Whenever I think of the Clear Dream Match, I always remember soggy pitches, balls that refuse to move beyond two feet, grass-and-mud-stained socks (Daniel Matsunaga had the cleanest socks in the first edition of the Clear Dream Match, which just means… OK, I will leave it up to you to make your own conclusions), high risks of injury, and what every fangirl notices—wet shirts and shorts clinging to players’ bodies tighter than Reynolds wrap.
The other aspect of the Clear Dream Match that is appearing to be consistent would have to be how either Younghusband brother approaches the match each year. Recent history will allow you to recall that James went all out in attack in choosing his players two years back, while Phil opted to shore up his defense and midfield. Cut to last year, and you saw James take a page out of his brother’s book, while retaining the same firepower in attack. Phil retained the same formula that made him win the first time, only to have the results reversed.
I read somewhere that this year’s Clear Dream Match would be the finale, and I’m assuming this is to break the draw and settle the score. When I look at the team rosters, whether they are formed by design or by luck of the draw, it seems to me that the brothers’ selection philosophies continue to apply for this year.
James has got multiple attacking options in OJ Porteria, Misagh Bahadoran, and Izzo Elhabbib (and possibly manong Chieffy Caligdong, on the assumption that he is 100% fit to play, and OK, fine, co-captain Nate Burkey, who, in the game vs. Malaysia showed some badly missed moments of brilliance—the kind that I haven’t seen since his debut for the Azkals). On defense, he’s pretty solid with Joaco Cañas and Anton del Rosario holding fort.
On the flipside, we got Phil’s team, who has got some teeth in the midfield with Chris Greatwich, Mark Hartmann, and Anto Gonzales at his disposal. He’s also got two capable fullbacks in Matthew Hartmann and Simone Rota, and then there’s also Ruben Doctora and Tating Pasilan who can both be deadly to opponents. He’s also got Ryan Fenix’s younger brother and doppelganger, Patrick Deyto, on goal.
Even without factoring Paul Scholes and Andy Cole into either line-up, this makes for some pretty interesting football. In terms of the player selection, it would have also been nice if they considered the players who made an impact in previous editions of the Clear Dream Match. Saba Garmaroudi comes to mind—he was the hero of the first edition, playing goalkeeper for Team Phil. His impact was so much so that James had to snap him as top pick last year—and he turned up some big saves to deny Team Phil with more scoring chances. I’m hazarding a guess he wasn’t even on the voting pool since he no longer plays Division 1 football in the UFL.
That said, the bigger challenge, I find, in the third edition of the Clear Dream Match is the lack of the rivalry narrative. James and Phil squaring off against each other is just as adorable as two puppies wrestling each other, really. You can only stretch the sibling rivalry narrative for so long. We all know they love each other, and we love them.
See, aren’t they so adorbs?
As for the celebrity football players being brought in—we know for a fact the Younghusbands are Manchester United fans, so they must be tingling in delight at the prospect of playing alongside either Paul Scholes or Andy Cole. That said, wouldn’t it have made for greater drama if one player came from a rival of Manchester United? Maybe I am viewing this with my own biases, but really—they should have thought of bringing a Liverpool or Manchester City, or even an Arsenal player (Robbie Fowler is a regular among Asian countries, just saying).
Or while we’re on the subject of Manchester United, maybe they should just bring in Shinji Kagawa? Poor guy has languished in the United bench for so long. Or David Moyes, because he would need a coaching job in the interim, right? Or how about Juan Mata, because—fangirls? Or just bring in Manchester United’s golden boy from last decade (and the ultimate Clear endorser), Cristiano Ronaldo? (I’m willing to wager that whatever investment it will take, there will be significant ROI.)
I kid, I kid.
The stage has been set for what has been touted to be the most exciting Clear Dream Match yet on June 7, 2014. Heaven forbid the University of Makati pitch will be another swampland that evening.