Sunday, February 10, 2008
Sydney FC: Season Review, Part 1
Two coaches, a constantly changing first eleven, off-field dramas, a period of ecstasy over Christmas and the New Year, and finally a miserable repeat of last season's limp finale.
The story, then:
Much was expected of Branko Culina's side following the Asian Champions' League. What some of the triumphalists failed to acknowledge was that, for most of their ACL campaign, Sydney FC were treated with exaggerated respect; not least in the final game, where eventual champions Urawa Reds were content to sit back and absorb the pressure, in the interests of gaining the one precious point they needed to advance.
In the pre-season, it was clear just how poorly Sydney could play when deprived of its key men. And in the first round of the competition proper, we saw how a team that matched Sydney physically (as the Asian sides had not) could prove a tough nut to crack.
Marquee man Juninho was bludgeoned out of the game by Mile Jedinak, the Mariners snatched an early goal and hung on to their lead grimly. Despite their second half dominance, and the fact that they were regularly gifted possession by the blunt Central Coast defence, Sydney were unable to break down a scrapping side...something which would become rather a feature of the Culina "era".
The second game, against Adelaide, was actually one of the best matches of the season. It seemed that Juninho was getting into his stride; his pass to Alex Brosque for Sydney's second goal was an absolute gem. But a fairly innocuous challenge from Angelo Costanzo caused the Brazilian's pre-existing shoulder troubles to recrudesce...and Sydney's troubles really began.
Without their main creative outlet, and with international call-ups playing havoc with team stability, Sydney laboured to a dreadful draw with Perth and lost feebly to Wellington at home. Squad depth was becoming a problem, with many players struggling with injury and the off-season recruits not looking particularly impressive. Two points from four games, and Branko Culina was under considerable pressure already.
Then came the mini-revival. The football in Round 5's win over Queensland was not at all pretty, but the win was vital. In the next game, against Newcastle, Sydney started playing some good football once again; it was hardly coincidental that Juninho made his return in the Round 6 encounter. With Alex Brosque in fine form, Juninho back on the park and several other players making their way back to full fitness, it looked like the corner had been turned.
But for a moment of foolishness from Steve Corica and some questionable refereeing, it might just have happened. Tune in next time.
I thought that after the Socceroos Asia Cup disaster and in particular the referee experience that the FFA would chance its strategy for the A-League and make it a staging post for an Asia orientated Socceroos. Alas this not been the case. The message is muscle up or forget the top 4 - Perth and Wellington are the best examples of teams that failed to produce muscle.
'Marquee man Juninho was bludgeoned out of the game' was a sign of what was to come for any playing showing defenders up.
Thanks for the review. I'm trying to bone up on my Sydney FC info to be at least somewhat knowledgeable for my own blog at http://nutmegging.blogspot.com before my Dynamo face you guys in Hawaii next week. It seems you guys have had the same problem Dynamo had last year, finishing, the difference being that Dynamo won MLS and Sydney finished tied for third. Though maybe those results are comparable as I have no idea just how strong the A-League is compared to MLS. Still, looks like fun.
Thanks for the interest Martek. Poor finishing is a bit of an Australian problem in general, but it's true, we've been a bit short of bite up front for much of our existence; we signed an ex-Socceroo striker called David Zdrilic for three years in 2005, and to say that he hasn't lived up to expectations is one of the great understatements.
You'll probably find SFC pretty basic in some departments, but full of fight.
You have been linked....
Much obliged, sir!