BBU players run around the top of the Olympic Stadium during training. The league runners-up will meet third-place finishers Preah Khan Reach in the Super 4 playoffs semifinal on Saturday.
Preah Khan Reach coach Rith Dikar speaks to captain Sam El Nasa (left) and Chea Samnang during training.
Preah Khan Reach players perform fitness exercises during a training session on the outside basketball courts of the National Sports Complex Monday, ahead of their semifinal against BBU.
Sreng Meng Srun
Some coaches like to down play expectations so that they can pat themselves on the back when they overachieve, but Meas Sam Oeun is not among them. Into his fourth season as Build Bright United coach, the 46-year-old tactician expressed faith in his team, who had bounced back from their mediocre season last year to finish runners-up in the Metfone C-League and book a place in Saturday’s Super 4 playoffs semifinal against Preah Khan Reach.
“I am very confident this will be our year,” said Meas Sam Oeun, while putting his enthusiastic side through a light training session around Olympic Stadium Monday.
The BBU coach said he was aware of the fact that converting chances into victories had been a problem, and his side may not have been biting as hard as it barked.
“I feel we are ready to turn things around. Yes we got away with a last minute penalty conversion for a second round draw against PKR, who led us 2-0 at one stage. But we missed a crucial defender in that game. We have bolstered our defence and we are in a much better shape now,” he said.
“One major gripe this season has been our defence. Often we have lost momentum after scoring early. We have let our guard down quite often. I am thinking of a sweeping back who should be taking care of menacing forwards.”
Another area of concern for the university-backed side had been in goal, ever since top choice keeper Hem Simay dislocated his right shoulder in a collision with National Defence Ministry’s Om Thavarak during their league match July 17.
“Simay is recovering well but there are some doubts about his absolute fitness still. I would like to play him if he feels up to it in the next few days,” said Meas Sam Oeun.
“We are doing well with our forwards and midfielders, though we need a much sharper midfield display. Nuth Sinoun is among our best strikers, but he isn’t getting any younger, and his energy has to be conserved for the best phase, so we tend to use him depending on the situation.”
Meanwhile, Preah Khan Reach enter the playoff stage with the wind firmly behind them. The military police backed side pulled off some sensational performances at the tail end of the season, most notably their victory over Phnom Penh Crown last Saturday. There were some blow outs earlier that hurt coach Rith Dikar’s optimism, but overall PKR head into the crucial Super 4 as the team with the most momentum.
The team management struck a confident note that the club’s predominantly young components will energise their efforts in the playoffs to a greater extent than that of their rivals.
“We have lot of talented youngsters who have stepped in from U17 and U19 national teams,” said assistant coach Phea Sopheaktra. “We have no injury problems, though we did face some during the league phase. We ask our players to play hard but at the same time to be cautious not to get booked.”
The coach felt that a short trip to Malaysia had helped the side sharpen up ahead of the final games against their top table rivals. “We have done well against the three teams in contention here and I have no reasons to fear any of them. There were some issues with defence and midfield which I have sorted out. I am confident our boys will deliver,” said Phea Sopheaktra.
PKR will hope to improve on their third place finish in the playoffs last season, while BBU have already surpassed their seventh place from the previous campaign.