MANILA -- Stallion Laguna FC hopes that the momentum it gained from the tail-end of the Philippines Football League season will rub off on its Copa Paulino Alcantara campaign this year.
With better chemistry and a revamped roster, Stallion head coach Ernie Nierras is optimistic the horsemen can perform at a high level in the mid-year cup, which is tentatively set to start in July.
“Second half of the season, it’s better. That’s why we brought in some players to make some changes. Obviously, that helped,” Nierras said after Stallion’s slim 1-nil victory over Maharlika Manila FC on Sunday.
“We were unlucky at the beginning of the season, but towards the end, players are doing better. They gel better. Hopefully, we will be able to carry this over to the Cup.”
Stallion concluded its 2022-2023 PFL run with a 12-win, two-draw, and nine-loss record for 38 points, placing third in the league table behind Dynamic HERB Cebu FC and league champion Kaya FC Iloilo.
One of the reasons behind Stallion’s transformation into a more formidable team towards the latter part of the PFL season was the addition of American defender Abraham Placito last April.
Placito first saw action for Stallion during the 2021 Copa, where the squad made the semifinals. Although Stallion was out of contention for the league crown when Placito returned, he helped the team develop better chemistry in its remaining matches.
“I’m trying to take it as how it is, (and) if we have to win every single game and hope for the best, the bright side going into the Copa this summer, then I think that’s the goal and that’s what I’m trying to bring to the team,” Placito mentioned last April.
More than providing wins, Placito's presence is expected to inspire Stallion's younger players.
“There’s a lot of room to improve on my role, but also with the other players, I’m kind of here for a leadership role, I can also be that bridge from management to players,” the former FC Golden State defender added.
Placito also disclosed how he and the Stallion management had been communicating for over a year to make the return possible, as the 29-year-old stalwart eyed playing in the PFL again.
Nierras said it was not a difficult decision to make on the part of Stallion’s front office.
“He really wanted to come back. It was just a matter of timing getting him back. He gives big impact, obviously. He’s a really big contributor to the team. He’s a big guy and he’s got a big heart. He has the set of skills. We are very happy with how he performed,” the mentor said.
Stallion will be facing a much more competitive field in the expanded Copa 2023 format, which will have a total of 20 participating clubs.
Aside from the five PFL member clubs, collegiate teams, selections from the Armed Forces, and former UFL squads are expected to form the Copa 2023 cast.
Nierras is expecting Stallion to make the most out of the two months they have left to recover from a long season and incorporate new players into the system for a favorable result in the cup.
“We know we need to add a few more players to get our system in place, and it should be good. This should be a very potent offseason,” he said.
“There’s a few under-the-radar players, other players stepping in, so that’s also good. I have some young kids that we have some pretty high expectations from. Hopefully, they will be able to do good moving forward.”