Loyola Meralco hopes to continue brandishing its vastly improved defense when it tangles with Pasargad on Saturday night in the United Football League at the Emperador Stadium in Mckinley Hill.
The unbeaten Sparks, who have conceded the least goals among the nine Division 1 teams with only one so far in the tournament, hope to tighten their grip of the top spot as they take on a Pasargad side laden with Iranians and Africans at 8:30 p.m.
Just an offensive powerhouse in the past, the Sparks showed marked improvement on defense in their breakthrough title run in the UFL Cup, where they only allowed two goals — while scoring a whopping 78 — in eight games.
The arrival of goalkeeper Baba Sampana, and center-backs Sam Bonney and Joaco Cañas can be credited for the defensive progress as the Sparks have boosted the back four that also has Roxy Dorlas and Alexandro Elnar.
But the title contenders have also their scorers and facilitators to thank for keeping a nearly flawless sheet in their first two victories.
“We’re doing well not just in the backline. I’m very happy with how our strikers and midfielders are joining in the pressing,” said Sparks coach Vince Santos, whose wards hammered Philippine Army, 5-1, last time.
“Maybe the backline is keeping it tidy in the back, but winning the ball early up on the pitch and just disrupting how the other team is conducting its offense gives them less opportunity to score.”
"So it’s a whole team effort. Everyone is defending,” added the former national player as his squad faces a Pasargad side that is running eighth in the nine-team standings with a draw and a loss to show.
Striker Phil Younghusband continues to lead the squad in the absence of older brother and skipper James Younghusband, who remains doubtful with a sprained left ankle.
While the Sparks have been undefeated, top-flight new boy Socceroo has been winless in its first three games and the 2013 Division 2 titlist is hoping for a change of fortune in its game against defending champion Stallion earlier at 6:15 p.m.