Originally published by Daily Tribune Online
Kaya FC Iloilo shifts its focus on its title-retention campaign with only a few days left before the Copa Paulino Alcantara kicks off at the Philippine Football Federation National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite.
Following a 0-5 defeat to Sydney FC in the AFC Champions League preliminary round late, Kaya coach Harvey Graham said his wards are still up to their next assignment despite missing a potential return to the highest club tourney in Asia.
The reigning titleholders are set to return to the country in time for the domestic meet that will run from 14 March to 23 May.
Kaya will open Copa hostilities when it faces Maharlika FC in the opening match on the 14th.
“I can never question the boys’ commitment. I think they just committed some errors that cost us (the game),” Graham said.
Determined to join United City FC as the country’s representatives in the ACL, Kaya failed to accomplish its mission against Sydney’s overwhelming offense and huge crowd at the Jubilee Stadium.
Sydney broke the floodgates in the second half as Brazilian striker Bobo da Silva and Adam la Fondre nailed braces to complete a total domination of the Filipino side.
With that, the Australian club booked the last spot in Group H, joining South Korean club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Japanese powerhouse Yokohama F Marinos and Vietnamese side Hoang Anh Gia Lia.
Kaya, meanwhile, settled for a spot in the second-tier AFC Cup, where it will face Bali United of Indonesia, Kedah Darul Aman of Malaysia, and Visakha FC of Cambodia in Group G in June.
The Iloilo-based squad is eyeing stronger performance when it parades a veteran bunch made up of Jovin Bedic, Simone Rota, Carlyle Mitchell, alongside young guns and Philippine Azkals rising stars Sandro Reyes, Jarvey Gayoso, Mar Diano and Oskari Kekkoken.