Wishing The Season Away

‚ÄčIn Seinfeld’s “English Patient” episode, Elaine finally explodes in a packed cinema, screaming “Just die already! Die!”

If last season’s Sky Blues took their fans on a wonderful journey, the 2015/16 version has been a roller-coaster ride – slow and steady on the way up, some yo-yoing in the middle and a breakneck-speed, screaming plummet towards the end. Watching their team stagger to the finish line has tested the patience of even the most mild-mannered of Sydney FC fans.

Could the season just end now?

Mercifully, there isn’t long to go in the A-League – a drive up to Gosford next weekend and tough, successive encounters against Brisbane and Adelaide. After that, Sydney’s domestic season will be finally put out of its misery at Allianz Stadium against Perth Glory on April 10.

Of little consolation is fellow ACL contestants Melbourne Victory’s 5-0 demolition at the hands of top-of-the-table Brisbane Roar. In a race to the bottom, Victory’s A-League run-in is no easier than Sydney’s but even if the Sky Blues manage to jag a finals spot at Melbourne’s expense, their season could, under no circumstances, be termed a success.

With Jacques Faty and Filip Holosko on the bench and the squad due to board a Sunday morning flight to Korea, Graham Arnold opted to give young Aaron Calver another outing at rightback. Robert Stambolziev continued his stint in the first eleven while striker Matt Simon was nowhere to be seen.

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No Turning Back against Phoenix

There is no turning back.

No playing for a draw.

Sydney FC’s next two games see them play the two bottom-placed sides, while on the final day of the regular season, the Sky Blues will take on Perth Glory in a game that could decide the make-up of the Top 6. Sydney must take all nine points from these three matches.

Hosting Wellington Phoenix on Saturday afternoon, four regulars in the shape of Rhyan Grant, Seb Ryall, Jacques Faty and David Carney make their return from suspension and all will likely start. With Zac Anderson not selected for the Matchday Squad, it appears that Graham Arnold is intent on playing this season’s regular combination of Ryall-Faty-Jurman-Grant at the back.

Ahead of them, Milos Dimitrijevic, a standout last week, should keep his spot in central midfield alongside one of Mikael Tavares and Brandon O’Neill, though there is every chance all three could take the field at the expense of #10 Milos Ninkovic, who may be left on the bench with an eye on Sydney FC Asian Champions League away game to Pohang Steelers on Wednesday night.

Out wide, Filip Holosko is a certainty for the right flank while David Carney should resume his fine form on the left. Matt Simon is expected to continue his A-League run up front and is sure to be involved in some heated battles with the physical Phoenix defensive line that is likely to contain Andrew Durante, Manny Muscat and Ben Sigmund.

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Tipping The Sky Blue Bucket

One of Dad’s favourite instructional parables was about the cow that filled the bucket to the brim, only to knock it over with its hind hoof at the end of the milking. That’s how it felt for Sydney’s fans, lifted to great heights last Wednesday night only to be dropped with a thud just three days later.

The visitors went into Saturday night’s match, for the second time in a week, with a positive, attacking mindset. The team’s formation reflected it with a tweaked 3-5-2, betraying an attacking intent in a game they needed to win to ensure a spot in the Top 6 by the end of the round.

Missing five starters – three defenders and two attackers - the Sky Blues took the game to Melbourne City from the outset, attacking in waves and playing some spectacular football. What cost Sydney FC on the night was its defensive inexperience courtesy of a reshuffled backline and, as ever this season, a lack of cutting edge up front.

Wide man Andrew Hoole had Ben Garuccio in knots while on the other flank, Ali Abbas got into some great positions. The Iraqi’s crossing was a feature, though he should have done better with at least one of his shots on goal in the first half.

Sydney mounting raid after raid, but City coach John van’t Schip, aware of the visitors’ suspension-induced defensive frailties, had his side play long balls on transition to Bruno Fornaroli in the hope of isolating him against an inexperienced Sydney defender on the counter.

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