American coach Thomas Dooley gets his baptism of fire Saturday night as he leads a new-look Philippine side against Malaysia in the first of two friendly matches for the Azkals, who are gearing up for the AFC Challenge Cup in May.
Tasked to spearhead the Azkals in the tournament that dangles a spot in the AFC Asian Cup next year, Dooley gets to gauge the strength of his side in the first meeting against the Malaysian in close to two years.
The match kicking off at 8:45 p.m. is set at the Selayang Municipal Council Stadium north of the capital Kuala Lumpur.
“It’s going to be a tough match considering that we have a new coach and new players coming in,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami. “As much as we are putting importance on the result, we all see the match as a step to improve for the Challenge Cup.”
Appointed early last month, Dooley called up mostly United Football League standouts against the Harimau Malaya, whom the Azkals played to a scoreless draw in June 2012. The former US World Cup skipper who replaced Michael Weiss will have the services of Europe-based players Stephan Schrock, Roland Muller and Jerry Lucena on Wednesday when the Azkals face Azerbaijan in Dubai.
Rested the past two weeks due to an ankle problem, Phil Younghusband could start for the Azkals along with the debuting Fil-Swiss midfielder Martin Steuble.
With Ed Sacapano failing to make the trip, the goalkeeping position will be a tossup between former La Salle keeper Patrick Deyto and ex-Ateneo standout Nick O’ Donnell.
Stallion defender Simone Rota also earned a last-minute call-up, after securing his passport Wednesday, while Anton del Rosario, Simon Greatwich, Ruben Doctora and Nate Burkey are making their return to the side after getting dropped in 2012.
“We’re trying to form a team and trying to put in a system,” said Dooley. “I hope I can see the team play as a unit and play for each other and that we can see on the field that everybody is on the same page.”