Coach gets high mark in runup to AFC

By Olmin Leyba, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 14 2014 04:21 PM | Updated as of Mar 15 2014 12:21 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Giving new coach Thomas Dooley a high mark on his first two matches at the helm, Azkals team manager Dan Palami said he’s looking forward to “exciting times” ahead for a side he expects to reach top form in time for the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in May.

Palami took notice of how Dooley, after just six sessions, has made the Azkals embrace an attractive style of football, showcasing a vastly improved passing and pressing game in a pair of friendlies against Malaysia and Azerbaijan last week.

“He has acquitted himself well in so far as the expectations on how he should be coaching the team is concerned,” Palami said on the Azkals website. “I’m also quite pleased with how the players have responded to the coach and I’m sure this will be exciting times for the Azkals,” The Azkals played Malaysia to a scoreless draw last Saturday in Malaysia then yielded a fighting 0-1 setback to Azerbaijan over in Dubai last Wednesday.

“We have been able to play the kind of football we have wanted to play but never had a chance to (before). We have been able to extricate ourselves by good passing when we were being pressed by the opposition,” said Palami.

“What’s more important is we have shown to everybody that we can play this kind of football,” he added.

Former Phl XI mainstay and University of the Philippines coach Anto Gonzales agreed.

“Nakita natin ang improvement sa short passing game, pag-keep ng possession, build up ng attack; nawala ang long balls from the keeper, nagsimula na tayo magbuild up ng attack from the keeper (We saw the improvement in short passing game, keeping possession, building up the attack not through long balls),” he said in TJ Manotoc’s show “The Score” on ABS-CBN Sports and Action.

“I believe itong style na gusto niya, short passing game, pressing football, bagay sa atin (This style of play that Dooley is implementing suits us),” he added.

But as always, Palami wants to temper their supporters’ expectations.

“As long as their expectations are realistic, then this will serve as a challenge for us, the coaching staff and the players to do better, to even improve in our games,” he said.

“What I have seen so far is we are on our way to becoming a better team.”

The Azkals have broken camp after last week’s overseas camp but are slated to reassemble in another training stint in Qatar next month with friendlies against Nepal and a Qatari club being lined up.