Monday, August 31, 2009


Fitter Happier

Sydney FC on top of the table after four rounds...can I stop pinching myself now?

It hasn't always been pretty (especially last week's grind against the Mariners), but Vitezslav Lavicka can afford a grin. One gets the feeling that they have been lucky in their opposition so far; Adelaide and North Queensland both look like they will struggle to make the final six, and Wellington were utterly pedestrian in midfield last night, with the significant exception of Leo Bertos.

But there have definitely been pleasing signs from Lavicka's men. Prominent among these is the tendency for Sydney to overrun their opponents in the final stages of the game (exactly the opposite often happened under the reign of Terry Butcher). In the final twenty minutes of yesterday's game, the Kiwis looked dead on their feet compared with the Sydney players.

It was good to see Byun Sung-Hwan put in an improved performance; a couple of his crosses did find their mark this time, and he was caught out rather less often in defence. Sadly, the same could not be said for Shannon Cole, who is surely right-back only as long as Seb Ryall remains at the mercy of the law.

Some of the rumblings about his addiction to the long ball perhaps reached Stephan Keller's ears, and he had a much more constructive game, while remaining a pillar of strength in the air. A second Mark Rudan? Too early to say, but the possibility is there.

At the other end, it was heartening to see Mark Bridge occasionally looking in the mood, although (as usual) he drifted in and out of the game somewhat. His goal against Adelaide must have given him a lift, and some incisive moments last night - such as the shot which led to the corner from which Sydney scored their first - bode well.

Karol Kisel's contribution was harder to assess. He offers plenty of movement, but his passing was all over the place at times. He appeared happier in a wide position in some of the pre-season games, and it might not be a surprise to see him shifting to the left, especially if Lavicka is tempted to bring Brendan Gan back into the fold after his lively substitute turn against the Phoenix.

Next week's summit encounter against Miron Bleiberg's side will be fascinating. For once, their front three completely failed to gel against Newcastle, but Adama Traore will probably relish the thought of running at Shannon Cole on Saturday. At the other end, a newly confident Sydney attack will be aware that Kristian Rees and Bas van den Brink have their failings, especially on the ground. It should be a beauty.

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