At the start of the season, before a single ball was kicked, we forecast where each team could finish based on their previous season and their signings.
As always in football there were some surprises and some shocks. The forecast for Champion and relegated team held true, so fortunately there’s not too much humble pie to eat.
There’s still a fairly big slice left though with some teams having done much better, and some much worse, than we thought at the start of the season.
Here we take a look at how the season went for each of the teams – from what they were expected to do, to where they finished and what they’ll have to do to build for the season ahead.
Champions: Global FC
Season: Global were my favorites to win and with good reason. Unbeaten last year they have a quality side and with Manager Dan Palami behind them they will always refuse to give up.
The Guirado brothers, Carli De Murga and Patrick Reichelt were huge signings as the Azkals Manager looked to the Azkals to improve the UFL and build a team. It worked. Even after their first loss to the Army, a surprise 3-0 defeat, they were always capable of coming back and a long, unbeaten streak took them to the top.
They did, however, only win the league on goal difference and this should be remembered in the UFL where the smallest of margins are the difference between winning the league and finishing as runners up. With Denis Wolf a rumored target for the Champions they are still looking to improve the squad though.
Season: Kaya were always going to be in the hunt bringing in quality players like Lexton Moy, Nate Burkey and Joshua Beloya to a side with three of the four Azkals’ backline. As a result they matched Global for everything but the number of goals they scored.
They were solid most of the time but rarely managed to kill off an opponent, winning eight of their thirteen games by a single goal, including 2-1 and 1-0 victories over Navy.
Compare that to Loyola’s 14-0 and 10-1 victories over Navy and you can understand why only three teams scored less: Navy, Army and Nomads.
Defensively they have conceded the least number of goals, along with Global, only seventeen all season, but they will need to add some attacking flair to keep up with their rivals next year.
Third: Loyola Meralco Sparks
Season: Loyola scored more than double the number of goals of most teams and dominated most of the teams they faced. However their defensive problems also meant they were prone to conceding goals – as shown in their 4-1 loss to Stallions early in the season and their 4-3 loss to Pasargad and the Air Force.
They kept pace with Global and Kaya all year and were favorites for a long time but the Air Force proved to be their undoing as a 3-3 draw in the first round of matches was followed by a 2-1 loss near the end of the season cost them the five points they were from the title.
They have the money and the backing to get the signings and train for next year so expect Loyola to be in the mix for 2012/2013 too.
Season: The Stallions were the dark horses of the season and for a long time were leading the table. They surprised everyone as they were playing Second Division football and this is their first season in the top flight – not many had backed them to step up so well.
In the end they were a long way off the pace of the top three but they were also way ahead of the rest. They played some good football, too, with Ruben Doctora Jr. and their technical Korean players able to pass and move the ball around and dominate sides.
Having signed Jason De Jong and Inter De Madrid’s Rufino Sanchez the team are looking to spend and bring in quality players. They are definitely looking up rather than down and will be in the fight for the title next season.
Fifth: Philippine Air Force
Season: The Air Force didn’t live up to their billing as their ageing squad showed it couldn’t keep the pace for the whole season. Unable to sign players they struggled against the financial power of the other clubs and only a late surge pushed them into fifth.
On occasion, the Air Force showed they can beat anyone and with a win and a draw against Loyola they still had a say in the title race but they were never in it themselves.
The Air Force won the first two seasons of the UFL as well as the first and third UFL Cups, losing the 2010 tournament to Global in the final. They may be still the most successful Philippine team but don’t expect the Air Force to fly so high again.
With Yanti Barsales retiring while Chieffy Caligdong and Ian Araneta are both likely to leave during the transfer window they are losing their best attacking talents and their expectations for next season may well be to simply survive in the top flight.
Season: Pasargad were another team coming from the Second Division and they also gave a good account of themselves.
Gaining the moniker of ‘giant-killer’, they managed to gain victories over Loyola, Stallions and the Air Force, with a midtable finish a good showing from the supposedly weakest of the three promoted sides.
With the UFL’s expansion over the next couple of years, financial power may matter on whether they can keep up with the other teams, but they should be safe from relegation with Army and the Air Force unable to sign players outside of the Armed Forces.
Season: The Nomads were another side expected to finish midtable. They were five points off Pasargad in the end, which may trouble them after they won the Second Division ahead of Stallions and Pasargad last year.
Their team policy of only allowing members of their club to play also limits their choices to a certain degree and their team is predominantly made up of foreigners as a result.
However they are planning to rebuild and have the resources to do so. Their reputation over the course of the season took a bit of a hit, though, with their fans regularly shouting obscenities from the sidelines. Another midtable finish will be expected next year.
Nomads do have some promising youngsters and are being linked with several good players so they may be able to lay the foundations for greater success over the next few seasons.
Eighth: Green Archers United
Season: The Green Archers managed just three wins during the season and they weren’t sure of safety until they thrashed Army 7-2. They finished second from bottom the previous year and with a similar lineup they’ve achieved pretty much the same results. Christian Pasilan again showed his quality and finished as the league’s joint-third top scorer with twelve goals.
However they now have wealthy sponsors and are being linked with some big names so you can expect the Archers to go out and spend to build on their grassroots. They were below average this season but with their new backing they will be looking higher for next season and should be safely away from relegation this time.
Ninth: Philippine Army
Season: This was my biggest mistake in the predictions. After a strong campaign last year Army were expected to put up more of a fight but again the Armed Forces teams were found lacking. Only Navy conceded more goals and only Navy scored less than the Army and a 7-2 loss to the Green Archers at the end of the season gave up the chance of finishing above the Archers.
With Pachanga coming up and the Green Archers gaining new wealth from their sponsors there doesn’t look to be much hope for them next season either and big things will be needed to avoid relegation.
Tenth: Philippine Navy
Season: At least the Navy won a game this year. That’s the most positive thing you can say about the side who failed to win a single game in last year’s league. They should have been relegated but were saved thanks to the league’s expansion plans though they failed to improve much on their performance and were clearly the league’s stragglers.
Strong growth in the Second Division and only one available place for promotion will also make it hard for them to bounce back.
UFL: Best Season Ever
Prediction: A New Best Season Ever
Overall the league has grown remarkably and fans were treated to the best season of UFL action so far.
Having said that, with names like Denis Wolf, Jason De Jong, Rufino Sanchez and others ready to join the UFL for next season the league continues to grow at an impressive rate.
With big name sponsors and expanding TV coverage the coming UFL Cup and next season’s UFL League will continue to show that football is here to stay in the Philippines. — ELR, GMA News
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