02 June 2012

Azkals set US training camp, friendly vs Fire


SHAH ALAM, Malaysia—A 15-day training camp in the United States in August highlighted by two international friendlies and a match against Major League Soccer side Chicago Fire is close to being finalized for the Philippine Azkals.
Azkals manager Dan Palami Thursday night said the proposed camp, which will run from August 10 to 25, forms part of the team’s preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup late this year in Thailand and Malaysia.
Palami is looking at the US Virgin Islands as a possible opponent for the Azkals on Aug. 15, before a duel with the Fire five days later. Another international friendly is slated Aug. 20.
A group of Chicago-based Filipinos from Palami’s hometown of Tacloban City is making representations with the Chicago Fire and arranging the matches for the Azkals, who were scheduled to face Malaysia in an international friendly at the Shah Alam Stadium here.
“It will be a good experience for the team,” said Palami. “We will try to make sure that we get the best possible preparation for the Suzuki Cup.”
Meanwhile, Philippine Azkals skipper Chieffy Caligdong sees no problem in the growing number of Filipino players raised abroad getting picked for national team duty, even if it meant that homegrown players can no longer hold down a place in the lineup.
“I don’t see it as a negative thing,” said Caligdong, the proud son of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, who is one of only four homegrown players in the current lineup. “What’s important is the level of football (in the team) is getting higher.”
The squad for the Malaysia match, which includes Ian Araneta, Ed Sacapano and OJ Clarino, has probably one of the fewest homegrown talents as coach Michael Weiss was able to bring in the likes of Europe-based Stephan Schrock, Paul Mulders, Manny Ott, Roland Muller and Denis Wolf.
Omitted for the first time since the 2010 Suzuki Cup were veteran Army players Roel Gener and Nestorio Margarse. Caligdong could be the lone homegrown player to start for the national side in the match last night.
“It’s a challenge for our local players. They have to show up and prove they deserve the spot,” said Caligdong. “The foreign players are bringing up the level of play and we’re learning from them.”
Weiss believes there is still plenty of homegrown talent in the country with 31-year-old Anto Gonzales impressing him in the weeklong camp in Bacolod and San Carlos City last week.
“Gonzales is more than an option,” Weiss said of the Loyola Meralco Sparks midfielder. But with so much depth in the squad at his position, Gonzales wasn’t included in the roster for the Malaysia match.

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