Defense-oriented game plan leads SOCCSKSARGEN to shootout stunner vs San Beda-led CALABARZON

SOCCSKSARGEN huddles up one more time after beating CALABARZON on penalties. Ivan Saldajeno
By Ivan Saldajeno

BANTAY--As they say, "Defense wins championships."

That is what Jun Pusoc wants to instill to his players at SOCCSKSARGEN for the Palarong Pambansa secondary football competition.

It was evident during their semifinal match against CALABARZON, a team consisting of most of the members of the San Beda-Taytay Red Cubs' NCAA juniors champion squad plus some reinforcements, when the Sox just opted to give the ball to the Red Cubs during their kickoffs and just let their defense do the talking.

Pusoc told Dugout Philippines early Friday that it was intentional.

"Play safe [move] yun para [ma-]avoid yung mga errors kasi doon manggagaling yung mga goals," Pusoc explained.

He further expounded, "Nag-plan kami. More on defense and then yung ginawa is 'counter tayo nang counter...' at maka-penetrate kami sa taas. Tapos yung midfield namin, walang masyadong touches sa bola. Ang ginawa namin: through pass kami nang through pass."

The game plan worked as SOCCSKSARGEN ousted San Beda-Taytay out of the semifinals at the Quirino Stadium in a match that needed penalties to decide the winner.

However, Pusoc said that even he was very surprised with the upset as he thought he wrongfully read the match.

"Di ko akalain na manalo kami kasi low yung pagbasa ng game. Akala ko makukuha ng kabilang team," Pusoc said.

Similar to its quarterfinal match against CAR on Thursday, the Red Cubs struck back just before full time to force the shootout.

However, they ran out of luck in the end as Mariano Suba, who made the 79th minute equalizer, found his penalty going straight to Erik Cachuela, setting up Roward Jimtula's game-winning spot kick right at the final penalty of the match.

While the team will still take on NSNU-powered NCR in its first ever final appearance later Friday, Pusoc already sees the Top 2 finish as a huge achievement and a sign of things to come not just for the region but for the entire Mindanao as well.

"We made history for SOCCSKSARGEN in football," Pusoc concluded.

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