United City, Kaya-Iloilo brace for tough opener in AFC Champions League

Published June 25, 2021, 9:19 PM

by Jonas Terrado

Photos from United City and Kaya-Iloilo

United City FC and Kaya-Iloilo begin their historic campaigns in the prestigious AFC Champions League when they take on fancied opponents Saturday, June 25 in different venues.

Kaya will earn the distinction as the first Filipino club to play in Asia’s premier club competition when it takes on host BG Pathum United at 5 p.m. local time (6 p.m. Manila time) in their Group F match at Pathum Thani, Thailand.

United City follows suit at 7 p.m. local time (10 p.m. Manila time) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan against Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan in Group I.

Both clubs from the Philippines Football League are looking to not just show up against some of the region’s top clubs but to also put on a good showing during the two-week group stage.

UCFC faces Beijing side that reportedly is sending a mixture of youth and reserve players, a situation that could give the PFL champions a slight advantage.

“We are very proud and honored to achieve being part in this tournament and that we are taking on this challenge and trying to represent the club in the best way possible,” said United City captain Stephan Schrock, who is coming off a stint with the Philippine Azkals in the World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers.

United City, who will be coached by Jason Withe, spent the last few weeks training in Dubai in preparation for the ACL campaign.

Bienvenido Maranon, still waiting for the naturalization process that will make a Filipino citizen to be completed, will also be among the players to watch for United City.

Meanwhile, Kaya is making a quick turnaround after earning a Champions League group stage berth with a 1-0 win over Shanghai Port in their playoff match last Wednesday, June 23 on Audie Menzi’s goal.

Kaya coach Graham Harvey said his club may have a difficult task at hand but they’ll whatever they can during the six group matches.

“We will give it our best shot for a start, but we also have a big squad with us,” said Harvey. “We will make sure that everybody is ready to go, and make sure everyone in the squad understands how we want to play.”

BG Pathum United, which won last season’s Thai League 1 title, will be led by Thailand national team veteran Teerasil Dangda as it looks to spoil Kaya’s ACL debut.

A familiar figure that is part of BG Pathum United squad is Azkals veteran Kevin Ingreso, one of few Filipino players who are suiting up in Thai’s top domestic league.

Meanwhile, both matches can be seen online through Indonesia TV station RCTI’s website, RCTIPlus.com as no local network opted to secure the rights to air the ACL matches of Kaya and UCFC.