Playing second fiddle did not bother Francis Muescan at all, but the United City FC assistant coach relishes the role he played just the same in steering UCFC to the Philippines Football League title Friday night at the PFF national training center field in Carmona town, Cavite.
Although Muescan has been around the local coaching scene for more than two decades, including two stints as head coach of defunct Global FC, this is the first time he can claim personal credit for being the architect of a major football championship.
“Napaka-importante ito sa kin kasi interim coach lang ako dito (This title was important to me, because I was just the interim coach here),” Muescan said after UCFC overwhelmed Stallion-Laguna FC 7-1 in posting their fourth consecutive and title-clinching win.
This pushed the team on top of the heap with an unassailable total of 12 points in the compact, single-round series sanctioned by the Philippine Football Federation that nearly failed to get off the ground because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the triumph, Muescan’s charges were also vastly ahead on goal difference with a plus-23 advantage following earlier one-sided victories over clubs Mendiola (6-0) and Maharlka (10-0).
Second-running Kaya Iloilo-FC saw its own title bid crushed earlier the same day after being held to a scoreless stalemate by lowly Mendiola FC, which left them glued to second place with 8 points on 2 wins and 2 draws.
This left its clash with UCFC on Monday a mere formality with nothing more than pride at stake for the wards of Japanese tactician Yu Hoshide.
It was due to the virus crisis that Muescan was prompted to fill in the shoes of English head coach Trevor Morgan, who remains overseas and was unable to come over to the Philippines to handle the club that had a majority of its players carry over from multi-titled Ceres-Negros FC.
The beauty of it all, Muescan said, was that he has been around with most of the UCFC players, having been with the club for the past four years, including three as the deputy of former Serbian Ceres-Negros FC mentor Ristov Vidakovic.
Having Azkal skipper Stephan Schrock back with the club as its inspirational and undisputed leader was also a major factor in the championship campaign, according to Muescan.
“Ang kagandahan is that I’ve been with them for the last four years (What is good is that I’ve been with them for the last four years). They know me and accepted me so the respect was swift,” Muescan said.
“Maganda yong pagka-gel namin as a team. (We gelled nicely as a team). They were all very professional. I and Schrocky (Schrock’s nickname) consulted each other regularly together with the rest of the coaching staff,” he added.
Given the midfield maestro’s high football IQ, it was like having another coach added to the UCFC think-tank, according to Muescan.
Other than the 1-0 decision over upset-conscious Azkals Development Team on opening day, the coach said they made quick and proper adjustments for the rest of their matches, as the UCFC footballers went from strength to strength.
So when Kaya-Iloilo was contained to a 0-0 draw, Muescan said his side knew it had to go for the jugular against Stallion-Laguna.
“Noon malaman nag-draw yong Kaya sinabi namin that we’re going to seal this (win against Stallion) (When we knew that Kaya scored a draw, we told ourselves that we were going to seal this win against Stallion),” he stressed. “Our main objective was to really win this game at all costs.”
And the rest is history. With Muescan playing a significant part of it.