Mid-Year Musings on Philippine Football

Photo from the UFL

Mid-Year Musings on Philippine Football

The first half of the year has come and gone with plenty of talking points surrounding Philippine Football. The Perfect Pass attempts to discuss these points in the hope of making some sense of them.

AFC Champions League Playoff Slot

With Ceres-La Salle and Kaya FC going deep into the AFC Cup, it only meant that our Member Association (MA) rankings would rise as well. Ceres and Kaya earned 15 and 13 points respectively from their AFC Cup campaign. The points are a sum of Group Stage points plus 3 points for every level they reach past the group stage. The average points of the two clubs divided by three would be the actual AFC Champions League club points earned by the PFF (the UFL’s MA) for the year.

Global earned 5 points last year which leads to 1.67 points for 2015 plus Ceres & Kaya’s average of 14 would add another 4.67 points for 2016. Points earned for the last four years are added up and are compared to the highest MA (who gets full 70 club points). The MA will get points in proportion to MA 1’s points and these are added to National team points (the other 30 points) based from FIFA Rankings points.

As of June 3, the Philippines has earned 20.19 points which makes it the 11th of 12 (East) countries who can join the AFC Champions league next year. Automatically, this slot will be given to the league champions which makes the UFL title race even more interesting. A big stumbling block however are the Club licensing regulations, which is a different animal altogether.

Two-horse UFL Title Race

Third place JP Voltes have the tools but do not have the depth to challenge for the top spot at the moment. Loyola and Kaya recently had mixed results which may make you question their resolve leading into the second round. This year looks to be a two-horse race between Global and Ceres and the last match in the first round gave us a taste of what could happen in the end.

Global is still unbeaten. Ceres, who only lost its opening match, has been stellar of late. Key players have departed from both squads but they have still maintained their intensity at the end of the first round. If both teams find themselves unbeaten up to the final day, it will definitely be an explosive decider come October.

Pressure will definitely be on Ceres as the lower teams will attempt to fill the gap and chase the all-important number two spot. The recent coaching change will add pressure on them, as learning a new system will take time given that UFL and Singapore Cup matches are already on the horizon. The team has taken a quick vacation but have returned to Bacolod to work on their game for the next two weeks.

Global has the upper hand in this contest, leading on points, but have an issue on goal difference. It would be prudent for the squad to try and trim or overcome Ceres’ sizeable +20 goal advantage. This will push the odds in their favor, in case the team from Bacolod goes unbeaten or ends up with an identical win-loss record by the end of the second round.

Where is Ceres?

Ceres earned some flak in PH Football social media for not releasing players for the Azkals and the All Star Break. The complaints are valid given the clamor of fans to see their idols in different venues such as Vigan and the UFL All Star weekend. At the moment, the club is back home in Bacolod training with their new coach Risto Vidakovic, with plenty of RNR in between.

In some way, it’s a bit justified for them to take a break because of the number of games they’ve played since the start of the year, not to mention the travel involved. As of the break, Ceres has played 30 games total in four different tournaments. In comparison, Kaya has played 26, while Global played 23. Add the fact that Ceres had to play their AFC Cup games in Bacolod made it more difficult for them than the others.

The best outcome for their non-appearance is the influx of new talent to the Azkals training pool. Guys like Camelo Tacusalme, Jinggoy Valmayor, and the former U23 guys now have the chance to match against A-league players including Socceroo’s Chrish Herd, Rhys Williams, and Josh Risdon. When the current batch of Azkals are past their prime, it will be this batch who will have to carry the flag. From that perspective, it might be seen as a sort of a win-win for everyone. — CAL

Ivan Gayares is the brain behind The Perfect Pass. This Bacolodnon is a full-time IT Business Analyst and football fanatic, a part-time writer, and sometimes (free of charge) scout. He has a favorite team in the UFL.

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