As the inaugural PFL season closes, we now look back at the key points that determined the fate of the eight contenders. We start with the bottom 4, and point out what went right, what went wrong, and what could be done to improve their fortunes next season. This is part 1 of a 2 part series of reviews by us from Pinoyfootball.
Ilocos United (3/10)
High Point: The Win
-Nothing beats the feeling of getting that first win, especially if it was as long as the four month wait Ilocos had. But the solitary win of the season for the Northerners against JPV displayed what they lacked for the entire season: Focus, Perseverance and Toughness. May Ilocos have more winning moments next season.
Low Point: The Winless Streak
-It was inevitable for Ilocos United to struggle in their inaugural season, but it was not supposed to be that harsh. 19 straight games without a win from the start of the season was surely deflating for their thin squad. The gulf in relative strength was outlined by big defeats against the big clubs (0-7 against Ceres, 5-2 against Kaya, to name a few), and the inability to win against their fellow bottom clubs even more harsh. While Stallion and Davao were able to recover from their early winless streaks, Ilocos couldn’t and were stuck at the table’s root. They need a strong start next season to boost their morale and have a crack at improving their fortunes.
MVP: Charlie Beaton
-Props to Chima Uzoka, but he was often the lone attacking outlet and often heavily defended. However, Charlie Beaton provided Ilocos with an alternative in attack that the other clubs were never prepared for. The midseason signing proved to be a goalscorer from the wings, and he provided Chima and Arthur Kouassi some breathing space.
Who to Buy: Everyone
-Ilocos needs to bolster their squad with signings in all areas, quality and quantity wise.Baba Sampana had a lot of nervy errors resulting in goals, the defense often makeshift, a midfield that has some attacking quality but easily overran, an incosistent attack, and a bench that is often incomplete. In order for Ilocos to stay competitive, they could either sign 4 foreign players to build the squad around, or scour the big clubs for talented but underappreciated players like what they did for Charlie Beaton.
Davao Aguilas (4.5/10)
High Point: Mid Season Window
-For a new club to snag the Younghusbands on a free transfer is always a coup. Add to that Harry Sawyer, Angel Guirado, Jason de Jong and Matt Hartmann, and it provided a promise of big things for the Aguilas. There is still a sense of danger in facing the Aguilas, if they get their act together next season.
Low Point: Inability to Win
-Despite the big corporate backing, the money and the big guns, Davao, or known to rival fans as Drawvao Aguilose, simply couldn’t win enough. Their squad for the first half of the season was young,fast, and inexperienced, anchored by Dylan De Bruycker and Gilmar. After the Azkals and the new coach came in, the squad became older and slower which canceled out the promise shown earlier in the season. There is still time for the remnants of these two squads to gel, but the Aguilas need to find a tactical system that harnesses the best qualities of both.
MVP: Harry Sawyer
-The real gem of the midseason window for Davao was Harry Sawyer. The young Australian striker has the obvious height advantage, which enabled him to prosper in Marlon Maro’s setup, banging 10 goals since his arrival. Once they figure out how to fit him, Phil, De Bruycker and Guirado in the squad, we can expect more teeth in the Aguilas attack.
What To Buy: Leadership
– Davao needs leadership on the bench and in the field to get over the psychological hump. Simply put, Marlon Maro’s tactics doesn’t suit all the best qualities of the squad full of creators and runners. In the field, Phil and James are not necessarily vocal leaders while Matt Hartmann and Jason de Jong may seem to be too fiery for the role. What they need is a field general, able to motivate his teammates through his skill with the ball and a verbal passion that pumps the squad to win.
JPV Marikina (6/10)
High Point: A Hot Start…
-There was a stretch in May to early June that JPV seemed unstoppable. Winning 5 straight games, and causing trouble against the big 4 meant the Japinoys may have a real shot at the title. It was at this time that Nelson Gasic channeled his inner De Gea in goal, Melo Tacusalme was a rock in defense, and the duo of Takashi Odawara and Takumi Uesato terrorized defences.
Low Point: …That Burned Out
-That stretch proved to be a false dawn. Gasic and Tacusalme fell down to injuries and were not the same afterwards. On the other hand, the goals from the Japanese duo dried up, and JPV steadily declined to midtable. JPV needs to stay healthy and focused in order to truly rock the boat at the top of the table.
MVP: Takumi Uesato
-In simple terms, he was the heartbeat of JPV’s season. His scoring form coincided with their rise to the top, while their drop was epitomed by his goalscoring drought, With 16 goals last season, Uesato is undoubtedly the talisman of Marikina.
Who To Buy: A Midfield General
-JPV has proven they have the personnel capable of taking them to the top…except in central midfield. Odawara and Alen Angeles prove to be their main threats from midfield, but they are consigned to the wings. Sean Kane has proven to be a better central defender, which leaves Ali Mahmoud without a partner in the centre. What they need is a quintessesntial one-man midfielder, able to be the difference both in offense and defense. From this position, the mid can give Uesato and Odawara breathing space, while shielding the defence and Gasic as they rediscover their best form.
Stallion Laguna (6/10)
High Point: The Great Bounceback…
-As the first winless team to win during the season, Stallion rode the wave of success. After 11 games of no wins, they took 22 points in 9 games and gave themselves a decent shot at the playoffs. Ernie Nierras’ tweaks to the lineup during this time proves that he is a shrewd operator of the local market and that he has a solid local base that can be built even more to challenge for the top.
Low Point: …From The Winless Start
-What killed Stallion’s chances at the playoffs was the slow start to the season. Their first 11 games were characterized by poor defending, constant shuffling of the foreign legion, and general confusion in their tactics. Had the good run of form came early, they may have clinched a playoff spot for the season.
MVP: Jhan Melliza
-He has speed, he has lethal striking and he has creativity. Jhan Melliza is undoubtedly the biggest local produce of Filipino football as of the moment. Spearheading Stallion’s turnaround with 13 goals, Melliza may prove to be the talisman that both Stallion and the Philippines need for years to come.
Who To Buy: A Consistent Defender
-Swapping Benito Rosalia in place of Roland Sadia in goal helped stop the bleeding in goal for Laguna’s Horses. What they need now is a solid foundation at the back to fully complement Melliza, Mascazzini and Arboleda up front. There were times after their revival that Stallion’s defence were unable to stop leaking goals. Aside from Reynald Villareal and Matt Nierras, the central defence is a key area Coach Nierras needs to upgrade in order to lift the team back into contention.
To be continued