Retreat and Reload: Western United hoping to be ‘themselves again’ after Melbourne detour

After adjusting their travel itinerary to recuperate following their heavy defeat to Western Sydney Wanderers, Western United coach Mark Rudan says his side needs to “go back to being ourselves again” to get a result against Perth Glory.   

United will play their fourth away game in 12 days against Perth Glory this evening, heading to HBF Park after drawing 0-0 with Adelaide United and going down 2-1 and 5-0 to Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers respectively in their preceding three fixtures. 

That latter result saw the sophomore A-League side slip three points back of sixth-placed Wanderers in the race for finals and, though the eighth-placed club retains a game in hand over the Red and Black, they have played once more than seventh-placed Brisbane Roar. 

The Glory fixture, thus, looms as an almost must-win fixture for Rudan’s side in order to remain in good contention to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year. 

Possessing a dynamic attacking lineup featuring former Johnny Warren Medalist Diego Castro, Socceroo Chris Iknomodis and lethal Urugyuan striker Bruno Fornaroli, Glory’s slim hopes of making the top-six were kept alive on Sunday evening when they downed Melbourne Victory 2-1. 

After 19 games, coach Richard Garcia’s side lies in 10th position on the table – nine points back of the finals places. 

“They’ve certainly got one of the most talented squads in the league,” said Rudan.  

“It’s a bit surprising to see the season they’ve had when you look at all that talent. But it’s about us. They went to a back three [in their 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory] and if you look at the way they play they can go to a back four as well.

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“They’re a team that’s kind of off the cuff as well. They can string passes together through intuition and quality. It’s almost like they do that without any form of coaching because there aren’t any real clear patterns of play that we look at. It’s almost kind of chaotic at times. 

“The defensive shape, they look to sort of just get back. A lot of the times in transition… [against Victory], I saw Castro following Butterfield, for example. That might be a ploy from them in transition or without the ball as well. 

“It’s not the easiest team to coach against or and plan against. But we’ve got to concentrate on ourselves and make sure what we do is key, with and without the ball. Go back to being ourselves again. 

“We certainly have a plan. Because we have seen things where we can expose them. There are areas that if we do the right things and the right times we can certainly expose them. 

“We’ve been playing well, take away that game on Saturday, which is a one-off in our club’s history. I’ve been really pleased with our club’s performances. We’ve just got to get back to being ourselves and looking to dictate the game and play well.”

United had initially planned to remain on the road for the entire length of their four-game run of away fixtures – the final of which will arrive against Glory this evening – but, in light of the challenging period out of state, opted to return to Melbourne on Mothers’ Day. 

Though Rudan reported that his side was free of injuries after the Wanderers defeat, physical and mental fatigue, as well as a few sniffles amongst his playing group, also led to him deciding to give them an extra day off. 

That respite will likely be much appreciated by the playing group who, set to take on Sydney FC in Ballarat just three days later, will fly back to Melbourne on a red-eye flight following the contest with Glory. 

“We then made a decision we would go back to Melborne with their families and their own homes and their own beds,” he said. “I think that was important. 

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“I think the partners and the mums would have liked that as well. 

“They needed to freshen up. Physically as well as mentally as well. That’s probably more important. 

“I think the extra day off is really important for them.” 

Flying the day of the game due to uncertainty surrounding Sydney’s COVID restrictions, and backing up three days after a 94th-minute defeat to Brisbane Roar on a sodden Dolphin Stadium, United’s 5-0 shellacking at the hands of Wanderers represented the most goals the sophomore A-League side has ever conceded in an A-League fixture.

“The message after the game was that we were going to move on very quickly,” said Rudan. “It’s a one-off. I felt for [his players]. But we’ve got to move on because we’re very much in the [A-League finals] race. 

“We still believe we can finish top two, top four.

“That’s still the reality as far as we’re concerned. The one-off, [the 5-0 defeat] is probably the only one we’ve had in the two years of our existence. 

“Obviously, you can see the reasons why that happened. For me, it started with that ten men for sixty minutes against Adelaide. That took a lot out of them mentally and physically. 

“Then mentally, losing in the last minute against Brisbane. And physically it was really tough, that pitch was really soft – it took a lot out of them.”

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Header Image Credit: Western United

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