MARK Hartmann is definitely one of the top booters in the United Football League (UFL), pulling the strings in midfield for a Loyola Meralco Sparks’ squad that boasts one of the league’s most offensively potent lineups.
But with the recent transfer of Hartmann to Global, one former teammate who will probably be affected the most is Phil Younghusband, who has been the recipient of numerous passes that led him to becoming the second-leading scorer in the recently concluded UFL season.
“He’s a big loss,” admitted the Sparks’ star striker, who finished the season with 17 goals, only one behind Golden Ball and Boot winner Rufo Sanchez. “A lot (of goals) went through Mark and he supplied a lot to me.”
“But we have to look at another direction now on how we can get success,” added Younghusband, who turns 26 on August 4.
The Sparks are starting to make steps toward rebuilding by recruiting two imports for the Singapore Cup in goalkeeper Baba Sampana and center back Samuel Bonney.
The Ghanaian recruits suited up on Friday when Loyola had its first tune-up game after the UFL break at the Emperador Stadium in Taguig, a 5-4 win over a selection of players from newly minted champion Stallion, Kaya, and Nomads.
So far, Sampana and Bonney have been able to mesh well with mainstays like James Younghusband, Matthew Hartmann, Armand del Rosario, and Jake Morallo.
“What’s good is the majority of the team stayed together, so system-wise, we only need to adjust a few players,” Sparks coach Vince Santos said. “But they’re professionals so it’s been easier than I expected.”
The Sparks have been practicing for three weeks in preparation for the Singapore Cup quarterfinals, where they will face former champion Tanjong Pagar United in a two-legged series starting July 24.
“From today’s performance, a lot of positive to take out of it,” Santos said, adding the Sparks will have another tune-up game on Monday before leaving for Singapore the next day.