Azkals debutant Sean Patrick Kane keen on filling centerback hole
MANILA, Philippines – Two crucial blocks.
Those were among the many contributions that Azkals debutante Sean Patrick Kane fortified the team with in their match against the fierce Yemen squad during the second round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers on October 11.
The Philippine Football League (PFL) served its purpose of showcasing local talent, leading to the discovery of the JPV Marikina midfielder, who would prove to be of Azkals quality.
Kane's efforts in the hectic local league was not a waste after all, as he was called up by Azkals Coach Thomas Dooley towards the end of the September with an invitation to represent the country on the national team.
"I was quite surprised when I got the message, as I was on some time off after the hectic schedule with the league. But of course I was excited, I've been putting in a lot of effort on and off the pitch and it's always nice to get noticed," said Kane.
Adjusting to central defense
Kane's Azkals berth was not an easy one to swallow. Kane was handed the critical starting centerback role along with Dennis Villanueva, where he had to fill in the shoes of injured defender Amani Aguinaldo.
Despite being brought out of his usual position, Kane explained that his transition to central defense was not as hard or surprising as people would think. His experience of being deployed to multiple positions in the PFL – especially in the defensive line – allowed him to easily get comfortable in the centerback role.
"I've been playing multiple positions at JPV, mostly as a [right back] and CB. Initially I was focused more as a midfielder once I joined but slowly transitioned to the defensive line as the season progressed."
The Azkals debutant added that he was already growing accustomed to the centerback role and that it actually suits his style of play more.
"It's not too much of a difference really, you have more time as a CB with the ball and you have the whole field in front of you, so it's easier to pick out passes compared to being a midfielder where there is pressure on you constantly. The CB role has grown on me and suits my style of play more," explained Kane.
During the Azkals' 6-day training camp in Doha, Kane would already be training for the position with Villanueva, making his start in the lineup only a surprise to the fans.
The childhood dream falls into place
Kane's big break with the Azkals was more than just a milestone for his career, but it also fulfilled his childhood dreams of representing the country.
Prior to becoming one of the more celebrated football players of the country, Kane had a chance to become part of the Azkals' pool of players, but it did not fall to his favor.
Back in 2011, Aly Borromeo and Anton Del Rosairo were scouting for recruits aged 15 to 24 years old by conducting tryouts in California. Kane expressed his interest by joining the tryouts, but he was not selected.
Although his window to the Phillippine national team was still shut at that time, it allowed Kane to explore more career-building opportunities – both on and off the pitch – in the U.S.
Kane moved from Sweden to the US and was able to pursue his studies there. while juggling it with his football career. Kane was a student-athlete at Foothill College for two years and was famed for leading the soccer program to a 9th place finish in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America National Rankings.
In 2013, Kane was enrolled in Menlo College for a Sports Management degree and became a valuable asset to the Menlo Oaks football team, as he helped them to a 20-11-5 record over two seasons, including a Cal Pac North Division title in 2014.
During his stint with the Oaks, however, Kane was sidelined due to an injury but he still made himself productive by becoming an assistant coach for his team in 2015.
While he was being renowned for his talents as a player and coach, Kane's colorful collegiate football career was coming to an end. But his window of flying to the Philippine soil finally opened up just in time via an invitation from Kaya FC to play professionally for their club.
As Sean Patrick Kane pounced on that chance, that laid down the path for him to where he is now with the Philippine Azkals.
"It was an amazing feeling, the best feeling I've ever had in my career so far. It's always been a childhood dream to represent your country," said Kane. – Rappler.com