MANILA – Filipino-American midfielder OJ Porteria has no regrets about settling in the Philippines and enjoys the time practicing football with his fellow Azkals.
The 18-year-old midfielder, who scored the lone goal in the Azkals’ recent 1-0 win over Myanmar, said he expects the team’s cohesion to improve as they practice ahead of the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.
Porteria was a member of the DC United Academy in the US, until he transferred to the Philippines in 2012 and signed with the United Football League’s (UFL) Kaya FC.
“It's hard being away from the team, flying back and forth,” Porteria said in an interview with ANC’s Boyet Sison.
“I think the chemistry will be better since we'll be with the team everyday, training together.”
Porteria admitted that they had a tough time beating Myanmar last Wednesday in a friendly game in enemy territory.
He said both the Azkals and Myanmar were forced to concentrate on defense, given their attacking styles.
“When you have two teams, both attacking-minded and fast, you gonna have lots of defensive plays because everyone's trying to score goals, everyone trying to get it through,” he said.
With the help of his team mate Ian Araneta, Porteria got his opportunity to score after breaking through Myanmar’s defensive side.
“We got the chance… I just took advantage of it,” recounted the Filipino-American. "He (Araneta) dribbled the ball and kindly passed the ball to me."
Porteria ran past his defender them unleashed a curling shot that flew past Myanmar's keeper.
“I just saw my defender flat footed it took it to his right and shot the ball, hopefully it would go and it did,” added a beaming Porteria.
It was the Azkals first away-victory against the Myanmar squad.
Sweet as others
It was Porteria’s second international goal for the Azkals.
The first was when he helped the national team win the Philippine Peace Cup against Chinese Taipei last September.
He scored one of the Azkals’ three goals against the visiting team, helping the Philippines win its first international title in 99 years.
When asked which goal was sweeter, Porteria answered: “Every goal is sweet for the national team.”
“Scoring for your country, making them proud… nothing can beat that,” he said.
Porteria is confident that everything will do well in their training as they prepare for the Challenge Cup qualifiers.
They are grouped together with their 2012 Challenge Cup tormentor Turkmenistan, Cambodia and Brunei.
Porteria also assured that coach Michael Weiss contract issues with the Azkals won't affect the team preparations.
He said the German football trainer is fulfilling his job as team coach.
“He's got the six month extension, basically they'll gonna see how the six months go, if they wanna renew his contract after that,” said Porteria. “But as of now I'm happy with the coach and happy with the team.”