UAAP Season 78 men's football: Musical chairs as Final Four nears

Games on Thursday, April 21 at Moro Lorenzo

2:00 pm UP vs FEU

4:00 pm DLSU vs UST

LIVE on ABS-CBN Sports+Action and ABS-CBN Sports+Action HD  

6:00 pm UE vs ADU (Non-TV game)

One of the wildest, most unpredictable UAAP Men's football seasons is nearing the finish, with the last second-round matches being played on Thursday, April 21. The Final Four is slated for next week. 

In a nutshell, this is how things have gone. UST and DLSU finished the first round undefeated. The Tigers were the big surprise. Their team has a passel of rookies in AJ Pasion, Ian De Castro, Raniel Dosano and Zaldy Abraham who have punched above their weight. DLSU was also solid in the first round, beating UP and Ateneo. 

It was a different story in the second round, with both UST and DLSU stumbling. The Tigers were blitzed 4-0 by FEU while DLSU fell to UP and Ateneo.  

Meanwhile Anto Gonzales' UP Maroons have proven to be the steadiest team in the competition with a string of close, 1-0 victories. But the second round didn't start that way: they were held to a 3-3 draw by UST when goalie Ace Villanueva was out with an injury and CB Ian Clarino was suspended. Only after that did the Maroons got into their groove. 

Amazing fact: UP have only conceded 5 goals this entire season. Three of them came in that wild 3-3 draw with UST. Another came from the penalty spot in the first round 1-0 loss to UST. Another from open play in a 1-0 loss to DLSU.

So to sum things up: in the Maroons' 13 games this season, they have conceded goals in open play in only two of them, and in that one game where 3 goals were let in, the starting goalie and centerback were absent.

UP captain Daniel Gadia has led the Maroons to the top but can UST still catch them? Photo by Bob Guerrero/Rappler

The biggest problem for UP though is the lack of goals scored. They have scored only 15 all season long, only Adamson and UE have fewer. Gonzales has tried to have Rvin Resuma, Kintaro Miyago and Vince Aguilar fill the shoes vacated by Jinggoy Valmayor, but with mixed success. 

While DLSU and UST showed signs of weakness in the early second round, FEU, of all teams, struggled as well. NU held them to a 0-0 draw, then on the weekend after, Ateneo beat them 1-0. That was a huge upset because Ateneo had just lost to local rival UP 1-0 and were without Mikko Mabanag who was suspended.  

League leadership was a hot potato that only UP seemed to have wanted.  

Meanwhile UST struggled with a loss to Ateneo and a dumbfounding draw to minnow Adamson. But in that 1-1 draw, coach Marjo Allado thrust Ronald Batisla-ong upfield in an attacking role, and he pulled off a marvelous 40-yard golazo. Batislaong scored twice in the 2-1 win over NU playing in the same space and scored again in the win against UE last weekend.  Allado must be wondering “why didn't I think of this earlier?” 

Ateneo has had a rollercoaster season. Believe it or not, their draw to NU last Sunday was the first draw of the year. Every other game was either a win or a loss. But one thing has been constant: the brilliance of their left-sided rookie attacker, Jarvey Gayoso, who scored the late equalizer that helped salvage a point in their 3-3 draw. He also scored the winner against FEU, off a goalkeeper error.  

Gayoso's father is a former hoops pro, and he is a descendant of the great athlete Ed Ocampo on his mother's side. Alvin Ocampo, the legendary former Azkal, is his uncle. Alvin could be seen giving advice to Jarvey before kickoff between Ateneo and De La Salle recently, which is interesting since Alvin is an assistant for DLSU.  

With all of those athletic genes in his blood, it's no surprise that Gayoso is technically brilliant, with a left foot that is terrific at crossing from the flank and finding the back of the net as well. Witness this neat finish in the win against the Archers.  

 

But the draw to NU stings, and Ateneo needs help to make the Final Four, since they have played their final game already. Ateneo's 32 goals are the most of any team thus far, but the 21 they allowed are the worst of any of the top six sides. They just haven't been able to keep the ball out of their own net, and it has cost them dearly.

NU is out in the cold once again. The return of Paolo Salenga was a big boost, but NU were unable to beat any of the big boys. Their 4 wins were all against the lesser lights of the UAAP: ADU and UE. Maddeningly, they drew 5 times against the 5 teams above them in the standings, including two draws against defending champs FEU. 

So what are the scenarios for the last second-round matches on Thursday? First, a look at the current standings. UP and DLSU are safely through to the semis, but Ateneo, UST and FEU still have their work cut out for them. 

The first match pits FEU against UP. Believe it or not, FEU can be eliminated from the Final Four with a loss. This is a tough development for the two-time defending champs,who are up against the stingiest defense in the league. Rookies Rico Andes and Dave Deloso have been revelations for Kim Chul Su this season, but Eric Giganto has been subdued. They have been goalless in the last two matches, and that streak shouldn't continue if they wish to make it 3 championships in a row.   

According to my calculations, this is what is on the line on Thursday for the Maroons and the Tams. 

 

 

UP  

A win gives them top seed.  

A draw clinches one of the top two seeds unless UST beats DLSU by seven goals.

A loss and Maroons could drop to third seed.

 

FEU 

An FEU win gives them top seed if DLSU draws with UST.

A draw means Tams reach Final Four as third seed or have a playoff for fourth seed. 

FEU eliminated from Final Four with a loss. 

 

Remember, there is no more twice-to-beat in the UAAP Final Four. The semis and the final are both single-game knockout matches.  

What happens in the first game will of course affect the scenarios for the second. Again, this is how I think it could pan out between DLSU and UST. Please feel free to comment any corrections if I am mistaken. 

 

 

(if UP wins over FEU)

 

UST  

A win gives them the second seed, they play DLSU in semis.  

A draw gives them the third seed, they play DLSU in semis. 

A loss and Tigers could enter a playoff for the last Final Four slot.  

 

DLSU

A win or draw gives them the second seed and a semis date vs UST. 

A loss and Archers get third seed, play UST in semis. 

 

 

(If FEU and UP DRAW) 

 

UST 

A (reasonably close) win gives them second seed and they play DLSU. 

A draw gives them third seed and they play DLSU in semis. 

A loss and UST is in a playoff for the last Final Four slot with ADMU.  

  

DLSU

A win gives Archers top seed and semis matchup with the fourth seed, either ADMU or UST. 

A draw means DLSU is second seed, plays UST in semis. 

A loss and DLSU is third seed,  plays UST in semis. 

 

 

(If FEU beats UP)

 

UST 

A win gives Tigers top seed and a semis game vs DLSU. ADMU eliminated. 

A draw and UST meets top seed FEU in semis. 

A loss and UST meets ADMU in playoff for Final Four. 

 

DLSU

A win and Archers get top seed, play fourth seed in semis, either ADMU or UST. 

A draw and Archers finish second, play UP in semis. 

A loss and Archers finish as fourth seed, play UST in semis.

 

So there is how it works. The stage is thus set.  This should make for a Thursday full of drama. And lip-smacking Final Four matchups the week after. – Rappler.com 

Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH. 

(Editor's note: Final Four scenarios have been updated to reflect that UAAP does not factor goal difference to decide 4th and 5th seeding.)