My postgame thoughts on a terrific Stallion UFL Cup Final win.
This was win that solidifies the relevance of homegrown, and specifically Ilonggo, Football. True, Spaniard Rufo Sanchez's winner was a glorious piece of work, a great header off a lovely ball from Pi Yong Jae, and Joaco Canas was a rock on defense. These foreign players, as well as Fil-Dutchman Jason De Jong and the other Koreans, really boosted Stallion during this Cup.
But Stallion does have an Ilonggo soul, and their homegrown players were solid on Monday and deserve much of the credit for this triumph. Jake Hugo, in for the suspended Nam Yeul Woo, was quality. De Jong told me last Saturday that he had plenty of confidence in the Santa Barbara native and he didn't disappoint. Bervic Italia, another Santa Barbaran, is a quick and vastly experienced wingback.
Barotac Nuevo's Balot Doctora scored again, just like he did twice in the semifinal, with a vintage Stallion strike borne of quick, precise passing. Doctora's recent Cup form should make him a candidate for Azkals selection.
When the captain was subbed because of injury, Jovanie Simpron filled in and created problems. It was great to see Vince Chester Braga get a brief run-out too.
And then to put the finishing touch, goalie Wilson Munoz palmed away a late header from Izo Elhabbib to preserve the result. The finest homegrown keepers, from Melo Sabacan to Tats Mercado to Ed Sacapano, have traditionally come from Negros, but Barotac's Munoz proved that even though he is small in stature, he could loom large in goal.
Following just weeks after Chieffy Caligdong's sensational late winner in the Suzuki Cup against Vietnam, it has been a great time to be a fan of Ilonggo Football.
For decades Iloilo was the heartbeat of Pinoy Football, and that remained to be so on Monday night.
Stallion showed character and grit in this Cup. Stallion's win capped a marvelous resurgence after their Cup campaign started with a disastrous 2-0 loss to Army. They circled the wagons, won the rest of their group games, then outsteadied General Trias International in the Quarters via a nerve-wracking penalty shootout.
In the semifinal they fell behind 1-0 to a fiesty Green Archers Globe side but battled back to win 3-1 in extra time. Then in the final, after Global equalized quickly, they struck back with Rufo's strike.
This was a team that never gave up and deserves to lift that trophy.
One aspect of the game they do need help with, though, is conditioning. Far too many of the Stallions cramped up late in the game.
Gloriously unpredictable Football is what Cups are all about. League Football, where there are no playoffs, rewards teams who are excellent day-in and day-out. Consistency is everything. The better teams with big budgets will always come out on top.
On the other hand, Cup Football is about teams who ride momentum and oftentimes a little luck to gain glory. Cup Football is where pumpkins turn into carriages and Davids very often stand over fallen Goliaths.
In last year's Cup Final that is what we saw: an aging but proud Air Force springing a major schocker over the more glamorous Loyola team, winning 2-0. It can be argued that a little bit of that Cup Fairy Dust was in the air again last Monday, as Global, slightly favored on paper with so many Azkals, couldn't make the advantage show on grass.
I like having both a UFL Cup and a League, because both formats have their charms. And I love that they are played one after the other and not concurrently. It is less confusing for Pinoy fans and is more similar to the PBA and its conferences.
Follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.