UFL Saturday wrap-up

Gabe Olowoyeye of Green Archers celebrates his goal versus Army. (Bob Guerrero)

My thoughts on Green Archers Globe 7, Army Fritz and Macziol, 2 and Meralco 10, Navy 1.

Even in defeat, Boogie Margarse shone. Sure his team got hammered, but the Army veteran played a terrific game. He is Army's best player, constantly delivering smart, well-weighted passes throughout the game. No wonder even at 36 years old, he still makes Azkals rosters.  His game is simple and not flashy, but young players would do well to imitate it.

Army needs young blood. The military outfit has young players like Yok Becite, Meliton Pelayo and Jerad Champ Baron, but they have way too many graybeards in several spots. With 37-year old Roel Gener suspended on cards, the aging Rodrigo Betita started at right back and he had a rough day. Twice he gave away balls cheaply, and in making up for one of those errors committed a foul that resulted in a free kick.  The ensuing play led to a Green Archer goal. He was also caught playing too high, leading to dangerous attacks by the Archers on his flank.

I have heard rumors that two young Visayan players from another UFL team may transfer to Army in time for the next season.  For their sake I hope it happens.  For many provincial players from disadvantaged backgrounds, the move makes sense.

Gener told me before the game that he is mulling retirement in three years, after he completes 20 years of active duty. He'll get a hefty lump sum benefit plus a monthly pension until he passes away. There are also  medical and educational benefits for his family. These are juicy incentives for many  footballers to sign with a military club. If they sign with a regular club they might have a higher wage, but after their playing days are done, they're on their own.

Green Archers showed how good they could be. The Archers started slowly, conceding an early goal by Romano Vestal. But once they got into a groove they didn't let up. Tating Pasilan showed some elusiveness and contributed a goal.

After Eduardo Gempisaw, Army's centerback, was tossed after a second yellow, the floodgates opened and the Archers turned a respectable scoreline into a laugher, with 4 goals in the last fifteen minutes.  Amazingly, seven different Archers scored.

This is a young club with some real potential. They've been maddeningly inconsistent this year, hanging with some big clubs one week, then dropping points against weaker ones the next week. They just might be the surprise team of the next UFL league.

Miguel Montelibano also checked into the match. He is a tall wingback with plenty of promise. I watched part of the game with DLSU coach Hans Smit and he crowed about how Montelibano shut down Josh Beloya in the last Uni games.

The Younghusbands spurred Meralco to a huge win over Navy.

Another UFL game, another refereeing fiasco. In the first half of he second game, referee Rey Ritaga blew another call, erroneously calling that a Navy keeper Tomas Talipan had kicked the ball out of play last when in fact Roxy Dorlas from Meralco had the last touch.  Dorlas threw in and in the ensuing play, Mark Hartmann lobbed it into the empty net, since Talipan was still nearthe sideline. 3-0. The Navy players were livid, especially since they felt an early  penalty to Meralco had been harsh.

Stallions manager Ernie Nierras was at the game and was railing about how Ritaga actually works for the Younghusband Football Academy, and in fact I did see him at the Chelsea Soccer School launch.  I'm sure Rey is an honorable guy but nonetheless, the league needs to disallow these kinds of arrangements, since they are an obvious conflict of interest.

At any rate, refereeing in the UFL continues to be wanting. A discussion of this issue will take up another blog.

Phil Younghusband was imperious, but why did he finish the game? Phil disturbed the nets five times and was kind enough not to celebrate any of his strikes. But why keep him in the game at all for the last 20 minutes with the game out of reach? If I was Coach Kim, I would have rested him and James by the 70th minute. Why risk an injury in a game like this?

Navy must now ponder life in the second tier. They actually started the game well, defending solidly and even mustering a few chances here and there. But the disputed penalty that led to the first goal hurt them psychologically and they never challenged seriously after. Daniel Gonzales looks marooned in front, battling for scraps of possession. Ironically, Navy wins a title, the Philippines National Games a few weeks ago, in the year they will most likely get relegated.

The Rizal pitch is back to health but it needed mowing. It was about an inch too long last Saturday, making for some comical moments. A Margarse through-ball in the first game struck a nasty velcro patch and screeched to a halt meters short of where Jerod Champ Baron was expecting it to be. Later on, a routine pass from Archers keeper Patrick Deyto got entangled in the jungle in front of him, and a simple play turned into three-alarm fire that was eventually doused with a clearance. At any rate, after the season the bermuda will be ripped up to make way for an artificial surface.

The league needs to open its doors to new fans. Literally. I showed up to the stadium 30 minutes early. The main door leading to the grandstand was locked and I had to pass through the side entrance. This has happened before and I don't get why the UFL and the PSC can't get it worked out.

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.