rely on their foreign players and bench with Bahadoran, Denis Wolf, Carli de Murga, Demit Omphroy, Juani Guirado, Marwin Angeles, Jeffrey Christiaens, and Patrick Reichelt all not available because Dan Palami has decided that they should stay in Cebu and prepare for Thursday's friendly versus Singapore.

Alex Obiang will likely take Denis Wolf's place up top with Izo. Not much of a drop off, if at all. Obiang can score, and score in bunches.

Marvin Angeles, Marwin's twin, who tells me he is a second, or withdrawn striker, may play a role. He and Matthew Uy are cleared to  play for Global.

It will be a huge day for Uy, who for sure must now start if he makes it to the game. Uy has terrific control of the ball and will be asked to pull the strings in the midfield. But how will he respond to this kind of pressure?

The defense is a major problem. Christiaen's speed and work rate will be missed. David Basa is a competent natural left-footed replacement with international experience, but on the day of the quarterfinal he got into a nasty motorcycle accident and showed up to UMak with bandages all over his extremities. Will he be fit for the semi?

Carli De Murga is a huge loss. His experience and grit helping out on defense and also creating in attack won't be easily replaced. To make things worse Val Kama could be suspended for a second game for his petulant time-wasting after getting sent off against Navy. There perhaps goes another veteran defender.

Yu Hoshide's leadership will be huge. The Japanese defender, a thirtysomething veteran, will need to coordinate the players like he has never done before. Jerry Barbaso at right back will need a career day.

For sure new German signing Kevin Capolei will see some sort of action in the midfield.

What else is left in the  cupboard for the league champs? Fidelis Nnabuife, late of Nomads, and perhaps even Lexter Maravilla.

It's a difficult and unique situation for Global. A makeshift team against a dangerous opponent. If they pull this off and win, it will be a remarkable achievement.

Loyola will try to make sure that doesn't happen. Their attack features Phil Younghusband up top (his nine goals in the Cup lead the competition) with the in-form Mark Hartmann feeding him from the attacking mid slot. Hartmann is making a good case for Suzuki Cup selection, scoring thrice against Army and assisting on two more goals in their big 5-0 quarterfinal win.

James Younghusband must perform for Loyola. The right winger at times lets his emotions get the better of him. If he can bottle up his feelings and focus on the game, Loyola has a big chance of winning.

Centerbacks Park Min Ho and Chad Gould are solid, with Park especially useful coming forward.

In goal for Loyola is Ref Cuaresma. He is a reliable, experienced goalie but has had shaky moments of late, especially in Singapore against Tampines. Expect him to face some torrid moments with the likes of Elhabbib and Obiang.

The Sparks have scored 25 goals in their last three UFL Cup matches. I think they will add to that total and come through against Global's jayvee team.

Prediction: Loyola 3, Global 1.

Penson Stallion vs. Green Archers United Globe

"When the ball is on the ground, they are deadly" says Pachanga midfielder Jay Eusebio of Green Archers United Globe's wickedly quick attack led by the hellacious Tating Pasilan and crafty Jonjon Melliza.

Eusebio should know. His Red Phoenix were dropped by Green Archers in a penalty shootout in the quarters, with Pasilan feeding Melliza for the opening goal.

The Archers are in the semifinals with the biggest reliance on homegrown players of the four clubs left. Against Pachanga coach Dolfo Alicante started seven Philippine-born and raised players and fielded three more as subs.

They are backstopped by Patrick Deyto in goal, who parried away Freddy Gonzalez' strike in the penalty shootout. The defense is anchored by Dom Mensah and Lawrence Ikegwuruka, who is playing against his old club.

The back four of Mensah, Ikegwuruka, Dodong Villareal and Ronnie Aguisanda were heroic in frustrating Pachanga's brilliant Ousseynou Diop and making Freddy Gonzalez feel every single day of his 34 years.

Perhaps the Archer's most underrated player is Aguisanda, from Tuguegarao, Cagayan. He's technically sound and loves to go up in attack.

Arnie "Dads" Pasinabo provides width on the right flank. His volley late in extra time against Pachanga almost won the game but Manu Saubach saved it.

The Archers' lack of height up top is a huge liability in set pieces. Stallion's center back Joaco Canas may be challenged by Pasilan on the ground, but the tall Spaniard, and his backline partners Nam Yeul Woo, Pi Yong Jae, and Bervic Italia will own the air.

Stallion has a reputation for playing a pretty brand of Football, and on the smooth surface of Rizal Memorial, they should be able to execute their game plan.

The centerpiece of the Stallion attack is Rufo Familiar Sanchez. The former CF Internacional de Madrid striker has scored 7 times in the cup, third-best in the league. But five of those were in the 6-0 drubbing against Sta. Lucia, and in the quarterfinal versus General Trias International he meekly drove his penalty kick at GTI's keeper.

Rufo Sanchez. Image copyright Bob Guerrero.

If the Spaniard has any doubts about his ability, now is the time to banish them.

Jason De Jong, on Azkals duty in Cebu, will be missed in holding mid but Bulldog Albor will be looking to unspool some through-balls to Ruben Doctora and Rufo in the attacking third.

Stallion's keeper Wilson Munoz is smart and experienced, but he doesn't take up a great deal of space in goal. Archers just might be able to trouble him with long shots. Plus, I am told that Munoz will wear a protective face mask because of an injury.

This one is close, but I think Stallion has just enough firepower to come out on top.

Prediction: Stallion 2, Archers 1.

Follow Bob Guerrero on Twitter @bhobg33. Follow the UFL @uflphilippines.

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.

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