2018 Preseason – Match Report
Sydney FC 5 – 0 Dunbar Rovers
North Sydney Oval
Wednesday 19 July 2018
Kick off: 7:30pm
Two things caught the eye about the team: firstly, Sebastian Gallegos was on trial with us (more on him below) and secondly, Grant is still not back from injury. It is also interesting to note that Warland seems to be preferred to Calver at this early stage.
Most of the first team played the first 55 minutes of the game (Warland and Ninkovic were replaced at half time by Calver and Devlin), and then the youth team came on.
The Game and the Goals
The first preseason hit-out for the squad ended in a great result against NPL 3 opposition. A 5-0 win was well deserved based on the performance and, considering the nature of the win as well, it was a promising sign that things haven’t slackened off too much under new head coach Steve Corica. There was also a healthy crowd there to witness the game (the official report from the club says 1200 people).
Here is how the five goals went down:
- Goal 1 – Ninkovic puts a great ball through the Dunbar defence which finds Retre on the byline. Retre crosses back into the box and Gallegos meets it with his head after a run from deep.
- Goal 2 – Zullo takes a corner, which is deflected back to him. Zullo puts in another cross and Brosque meets it with a glancing header.
- Goal 3 – Retre passes to Brosque, who is just outside the 6-yard box. Brosque plays across the box to Ninkovic, who puts it past 2 defenders and into the net.
- Goal 4 – A corner is played to Brillante outside the penalty area, and Brillante hits a brilliant shot which flies over everyone and in off the underside of the crossbar.
- Goal 5 – O’Neill takes a quick free kick to Brosque, who plays it across the box to Buhagiar, who acrobatically slots it home.
The club has made a video of the highlights which you can watch here: https://www.sydneyfc.com/video/goals-sydney-fc-5-0-dunbar-rovers
At first glance, it looks like we are going to be setting up pretty similarly to how we did under Arnold. We were playing a 4-42 in defence with the two forwards pressing high, just like we did with Arnold. In attack, where Arnold often played a 4-2-3-1 (with Brosque able to either drop deep or play as a second striker), we definitely set up with a more traditional 4-4-2. Brosque was, on paper, playing at 10, but it was clear he was higher up the pitch playing as an out-and-out striker next to Buhagiar pretty much the entire time he was on the pitch. This might be a bit different when we play A-League opposition and when we sign a first-choice striker, but it is worth keeping an eye on.
I set myself up to watch our right attacking side in both halves, which meant I got a particularly good look at Sebastian Gallegos. I recommend you have a quick read of his wikipedia page here just to get an idea of who he is. The thing I most noted about him was that he really likes to drop deep and into midfield, sometimes in the playmaker role and sometimes even deeper than that. He has a really nice first touch, particularly with his right foot, and clearly has good technique. There were some times where he used that first touch to play a ball that was coming into him out wide to Retre, which worked nicely and I’d happily see more of that. I did notice that when the ball was out on the left, rather than running in at the back post from the right he tended to drop to around the D and look for late runs into the box; he certainly looked dangerous doing that. In the situations where he had to, he was happy to track back and contribute in defence, which was nice to see. His tackling made me cringe a little though – to say that he tackles like a striker is an understatement.
That said, it wasn’t all positive. He plays with his back to goal a lot, which was fine and even beneficial at times, but it was clear he was often looking for a pass when he could have had a shot or looked to dribble at the defence. I got the sense that he wasn’t a player like Holosko or Ibini, who was always looking straight for goal and who had a direct style. This trait was fine for this game, but in other games I could see that really putting pressure on our striker(s) to score. I’ll be interested to see how he goes against Sutherland, who should pose a bit more of a challenge. It did provide even more creativity though, which was nice.
Going back to Gallegos dropping into midfield, this had a couple of noticeable impacts on how we played. Firstly, O’Neill and Brillante often had an extra option when looking to play forward. Secondly, Retre had a ton of space out wide and he really took advantage of it. Retre had a superb game I thought, constantly stretching play and putting in crosses. By the end of the first half he seemed to have a really good understanding with Gallegos as well.
Trent Buhagiar was another player I was really curious to see for us. I know at CCM he had a bit of a reputation for being quick, but lacking end product and not always having the best touch. Certainly, the speed was there; the defenders just really couldn’t keep up with him. I can see why he comes in for some criticism though, because he did have some sloppy touches and his decision-making wasn’t always brilliant. However, I really think he could add an X factor which we were sometimes lacking last season. His pressing was also really good to watch, particularly next to Brosque. Sometimes last season it felt like Brosque was the only one chasing (at least when Simon wasn’t on), but it is clear Buhagiar would contribute a lot there. For the first part of the game he was playing very centrally, but it was really clear he wasn’t a natural striker. As the game continued, he started to drift a bit wider on both sides and this made a massive difference as he was able to get past full-backs and either look for goal or a pass. There’s clearly a lot to like there, particularly at the start of the second half where he was running against tired legs. You would not want him coming off the bench at you.
In terms of our continuing players from last season, I thought that Warland was quite good at the back when he was called upon and seemed to have a good understanding with Wilkinson. There wasn’t that much for the CB pairing to do, though, and Sutherland might give us a bit more of a clue for where they are at. But it’s nice to have a left-footed CB in the squad. Ninkovic also had a good night, but he was afforded a lot of space. I think there were times last season where Adrian playing centrally really limited Ninkovic’s ability to impact games, but if he starts to move a bit more into that 10 role, he could have a great season for us. He also was regularly looking for Buhagiar, making great use of Buhagiar’s pace to put in some great through-balls.
As for the youth players, there’s not much to report there that I don’t already cover in the academy wrap-ups. Lokoli-Ngoy looks a lot trimmer and I thought he was maybe a touch faster too, which would be a great thing. Zuvela didn’t get many touches that I saw, but he looks like he has bulked up. Hopefully a season training professionally will do them both some good.
If you have any questions, you can ask on the forum here and I’ll let you know what I think.