STEADY, ROWDY AND UNPREDICTABLE: THE PFL MID SEASON REVIEW

By: Jeffrey Gumawid -

Wed. Aug. 16, 2017

As the first season of the Philippines Football League reaches its midpoint, the 8 pioneer clubs have panned out in different destinies. The League maybe having a bad time with off field issues like TV coverage and the like, it is undeniable that the action on the pitch is exciting. As we gear towards the Playoffs, let's take a look of how these teams are doing so far on the field, off the field with their transfer dealings, and the overall outlook of their seasons.

 

1) Ceres-Negros (A-)

- Ceres has proven themselves to be the best club of the land by a long mile. Demolishing teams left, right and centre, the Busmen are a sexy attacking bunch especially at home, scoring 30 goals in 10 games. They have the ruthlessness expected of a top team, as demonstrated by their back to back 7-0 annihilation of Ilocos United and Meralco Manila, who occupied both ends of the table, in July. They have no need to dive in the transfer market so far, if only to rid themselves of underutilized stars like Jason de Jong and Simone Rota. This shows how complete and well rounded their Azkal-studded squad is. However, there are still questions to be asked of the club. As their loss against Global Cebu and early draw against Kaya show, Ceres still clearly lack some composure against adversity of all forms, especially against very physical defences and poor conditions. Their run in the AFC Cup would also affect their PFL run, with potential injuries andgoing at least 4 games behind in a packed calendar as primary concerns. Regardless, it is hard to imagine them falling of their elite status for the next few seasons.

 

Stars (so far): BienveMarañon, Fernando Rodriguez, Iain Ramsay

 

Notable Ins: none

 

Notable Outs: Jason de Jong, Simone Rota

 

2)Kaya FC-Makati (B+)

Stability is the name of the game for the Lions. Their physical play has been unsettling for their fellow contending clubs, and the Jordan Mintah-Robert Mendy combo proving to be a handful for the opposing defences. They have also found their stroke recently, shooting to the top of the table with 5 straight wins before bowing down to Meralco Manila. However, the stability they have built for themselves seems to be stunting their potential. They are unable to beat the other elite clubs so far, clubs which they will likely face in the Playoffs. Also, their physical approach led them to 4 red cards already this season. Time will tell if Kaya can turn on the switch when they need to against teams they can’t seem to reach.

Stars so far: Robert Mendy, Jordan Mintah, Janrick Soriano

 

Notable Ins: None

 

Notable Outs: None

 

3) Global Cebu (B-)

For a club that is arguably one of the two biggest in the land, there is some irony happening in Cebu. They are still in the middle of the title hunt, but they are relatively doing things low key. Shu Sasaki and Hikaru Minegishi are doing solid things in the wings, and Patrick Deyto seems to have recovered from the early season horrors. But amidst rumors of tightening pockets, a plethora of early season coaching changes andanincomplete lineup befitting an elite club, it seems Global are soldiering on. Gone was their joint top scorer SekouSylla, and replaced by AFC Cup hero Darryl Roberts. They have also brought back Spanish talisman Rufo Sanchez. Matt Hartmann has been released despite good performances in a spot he does not prefer, and replaced by Dominic del Rosario. Lastly, Nick O'Donnell moved on to fight for a starting spot somewhere else, leaving Deyto without a single notable backup keeper for agood part of the season.The keeper problem has resulted to Misagh Bahadoran playing in goal, resulting in their demolition by JPV. Global had been through adversity before, but the newfound fanbase turning out by the thousands after their long delayed move home to Cebu must mean they have a reason to fight tooth and nail for the PFL title this season.It also means that the club must get its off-field act together, and fast.

 

Stars so far: Hikaru Minegishi, Patrick Deyto, Shu Sasaki

 

Notable Ins: Dominic del Rosario, Darryl Roberts, Rufo Sanchez, Quincy Kammeraad

 

Notable Outs: Sekou Sylla, Nick O'Donnell, Matt Hartmann

 

4) Meralco Manila (C+)

A club at the top end of the table should almost always have a good grade, but the Sparks' fate may turn for the worse, undoing the good work they have done so far. It all started with their deflating first loss against Ceres, a 0-7 implosion at their home after a 9 game unbeaten start. That game and their struggles against Global clearly showed that despite their top status, Meralco still couldn't hang with the best of the bunch, and are susceptible to conceding goals against faster, creative teams.Then came the bombshell, the surprising transfer of the Younghusband brothers to Davao Aguilas. Their two leaders on and off the field, the men responsible for 52% of their goals at the time, were allowed to leave on a free transfer (if you literally interpret their club statement). This throws the club in a certain level of uncertainty, given that their other attackers are yet to truly shine this season. Yesthey are still winning games and topping the table. They still retain the solid defence of Milan Nikolic, JoacoCañas, and Ace Villanueva. Tahj Minniecon and Connor Tacagni seems to have stepped up and are filling the void of the golden brothers in attack. Still, thisnew core are on a mission that the brothers could not do, and that is liftMeralco to the summit of Philippine football and reach Asian club level.

 

Stars so far: Phil Younghusband, Connor Tacagni,  Milan Nikolic

 

Notable Ins: None

 

Notable Outs: Phil and James Younghusband

 

5) JPV Marikina (C)

They were the darkhorses of the UFL last season, and they have showed early in the PFL they have tools to do so again. Their good run at the start of the season earned their stalwart CameloTacusalme an Azkal call-up, while fans were pining for goalkeeper Nelson Gasic to be handed one as well due to early spectacular performances.  However, Voltes are showing signs of falling off the pace earlier than expected. Tacusalme was injured onAzkal duty and is still rediscovering his form, while the goals from Takashi Odawara and Takumi Uesato have dried up. With no significant transfer moves in sight, JPV must find the solution to their currentslump within themselves, or face missing out on theplayoffs this season.

 

Stars so far: Takumi Uesato, CameloTacusalme, NelsonGasic

 

Notable Ins: None

 

Notable Outs: None

 

6) Davao Aguilas (B-)

For a club as ambitious as the Aguilas, their current position of 7th and winless is harsh. They have shown flashes of brilliance with good performances against the top clubs. However, football is a results business, and the Davao brass are thinking the same. Aided by SMC's sponsorship war chest, they have splashed serious cash on big name Azkals for an abrupt squad overhaul. Simone Rota, Nich O'Donnell, Jason de Jong, Matt Hartmann, and young Australian striker Harry Sawyer now complement the talents of Dylan De Bruycker and Omar Khan. But the icing on the cake is their surprise acquisition of the Younghusbands. Whether this would salvage their big dreams this season remains to be seen, but the warning shot has been fired. There is a new claimant to Philippine Football's iron throne for at least the next few years.

 

Stars so far: Dylan De Bruycker, Omar Khan, Milos Krstic

 

Notable Ins: Simone Rota, Nich O'Donnell, Jason de Jong, Matt Hartmann, Harry Sawyer,

Phil and James Younghusband

 

Notable Outs: Gilmar Fernandez, Nikola Grubjesic

 

7) Stallion Laguna (B-)

After going winless in 11 games, Stallion knew what they had to do to salvage their season. Getting rid of underperforming players was the first step, with Ryota Ishikawa underwhelming as a forward, Roland Sadia and Yusuke Yamagata failing to prevent goals. Bringing back Carlo Polli gave them a fresh look in midfield, while Gabriele Mascazzini is starting to give defences troubles. Crucially, JhanMelliza has recently found his goal-scoring touch, banging 6 goals so far this season. The new look of Stallion is promising, and the league would notice that the Lakeside is no longer the easy away trip it used to be.

 

Stars so far: JhanMelliza, Benito Rosalia

 

Notable Ins: Carlo Polli, Gabriele Mascazzini,Ko Kyungjoon

 

Notable Outs: Ryota Ishikawa, Roland Sadia, Yusuke Yamagata

 

8) Ilocos United (D)

 

Ilocos United relied on experienced heads and hungry young studs on their maiden season. They have proven they have tools necessary to succeed, with ChimaUzoka scoring, Angelo Marasigan showing midfield promise, and William Ebanda marshalling the back bravely. Despite this, the prospects look bleak up north. They have sold one of their best players, Dominic del Rosario, to Global Cebu. Some of the old heads like Anton del Rosario have gone missing at times, and crucially, the team has been walloped by free scoring opponents. Bringing in Adam Mitter may help their defence improve, but the search for the first win continues. The wall of the north is in dire need of reinforcement.

 

Stars so far: Chima Uzoka, Angelo Marasigan

 

Notable Ins: Adam Mitter, Charlie Beaton, Arthur Kouassi


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