That’s what team manager Dan Palami asked me back when I asked him when the final lineup for the AFC Challenge Cup would be released.
“I already know it,” he said and grabbed my notebook and drew his formation. “There’s only one spot in question.”
In the back four, it’s Carli de Murga, Rob Gier, Juani Guirado and Denis Cagara, and at midfield, it’s the returning Stephen Schrock, Paul Mulders and Jerry Lucena, and then there’s Phil Younghusband up front with Javier Patino, who will be making his debut.
The only field position he left vacant was the left winger.
“The question is, do we go with Angel? Chieffy? Or even a very fit Jeffrey Christaens?”
I thought it was just a rhetorical question but he said, “No, if you’re the coach, who would you go with?”
I said go with Angel since Chieffy, as shown in the past, is really very effective when coming in as a sub.
Dan also agreed and said since it’s his debut, Patino might need a fellow Spanish-speaking player up front and Angel’s size is surely an advantage.
As for the goalkeeper, the Philippines will start with Roland Mueller against Brunei as Neil Etheridge will serving a suspension he earned from the previous AFC Challenge Cup finals in 2012 in Nepal.
Neil was in the stands for the third-place playoff against Palestine, for his red-card in the semifinals, when apparently his choice of words in cheering for the team got the ire of the match officials, hence he got another suspension.
“AFC said the suspension must be served in an AFC-sanctioned match and friendlies don’t count,” he said.
Ouch. That’s a tough one for Neil and everyone knows when it comes to goalkeeper decisions, it’s always going to be a tough choice.
“If Roland has a good game against Brunei, would a coach risk a change?” he pointed out.
Dan also defended the presence of Roel Gener, Ian Araneta and Boogie Margarse in the training pool and once again pointed out the importance of having the right attitude.
“These are people you can count on. Then know their role, they go there in the scrimmages, they are not complaining. They do this with the right attitude and the relationship in the team the team is healthy,” he said.
Dan said there are times when he’s tempted to just type away when he read the forums or online comments but manages to contain himself.
He said they do regularly call up some local players but “they consider a call up to mean as ‘I should get a starting job.’”
By the way, Dan also said there is going to be a team for the SEA Games and he’s optimistic. The PSC, because it’s pissed with Myanmar’s removal of a few key sports in favor of their indigenous martial arts, has been saying it will just send a 50-man token delegation, and I feared a 25-man football team would not be a part of that.
But there will be one it’s just that the PFF won’t be getting a subsidy for sending one. This would just be the first time since the 90s that we would be sending a team for two SEA Games in a row
“We might get a refund if we win a medal,” he said.
Right now, Dan is also optimistic with the U-23 team as some are with the Azkals, like OJ Porteria, Christaens, Jason de Jong, the Angeles twins, even Etheridge. Guys like Joshua Beloya and set-piece specialist Mark Hartmann are also being considered. (www.cebufootball.blogspot.com)