Monday, May 14, 2007
Blacktown, predictably, are out in front, but it is something of a surprise to see APIA Leichhardt – wooden spoon recipients last season – four points clear of the pack in second place. On 20 points apiece are Bankstown, the early front-runners, and Marconi, who inflicted a surprise 5-0 defeat on Blacktown in Round 11.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see all of the top four in action a bit, so herewith a brief review:
Tough, organized, and fairly direct. Gabriel “Chi Chi” Mendez has added some subtlety to the midfield, and Adrian Webster has also been a good addition (Perth Glory fans have not, perhaps, seen the best of him). After his unhappy spell at Newcastle, Tolgay Ozbey has been among the goals once again, and the forceful Luke Roodenburg continues to trouble opposition defences. These two, in fact, make a highly effective partnership.
They are fairly tight defensively as well, with Ivan Necevski back in goal and the imposing Bobby Dragas continuing to marshal the defence.
Firing on most cylinders at the moment (the 5-0 loss to Marconi can be written off as something of a blip, considering that Blacktown had Mendez sent off well before half-time). But have they peaked a little too early, as they did last season?
The quiet achievers of the season. A team with no real stars, but plenty of experience, and a striker in superb form. Robert Younis remains on top of the scorers’ chart, and he showed why with his goal against Marconi on Saturday; receiving the ball on the edge of the box, he coolly beat two defenders before applying a neat finish. For a big man, he is surprisingly agile. Definitely one for A-League clubs to watch.
As is the combative and surprisingly prolific Anthony Hartshorn, who makes an excellent foil to Christian Care in midfield. Hartshorn scored twice in the aforementioned Marconi game, and has looked impressive at other times as well.
Franco Parisi, in the three-quarter role, is one of the most skilful players in the league, and often does well at holding on to the ball, despite his slight frame. He can occasionally disappear from games, however (as Newcastle fans could testify), a good example being APIA’s first game of the season – a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Sydney Olympic, who have won only one game since.
Of all the warm-up games that Sydney FC have played during their Asian Champions’ League campaign, it was the game at Jensen Park which gave Branko Culina’s side their toughest examination. Bankstown are a combative, well-drilled side who possess a true midfield organizer in the experienced Nahuel Arrarte, and a very promising young attacker in Robert Mileski.
Like many state league sides, Bankstown favour a back three, and the two wing-backs, Shane Webb and Steve Liavas, always pose plenty of danger.
A good outside bet for the title.
Always worth watching. James Robinson – of A-League major semi-final fame – has recently joined, and played well against Blacktown but looked out of sorts in the recent game against APIA.
Matthew Gordon, who suffered last season at Olympic, has looked far more energetic this year. Luke Casserly (how did this man not secure an A-League contract in season 1?) continues to lead the side forcefully from the back, although he and the other defenders sometimes tend to drift upfield too often – perhaps one of the reasons why Marconi have conceded the most goals of the top four.
Vuko Tomasevic is back in his natural habitat - defensive midfield - and looks happier than he ever did on the Central Coast.
Good question. Fitness would be an issue with quite a few of them, I'd imagine, since the NSWPL is very much semi-pro, and I guess you couldn't quite know how some of those players would adapt to a professional training regime. But from a technical POV, there are plenty of players good enough, IMO. Several ex-NSLers, and some good up-and-coming players. Two younger guys I reckon have great potential are Robert Mileski at Bankstown and Shannon Cole at Olympic.
Having said that, some of those who have made the step up have struggled (Luka Glavas being a good example). And Tolgay Ozbey rakes in the goals in the NSWPL, but failed at Newcastle (although arguably he wasn't given enough of a chance).