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Originally published by Daily Tribune Online

United City FC (UCFC) may have gone through numerous changes and setbacks, but its winning tradition remains intact as it clinched the 2020 Copa Paulino Alcantara title late Sunday at the PFF National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite.

UCFC played its heart out as the revitalized squad essayed a thrilling 3-2 come-from-behind win that dethroned fierce rival Kaya Iloilo FC.

Club owner Eric Gottschalk was elated as to how his wards survived an all-out war against Kaya, proving that they still have the upper hand to emerge as the strongest force in the domestic league.

Down 1-2 at the half, Japanese midfielder Hikaru Menigishi fired a looping equalizer before Golden Ball winner Mike Ott gave United City the winning goal in the 68th minute.

“This was a big victory for the team as we battled many (things) on and off the pitch,” said Gottschalk, whose team captured its first Copa crown since buying the franchise in 2020.

“To come out to beat such a determined Kaya FC in a Cup final gives you a lot of satisfaction.”

But their journey to the Cup wasn’t easy.

The club has been dragged to a legal dispute with Ceres management, forcing it to make a last-last minute withdrawal in the 2020 Copa edition.

The struggle was even compounded by the departure of skipper Stephan Schrock and all-time scorer Bienvenido Marañon — two of the club’s most prolific figures.

While Schrock and Maranon were no longer with the club, the fire and passion were still there with Ott, Menigishi, and Golden Glove winner Anthony Pithus.

Their most impressive show of force came early with a 4-0 demolition over Maharlika Manila FC in the opener, followed by an identical result over Azkals Development Team in their third game.

UCFC took a pause from Copa action only to return home empty-handed in six games during the prestigious AFC Champions League last month.

Those strings of frustrations pushed UCFC to bounce back with a slim 1-0 conquest of Dynamic Herb Cebu FC in the semis, before finally knocking the crown off Kaya’s head.

For Gottschalk, their successful campaign sets the tone for the upcoming return of Philippine Football League regular season later this year.

“UCFC has been called ‘the gold standard of Philippine football’ and today we showed that we are still the best team in the country,’” Gottschalk said.

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