How will Loyola fare against better — and more physical — competition every match?
Jamlang: Although they were made to play against substandard opposition for most of the Cup, the Sparks showed they were capable of stepping up to the plate when the going got tough. In fact, if it wasn’t for the heroics of goalkeeper Tats Mercado, it could’ve well been the Sparks rather than Air Force that lifted the Cup trophy.
In response to their disappointment, Loyola has reinforced well during the add/drop window, bringing in the likes of Diliman’s captain Anto Gonzales, Azkal Simon Greatwich and UFL veteran Taku Yoshioka. In terms of depth, Loyola will be very well equipped in midfield with players that are no strangers to the demands of playing against the best week in week out. Coping with the level of play will be no issue, but whether they click as a team and succeed will be another question entirely.
Fenix: Loyola has seen how Stallions played them in the UFL quarterfinals, and it will serve them in good stead if they prepare for more physical matches ahead. Gone will be the days of the Loyola Meralco Sparks electrocuting opposing teams into submission. In this ten-team league, each game will seem like a Cup final and opposing teams would certainly want to win against the Sparks.
The addition of Anto Gonzales would provide that midfield steel that was perhaps lacking in the squad last time out. Remember also that this is almost a newly-formed team, with most players just playing together for the first time. Those shared experiences of a great comeback victory against Kaya coupled by a stinging loss in the final against Air Force could only toughen the squad for greater challenges ahead.