Adelaide hardman La Rocca has a soft spot for Wanderers

Adelaide United's uncompromising defender Iacopo La Rocca had every reason to look forward to the weekend clash with Western Sydney Wanderers at Pirtek Stadium.

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Iacopo La Rocca challenges Sydney's Filip Holosko Source: Getty Images

La Rocca played a major role in the Wanderers' surge from virtual anonymity to the highest level of Asian football in three seasons he describes as memorable.

Yet after three years of fighting in the trenches as a defensive midfielder he was deemed surplus to requirements by coach Tony Popovic in the off-season.

La Rocca, who hails from Rome, signed for Adelaide in the off-season and he could not wait for the chance to return to Parramatta to face the Wanderers again.

La Rocca missed out on the first encounter at Coopers Stadium in Round 2 due to injury and he was an unused substitute in the Round 13 game at Pirtek so he knew the moment he was picked that the weekend game was never going to be just another game.

Not due to any bitterness towards his old club but because the atmosphere surrounding the club still holds a special place in the hard man's heart.

"It was definitely a different game for me," La Rocca said after the goalless draw.

"I have some great memories from playing for three seasons in western Sydney and we won something special (AFC Champions League).

"I was very happy to come back here because it was a special day for me.

"The fans treated me like any other opponent which is fine because I am now an opposition player. Football goes like this."

La Rocca said the match was as challenging as he had expected it to be.

"It was very hard to get something from the game," he said.

"In the first half we went okay but the second half was particularly tough.

"We defended a bit too deep but we survived and now we can keep fighting for the Premiers' Plate.

"The Wanderers were the better team on the right."

La Rocca said he was happy to be playing even in his less favoured role of centre-back and he conceded he needed to improve his game to be able to make a more telling contribution towards the team's push for their second Premiers' Plate since season one.

"I was tired towards the end and I was not very good with the ball," he admitted.

"I used to train as a central defender and I think (coach) Guillermo Amor sees me as a centre-back.

"I enjoy playing there but I would love to play in midfield sometimes.

"So the coach knows he has this option with me."

La Rocca said the point earned at the Wanderers has enabled to team to keep believing in their ability to snare the premiership after starting the season poorly.

It took Adelaide nine matches to win their first match but they have turned their season around to be only two points from the lead with the finals just around the corner.

"We now have three games left," he said.

"We play Central Coast Mariners at home on Friday which is a must-win game then we are away in two tough games against Sydney FC and Melbourne City but we are confident.

"Defensively we are very strong and we have the best defensive record but we need to be more clinical up front. We need to score more goals and finish off opponents.

"At the weekend it would have been a different game if the controversial incident involving Liam Reddy and Bruce Kamau went in our favour.

"Don't forget we also were without Tarek Elrich, Jordan Elsey, Pablo Sanchez and Marcelo Carrusca against the Wanderers.

"Hopefully they'll be back at the weekend."

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4 min read
Published 21 March 2016 at 10:22pm
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS