By JONAS TERRADO
Kaya-Iloilo is hell-bent on putting up a competitive showing in domestic and continental competitions after signing the core of the Azkals Development Team in the transfer window.
The Copa Paulino Alcantara champions made their biggest move on Tuesday, Feb. 8, by announcing the signing of ADT striker Jarvey Gayoso, who last year donned the Kaya shirt on a loan spell for the AFC Champions League.
Gayoso’s signing came weeks after Kaya swooped up fellow ADT members Mar Diano, Oskari Kekkonen and Sandro Reyes along with Senegalese striker Robert Lopez Mendy from Cambodian side Svay Rieng.
But the addition of Gayoso, who won the Golden Boot in last year’s Copa as the top goal scorer, has further raised expectations that Kaya is out for bigger things this year.
Kaya is assured of a spot in the AFC Cup but will attempt to gain another Champions League berth through the preliminary and playoff rounds slated next month.
The club made it to the group stage after defeating Chinese Super League side Shanghai Port in the playoff round before dropping all six matches in the group stage held in Thailand.
Back home, Kaya is not only seeking to defend its Copa title but also win a first-ever Philippines Football League, which was cancelled last year due to COVID-19.
Kaya claimed the Copa crown last November at the PFF National Training Centre in Carmona, Cavite after winning all four matches, including a 1-0 victory over ADT in the final.
Diano is known as one of the best young defenders while Kekkonen and Reyes showed their promising talents at midfield during the Copa.
Lopez Mendy previously played for Kaya from 2016 to 2018, recording 45 goals in all competitions. His last Philippine stint was with United City in 2020 before heading to Cambodia.
The signings came after Dylan de Bruycker and Marco Casambre signed with Thailand clubs, Marwin Angeles moving to Indonesia and veteran goalkeeper Michael Casas and Japanese defender Masa Omura announcing their retirement.