United City kept mum on the official status of star midfielder Stephan Schrock for its return to the domestic football scene in the Copa Paulino Alcantara.
Coach Frank Muescan declined to comment when asked about the situation during the pre-tournament press conference, but hinted that the two sides are still in talks.
“With regards to that question, I have no position to comment because it’s still under negotiation with him and management,” Muescan said. “So as of the moment, I don’t have any comment on that.”
Schrock was also not on the list of 13 returning players from the 2021 AFC Champions League squad that were announced by the club on its official Facebook page, with United City refraining from answering social media queries.
A pair of art cards revealed Mark Hartmann, Mike Ott, Anthony Pinthus, Pika Minegishi, Curt Dizon, Kieran Hayes, Cholo Bugas, Adam Tull, Andy Campollo, Jun Badelic, William Grierson and Jordan Jarvis as returnees.
The Azkals team captain was part of United City’s run in the 2020 Philippines Football League crown and last year’s Champions League.
United City is aiming for a grand comeback after skipping the 2021 cup tournament at the last minute due to legal issues in relation with Ceres-Negros, which previously held its club license.
UCFC also made notable signings to make up for the loss of several players, including naturalized striker Bienvenido Maranon to Malaysia Super League powerhouse Johor Darul Ta’zim.
Joining the club for the Copa are South African defender JJ Robertson, Tajikistan-born midfielder Amirbek Juraboev, former Dynamic Herb Cebu defender Ricky Sendra, ex-Stallion back Dean Ebarle and Ivan Ouano, who scored two goals for the Philippines in the AFF U-23 Championship in Cambodia.
“We lost our star players, but we took this as an opportunity to gather a new team for 2022 with new faces, but with the same ambitions,” said Muescan, whose club is also appearing in the Champions League group stage for the second straight year.