Ahead of the closing of the transfer window in the Philippines on January 31, Kaya FC–Makati made two more additions to their lineup, with Connor Tacagni and Ace Villanueva officially signing on. Both players impressed over a trial period of two weeks, enough to convince the Kaya coaching staff to bring the young duo aboard ahead of the highly anticipated second season of the Philippines Football League. Their acquisition also ends a difficult period of limbo for the pair, who were left without a club following the recent dissolution of Meralco Manila.
“There’s not a lot you can say really, it is what it is. No one really expected the way that they went out,” said 24-year-old striker, Connor Tacagni. “But we’ve got to move on and focus on new goals and set new challenges here at Kaya, so it’s a good opportunity for me.”
Tacagni, who was born and raised in Manchester, England, to an English father and Filipino mother, will likely be a familiar figure to Kaya supporters. With his physicality and tireless work ethic, he was a constant danger to Makati’s defense last year. Now, under the watchful eyes of Chris Greatwich and Noel Marcaida, he believes he’s in the perfect environment to further enhance his game.
“I’m working with a whole different group of players that are really technical, so I think here I’ll be able to develop my skill and get better, and hopefully get a lot of game time,” said the former San Beda standout. “I’m Looking forward to the challenge.”
“The culture’s a little bit different, but everything is still the same. We have goals of fighting to get the top” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be up there challenging for the AFC spots. For all of the players here, it’s something that we want.”
While Tacagni will bolster the forward line, former University of the Philippines standout, Ace Villanueva, will provide competition in between the sticks. A former UAAP champion, and a member of the country’s recent SEA Games team, the Marikina-born shot stopper is eager to make his mark under the tutelage of head coach and goalkeeping mentor, Noel Marcaida.
“Welcoming naman lahat ng mga players and pati ang mga coaching staff. Feel at home naman ako dito,” he said of his assimilation to the squad. “Yung first few weeks ko dito sa Kaya, so far, parang walang pressure. Dito, walang sisihan, hindi ka pinapagalitan. Parang brotherhood, sama-sama.”
(“All the players have been very welcoming, the coaching staff as well. I feel at home here. The first few weeks, it’s like there isn’t any pressure. Here, there’s no finger-pointing, no scolding happening. It’s a brotherhood, there’s a togetherness.”)
He also spoke of his delight at being reunited with Marcaida at club level.
“With coach Noel, na-handle niya na rin ako sa Under-19, sa National Team, so quality talaga ang training drills and all. So pinili kong pumunta dito sa Kaya dahil gusto ko pa mag-improve and makatrabaho si coach Noel.”
(“With coach Noel, he handled me already for the Under-19 National Team, so his training drills and all are really quality. I chose to come here because I want to improve and to work with coach Noel.”)
For Villanueva, his goals are simple for 2018.
“Kaya kong i-challenge si Ref (Cuaresma) and si Zach (Banzon) for the [starting] spot,” said the 22-year-old shot stopper. “I’m looking forward na makalaro and hopefully maka-start, and makuha yung championship this season.”
(“I can challenge Ref and Zach for the [starting] spot. I’m looking forward to playing, hopefully starting, and getting the championship this season.”)