'No pressure' UE playing their best football of the season
Santino Honasan on Apr 07, 2017 12:00 PM
The future looks bright for the UE Red Warriors football program.
While University of the East will likely finish in seventh place this season, and will again miss out on the Final Four, there's probably little that anyone can do to dampen their spirits right now.
That's because in their last two matches, the Red Warriors have taken down a couple of UAAP football powerhouses.
The Red Warriors stunned Far Eastern University in injury time en route to a 2-1 win last April 1 (No April Fools jokes here), and then followed that win up by starting out strong and holding on to hand league-leading Ateneo de Manila their first loss fo the UAAP men's football season, also with a 2-1 final tally.
Ateneo and FEU are Final Four-bound teams.
So what's behind the sudden turnaround?
After their win against FEU, UE head coach Fitch Florence Arboleda stressed that he told his boys to just go out and perform well, without the pressure of any result, since they were already out of contention.
After their win against Ateneo, Arboleda stated that it was the same mindset.
"Yeah, same, same mentality. Sabi ko sa kanila na winning is not my priority this time, sabi ko lang sa kanila maglaro lang kayo ng maayos, yun lang. Sa performance, ibigay niyo lang talaga yung todo niyo," Arboleda said. "Winning, mag-draw, wala akong pakialam, matalo, wala akong pakialam, basta maglaro lang kayo ng maayos. Yun lang talaga yung binibigay ko sa mga bata."
In their win against Ateneo, Jason Absalon set up Mark Lerion for the opening goal, while Mar Diano was the one who doubled their lead, which ultimately spelled the difference between them and the Blue Eagles.
In that same match, rookie keeper Frank Rieza came close to doing what no keeper had done this season so far, and that's shut Ateneo out in a win, had it not been for a second half penalty kick.
With just one more game left in their season, UE, led by youngsters like Diano, Alberto Echin, Absalon, and Rieza, are playing their best football all season.
Could it be that playing without any more pressure has helped these kids click on the football pitch?
"Siguro po, kasi last time pine-pressure talaga namin sila. Yun dun yung na-notice namin, maganda pala pag walang pressure yung iniisip ng mga bata," said Arboleda. "And good thing kasi tapos na yung exams, puro football na lang talaga iniisip nila."
While many would say that their impressive run came a bit too late, given that at the start of the second round, UE was very much in play four a semis berth, Arboleda now hopes to be able to keep this momentum going and try to find the formula to be able to carry the success over to next season.
Already, UE football fans will have something to look forward to next season, given that according to Arboleda, he'll be working with pretty much this same core of young, talented players next year.
"Sana tuloy-tuloy, wala akong malol-ose na key player for next season, for sure yung tingin ng teams sa amin next season, medyo hindi na nila kami pwedeng i-underestimate. Yun lang din yung gusto namin, sana tumaas din yung morale nila kasi alam nilang momentum kami."
Already with three wins in the bag, the Red Warriors can definitely close the season out with one more win against Adamson University. Should the UE come away with the three points, they'll finish with four wins in the season, doubling their win total from Season 77 and Season 78 combined.
"Sana ma-finish lang namin ng maayos, we're not hoping na manalo, kasi yung Adamson for sure maglalaro din sila ng maayos, so kami maglalaro na lang kami ng maayos for the last game."
While many may chalk this season up to another failed campaign for UE, you can bet that Coach Fitch and the Red Warriors will be back and better in Season 80.