Sydney FC Season In Review – 2018/19

Across the board for Sydney FC, the 2018/19 season was one of definite success. With championships in the W-League and A-League, this will go down as a memorable year in record books.

Almost heaven, Jubilee Stadium…

W-LEAGUE

Let\’s start off with some coverage of the championship winning Sydney FC W-League side, captained by Teresa Polias.

The opening 4-5 weeks of the season were not ideal in the slightest. Bar an opening round 3-0 thumping of rivals Wanderers, there was little consistency from the side and just weren\’t cohesive as a team. A mixture of players not quite being at full fitness, interruptions with international breaks, and just not enough time to prepare.

A big 5-1 win over Brisbane Roar put the side back on track for the season, and from there things just started to click. Princess Ibini\’s impact off the bench soon became the X-Factor of the starting XI, with the 19 year old scoring 4 goals and assisting 3 goals. Around this time also saw Amy Harrison\’s full recovery from her anterior cruciate ligament injury from last year, which is always great to see players come back from – especially considering how well she played last year before copping the injury.

Caitlin Foord and Savannah McCaskill\’s partnership really blossomed after January, allowing for a great finals run-in. Matildas forward Caitlin Foord\’s confidence was high by the end of the season, scoring 10 goals and putting in some of her best performances for Sydney. Foord also bagged the most assists of any Sky Blue player, with 5.

At times Sydney honestly played some of the best football I\’d seen in the W-League season even if their early season form cost them too much to win them the Premier\’s Plate. The finals series was a different story however, and it was a joy to see centurion captain Teresa Polias finally lifting the W-League trophy as captain. Arguably the most important player in the team and most definitely the heart of the club.

Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe picked up the Goalkeeper of the Season award at the Dolan Warren Awards night, and definitely a deserved win. With a decent amount of chopping and changing of her two central defenders, she did a fantastic job throughout the season and saved many points. Thankfully for Sydney, she\’s still got another year left at the club on loan from Washington Spirit.

Something worth noting too is how high quality all the W-League finals matches were. All three games in the finals campaign were top spectacles and produced football that the A-League can only dream of for finals football. The future remains bright for the women, with the leadership of Teresa Polias and management of Ante Juric a dream combo.

I\’ll be looking forward to the World Cup kicking off in just over 2 weeks time, especially with 5 Sydney players selected in the Australian squad.

Player of the Season: Teresa Polias
Best Performance: Sydney FC 4-2 Perth Glory
Best Goal: Savannah McCaskill header vs Perth Glory

A-LEAGUE

The A-League season has been a proper weird ride. Prior to the season I didn\’t really have many expectations other than probably finishing top four. The losses of Adrian Mierzejewski, Bobo, Jordy Buijs, Luke Wilkshire, and Matt Simon can\’t be understated. That\’s five big players who were so impressive in their times at the club. Then there\’s the matter of Corica\’s debut season.
Replacing Graham Arnold is always going to be a tough act to follow, even without needing to replace the spine of the team. But somehow, Corica did a fantastic job in the end. The signing of Adam le Fondre a particular highlight, with the Englishman scoring 23 goals across three different competitions. 
Return of right-back Rhyan Grant felt as though it were a new signing, with the Energizer Bunny acting as if he never picked up an ACL injury just 12 months prior. Grant was just exciting to watch, every time he went for a bolting run down the wing you felt like something would happen. Having a player like him around is great for the team. 
Andrew Redmayne more or less made himself a cult hero during the season, with the keeper saving 4 out of 5 penalties faced in the season, and saving 2 penalties in the 2019 Grand Final penalty shootout to help Sydney lift the toilet seat. Seeing how he\’s developed in just over 2 years has been immensely satisfying. His confidence is sky high and right now it\’s hard to find a keeper more reliable if you need a penalty saved. His humble attitude towards his own success says a lot about the team culture around him too, this isn\’t a side that takes success for granted or drops their heads. He, much like the team throughout 2018/19, kept improving. 
Retiring club captain Alex Brosque proved just as influential as in previous years, with the skipper turning back the clock and putting in an outstanding final year. 11 goals in 3 competitions for a 35 year old who was not expected to play a huge role in the team at the beginning of the year is incredibly impressive. The club will not just miss his leadership, goals, skill, and consistency, but having that sort of anchor to carry us through tough times. There is no doubt in my mind Brosque will remain the Sky Blues greatest ever captain, and greatest ever player. Enjoy retirement Brosquey.
The 6-1 demolition of Melbourne Victory in the semi-finals was the sort of \”wevenge\” we\’d all wanted after last year\’s heartbreak. Despite the Grand Final itself being a bit of a drab match, we\’ll always have 6-1. One of those performances that will live in memory, and a thwacking so good it got Muscat sacked from Victory. You love to see it.
Corica\’s first season as head coach should be seen as a huge success. Bimbi showed he is more than capable enough to take this team forward, and I\’m very much looking forward to how he approaches next season. 
Player of the Season: Andrew Redmayne
Best Performance: Sydney FC 6-1 Melbourne Victory
Best Goal: Alex Brosque vs Melbourne Victory

Thanks for reading this season review. I plan on writing a larger piece about the Grand Final itself once I\’ve had a bit of time to work on a few other projects, but it\’s safe to say Perth was a great host city for the A-League Final. It was brilliant catching up with so many other Sydney supporters over the weekend – this club has such a great family feel to it and I can\’t quite capture how great it feels to be in The Cove on nights like that.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me this season by way of sharing my articles, donating on ko-fi, and by interacting with me on twitter. The off-season will be long and will suck, but we\’ve got some happier memories to keep us going through the long winter this season.

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin, and ASOTH on @asothdotcom.

A General Ramble: 2019 Grand Final

Sunday sees Perth Glory host Sydney FC in the 2019 A-League Grand Final at Optus Stadium – Perth\’s first chance of being Australian Champions in 15 years – their last success being in the 28th and final National Soccer League season 2003/04 where they triumphed 1-0 away from home against Parramatta Power thanks to a golden goal from Nick Mrdja (remember him?).

2018/19 has been a jubilant year for Perth. Winning the Premier\’s Plate at a canter and playing some great football along the way with some exciting players, plus qualifying for just their second final in the A-League era. It\’s not hard to see how much this has meant to their long-suffering supporters, who for 5 years put up with varying degrees of quality under Kenny Lowe. This season has seen some sellout home games, and now a likely full house on Sunday at Optus Stadium.

Before such a big game, it felt only right to talk to a Glory supporter and get their perspective on the season that\’s been, and the decider ahead. Thank you to fansite The Glory Post for helping out with this – check them out on Instagram and Twitter.

PART 1: ASOTH asks, The Glory Post answers…

ASOTH: Who has been Perth’s most underrated player in this stunning season they’ve been having?

TGP: I would say Juande. A lot of people underestimate the role he has played in the midfield this season, forming a great partnership with Kilkenny. The fact that he won the \’Player\’s Player of the Year\’ at our awards night shows the respect that his teammates have for him and how important he has been to our success.

ASOTH: Most memorable moment during the 27 rounds?

TGP:  For me it was when we lifted the Premiers Plate against the Jets. Yes, we had a few incredible comebacks and the game itself wasn\’t the greatest, but to see the joy of the players, staff and especially the fans who had been long-starved of success was a very special moment.

ASOTH: Best performance of the season and why?


TGP: I feel like our best performance was the first half of our Round 12 game against you guys. 3-0 up at the break. That was the best we\’d played for a while and to do it against a club that we\’ve struggled against in recent times, plus the team who was most likely to challenge us for the plate was extra impressive.

ASOTH: How is the city of Perth reacting to this season and the upcoming final?

TGP: Perth has actually been really pumped. It has definitely exposed the bandwagon mentality this state has though. An average home attendance of something around 10,000 and now you\’ve got 60,000 people who will claim they\’ve been behind the Glory the whole time rocking up to the Grand Final. The newspaper has us regularly on the back page with a liftout today I think. While it\’s great to see all the support now, I often think to myself \’Where were you when we weren\’t doing so well and during this season?!\’ If these casual supporters can wear their Glory merch or anything purple (not Freo) and join in with the chants that should be great.

ASOTH: Heading into Sunday, how are you feeling? Predictions?

TGP:  I’m quite confident. If the crowd can create a great atmosphere and the players play like they have all season, then I feel like we should get over the line 3-2.

PART 2: The Glory Post asks, ASOTH answers…

TGP: How have you found Steve Corica as head coach compared to Arnold?

ASOTH: As far as managerial transitions go, it\’s been mostly smooth. There are some obvious differences between the two like their demeanour in the media but \”Bimbi\” has been more than good enough. Corica understands what made the team work under Arnold and altering it slightly to fit the players he has. There\’s been some frustration from supporters over how predictable he can be as a manager but finishing second in a debut season I think reflects how he\’s gotten the team to work.

TGP:  Who has improved the most this season and why?

ASOTH: For me, it\’s probably Andrew Redmayne. He\’s never quite near the top of people\’s \”best keepers in the league\” list but has proved invaluable throughout this season. When he joined the club he was in a poor rut of form at Wanderers, but worked very hard after Danny Vukovic left to fill that gap in the team. Last year there was a fair few hairy moments with him due to what I\’d say is probably poor communication, to this year being far more commanding and really working on his weak spots like plucking crosses out of the air.


TGP: Which player in the squad do you feel deserves to lift the trophy the most and why?

ASOTH: Despite a lot of the fanfare being around this being Alex Brosque\’s last A-League game and what a great send-out a trophy could potentially be – it really has to be Aaron Calver for me. Calver made his debut at age 16 and never quite got into the first team consistently but whenever called upon did a solid-to-good job. This season saw him get the most appearances he\’s ever had in a single season, and I think that\’s his just desserts considering how much waiting he\’s often done between drinks. Him hitting this recent good run of form I think really shows what he\’s capable of when given consistent minutes – hell he\’s even been scoring goals!

TGP: What has been the vibe between the Sydney fans this week?

ASOTH: There\’s been a pretty optimistic feel amongst a large section of supporters, with a lot of people still riding the high from the big 6-1 win over Victory. Whilst I see it as misplaced optimism personally, I think it\’s actually going to be a decent match in comparison to previous years\’ finals.

TGP: What are your predictions for Sunday? Are you confident?

ASOTH: I\’m more confident about this final than I was for our last away Grand Final in 2015, but I\’m just hopeful that the lads turn up and play to a decent standard. I can\’t see us replicating last week\’s performance and I think Glory are a far better side than Victory so it should be tight. Predicting a 2-1 Glory win.

Thank you to The Glory Post for helping out with this piece, highly recommend checking them out.

– – – –

Regardless of the result on Sunday, I\’ve been more than happy with how this season has turned out after the losses of Buhagiar and Warland to long-term injuries.

Corica deserves a lot of credit for how he\’s gotten this team to second place ahead of rivals Melbourne Victory and for solid recruitment, youth development, and generally good results. I\’ll probably be writing up a full season in review for both the A-League and W-League seasons after this weekend, as well as working on a few other things.

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin, and follow ASOTH at @asothdotcom.

MATCH REVIEW: Sydney FC 3-3 Shanghai SIPG (Asian Champions League)

Sydney came agonisingly close to their first home win in the Asian Champions League for 3 years, but alas ended up with only a point after a thrilling 90 minutes at Jubilee Stadium.

Siem de Jong put Sydney ahead in the opening minutes of the game, with a lucky deflection getting his effort past the Shanghai goalkeeper.

Shanghai equalised 20 minutes later with Brazilian star Oscar getting an assist with a very good ball into the box which was headed home unmarked.

Danny De Silva won Sydney a penalty not long after, and Adam le Fondre thumped home his penalty to give Sydney the lead yet again.

However, yet again, Sydney left a Red shirt completely unmarked for the visitors to equalise yet again.

In the final 10 minutes, Reza Ghoochannejhad\’s goalbound effort was saved, but only for the ball to fall fortuitously for captain Alex Brosque to tap home.

It looked for all the world like Sydney would get their first win of the 2019 campaign, only for Josh Brillante to fall over in possession and have Shanghai score off the back of his mistake. Heartbreaking.

But what did we learn from tonight?

1) All you had to do was nothing stupid

Unfortunately, Joshua Brillante\’s cock-up is just another addition to his string of cock-ups from these last 12 months or so. Yet again he\’s really cost the team, and yet again I\’m left wondering why Corica continues to play him ahead of Caceres or Retre. Corica now has a very big decision to make for the coming weeks: continue to play Brillante in hopes he can somehow magically return to form, or drop him. I think he\’s just a massive liability to the team at this point, and with finals coming up we can\’t risk it. Thanks for those two good seasons Josh, but now is probably time to move on. 

2) Is that all you\’ve got?

Into our fifth Asian Champions League campaign, and I am yet to be truly wowed by the performances of the big spending Chinese clubs in the competition. We have matched them in every campaign, and definitely bettered them more than a few times. If their national champions were struggling and felt need to time waste against a back four of Calver, Wilkinson, Zullo, and Grant then I don\’t think we\’re as far behind as some Asia snobs like to pretend. Sydney FC will always be at bare minimum respectable in Asia, and compared to how other Aussie clubs have done over the years… we might just be the most consistent performers. 

3) Derby decisions 

Siem de Jong picked up a knock in the first half, but continued into the second without looking like he was struggling much but it does mean there is a good level of competition for places in the current Sydney team ahead of Saturday\’s derby at Olympic Park. I think the front four that started today were very impressive and all deserve a shot at starting on the weekend, maybe with the exception of Ninkovic starting over De Silva, who I see as a very strong bench option. 

4) We were bloody good

The most disappointing thing is that we perform like that against any A-League team and we win 3 or 4 nil. We were surprisingly fast on the break, had some really good chances, and looked more than just cohesive up front but nearly deadly. I\’m more upbeat after realising that we actually managed to score 3 goals, something we\’ve only done against the bottom four A-League clubs so far this season. 
Full player ratings
Overall, it\’s disappointing to have lost after the performance we put in, but I think we\’ve still got signs of life in Asia. I\’m yet to be truly blown away by any of the teams we\’ve played in Asia over these last 12 months. We can definitely get some points away from home, and I still think we can get out of the group.
Sydney Derby up next, and I really am not sure what to expect. Wanderers are almost good at times but also have a back four that concede goals like they\’re going out of fashion. On paper, Sydney should win but something something football is a funny game something something. 
Final score: Sydney FC (3) drew with Shanghai SIPG (3)
MOTM: Reza Ghoochannejhad

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin. 

MATCH REVIEW: Sydney FC 2-1 Melbourne Victory (A-League)

Big Blue #49 went the way of the Sky Blues in a game as patchy as the pitch it was played on, thanks to a 93rd minute winner from Milos Ninkovic.

Sydney had a lively start to the game, with Adam le Fondre hitting the crossbar with a chipped effort in the third minute. However it would be Brandon O\’Neill to open the scoring just minutes later, as he collected the ball from Caceres before firing from range into the top corner.

Victory equalised ten minutes later, with Kosta Barbarouses making the most of a failed challenge from Aaron Calver which set him up for a neat chip over Redmayne.

The second half didn\’t start as lively as the first did, with both sides being just as poor as each other on the ball. It looked for all the world it\’d end as a fairly drab 1-1 draw.

However, Milos Ninkovic was there to make sure all three points stayed in Sydney. The Serbian got on the end of a low cross from substitute Siem de Jong, and put a shot in which found its way in with a deflection off Carl Valeri. Just his second goal of the A-League season. Sydney\’s first stoppage time win under Steve Corica.

But what did we learn from the Big Blue?

1) SCG is a joke

The pitch the match was played on tonight was truly unacceptable. It was astonishingly poor, and seems to have taken Victory\’s Terry Antonis as a victim. The fact we\’re so used to poor pitches and often laugh it off in Australia is a sad indictment on how we view our own code. I\’ve seen a lot of very poor pitches over the years watching Sydney FC, and it\’s one of the worst they\’ve played on, especially for a match as big as this. I hope in finals series matches Sydney choose to use Kogarah or Leichhardt for home games, as the SCG is clearly not fit for football.

2) Sometimes maybe good… sometimes maybe shi-

Sydney are a funny team to watch. They\’ve got some truly top class players, and have one of the strongest starting XIs in the league, even with injury issues – yet can\’t quite put together a complete performance. A very strong start to the match, similar to last week against Roar, but fell asleep after the opening 20, like last week. It\’s hard to truly pinpoint why they struggle to have a proper 90 minute performance – there\’s several potential reasons but to me it seems to be fitness. With a lot of players over the age of 30 there\’s just not the same pace to them. O\’Neill always puts in a good shift, as does Grant, but the other outfield players sometimes just look to be haggard throughout periods of the match.

3) Siemply effective

Siem de Jong for the second week in a row has won Sydney points off the bench. Last week it was an assist and a pretty clever goal, this week it\’s a smart cross which somebody actually got on the end of. I think he\’s miles ahead of the A-League overall, and opposition defenders really aren\’t quite sure what he\’s going to do. He might just be the X Factor we need for the finals series, and I\’m hopeful he starts in our next A-League game. 

A massive 3 points in the hunt for second spot, with the Sky Blues now 4 clear of Victory (third). Next for Sydney is an Asian Champions League home game against Shanghai SIPG at Jubilee, which has the potential to be a real arseblasting if we\’re not careful. After that, it\’s the Sydney Derby at Sydney Olympic Park – a chance for our first clean sweep of derbies in a season. 
Final score: Sydney FC (2) def. Melbourne Victory (1)
MOTM: Brandon O\’Neill
Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin.

Anatomy of a Cult Hero: Matt Simon

During the Graham Arnold era at Sydney FC, the club saw many brilliant players come in. From developing talents like Rhyan Grant, Matt Jurman, and Alex Gersbach, to international talent like Adrian Mierzejewski, Milos Ninkovic, and Marc Janko.

However, in a salary-capped league you need the rotation players. The bench options, injury replacements, and maybe a few clonkers. A-League backup players are of varying quality and varying levels of professionalism about their role in the team.
Once in a while, you get someone who embraces their role in the team as a backup player. For Sydney FC in the Arnold years, that was striker Matt Simon.

Synonymous with the A-League itself, Simon has been one of the greats as much as many wouldn\’t want to admit it. The forward has scored 50 goals in the A-League (as of time of writing), and played over 200 matches.

It\’s often forgotten how brilliant the young Matt Simon was in his first spell at Central Coast Mariners. A pacy, dynamic, and resilient striker, who played with his heart on his sleeve. I\’d admired him for a long time from a far, and still do, for his work rate and his love of the game.

Matt Simon (then 29) was signed by Sydney FC in August 2015 after being released by the Mariners. Simon was incredibly thankful for Sydney\’s offer to reunite with former manager Arnold. At the time, Sydney manager Graham Arnold said:

\”Matt is quality player and has exceptional personal attributes as well, he gives us something completely different to what we already have up front.\”  

What few would have probably predicted when he signed, was how vital he ended up being to the Graham Arnold system. The 188cm tall striker became a fixture of the Sydney FC bench throughout 2016/17, and 2017/18. Need to push on for an equaliser? Get Simon on. Need to defend a lead? Get Simon on. Best bit? He seemed to absolutely love his role.

His absolute dedication to the cause whenever called upon speaks levels of his professionalism and respect. Many players probably wouldn\’t settle for being a benchwarmer getting 10 minutes every week. Not Matty. There was always some cheers around the ground when \”The Wizard of Woy Woy\” was being prepped to come on. You knew he would give his absolute all, and would follow Graham Arnold\’s instructions to a tee.

His finest moments mostly came off the bench,

Who could forget his first goals for the club? Round 4 of 2015/16 saw Sydney in a predicament. Locked at 1-1 against his former club Central Coast Mariners in Gosford, with less than 10 minutes to go he\’s called onto the pitch. Filip Holosko breaks free down on the right flank, with Matty ahead of him. The Slovakian squares it up for Matt Simon, who takes a touch, then curls his effort into the top corner in the 82nd minute.

Minutes later, this time it is Senegalese defensive midfielder Mickael Tavares breaking free on the right wing. He whips in an early cross after spotting the big beam pole Matt Simon heading into the box. Simon then delivers one of the best headed goals you\’ll see to seal a 3-1 for the Sky Blues up on the coast.

Sometimes however, he was just instrumental in changing the game without scoring. In the 2017 FFA Cup Final between Sydney FC and Adelaide United, the choice to sub Matt Simon on for captain Alex Brosque was what changed it. With scores locked at 1-1 in extra time, Simon goes chasing after a long clearance from goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, before being pulled down by a defender in the first third of Sydney\’s attacking half. He had the ability to win fouls out of his nuisance factor. Opposition defenders looked scared marking him, because you never knew if you\’d cop a stray elbow or be completely skinned by his pace.

What happened from that ensuing free-kick? Adrian Mierzejewski delivers a ball into the box which Bobo heads home to win Sydney their first ever FFA Cup.

If I was to pick a Matt Simon moment to best summarise him as a player, it\’d have to be his winner up on the Central Coast, in Round 24 of 2017/18. Sydney had been 1-0 up for about 60 minutes and looked incredibly comfortable on the ball, until copping an equaliser in the 80th minute from Mariners\’ Jake McGing. Arnold subsequently subs Matt Simon on to try and push for a winner.

In the 93rd minute of extra time, a deflected cross from Paulo Retre found its way invitingly for Matt Simon at the far post for a truly heroic diving header goal to win it. He went for the ball like there was no tomorrow, with risk of likely hitting his head up against the goal post at full diving speed.

He put his body on the line everywhere. But nothing can better summarise him than that. How many players would have even tried to go for it? Many would have called it a lost cause after the ball had been deflected.

Stuff like this turns a player from \”just a player wearing the kit\” to a cult hero. Someone who you\’ll remember for years to come and always remember the best moments of. As a supporter, seeing a player like Simon push himself to be the difference endears them to you so much. As the famous quote from Arsenal great Tony Adams goes: Play for the name on the front of the shirt, and they\’ll remember the name on the back.

Having met Matt Simon several times I was also impressed by what a really friendly bloke he was. He was incredibly humble about himself, and has made a big impact on me personally. He knows he might not be a Milos Ninkovic or a Besart Berisha in talent levels, but he\’ll bloody well make himself known on the pitch.

His impact on his team mates too is telling. Alex Brosque said he was inspired by Simon to play on for 2018/19 after seeing the enthusiasm and love for the game the Woy Woy local had.

Photo by @jamcas50

His respect for fans is truly top notch, and I haven\’t seen many players as good as him with interacting with supporters after matches. Been many a story about Simmo being late to leave games due to staying behind to chat to supporters and take photos.

After 2017/18, Matt Simon returned to Central Coast Mariners for a third stint, this time as their captain. After scoring against Sydney in front of the Cove in Gosford, he didn\’t celebrate and paid his respects to the supporters. A month later in the return fixture, Matt Simon got a standing ovation from Sydney supporters as he was subbed off. I really can\’t think of many players who have had a return that good.

In truth, Sydney have been sorely missing someone like him this season. Someone who can really push off the bench when you need to change the game, and inject some passion into the match.

If you haven\’t been able to tell by this yarn, I\’m a big fan of the man. I think he\’s truly one of the most interesting and hell, even inspiring players around. Sometimes passion and love for the game beats flavour of the week mediocre A-League talent.

– – – –

Thank you for reading this, and I hope you\’ve enjoyed this look into the Albino Messiah. I plan on making more in this series of \”Anatomy of a Cult Hero\” as time goes on.

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin. 

The Case of Joshua Brillante

Over the last few months there has been whispers of Sydney FC central midfielder Joshua Brillante leaving the club in hopes of an overseas offer. He\’d been receiving interest ever since he joined Sydney on a three year deal in 2016, with his strong performances in 2016/17 getting the attention of a Polish club, as well as a Belgian club. He was brilliant in that double winning season, and made such a dynamic duo with Brandon O\’Neill.

His form the following season was a roller coaster. From October until December he was an absolute rock in the middle of the park, and then his form just fell off from there. He wasn\’t the player he once was.

2018/19 has been an unforgiving season for the Bundaberg born midfielder. A mixture of being found out by opposition and inability to learn from mistakes. He\’s a great player to have to break up the ball, but on the ball he\’s an accident waiting to happen. He\’s been at fault for several goals this season with clumsy turnovers and I definitely felt he had been a hindrance to the team\’s performances.

Over the last month I had received word from several overseas contacts that Brillante had been eyeing a move out. He rejected multiple contract offers from the club after learning of potential interest in Korea. Suwon, Jeonbuk, and Pohang Steelers were the clubs interested in Brillante.

Wednesday saw Brillante completely dropped by Corica after (allegedly) meeting with representatives of clubs whilst in Japan for the Asian Champions League game. Taking himself away from the camp is fairly unprofessional in my opinion, and shows a lack of class and respect for his current club and teammates.

Josh Brillante has also been dropped entirely for Sunday\’s home game against Melbourne City, and I wouldn\’t be surprised if we didn\’t see him in a Sky Blue shirt again. I\’ve had someone reliable tell me he\’s definitely signed with a Korean club and is jetting off to complete the deal.

What does this mean for Sydney FC though?

Well it\’s definitely a loss. Brillante had been a rock in his first two seasons with the club. The lad was so good he won himself Socceroos call-ups off the back of his Sydney performances. When he was in form, he was very hard to play against. His combination with O\’Neill is one of the strongest duos I\’ve seen in the A-League and it was great to watch them play together. I\’ve definitely had my overall opinion of Brillante soured after this whole ordeal. I can deal with players having bad form but not focusing on your team and club during an important continental trip is very unprofessional.

However, this can also be seen as a positive. A new start and a chance to buff up a position causing us some issues. The two obvious replacements are Paulo Retre and Anthony Caceres. I\’d personally go with Retre as he has shown himself to be a top professional, highly flexible, and has a lot more pace which the side has been lacking.

Anthony Caceres (on loan from Manchester City) has been played way out of position at right midfield, but is very capable at central midfield. I think he\’s a perfectly solid player but in his current position doesn\’t really offer much. In his past games for us at central midfield however, he has looked much more comfortable and fairly clean.

Long term, I think this is really good news for Chris Zuvela. Whilst still on the recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, he has shown great promise in his appearances and a good option to take the club forward. I think Zuvela\’s calmness on the ball, ability to play the killer pass, and get stuck in means he\’s a great replacement.

– – – –

Brillante made 94 appearances for the club, scoring 3 goals, winning 4 trophies, and getting into the Team of the Season twice. His contributions to the club\’s successes cannot be forgotten and he put his all in for the club. I respect his ability and his desire to play overseas but I think personally a move to Korea will only see him return to Australia in 6 months time.

Korea has been harsh to Australian footballers in the past. Only Sasa Ognenovski has great tales of success, whilst many fail to rack up appearances and get frozen out by their clubs. Brillante hasn\’t been playing well enough this season to even arguably start for Sydney FC, I can\’t see him doing the job in Korea in honesty.

The manner of which he\’s leaving the club is very disappointing. I think Danny Vukovic\’s departure after 2016/17 showed true class and respect for the club, and acknowledgement of the fans. This however, feels a bit like a slap in the face.

Thank you Brillante for your contribution, and best of luck in your future.

– – – – 

Thank you for reading this. Please consider supporting me on ko-fi if you like what I produce. Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin.

MATCH REVIEW: Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 Sydney FC (Asian Champions League)

Sydney FC were unable to break their Japanese hoodoo against Kawasaki Frontale, falling to a late 1-0 loss.

It was a backs-to-the-wall job for the away side, with Kawasaki enjoying the majority of possession throughout both halves.

After a flurry of terrific saves from Sydney goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, Kawasaki were able to nick the three points late on when the Australian side struggled to clear a ball.

But what did we learn from tonight\’s game?

1) What does Caceres add?

I really am at a loss as to why Anthony Caceres is our starting right midfielder. He doesn\’t add anything to the side and takes chances away from far more exciting and useful players like Luke Ivanovic and Cameron Devlin. He\’s been a passenger in the opening two Asian Champions League matches. 

2) Waste of talent

Steve Corica\’s insistence on his 4-4-2 system continues to cause frustrations for supporters. When your two best players aren\’t being utilised properly it completely nullifies their ability. Milos Ninkovic is not a left midfielder, and he won a Johnny Warren Medal playing as a central attacking midfielder. Adam le Fondre continues to make great runs but the ball never finds him. A lot of hoof and hope balls over the top which don\’t really favour the Englishman\’s style. 

3) Tactically what?

Kawasaki are a side that likes to pass the ball around with pace, take their time on the ball, and pass it out from the back. Naturally when you\’re playing away in continental football, you try a counter attacking game plan. But Corica just didn\’t choose an XI capable of doing anything on the counter. Caceres takes too many touches, Ninkovic isn\’t exactly lightning fast, so no chances arise from the counter. Once Sydney copped that 82nd minute goal, they played a bit faster but didn\’t do much. Corica used just two substitutes in the 90 (Reza and Ivanovic on) and didn\’t force the issue. 

4) Will we ever score?

It\’s now been over four and a half hours since Sydney last scored in the Asian Champions League. Honestly, it\’s hard to see where the goals will come from. We just don\’t have any pace on our wings in a 4-4-2. It forces the two strikers to go too wide and meaning there\’s no one in the middle. I can\’t see any reason to not just try a 4-2-3-1 against Melbourne City on the weekend with Ivanovic and Retre on the wings. We\’re just void of pace. 

5) When Sunday Comes

Sydney\’s next match on Sunday against Melbourne City will be a tough match after the travels back from Japan. I imagine we\’ll see a decent amount of rotation against the Victorians, my hope is that with rotation Corica may just see the light regarding certain positions on the pitch and viable replacements. 
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A frustrating loss to take against the reigning J.League champions, but there\’s still four matches left for the lads to turn it around. The strong performance from keeper Andrew Redmayne is promising – he\’s been immense for us. 
Final score: Kawasaki Frontale (1) def. Sydney FC (0)
MOTM: Andrew Redmayne
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MATCH REVIEW: Sydney FC 0-0 Ulsan Hyundai (Asian Champions League)

On an incredibly windy Wednesday night in Kogarah, Sydney took a point from their opening Champions League game. 

The match was fairly open and quite clean overall, and Ulsan didn\’t really give Sydney too much to fret over. Sydney definitely should have been able to nick all three points, but it just didn\’t all click.
Full time, it finished 0-0. But what did we learn?

1) Same old issues

Sydney again faced the same issues as they have for most of this season – slow on the ball, indecisive offensively, and prone to dumb turnovers. For a side with an attacking duo of Adam le Fondre and Reza Ghoochannejhad, you\’d expect them to be used far more. Both of them made runs that went completely unnoticed and unused, some of which could have changed the game.

2) Defensively fine?

The back four all did their job well, and denied Ulsan from any clear goal scoring opportunities. Wilkinson and Warland both looked very comfortable on the ball, and won almost every challenge they went in for. Without a doubt, they are our best central defensive combo. 

3) WIND

The wind had such a major effect on the quality of football played, and I can\’t remember a windier match I\’ve been to in a professional game. Every goal kick from the Ulsan goalkeeper went either straight into the touch, or dawdled in the air. Sydney\’s best effort on goal was an in-swinging corner from Brandon O\’Neill. 

4) Asia\’s Finest

I don\’t ever think I\’ll get the apathy towards the Asian Champions League from supporters. In a league with just 10 teams, and 27 rounds we always complain about it being stale – yet when we get Champions League football with clubs from all over Asia we just don\’t care? To me there is nothing better than being able to watch continental football against clubs from places I\’d love to visit. But hey, that\’s just me. 
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Whilst a bit frustrating to only walk away with a point, it\’s a hell of a lot better than how we started last year. I expected a 엉덩이 떨기 from this match and we got a solid performance in a 0-0. The trip to Japan next week against Kawasaki Frontale could be a ロバブラスト but should Sydney remain defensively well organised they could sneak a point. 
Final score: Sydney FC 0-0 Ulsan Hyundai
MOTM: Rhyan Grant
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MATCH REVIEW: Sydney FC 2-0 Adelaide United (A-League)

First goals for Reza Ghoochannejhad and Cameron Devlin see Sydney get the win at Leichhardt Oval against Adelaide.

Sydney started fairly well, with some nice attacking play and a clear directive to try and get the ball into the box using pace. Reza Ghoochannejhad opened the scoring following some superb play between himself, Anthony Caceres, Rhyan Grant, and Adam le Fondre. The Iranian nailed his finish and it was a big monkey off the back following some missed chances over the weeks.

Adelaide nearly equalised as the death of the first half, with George Blackwood\’s elegant chip being headed off the line by Alex Wilkinson to preserve the lead.

Adelaide tried hard to fashion chances and get into positions to score, but ultimately they lacked any sort of striker. Goodwin got on the ball often enough but failed to really live up to his previous exploits against Sydney.

With about a minute to go of stoppage time, Brandon O\’Neill found himself leading the counter attack with Ivanovic to the left of him, Devlin to the right – choosing the latter option for the pass – to see Cameron Devlin score his first A-League goal with a clinical finish. All 3 points sealed for the Sky Blues at Leichhardt.

But what did we learn from tonight?

1) Strong finish

While the substitutions were a tad too late for my liking, I thought they very very clearly turned the tide against Adelaide and meant we could hold out. The Reds not being quite sure how to handle players like Ivanovic and Devlin causes them to think twice every time one of them gets on the ball. Luke Ivanovic is a very exciting player to watch, he really goes for everything and I\’d love to see him start more matches – especially with how just sort of just okay Anthony Caceres has been. Cameron Devlin was smart in his cameo, some clever use of the ball and won several fouls – before scoring the goal to seal the match. A great finish from the youngster and it\’s great seeing our academy players get some time.

2) Hospital balls

Watching Sydney is really odd. They look like they could be winning matches by quite a few if they played the ball faster, and were just a bit more turned on in general. Nearly every attacking move started or ended with the ball finding its way back to Wilkinson or Warland. Often too Rhyan Grant had acres of room out wide but they just never played it to him. Instead, they opted for a hospital ball in a triangle of players. 

3) Clean sheets 

That was Sydney\’s sixth clean sheet of the season – mighty impressive considering there have been 4 different versions of our centre back duo, and with our right-back spot being occupied by 3 different players. Importantly, it seems Redmayne has really gotten into a rhythm of late. He is clearly more vocal and much better organisationally than he was 2 years back. His improvement has been brilliant to see. 

4) Under Pressure

With that win, there is now just a 5 point gap to the top of the table. Whilst I personally cannot see us actually winning the Premier\’s Plate this year, it still keeps pressure on Perth to continue performing. With a game against Melbourne City who are so dull and joyless they might just fall to the level of their opposition and drop some points. As for us, we still have two big games left in our calendar – Victory at home, and Glory at home. 

5) Asia, be afraid?

Alright let me be clear: We aren\’t brilliant or silky or as dynamic as previous years BUT we are grinding out results and have some firepower on the bench. If we set up similar to tonight against Ulsan and cut out the dumb mistakes, and finish those chances I really think we could get the points. Reza as a player is so clearly a step above this league and I reckon he\’ll be our ticket to any success in Asia. 
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I thought getting 11,000 in attendance on a Friday night was really quite good, and there was a great atmosphere to the place. Leichhardt Oval as a place to watch football really is pretty great. Back to Kogarah however for Wednesday night against Ulsan Hyundai in our opening Champions League match. 
Thank you to everyone who has supported me on my ko-fi page. Every donation has been such a big help to me and I can\’t stress enough how much it means to me to have people reading my stuff. 
Final score: Sydney FC (2). def. Adelaide United (0)
MOTM: Brandon O\’Neill
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MATCH REVIEW: Wellington Phoenix 0-1 Sydney FC (A-League)

Sydney got the points against Wellington \”away\” at Campbelltown Sports Stadium, on a windy night out west. 

A mostly drab first half produced one moment of note, with Wellington denied an opener due to a (pretty spot on) offside call from the linesman. 
A flurry of chances were missed by the Sky Blues in the first half, but Sydney broke the deadlock in the second. Captain Alex Brosque was subbed on and made a near immediate impact, with his attempt to round the keeper in the box winning Sydney a penalty. Adam le Fondre stepped up, and absolutely nailed it into the net, off the crossbar. 
The Sky Blues hung on against a resilient and well structured Phoenix team. Krishna looked a threat whenever on the ball, but alas, could not convert any chances. Full time 1-0 to the \”visitors\”. 
But what did we learn from today?

1) Defensively solid

It seemed to be overall a good performance from the back four. Wilkinson lead by example and really did a good job of shutting down attacks, getting in crucial blocks, and getting the team to play out a bit faster. After how pedestrian the passing from defence was, it was a very welcome change. Zullo put in a good shift at left back, and Rhyan Grant was his usual industrious self down the flanks. 

2) Not quite clicking

It\’s been a weird season for Sydney with their front 2. Pre-season was le Fondre / Buhagiar, then due to injury Brosque stepped in, then Siem de Jong has started with ALF, and now Reza Ghoochannejhad partnering the Englishman. With the other injuries around the squad it\’s not surprising things aren\’t clicking up front, but the chances wasted today highlight some issues. Three clear goal scoring opportunities all ended in nothing, one which was pretty much just a tap-in. 

3) Brosque\’s impact 

Thought the captain made a very good effort off the bench tonight, and was definitely what won Sydney the match. His leadership up front is sorely needed, and that\’s his second penalty win in as many weeks. He knows how to get into the position to win them, the penalty he won this week was prime Brosque. Round the keeper. Good stuff from the skipper.

4) Campbelltown

Campbelltown Sports Stadium is pretty great little ground for the A-League. Whilst open to the elements, the pitch was in decent quality and the seats are close to the pitch. Something I loved was this really neat small beer garden inside the stadium, just next to the away Cove. Just a smart idea and stuff like that adds to the experience. The crowd was 5115, fairly respectable considering how goddamn random the match location was. Not sure how much we can read into that with South West Sydney coming into the fold in a few years time – where will the fans come from? What will be their identity? 
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Sydney did just enough right to secure the points, but the issues of recent weeks are definitely still there. Our inability to convert from open play could prove costly, especially with an Asian campaign coming up. 


Final score: Sydney FC (1) def. Wellington Phoenix (0)
MOTM: Alex Wilkinson
Thank you everyone for the support, I very much appreciate it. 
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