Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Fair Play: Dooley is doing alright, so far

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's March 6 issue)
I FINALLY saw the Malaysia vs. Philippines match when it was replayed by ABS-CBN and by god, was it beautiful. I really couldn’t judge much how the team fared when I saw the game on livestream last March 1 as the link froze every minute or so and there were a lot of annoying ads.

But what I saw during the replay meant all those concerns about Coach Thomas Dooley having limited time handling the team before the Challenge Cup may be misplaced at all. Not a few thought Dan Palami and the PFF were crazy to make a coaching change this late, but hey, the Malaysia game has allayed those concerns.

And the game, too, showed that Ed Sacapano’s absence may have been a blessing in disguise.

Before Singapore vs. Philippines, that has been the problem. Who to start as goalkeeper when guys like Neil Etheridge and Roland Muller can’t make the team. EdSa was it, and that begat the question...what happens if Neil and Roland aren’t available and EdSa gets injured? We need to develop the next generation of keepers.

And the answer? Patrick Deyto.

Deyto’s save in the 84th minute, when he held his ground and staved off that wicked strike from the Malaysian? That was the play of the game. If you have time, check that play again and check Deyto’s confidence when he stood his ground and that reflex save.

Yes, Deyto has played in the U23 before, but that was his first senior match, hence, his debut. Aside from him, four other players made their debut and they all acquitted themselves quite well. And that bolsters the argument, give the boys a chance, they’ll deliver.

I once asked coach Weiss point blank why he didn’t want to field the local boys and he said, “I’m there in the touch line and I’d look to the bench to see who could play and the players are all nervous. Would you field them or would you keep the tested players in the game?”

There were no case of nerves against Malaysia, and thanks to Dooley’s confidence on them, Ruben Doctora, Martin Steuble, Simone Rota and Kenshiro Daniels--all UFL based--got their international debuts.

Muller, who was supposed to play against Azerbaijan, isn’t available but with Deyto’s showing against Malaysia, who’s worried?

And besides, Stephen Shrock, Jerry Lucena and Javier Patino were all set to join the team for the first time this year last night.

Of course, before you start dreaming up a victory against the first European side the Philippines will be facing, remember Azerbaijan is ranked no. 93 in the world, and our top players will be joining a retooled team under a new coach for the first time. There will be some hiccups.

Remember, the ultimate goal behind the friendlies is to get the team in top shape for the AFC Challenge Cup in May.

But, like you, I can’t wait to see what Dooley can concoct with an almost full strength squad against Azerbaijan.

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