UAAP 81 Football: Anto Gonzales still waiting for a leader to step up for UP

Santino Honasan on Mar 20, 2019 03:43 PM
Anto Gonzales still waiting for a leader to step up for UP
"What Iím really hoping for is the seniors to be the ones to assert themselves, because their teammates will respond better to them because they are the ones who are battling it out on the field together." - UP head coach Anto Gonzales

Defending UAAP Men's Football Champions University of the Philippines currently finds themselves in a three-way tie for second place after notching their third win of the season against University of the East last Sunday. 

Season 81 hasn't been as smooth as can be for the reigning champions however, especially since they're coming off an unbeaten title run just a season ago. 

For the first time since UAAP Season 76, the Fighting Maroons lost back-to-back matches, and they have been playing catch-up for most of their matches, even the ones that resulted in wins.

Such was the case against UE. 

The Fighting Maroons down 1-0 heading into halftime, and another loss would have extended their winless streak to four matches and it would have kept them at 7 points, good for the sixth spot in the standings. 

Staring at possibly another disappointing result, UP head coach Anto Gonzales opted not to talk strategy for the second half, and instead gave his wards an earful. A "mad, verbal lashing out", as he put it. 

"We didn’t talk about any tactical adjustments during halftime, it was just a mad, verbal lashing out, because that’s not how we’re supposed to play. It was sloppy, it was selfish, and that’s not UP. That’s definitely not UP," Gonzales shared. 

The pep talk, so to speak, worked, as it sparked a UP comeback, capped off by a King Miyagi game-winning goal in injury time to save the Maroons from their third loss in four matches. 

More importantly, it put the Maroons right in the middle of things in terms of the post-season push. 

But while it was a hard fought win for UP, Gonzales wasn't shy about voicing out his displeasure at how the first half, and their past few games for that matter, have gone. 

True, the win was a testament to their character, but Gonzales says that they shouldn't always have to mount comeack victories. 

"We’ve come from behind a few times, and to be honest, we don’t need to reach that point. I think we have enough experience in the squad to be able to manage games very well, from start to finish," he said. "We don’t need to get our backs against the wall to respond because other teams will not give us a chance if they’re already leading. That’s what they have to learn, they don’t have to be on the back foot before they straighten things up."

It all goes back to, as Gonzales mentioned earlier this season, a lack of leadership inside the floor.

For the last few years, Gonzales counted on guys like Jinggoy Valmayor, Patxi Santos, Daniel Gadia, and Ian Clarino to be the guiding voices inside the field. 

That type of presence is something that he feels the Fighting Maroons lack this season. 

"What I’m really hoping for is the seniors to be the ones to assert themselves, because their teammates will respond better to them because they are the ones who are battling it out on the field together, it’s not us," he expressed. "It’s leadership, having an influence on the pitch, kulang kami nun. We have so much talent, but who is the leader inside? That’s the biggest question mark, and until you have a good leader inside, things will always crumble."

"More than anything else, yun nga, it’s really making them have that drive, the seniors really stepping up, leaders showing up, more than anything else," he continued. 

Gonzales added without anyone to manage the team from inside the field, all the strategic planning and the gameplan would be of no use anyway. 

"I will admit, maybe we focused too much on tactics, that’s why I felt na useless all of those tactics if inside, no one is really leading, no one is responding. Who will tell them ‘Hey, this is what we planned for, let’s to this. Let’s cover the small details. Coach has been talking about emphasizing second balls, Why aren’t we winning the second balls?’ Who will do that inside?"

As important as getting a good start is in the tournament, the second round always proves to be the more crucial stretch, as it separates the contenders from the pretenders, and with the race to a semifinals berth tightening up, there becomes less room for mistakes. 

Gonzales hopes that as the second round progresses, one of his wards steps up and takes on the responsibility of being a leader. 

"I think mentoring is very important. Some players have it in them, the willingness to lead, they embrace that role. Sometimes, they embrace that role, but they don’t know the right way. You’re lucky if you have a leader who knows how to do it the right way," Gonzales said. "In our case, it’s really that taking of responsibility, that ‘I want to lead this team. If something goes wrong, I want to take responsibility. I want to be accountable, so I make sure nothing goes wrong, because if something goes wrong, I will blame myself.’ I think that’s what we want to establish in our team right now."

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