Five things we learned from A-League Round 20

Socceroo hopefuls, continental commitments and a fresh approach completed what was a rather eventful split round of A-League action.

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Source: Getty Images

Well it’s about time

Football Federation Australia have announced that two new clubs will join the A-League in time for the 2019-20 season.

The decision, made during a recent strategy meeting in Sydney, comes after the game’s governing body felt compelled to address the stagnating crowds and poor marketing that plagued this season since its genesis.

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"More details about the formal process will be announced next month with the intention to have a decision later this year,” the FFA said in a press release.

With several clubs and projects already publicly expressing their intentions to join the competition, one can only hope the FFA have learned from their last dual expansion, with Gold Coast United (2009-12) and North Queensland Fury (2009-11) departing just as quickly as they came.

In a season that’s seen crowd figures fall by as much as 15% on last season, this “fresh approach” in expansion is key to reviving Australian football – a beautiful game with bags of potential. 

Fingers crossed its done right. And if you need an example as to how, take a look at the Western Sydney Wanderers.



AFailX

“It's better to switch off and have a good dinner with your girlfriend."

Adelaide United coach Marco Kurz slammed the AFL’s use of Coopers Stadium in the lead up to his side’s thrilling 2-2 draw with the Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night.

Kurz’s assessment of the AFL’s audacious experiment said it all; with the Reds’ pitch resembling a cow paddock in places despite goals to Jordan Elsey and George Blackwood completing the comeback with just 10 men.

And though the German will be somewhat happy with the result – having received a yellow card for dissent towards several officials – he hopes his side can avoid similar conditions in the future.

“We can find a better decision,” Kurz said. "Maybe we play two games away in between but it (scheduling) is not in our hands."

Ironically, United will next face Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar away before returning to a hopefully healthy home ground on March 16 against Melbourne City.



Miss me?

Sydney FC saw their 22-month unbeaten home record come to an abrupt end midweek after Suwon Bluewings came, saw and comfortably conquered the A-League champions 2-0 in the opening group game of the Asian Champions League.

The loss came just four days after Graham Arnold’s men thrashed third-placed Melbourne City 4-0 at AAMI Park, despite the 54-year-old making just one change, omitting Dutchman Jordy Buijs in favour of Aaron Calver.

“We conceded two sloppy goals, and our defence is normally very strong,” Arnold said after the game.

Unlike their goal-bound efforts against City, Arnold’s front four misfired against their Korean opposition, as Calver struggled to fill the gaping gap left by one of the best defenders in the league.

“One big mistake for me on the team sheet was Jordy Buijs not being selected for the ACL,” former Socceroo Sasa Ognenovski said.

Buijs, a key cog in last season’s historic premiership-championship machine, has gone from strength to strength this season, with many, Ognenovski included, calling for Arnold to include him in his continental squad at the expense of Milos Ninkovic.

And while Sydney’s chances of progressing into the knockout phase appear slim, at least their pursuit of a second consecutive Premiers’ Plate will arrive without any trouble, sitting 11 points clear with a certain star defender being a significant reason why.



Double trouble

If Chris Ikonomidis’ exploits against Wellington and Newcastle didn’t catch the eye of Socceroos coach Bert van Marwijk, Jets duo Dimitri Petratos and Andrew Nabbout certainly did.

Western Sydney Wanderers failed to build from last week’s 4-0 triumph over the Phoenix, surrendering the lead on two occasions in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Ernie Merrick’s men on Friday night.

Petratos and Nabbout each got on the scoresheet, with Nabbout’s effort a genuine contender for the goal of the season after combining with the former straight from kick-off.

The pair have produced a combined total of 17 goals and 14 assists this season, more than half the Hunter club’s overall tally, and are in a purple patch of form that reportedly attracted van Marwijk’s attention during his brief visit to the country.

Should the Dutchman call on either player’s services, upcoming friendlies against Norway and Colombia respectively will serve as a useful litmus test ahead of June’s FIFA World Cup.

Stand by me

Kevin Muscat believes Melbourne Victory have finally turned the corner on what’s been a rather convoluted and uncharacteristic campaign.

Despite going down 2-1 at home to Brisbane Roar, the three-time A-League champions came out fighting midweek in a frantic 3-3 draw with Ulsan Hyundai.

“I look at that performance tonight and I’ve seen everybody fighting for this football club,” Muscat said of the Asian Champions League clash.

“Even the boys who came on fought for the football club, fought for each other, fought for me and it was pleasing to see.”

The 44-year-old has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks, with the aforementioned loss to the Roar enough to see them teeter on the edge of finals football – a position Victory fans are far from used to.

With Victory supposedly in the midst of a “reset”, two matches within the week – against Shanghai SIPG and rivals Adelaide United respectively – should provide a clear indication of just how much fight his side have left.


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5 min read
Published 19 February 2018 at 11:30am
By Jonathan Bernard