Cornthwaite’s Corner: Round 3

Carl Veart watches on against Macarthur bulls.
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You have to feel for Carl Veart and his staff this week after a frustrating performance against Dwight Yorke’s Macarthur. A week ago I bemoaned the lack of chances created, but this week the coach said it himself: “We weren’t ruthless enough”.

Adelaide had nearly twice as many shots as the Bulls but walked away with a 2-0 loss. The return of Hiroshi Ibusuki and Craig Goodwin added some much-needed quality. Goodwin supplied one or two moments of real class, and his 65-minute appearance will be critical in regaining his fitness. I said after Round 1 that the team needed to look for different avenues to goal and Goodwin’s cut back to George Blackwood in the 25th minute should have given Adelaide the lead, but immediately after the miss, Daniel Arzani put the home side in front.

Louis D’Arrigo and Craig Goodwin prepare to defend a Macarthur free-kick.

It was a strange performance and you could sense the frustration on a number of occasions on the bench. Veart was kicking eskies, Mark Milligan and Eugene Galekovic threw their hands in the air more times than I can remember, but Ben Halloran summed it up best: “We didn’t score, we lost 2-0, what else can I say?”.

One area of concern already is the heart of defence. Alexandar Popović and Lachlan Barr are still undefeated as a CB pairing but didn’t look completely comfortable in Round 1. At the weekend, Ben Warland came in for Popović, who was ill, and Barr was replaced midway through the second half – Isaías finishing the game in defence. After two games, you wouldn’t have expected to have played four different players in that role. They need to get that area sorted and settled as soon as possible. Adelaide’s incredible run at the back end of last season came off the back of a settled eleven.

There’s not a lot you can say about this performance. United had three goals disallowed, which were all correct decisions, but could have scored on a number of other occasions, it was a really poor showing. They looked the opposite of everything they were in the first 20 minutes against the Phoenix – second to everything and always behind, giving the ball away far too easily and a turn-ver directly led to the Arzani opener.

Hiroshi Ibusuki laments a disallowed goal against Macarthur.

There’s something Adelaide doesn’t like about going to Campbelltown to face the Bulls. Despite winning nearly every single stat on Sunday, Veart’s side were comfortably beaten there again for the third straight time.

The boys have just one point from their opening two away games, with another to come – Sydney FC on Sunday afternoon.

Afternoon kick-offs! Oh God, they are so inconvenient as a player. I used to hate any game before 5:00pm. When I was in South Korea, we would start at 12:00pm in the winter because it would be absolutely freezing, but the lunchtime start was the warmest part of the day.

In Malaysia, it was always so hot and humid, and the normal start time there was at 8:45pm. That was something I had to get used to, and you’d be forced to become a night owl. During the holy month of Ramadan, games would be pushed back to 10:45pm to allow the players to eat after sundown and regain energy before the match. Now that definitely takes some getting used to, but ultimately it’s all been a great experience.

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Every player has a preference and overseas there are many lunchtime games but you can very rarely match the atmosphere created by night/twilight starts in Australia.

This week it’ll be a 2:30pm (ACDT) kick-off at the new Allianz Stadium. Hopefully, after the Sky Blues’ big win over Western United there’ll be a big turnout, creating a big atmosphere. As a player, there are no excuses, but I do feel a little for them. The afternoon kick-off, especially on a Sunday, can lack atmosphere and make it a little tougher to get up and about for the game. One of the great pleasures is waking up late on match day, having a nice walk, a relaxed lunch, and an afternoon nap. But the midday kick-off throws that routine out the window, and the day can feel a bit rushed as the game comes at you quickly.

Under Veart, Adelaide have a 33 per cent win record for games starting before 4:30pm. Games kicking off after 4:30pm it’s closer to 45 per cent. I must say, they have only played nine times in the earlier time slot compared to 55 in the latter.

This week, they need to find a spark!

Carl Veart and Mark Milligan in discussions at the VALO Training Centre.

Sydney were good on the weekend and, despite scoring two and missing a penalty in the first half, it was the second half where they really hit their stride. Western had to chase the game which opened things up. Sydney had a lot more joy against a team looking to attack.

Playing a 4-3-3, Steve Corica has a potent front-line with off-season additions Robert Mak and Joe Lolley either side of Adam Le Fondre, who found all three goals in the win. The tricky duo out wide were the difference on Sunday as they came from behind to beat last season’s champions.

Sydney actually played the most long balls of any team last weekend and were not afraid to get the ball to the deadly trio as quickly as possible.

Adelaide will need to limit the time and space allowed for these three to operate. Adelaide’s press was almost non-existent against the Bulls, and I wonder if sitting back and allowing Sydney to have the ball this weekend could be an option. Last season, the Reds completed a snatch and grab away and I wonder if something similar could be on the cards.

Javi López battles against Macarthur.

With Adelaide failing to score against set defences in the opening two rounds, letting Sydney have the bulk of possession could be a positive. If the Reds pack their defensive third with more bodies, it would make it difficult for the home side to find space near the Adelaide penalty area. And Sydney’s midfield balance feels off with the trio of Luke Brattan, Anthony Caceres, and Patrick Yazbek, so Veart could get his boys to make the hosts impatient and look to force a pass into a condensed space.

If Adelaide could create this scenario, it would give Goodwin and Halloran more space to transition quickly and run at what I consider an undermanned Sydney defence with experienced pair, Alex Wilkinson and Jack Rodwell, both missing through injury. Their back four isn’t blessed with pace, but Adelaide has failed to get in behind the opposition defence all season, something they must work harder at.

Aaron Gurd was solid on his first start for the Sky Blues, but it’s never easy to back up should he be called on again. Adelaide should get Ibusuki to stay on the age-group side and test him out as much as possible.

United looked a little thin off the bench against the Bulls, and their depth is being tested early. It’s wonderful to see the young players coming through get opportunities because it’s been a hallmark of Veart’s tenure so far, but we need the kids to start making an impact and not just making up the numbers. Come on and change the game.

Hopefully Zach Clough can make a return, but there aren’t too many reinforcements in the wings. A win away on Sunday would do wonders for the team and confidence ahead of their return to the revamped Coopers Stadium.

Zach Clough, at the VALO Training Centre, missed the Macarthur clash with an injury.

Last season it took six match to register the first win of the campaign, had just a handful of those results been different, Adelaide would have finished inside the top two on the table. They have to make a better start than last season because you can’t rely on a long winning run at the back end of the year to make up ground.

This league is a sprint to the finish line.

No matter what the performance this week, the Reds need to find a ruthless streak or it’ll be a season of wasted opportunities.

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