There is a famous saying that football is a simple game where 22 men chase the ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.
This quote captures the amusing side of the sport but at the same time how cruel it can actually be. You can play eye-dazzling beautiful football for the entire match with your opponents barely having a whiff of possession and still somehow find yourself losing 1-nil.
Because at any level of the game taking your chances when they come usually spells the difference between win, lose, or draw. And this is something the young DLSU Men’s Football Team is slowly starting to learn in the early stages of the UAAP season.
Missing the Mark
The referee reaches into his pocket and pulls out a card. It’s red and the Adamson Falcons are now a man down to their Taft counterparts just five minutes in. The Archers knew that having a man-advantage for nearly the entire match is not an opportunity they could pass up.
But it turned out to be a frustrating Sunday afternoon on the FEU Diliman pitch.
That advantage didn’t reflect on the scoreboard with DLSU missing several chances throughout the match. The deadlock was only broken in second half when Mohammad Almohjili is released with a through ball into the box which he then coolly slots past the Adamson keeper.
Despite edging out the win, Alvin Ocampo and the rest of the coaching staff made sure the team knew they had ways to go. “The coaches told us we’re playing great football but we didn’t have any composure,” said winger Mateo Alegre on their scoring struggles.
This was even more evident in their next match against the UE Red Warriors. The Archers seemed to leave their shooting boots back in Taft as they failed to convert any of their 18 chances on the day.
They were then taught a painful lesson by UE veteran Mark Lerion as he produced an excellent finish in the 51st minute. The Archers pushed on but barely troubled the UE goalkeeper as he performed routine save after routine save.
It was a losing performance that probably deserved more on paper, but again the cruel sport of football is only fair to those who make the most of every opportunity.
Getting it on target
Coach Alvin Ocampo always reiterates to his players to keep playing their game and the goals will follow. In their next match against National University, I guess not even he could have predicted the goals would come so soon.
In the opening seconds after kickoff, Alegre received a diagonal ball from the midfield that caught the NU backline off guard. He places his shot past the NU keeper and sends the DLSU XI into a wild frenzy, their scoring struggles for a moment seemed all in the past.
This first 11 was the fourth different set of starters Ocampo had selected in four matches. In this case they opted for a bigger presence upfront in the form of Alfonso Montelibano, who with the rest of the DLSU team pressed and harried the Bulldogs to keep them pinned in their own half.
While this was a different looking La Salle squad, rookie Mikio Umilin turned to the familiar. He set his sights on the goal as he was gifted a free kick just outside the NU penalty box in the 31st minute, a position from which he had practiced from numerous times before.
He curls his free kick over the wall only to dip and land just inside the post for his first UAAP goal. “I always practice that shot, so I had the confidence,” said the 19-year old.
It was a 2-nil win for the Archers, finally these boys in green have found their mark.
Building from the back
Midway through the first round, DLSU finds itself in the middle of the pack with key matches against contenders up next on their fixture list.
Being a young team, getting to know each other on the pitch is crucial given the individual talent they have in the squad. “Each person on the team can play in the UAAP, each person has the skill to prove they can play in this league,” said Alegre.
This is where they know they have to turn to the system, their constant guide when scoring droughts and other obstacles come their way. “We follow the system and look for our chances,” said Umilin.
If they are to make a serious run for the final four, these next few matches are the chances they have to take.