Sharp Wanderers, ominous City and Duncan disaster: The key talking points from the FFA Cup
This past week saw more FFA Cup Round of 32 matches completed across Melbourne, Mudgee, and Newcastle. So, out of the six A-League Men’s teams who played, what were the key takeaways?
SHARPNESS PROVES THE DIFFERENCE FOR WESTERN SYDNEY
Western Sydney’s fitness proved pivotal on Wednesday evening against Broadmeadow Magic.
The Magic had only trained as a unit for six weeks leading up to the fixture.
On the other hand, the Wanderers are in the latter stages of a gruelling pre-season that has gone for several months.
The Wanderers performance in critical metrics highlighted their readiness for round one of the A-League Men this week.
Over 90% of their passes found a teammate, with Magic only securing a pass completion rate of 68%.
Carl Robinson’s men also dominated the possession, with the Red and Black gaining 77% of the ball across the duration of the evening and notching up 28 shots on goal, 9 of those being on target.
Despite looking sharp in attack, Western Sydney did have some cracks appear in midfield that Robinson will hope to fix for the Sydney Derby this weekend.
New signing Jack Rodwell could stabilise that area of the pitch after joining the Wanderers last week.
The Wanderers are yet to win the FFA Cup despite making the Semi-Finals in 2017 and 2018. (Tom Pombart)
CITY LOOKING OMINOUS EVEN WITHOUT STAR TRIO
Melbourne City was in cruise control on Friday evening at Lakeside Stadium, securing an easy win over South Melbourne.
Right from the get-go, they dominated every aspect of the game.
Over the ninety minutes, Patrick Kisnorbo’s men completed 863 passes, with 89% accuracy, almost five times what South Melbourne produced throughout the game.
This Melbourne City side is still yet to add Jamie Maclaren, Matthew Leckie and Andrew Nabbout.
They all were either on Socceroos duty or unused.
But they were still putting together some scintillating moves, with the attacking improvement of fullback Scott Galloway highlighted by two stunning strikes.
City look to have attacking threats all over the pitch and are primed for more silverware on all fronts this season.
Kisnorbo will be hoping for more of the same after securing a club-first domestic double last season.
BLUNT MARINERS BAILED OUT BY NEW SIGNING
The Mariners controlled their all-NSW affair with Blacktown City, dominating the stats sheet with 70% possession and 14 shots, with 8 of those on target.
The dominance that the stats showed did not translate onto the pitch, though.
Blacktown shot-stopper Tristan Prendergast made life difficult for the Mariners.
He was the main reason they could not open the scoring.
Prendergast made a string of fine saves within the first half for City, keeping them in the tie.
But it was still eventually heartbreak for the Demons.
Béni N'Kololo netted the winner for Central Coast in the 76th minute despite a gallant performance from Blacktown.
Nick Montgomery has to fine-tune his side heading into their A-League Men season opener - an F3 Derby clash against the Newcastle Jets this Sunday.
New recruit N'Kololo netted what he hopes will be the first of many for the Mariners. (The Mudgee Guardian)
Montgomery's team needs to be more effective in possession and create more chances to have a successful start to the season.
WASTEFUL MACARTHUR HAVE WORK TO DO
Both Newcastle Olympic and Macarthur made their FFA Cup debuts on a beautiful afternoon in Newcastle on Saturday.
The opening 30 minutes were difficult for the Bulls.
Olympic continually defended every Macarthur attack in a deep block and denied them space.
Olympic goalkeeper, former Central Coast Mariners shot-stopper Adam Pearce, pulled off a wonderful save in the 38th minute and was outstanding throughout the match.
The Bulls racked up an enormous 38 shots and had 87% possession in the 3-0 win. (Tom Pombart)
Macarthur, who dominated possession with 87% of the ball and six times more passes completed than Olympic, did not look up to scratch.
Misplaced crosses from winger Craig Noone in the first half, some errors at the back and a flurry of 38 shots, but just nine on target, leaves Ante Milicic with a potential problem heading into the new season.
Macarthur is still without Tomi Juric and Al Hassan Toure, who did not feature in the clash.
Their return to action could fix the end product issue that Milicic is currently facing.
DUNCAN STARTING SPOT IS NOT GUARANTEED AFTER COSTLY HOWLERS
Newcastle Jets goalkeeper Jack Duncan had two costly moments that he would like to forget quickly in their 2-1 defeat to Western United on Saturday night.
On the stroke of halftime, Duncan had his first blunder, making a late dive at the ball but missing, which saw Lachlan Wales sweep in behind for the opener.
Duncan made another colossal mistake late on in the second half, which ultimately proved costly as Western secured their place in the round of 16.
A long ball over the top forced the Jets shot-stopper to come out.
Still, an air-swing trying to clear the ball saw Western debutant Aleksandar Prijović pass into an empty net.
Léo Lacroix celebrates with match winner Prijović after he pounced on Duncan's huge error. (Getty Images)
Duncan’s decision-making and miscommunication in two critical moments within the ninety minutes raise questions about his starting spot, with new signing Michael Weier and young goalkeeper Noah James eagerly awaiting a chance in A-League Men’s football.
Arthur Papas has a tough decision to make when he selects his side to face the Mariners in the F3 Derby.
Duncan did himself no favours with this performance.