Monday, September 16, 2013

Fair Play: Despite draw, USJ-R still favored to win Cesafi title

I CAUGHT the Cesafi match between the University of San Carlos and the University of San Jose-Recoletos and I have to say, I think the defending champions have the upperhand this season.

The match ended in a scoreless draw and that means going into Sunday’s matches USC , last year’s runner-up, still leads the standings with 10 points on three wins and a draw. USJ-R, the defending champion, is second with eight on two wins and two draws and if they keep the top two spots, the two teams will meet anew in the finals.

And if their first round meeting was an indication, I won’t be surprised if USJ-R comes out as champion anew.

In the first half, USC was unlucky not to walk away with a couple of goals as it was dominating the match, thanks to the midfield presence of Karl Arcenas. I remember covering this guy when he was still playing for Mario Ceniza in Paref Springdale in the U12s and back then, he was quite a scoring threat and a midfield general, just like Carl Veloso.

He’s retained that in college, giving USC a couple of close ones from his freekick in the first half.

During one freekick at about 35 yards out from the left flank, he took his time. He set up the ball anew, and just by the way he stood there you’d know that he has the confidence to hit his target from that distance. He grabbed a handful of grass, threw it to check the wind direction--doing it almost nonchalantly--and boom. The ball swerved past the two-man wall into the bottom left corner where USJ-R keeper Joel
Cahilog was waiting.

I think he only had two chances from a freekick the whole game and had he gotten a third, he would have sent the ball to the net.

However, he never got the third chance because he went down limping due to a hip
injury just minutes into the second half. His departure led to USC’s best chance as Folk Hanes Anthony--another player I used to see in the U12s--intercepted a pass midcourt, had a give-and-go and then a breakaway but again, Cahilog managed a reflex save.

From that point, it was all USJ-R, whose players kept their composure and pinpoint passing, while USC began struggling. At one point, while one USC player was being treated some two or three other players were trying to fight off cramps. And if USC’s fitness doesn’t improve, the next time the two teams meet USJ-R only has to survive the first half before exploiting USC’s weakness in the second.

And if two evenly-matched teams face, the one that has the advantage in physical fitness and coaching is going to win and I’m pretty sure that will hold true the next time USC and USJ-R meet. Unless, of course, USC manages to improve its fitness in the next couple of weeks.

By the way, USJ-R also has a threat from freekick---though I failed to get his name. In the first half, just beyond the halfcourt line, his shot was also dead on target but was saved by USC’s Leonard Tan.

I got to talk to one of the officials running the tournament and what he said was quite funny, there are some who don’t like the new double-round robin format that has the top two squads facing off for the title.

“I really don’t understand some of these coaches,” he said in Cebuano. “Before, they complained that they want more games for exposure and now they say they have too many games and it takes a toll on their players’ fitness.”

Footballers, some always find a reason to complain.

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