Monday, August 31, 2015

Fair Play: How USC can get over that mighty hump

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Aug. 31 edition)
College standings as of Aug. 30
Team W D L P GD
USJR 3 - - 9 6
UC         2 1 - 7 5
UV         1 1 2 4 -5
USPF - 1 2 1 -2
USC    - 1 2 1 -3

IF THERE was one thing that highlighted the match between the University of San Carlos and the University of Cebu, which ended in a 0-0 draw, it's one that happened off field and not on it.

In the middle of the second half, Jules Villahermosa of USC lay hobbled and had to be carried off to the sideline, and while the focus of the USC coaching staff and bench players was on their side of the field, UC head coach Glenn Ramos got his pain reliever, sprayed some on Villahermosa and even massaged the USC midfielder's injured knee. He only stopped when the ball got to the UC side of the field.

I sat near some vocal USC fans, and they all pointed out the ironic scene--an opposing coach taking care of an injured player. And they couldn't help question why even after he got injured, he stayed on.

That sums up the USC season as it winds down its stint in the first round. It's more about fan perception or questions about of the coaching staff and not the team. Why is coach Mario Ceniza not on the team? Why is playing in that position? Why are there no substitutions? Why are they just standing around? Why aren’t they running?

The lady behind me during that 0-0 draw was more vocal than the coaching staff and bench combined and even issued more instructions. Or perhaps I just didn't hear coach Totot Colina and Allan Medalle say their instructions.

At one point, I was tempted to tell her, “Please remind the players they are the defending champions.”

With one point in three games and stuck at last phase, is it time to fly the white flag for USC? Time to get the rookies some playing time in a season gone to hell, to arm them for next year’s campaign?

Nope and as Raffy Musni pointed out, "Lingin ang bola."

It’s time for the fans and the team to orget about coach Mario not being back, forget about the first three games, and focus on the remaining games.

Didn't USC get to the semifinals last year with late goals in their final two games against UV and USPF to win 2-1? A draw in both meant getting eliminated and they'd have to recall that run because they're are going to need to be that tough in their final five games of the season.

They have to win each one. They can't afford a single step if they don’t want to suffer the same fate of the previous USC Cesafi football champions that failed to make the finals the next year.

Regardless of the result yesterday's matches in the first round, USC can still earn 15 points in its final five games and that run also means USJ-R, UV, USPF and UC can earn at most 9 points in the second round. If UV and UC, tied at four points going into yesterday's matches, all three teams could be battling for the second spot with goal difference coming into play as they would be tied at 16 points.

Why the concern for USC? Simple. I've been cheering for my alma mater ever since I first covered a Cesafi football game in 2000. Even wore a borrowed jersey once in a failed 2005 final, but all the reports have been devoid of bias. Besides, I only play backup in Cesafi football coverages and only write columns about Cesafi football.

I want USC to win in the same way the rest of the fans want their teams to win.

Hopeless as it may seem right now, with a point to show in the first three games, it’s not impossible. And if the team is setting up for a dramatic comeback, that’s one drama the whole USC fans can get behind with, not the one that greeted them in the first game.

For the final five games, shed that Golden Booters tag.

Be the Warriors and get over that hump.

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