With Kaya FC Iloilo secured for a second place finish in the 2018 Philippines Football League season, they now have one foot in the 2019 AFC Cup competition. But that slot is not yet assured and will depend on Ceres-Negros’ qualifier for the AFC Champions League. Hence, they need to win the Copa Alcantara to ensure their participation in the regional stage.
Speaking to FOX Sports Philippines via chat, Head Coach Noel Marcaida shared his thoughts on his side’s second place finish with the club, his reaction on the the League Cup draw, and how the club will approach the cup campaign.
The draw for the Copa Paulino Alcantara concluded with Kaya being thrust into a very promising position in Group B, alongside JPV Marikina and Global Cebu FC. It might seem an easier route for the Iloilo-based outfit, but Kaya’s mentor was quick to clarify that despite being grouped with two clubs which had forgettable campaigns in the league, the situation that Kaya is in could actually be poised to be a more complicated affair than it seems given that both oppositions strengthened their ranks for the tournament.
“Obviously in the other bracket (Group A) it’s the group of death. In our group, I think it will be a test of consistency for us. (But) it’s not going to be easy… JPV signed Takumi (Uesato) and that provide them strength on top as they need a player that score goals for them. For Global, it’s a completely different team as they have got good signings that can help them strengthen their defensive line. That having said, we cant be complacent in the Copa Paulino Alcantara.”
As for the preparations of Kaya Iloilo, before their cup fixtures formally begin on September 1 against Global, the fact that they were able to secure a strong finish in the league with two games to spare, they were afforded a buffer between the league and the Copa Paulino Alcantara to recover their starters and try things out with their reserves.
“It’s a good thing that we are able to lock-in the second spot in the league with two more game left before the Cup.
“It’s been a long league, and the two remaining games is an opportunity for our players who haven’t played more minutes to showcase their skills and for them to show as well what they can contribute for the Cup. (It will be) an opportunity as well for some of my players that played every game to fully recover before the Cup starts,” added the coach.
— Kaya Futbol Club (@KayaFC) August 19, 2018
In relation to fielding most of their second unit, the remaining two fixtures will be used as an aid to further assess on how they will stack up against a reinforced JPV and an improved Global Cebu lineup, both of which (coincidentally) are going to be their opponents in the Cup’s group phase.
“We want to expose and give quality time for some player to play the two remaining games and show their full potential against JPV and Global as we are in the same group. We’ll try to get the maximum six points for the two remaining league games and keep the momentum all through the Cup.”
Another aspect that Kaya need to anticipate is the fact that all the cup fixtures in the group stage will be held either in Rizal Memorial Stadium or in Carmona Football Field. This will negate the home pitch advantage that could have played in their favour given that Iloilo Sports Complex had been a fortress for the club with its unique pitch characteristics and their fervent supporters backing them from the stands.
It definitely is something that Coach Marcaida has been looking into as well and using as motivation for his squad to reach the knockout semis.
“It’s going to be a factor not playing the cup elimination at our home in Iloilo. We perform well playing in front of our Ilonggo fans, and I can say we are formidable every time we play there. We are really looking forward to bring our Cup semi-final game in front of our supporters in Iloilo, That’s why complacency is not in our vocabulary once the Cup starts.”
Complacency definitely will not be an option for Kaya FC Iloilo in the Copa Paulino Alcantara if they want to get a silverware this season. They’ve given Ceres-Negros a good challenge at one point in the PFL, but they came up short. Also, their participation in an AFC tournament next year is not yet etched in stone, and will depend on factors that are not in their control.
Only a successful cup campaign by hoisting that trophy, and nothing less, is Kaya FC’s sure means for the club to make a splash in the Asian football scene next year.
Photo credit: Kaya Futbol Club Facebook Page