When I first learned that Thomas Dooley was going to be our new coach, my first thought was that I hope he’d be in for the long term and won’t be part of the revolving door of coaches heading the national team lately.
Then a more astute observer, my former boss Jack Biantan wondered, what would happen to Stephen Schrock’s international career now? After I saw the initial list of members of the 30-man pool for the qualifiers, I thought the question has been answered as the veteran was included in the pool.
A perfect start for Dooley’s second stint as coach, right?
Then again, a day later. Rumors emerge that Schrock has been stricken off the list or that he’s never been part of the list in the first place. The rumor mill in the PFL fan page has pretty much spelled it all out that on the first day of camp, there will be “Shrocking news.” (A pro tip PFLU fans, if it’s a positive development, a play on a player’s name is acceptable; if it isn’t, try to be compassionate. I mean, these aren’t the Ronaldos and Messis who can laugh their way to the bank while reading corny puns.)
Training camp starts Monday and so far, there has been no official word from the PFF to address such. Yes, it’s a Sunday but I take the inaction for a positive–that there are talks to include Schrock in the pool.
By the way, if you ask, why do I want Schrock to be in the pool? Even if at 35 he’s no longer the same player who once played in the Bundesliga? It’s simple, in the past four years, he has been the face of not only the Azkals but of PHL football. He has blossomed into a leader on and off the pitch. For a team whose constant change of players makes it even difficult for even the serious fans to follow, Schrock’s presence in the squad is reassuring.
He surely deserves, at least, a fighting chance for a spot in the final lineup, right?
But in comes Dooley. Though it’s his second stint, he also deserves his honeymoon period. He’s taking the job, officially, on less than two weeks’ notice before the qualifiers start on June 8. Just as I think Schrock deserves a spot in the pool, Dooley deserves a free hand to determine which for him is the best squad to move us forward in the qualifiers.
If he thinks that squad doesn’t include Schrock, he has to live and die with that call. With only less than 8 days to prepare for qualifiers, we just have to unite with him and the team and keep distractions to a minimum. After the qualifiers, you are all free to voice out whatever you want to say. At least, that’s what I think.
We are in Group B, against Palestine, Yemen and Mongolia. We can all still remember that loss to Palestine in the Challenge Cup final, while against Yemen, our four matches were split, a win, a loss and two draws. We either need to win the group or be one of the best five runners-up. If, the only way we can help the squad in the next two weeks is to keep distractions to the minimum, let’s do our part.
As for Shrock, like I told my former boss, I still think his international career isn’t over. I’m confident I’ll see my favorite player in an Azkal shirt again.