Saturday, 23 February 2019

MATCH REVIEW: Wellington Phoenix 0-1 Sydney FC (A-League)

Sydney got the points against Wellington "away" at Campbelltown Sports Stadium, on a windy night out west. 

A mostly drab first half produced one moment of note, with Wellington denied an opener due to a (pretty spot on) offside call from the linesman. 

A flurry of chances were missed by the Sky Blues in the first half, but Sydney broke the deadlock in the second. Captain Alex Brosque was subbed on and made a near immediate impact, with his attempt to round the keeper in the box winning Sydney a penalty. Adam le Fondre stepped up, and absolutely nailed it into the net, off the crossbar. 

The Sky Blues hung on against a resilient and well structured Phoenix team. Krishna looked a threat whenever on the ball, but alas, could not convert any chances. Full time 1-0 to the "visitors". 

But what did we learn from today?

1) Defensively solid

It seemed to be overall a good performance from the back four. Wilkinson lead by example and really did a good job of shutting down attacks, getting in crucial blocks, and getting the team to play out a bit faster. After how pedestrian the passing from defence was, it was a very welcome change. Zullo put in a good shift at left back, and Rhyan Grant was his usual industrious self down the flanks. 

2) Not quite clicking

It's been a weird season for Sydney with their front 2. Pre-season was le Fondre / Buhagiar, then due to injury Brosque stepped in, then Siem de Jong has started with ALF, and now Reza Ghoochannejhad partnering the Englishman. With the other injuries around the squad it's not surprising things aren't clicking up front, but the chances wasted today highlight some issues. Three clear goal scoring opportunities all ended in nothing, one which was pretty much just a tap-in. 

3) Brosque's impact 

Thought the captain made a very good effort off the bench tonight, and was definitely what won Sydney the match. His leadership up front is sorely needed, and that's his second penalty win in as many weeks. He knows how to get into the position to win them, the penalty he won this week was prime Brosque. Round the keeper. Good stuff from the skipper.

4) Campbelltown

Campbelltown Sports Stadium is pretty great little ground for the A-League. Whilst open to the elements, the pitch was in decent quality and the seats are close to the pitch. Something I loved was this really neat small beer garden inside the stadium, just next to the away Cove. Just a smart idea and stuff like that adds to the experience. The crowd was 5115, fairly respectable considering how goddamn random the match location was. Not sure how much we can read into that with South West Sydney coming into the fold in a few years time - where will the fans come from? What will be their identity? 

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Sydney did just enough right to secure the points, but the issues of recent weeks are definitely still there. Our inability to convert from open play could prove costly, especially with an Asian campaign coming up. 

Final score: Sydney FC (1) def. Wellington Phoenix (0)
MOTM: Alex Wilkinson

Thank you everyone for the support, I very much appreciate it. 

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin

Friday, 22 February 2019

The Case Of Siem de Jong

Dutchman Siem de Jong has not been lucky with injury yet again in his career. The on-loan Ajax forward has had to fight off 2 long injuries since joining Sydney FC. The 30 year old struggled at Newcastle in the English Premier League and upon return to original club Ajax, before being loaned to the Sky Blues.

The saddest part of it all? He's a superb player who could carry this team to a Grand Final. He's a step above in vision, technical ability, passing, scoring, and has a mean free-kick, not to forget his height which causes problems for any defence.

His absence has I feel been the part that has most affected this season's trajectory. The current starting XI really don't seem prepared without him. Continued overuse of the long ball which works great with a tall player like de Jong but falls flat without him. Opportunities have too dried up for Sydney's strikers, with Adam le Fondre only scoring 2 goals in 5 compared to his strike rate of 5 in 9 when de Jong was fit from December to mid January.

Sydney scored 18 goals when the Dutchman was fit, with him being directly involved in 7 of those (3 goals, 4 assists). Since then, just 5 goals scored, and 2 matches lost against bottom teams.

I've said before that this side should have the captain or a good leader up front when Alex Brosque isn't present, and de Jong for me fulfilled that role. Siem's experiences captaining Ajax in the Champions League, and Newcastle in his brief spell there show he's a natural leader. Our style of football is very attacking based when it works, and the captain is the on-pitch person to make sure that the style is adhered to - it's partly why Brosque was chosen as captain by Graham Arnold.

With the latest news that de Jong has suffered another setback on his return to injury (about another week or two) I really wonder if we ever had a back-up plan for when Siem wasn't around. The signing of Reza Ghoochannejhad has kind of been paper over the cracks of the issues but I think slowly everyone is realising this Sydney side just ain't it this season.

 I fear that Ninkovic's recent poor form has been in part due to de Jong's absence. Ninkovic is now forced to do multiple roles which he isn't quite capable of, and half-assing a lot of those. While the current formation isn't kind to Milos to begin with, it has been amplified in my opinion as of late.

It's fairly obvious to me that we won't be seeing Siem de Jong return next season, unless there is a sudden cure for every possible injury. It's disappointing that when de Jong really started to get into a rhythm he gets a nasty tackle from behind as is injured for a month. I believe if he hadn't copped that tackle, we would have won the Australia Day clash, and been far more strong against Roar and Mariners.

How he does in the Asian Champions League could really prove his worth to the team. In theory, once we have everyone possible back, our front four will be Reza, le Fondre, Ninkovic, and Siem - all our foreign players. I'll be writing a more in-depth preview of the ACL campaign soon - keep an eye out for that.

As for Wellington "away" this weekend at Campbelltown, I'm hopeful we start Ivanovic and drop a few underperforming players. Ivanovic has been very good for us in his cameos, and could be our X-Factor if he continues to get game time - which I'm sure he will with the aforementioned Asian campaign upcoming.

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Thank you for reading another of my rambling pieces, and thanks again to those who support me on ko-fi - your support is very much appreciated.

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

MATCH REVIEW: Sydney FC 1-1 CC Mariners (A-League)

A solid, hearty, and strong Central Coast Mariners side managed to fight off an uninspiring Sydney side, in a 1-1 draw at Leichhardt Oval.

Sydney has plenty of chances on the goal mouth in the opening 30, but were completely outdone by the second phase of a corner. Aidan O’Neill took a shot first time, and his low hard effort scrambled in after a deflection. Half time, 1-0 to the visitors.

Alex Brosque was taken down inside the box late in the second half, and Adam le Fondre dispatched his penalty.

Ninkovic missed another sitter at the death of the game in a 1-on-1 which saw the game end 1-1.

But what did we learn?

1) What is the plan b?

Throughout this season Corica has been stubborn with his game plan. But it clearly isn’t working. Annoyingly, he doesn’t adapt to the situation. The day he changes his formation mid match will probably also be the day that we win the Club World Cup. This is such s clear issue heading into our Asian Champions League campaign. I can seriously see us getting our asses handed to us by the giants of Asia.

If he truly absolutely believes this is the way he wants them to play, pick players that fit that formation or at least ones that aren’t serial cock-up merchants. Brillante is just not good enough to start and I don’t think he’s deserving of a new contract come seasons end.

Wilkinson has been quite disappointing as our stand in captain. Not vocal enough, doesn't organise his team, and makes limited impact on how we play. I would consider giving the armband to someone with more fire in them to lead. If Brosque isn't going to start, I think give it to Grant who has some of the heart we need - or le Fondre with his vast experience.

2) What To Do With Gucci

Reza Ghoochannejhad is clearly a good player, but I’m wondering if he was a panic signing from Corica judging by how he’s being played. In all honesty, I think he would be better off playing Reza at LW, instead of Ninkovic. 60-ish minutes today and he can’t do much against four absolute beanpole defenders. Still hopeful he can be our X Factor.

3) What happened to crossing? 

It’s quite stunning how our crossing has dropped off in the last year. From having Zullo up there for most assists last season to now having him incapable of getting it into a player. There’s no more BobĂ´ to aim for and it feels like he forgets that? Alfie can our himself about but he isn’t a 6 foot 2 Brazilian. Wilkinson doesn't go up for corners so you also lose valuable height in those situations - at corners you should be really using your big defenders.

4) How do you fix it? 

I talk a big game in how I’m criticising the team but I just do not want ya to continue how we are. I propose either a change to a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. I’ll entertain you with how I’d set them up in both scenarios.


4-2-3-1 which pushes Ninkovic central as a #10, with Ivanovic and Ghoochannejhad out wide. Caceres partnering O’Neill in the middle. If possible, Zullo out for Joel King at left back or just Grant as an inverted full back and then Tratt at RB. Jacob Tratt would also help us out at our set pieces. He’s scored off 2 corners and is a threat. Players don’t know how to deal with him. If Ninkovic continues to struggle, get Siem to start ahead of him.

Bench: Cisak, Calver, Retre, Brosque, de Jong


Essentially, this version would see them play like the W-League side. Rotating around the front three, an enforcer DM right in front of the back four, and Ninkovic as a deep lying playmaker, alongside Retre. Ninkovic creating chances centrally, and some pace from Retre to get the ball around and to press. Ivanovic, Le Fondre, and Gucci as the front three. The key with them will be to rotate between them throughout the 90, as Foord and McCaskill do in particular for the W-League.

Bench: Cisak, Calver, Caceres, Brosque, de Jong

- - - - 

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I'm not mad, just disappointed. This team is capable of so much better, but due to bad tactics, poor player performances, and pointless possession stats we've just shrivelled up. Corica has a tough task ahead of him, with Nix up next, I've got low expectations are dropping points to the 10th, and 9th placed teams in the league on the trot. 

Personal note, this has been a tumultuous few weeks. Due to recovery I'm still not 100% there and really struggled today after football the previous day. Getting better slowly, but it feels like an eternity. 

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on my ko-fi page. I really appreciate it and I hope you continue to enjoy what I'm writing and making. 

Final score: Sydney FC 1-1 CC Mariners
MOTM: Rhyan Grant

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin. 

Saturday, 16 February 2019

MATCH REVIEW: Sydney FC 4-2 Perth Glory (W-League Grand Final)

In one of the most entertaining finals to date, Sydney came out on top against Perth Glory, to deliver their first championship in several years. 

The Sky Blues got off to a cracking start, as Sofia Huerta shot an absolute rocket into the top corner following a lay-off from Savannah McCaskill. Her second goal in as many weeks, following her heroics in the semi-final to book our ticket to the final.

Perth Glory won a penalty after a poor tackle in the box not long after. Sam Kerr stepped up and dispatched the spot kick no worries, to put it back on level pegging. 

Not long before half-time, Caitlin Foord playing a smart through ball over the top which Savannah McCaskill headed over Campbell and into the back of the net. An incredibly smart goal from McCaskill, who was so clearly on the same wavelength as Foord. 2-1 at halftime to Sydney. 

The #10 then bagged her brace after half-time, when a poorly defended second phase of a corner lead the ball to drop at her feet for a clinical finish. The American was absolutely on fire. 

Glory got a goal back, after a poorly defended corner allowed Mautz to loop the ball over the keeper from an awkward strike. 3-2 to 20 to go...

All but 2 minutes later, Sydney regained their 2 goal lead. Chloe Logarzo buried her shot into the top corner from just outside the box following a failed defensive header from Mautz (who had just scored). 

Sydney hung on in, and prevailed attack, after attack, after attack from Perth Glory. The championship trophy will be staying home in Sydney. 

But what did we learn?

1) McCaskill is proper good

American import Savannah McCaskill gave one of her career best performances in the W-League final in truth. A great display of goal scoring, good passing, pressing, an assist, and nuisance factor made her impossible to deal with for Perth. With how often Sydney rotate Foord and McCaskill's positions up front they were kept guessing. The looping header for McCaskill's first was just class. It was pure instinct as well, she didn't try and chest it down and control it, she knew the keeper was off her line and just went for it. Her overall workrate was admirable too. I wish her all the best back in the NWSL, and hope to see her back in Sky Blue next season. 

2) Midfield domination

Experience was ultimately the difference between the two sides across the pitch, but no section more so than midfield. Sydney's midfield trio of Polias, Colaprico, and Logarzo controlled the game entirely. Effective tackling, good passing, good pressing, and great organisation from Polias in particular. Colaprico is very smart on the ball, and was positive and lively. I feel if it weren't for those 3 players Sydney would not have been able to win today.

3) Magic of Imports

Last year's Grand Final loss to Melbourne City was a tough one to take. Sydney should have won that one, and the players were good enough, but the scales were tipped by how good City's import players were. Ante Juric clearly learnt from that and used up all four of his visa spots for this season, and those four got the job done today. Sofia Huerta, Danny Colaprico, Aubrey Bledsoe, and Savannah McCaskill are just class players and I do believe without the four of them we probably wouldn't have made the finals in the first place. 

Bledsoe in confirmed to play another year at Sydney, following a 2 year loan agreement starting this season. McCaskill, Colaprico, and Huerta will all hopefully return, following the end of the NWSL season in America. Best of luck to all four of them back home. 

4) Thriller

That was probably the most exciting, high quality, and enjoyable Finals Series match I've seen live from either Sydney team. Each side were strong and really went for it, and I'm very glad to have finally seen Sam Kerr play live. There was such an openness to the game and even in those 4 minutes of stoppage time you always felt like the crazy could have happened. That's the magic of The Dub. It really feels like anything can happen and you cannot write off any of the top four sides.

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A great day out at Jubilee, all in all. I'm very pleased for captain Teresa Polias in particular to lift that trophy after last year's heartbreak against City. She's a terrific leader and put in a great performance today, as did everyone in Sky Blue. 

Final score: Sydney FC (4) def. Perth Glory (2)
MOTM: Savannah McCaskill

Friday, 8 February 2019

MATCH REVIEW: Brisbane Roar 2-1 Sydney FC (A-League)

Brisbane Roar pulled a sneaky on a complacent Sydney side at Suncorp, to snatch the three points from behind.

A dull first half saw the sides go in 0-0, with Milos Ninkovic missing an open goal from about 6 yards out. This would be a good summary of Sydney's night.

Danny De Silva put Sydney ahead not too long after half time, with a tap-in off a deflected Adam le Fondre shot from range.

Josh Brillante turned over the ball poorly which lead to a Brisbane Roar equaliser, before another defensive mix up saw Dylan Wenzal-Halls score a worldie from outside the box.

A truly dour performance.

1) So slow

Sydney are quite frustrating to watch. They have so many quality players but are just pedestrian passing it and getting the ball around. Despite having the talents of le Fondre and Ghoochannejhad they nearly never received the ball. They gave Roar far too much respect and time on the ball, and ended up stooping to their level of "not very good". We aren't as threatening as we should be, and a lot of it is due to us taking too many passes and always recycling it back to the centre-backs. Under Graham Arnold, it was never meaningless possession for sake of possession but consistent probing. 

I don't want to blame Wilkinson too much, but as our captain on the day he has to take some of the blame. Doesn't quite get players motivated or firing like Brosque does, nor is he as talkative to the ref. 

2) Zullo has not been great

Michael Zullo has been one of the more disappointing players throughout this season for Sydney FC. He's been more prone to brainfarts, poor decision making, and his crossing has just been appalling. It's like he hasn't realised Bobo left and that you can't just continue to hopefully bang balls into the box forever. I think part of it is how some players haven't adapted to the 4-2-2-2 formation Corica has set them up in. It seems like there is less cover for him when he bombs forward because there's just less

3) Brillante is a liability

If there's been one player who consistently this season has not done enough to earn a starting spot, it is Josh Brillante. So many sloppy, cheap, and unnecessary turn overs. Too much "this'll look good on my highlight reel" attempts which have ended up costing us massively. He has proven he isn't good enough to be our starting central midfielder by now surely. Heading into an Asian campaign we cannot afford more cock-ups from him, and I think we should start Caceres over him. 

4) Ninkovic...

Missed an open goal in the first half, and then went invisible for large spells of the second half. He cannot play out wide and this should be very clear to everyone. He is an attacking midfielder, and he's 34. Especially without Siem de Jong we gain nothing from forcing Ninkovic out wide for matches. It's hard for him to play that killer ball into a striker when he is miles away from a central area, and Zullo's crossing on the left flank also doesn't suit Adam le Fondre. 

Danny De Silva is also not capable of taking on Ninko's role due to not quite having much end product and he's just too young to so drastically change his playstyle. He's exciting to watch when he goes forward but I'm not sure he knows what the next step is.

5) Can't continue like this

There is winning with grit and determination, and that is important - but at the moment we're trying to win without grit or determination. We showed up expecting to win and were complacent. Same can be said of previous weeks, when we were ultimately given a get out of jail free card from Andrew Redmayne. I admire it when we grind out results a lot - that's the sign of a winning team - but screwing up so dramatically before you can hit that stage is awful. 

We need to make changes and fix the mentality. Too many players have their heads suck in the Arnie era of legitimately knowing you will will prior to the match. 

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As soon as Ninkovic fluffed that open goal, and I saw the Roar keeper growing in confidence I just felt this wouldn't go our way. Whilst Reza was encouraging on debut it's hard to see positives with how many of our experienced players put in stinkers. You expect so much better from this team. 

On a personal note, I want to thank everyone who has been giving me support over this difficult last week or so. My surgery was successful and I am currently recovering, which has been tough so far. I'd like to thank my good friend Hamish Walsh for helping out with running the ASOTH twitter during the week - he did a fantastic job. Also thank you to everyone for the happy birthday messages for Thursday. It's been a far from normal birthday, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thank you as well to everyone who has donated to me on my ko-fi page. It is greatly appreciated. 

Final score: Brisbane Roar (2) def. Sydney FC (1)
MOTM: Danny De Silva

Sunday, 3 February 2019

MATCH REVIEW: Sydney FC 2-0 Melbourne City (A-League)

More Redmayne heroics, another Alfie sausage roll, and a maiden goal for Luke Ivanovic sees Sydney win a tight match over Melbourne City.

Sydney started incredibly strongly. Ninkovic got the ball on the counter, and fed it to Ivanovic who buried his shot into the back of the net for his first senior goal in the 8th minute.

The youngster unfortunately came off 20 minutes later, having suffered a head injury and a hamstring complaint. The Sky Blues went into half-time 1-0 up in a rather dull half.

City were strong on the ball in the second half, but were toothless up front. They won a penalty with ten minutes to go after a player was pulled down in the box at a corner. Riley McGree took the ensuing penalty, only for Andrew Redmayne to yet again come up big and save it.

Moments later, Adam le Fondre sealed the win for the Sky Blues with a neat finish through the legs of Galekovic. 3 points secured for Sydney.

But what did we learn from tonight's action?

1) Defensively sound

After a few months of looking wobbly at the back, it seems Sydney have started to click in defence. The return of Ben Warland from injury coincided with 3 clean sheets from 4 matches played, and there is just such a visible difference. He looks comfortable on the ball, is no nonsense, and having a left footed defender is so good. Very good performance from him and Wilkinson in the heart of defence. 

2) Mullet Power

Rhyan Grant made his long awaited return to Sydney FC following his time with the Roos in the United Arab Emirates for the Asian Cup. A stand out for the national team, and a stand out today for Sydney FC. His engine is just so impressive. The way he goes up and down the pitch, puts in the big tackles, and picks the passes is just great to watch. We've sorely missed his dynamism on the right flank. Welcome back, Rhyno. 

3) Shredmayne

The last month and a half has been a terrific one for Andrew Redmayne. The keeper has gotten 3 clean sheets over the last 4 weeks, and has been a menace for opposition penalty takers. Out of the 5 penalties he's faced this season, he has saved 4 (inc. FFA Cup). Not just penalty saves either - pretty much every match this last month or two he's been forced to make 2-3 great saves in crucial moments. A dark horse perhaps for best keeper in the league? 

4) He scores when he wants

Despite playing overall not his best game for the club, le Fondre still managed to score a goal. His overall workrate was admirable as per usual and he showed the Northerner grit necessary throughout. Watching him get hacked down and immediately get back up is brilliant to see. His goal was a smart one, beating a defender before slotting it calmly into the net. I think he's been missing Brosque up front with him - and to see Ivanovic go off so early definitely made it harder for the Englishman. Hopefully the introduction of Reza Ghoochannejhad next week can start to make things right. 

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Not a pretty performance from Sydney - similar in truth to the winning performances against Jets and Adelaide - but a win nonetheless. Seeing us grind out results makes me fairly happy in truth, and it shows that there is still a massive amount of heart in the team. Next up is away to Brisbane on Friday. 

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on ko-fi. It is very much appreciated and goes a long way. 

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin. 

Friday, 1 February 2019

Sydney's January Deals

Yesterday saw the Australian transfer window shut, in an unusually quiet one for most of the league. Sydney however, did dominate the signings made - bringing in 3 new players, releasing 1 and giving contracts to 3 other players. Let's talk about these deals.

Anthony Caceres - loan

Sydney completed the loan signing of Anthony Caceres from Manchester City early in the month, with the 26 year old signing for his third A-League club. Capable of playing both central midfield and in attacking midfield, he will prove useful for the upcoming months. His opening appearances were fairly strong in central midfield before succumbing to an injury against Nix. Expected back in 3 weeks. 

Jacob Tratt - 6 month deal

The fan favourite Jacob Tratt impressed in his injury replacement spell at Sydney, and won himself a 6 month contract after scoring a second goal for the club. Versatile at the back, and very clearly happy to be playing football again. Hopeful we sign him on a 2 year deal at the end of the season. Very good move from Corica and McFlynn to bring him back home. 

Luke Ivanovic - 6 month deal

The young gun scored himself a senior contract until the end of the season, after impressing off the bench for the Sky Blues. Well received by supporters and clearly rated by Corica. Could become a massive part of the future for Sydney. 

Tom Heward-Belle - 2.5 year extension

Young goalkeeper Thomas Heward-Belle signed an extension with the club and will surely be the back-up keeper for the coming years with Cisak set to depart. Has been working with goalkeeping coach John Crawley for close to all of his young career, and having seen how Crawley has helped Redmayne and Vukovic I think he's in safe hands. 

Reza Ghoochannejhad - loan

The former Iranian international was the showpiece signing of the transfer window for not just Sydney FC, but the entire A-League. A striker with vast experience overseas and 17 goals for his country, and over 30 goals in the Netherlands for Heerenveen. Very pleasing to get a +1 for Asia, and his combination with le Fondre could be what brings us a third successive premiers plate. 

Charles Lokolingoy - released

Congolese born Australian striker Charles Lokolingoy was released by the club on deadline day. I'm gutted things didn't work out for him at Sydney, an incredibly nice kid but never got enough time under Arnold or Corica to really improve. In hindsight should have been starting matches towards the end of last season. I wish him all the best and hope he finds success elsewhere. Good luck Charlie. 

Mitch Austin - 6 month deal

The deadline day signing of Mitch Austin is an interesting one. A solid left-winger with plenty of A-League experience, but rotten luck with injuries and game time. Started his career as a Manly United junior before signing with Mariners, then plucked from the Gosford by Melbourne Victory. Couldn't break into the Vuck first team with such high quality players in that side, and this year joined Newcastle Jets after recovering from an ACL injury. Pacy, strong, tall, and left footed. 

His signing has been criticised by some but I also remember people arguing players like Andrew Redmayne, Paulo Retre, and Brandon O'Neill weren't good enough when we picked them up. I think Austin is a pretty decent signing in truth, as we really have no left wing cover. Austin will prove valuable during the tough Asian Champions League campaign and I'm sure Corica will get him going strong. 

Overall, a productive window for the Sky Blues as they head into the challenges of Asian football yet again. Terry McFlynn, Danny Townsend, and Steve Corica all deserve a pat on the back for the effort put in to get Reza in particular. With added reports from media that Rhyan Grant, Brandon O'Neill, and Josh Brillante are set to re-sign with the club I'm very happy with the direction the club is headed in. 

As always, thank you to those who have supported me on ko-fi. I very much appreciate it, and am working harder to get more content out. 

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin