This Dooley guy might be on to something. Coming off of a remarkable Suzuki Cup campaign, he’s implemented a new system with only a little while before THE 2018 World Cup qualifiers start. If that’s not risky, then I don’t know what is. He did the same thing with the Azkals’ 2014 Challenge Cup campaign, inserting a lot of new blood in the lineup, sidelining the likes of such quality players as Jeffrey Christaens and Angel Guirado. It was a true rebirth for the Azkals, starting from square one with a focus on youth development.
This coach has guts. And with risk comes potentially high rewards. This became apparent when the Azkals defeated the much-preferred side Indonesia in last year’s Suzuki Cup with a mind-boggling score of 5-0. You read that right. Newcomers Amani Aguinaldo, Daisuke Sato, Simone Rota, Martin Steuble and Kenshiro Daniels all proved their worth, turning in good performances all around.
It’s not like the coach has a perfect track record; the energetic and highly-skilled (and also probably the best Southeast Asian football player today) Fil-German midfielder Stephan Schrock left the national team in the middle of last year, citing Dooley as the reason. He said he won’t return as long as he’s coach. Dennis Cagara did the same, here citing his dishonesty. Number 1 Azkals goalkeeper Neil Etheridge also had some bad blood with the coach, but things seem to have cooled off as he was included in the recent Bahrain friendly, though an unfortunate accident sidelined him.
This risky attitude clearly has its pros and cons, as his haters would likely say. But it can’t be denied that last year, Dooley’s first year in charge as head coach, was the most successful in Philippine national team history. What he lacked as a coach, he made up for with his high level of experience as the captain of the United States national team. Diehard fans of Schrock would likely disagree for now, but this new system with tighter defense and more aggressive offense might change their minds come this year’s World Cup qualifiers.