“A point’s not good enough” – Rudan readies for ‘Cup Final’ against Sydney FC

His side’s finals hopes kept alive by the parity gripping the A-League, Western United coach Mark Rudan has declared that only three points will do in his unit’s Ballarat meeting with Sydney FC on Saturday.

Dealing a blow to their hopes of making the playoffs for the second straight year, United suffered a defeat at the hands of Perth Glory on Wednesday evening; an inability to find a lethal edge in the final third meaning they went down 3-0 despite out-shooting and out-possessing their purple-clad foes.

That game the last that the sophomore club had in hand over their top-six rivals, the loss means that they are now three points back of sixth- and seventh-placed Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers. 

Winners of just one of their last five, the 3-0 loss to Glory – combined with their proceeding 5-0 defeat against Wanderers – also means that the club’s goal difference is now in negative digits – Macarthur FC the only other side in the top-six race that has a negative goal difference differential. 

“It is tough right now but every team has gone through this,” said Rudan. 

“You look at where Melbourne City is right now and they’re obviously the benchmark but they also went through a tough stage at the start of the year. Adelaide’s doing it right now. Central Coast as well. Every team goes through that phase. 

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“We’re still right in it and the message [to the playing group] is that we’re right there and right in the mix. It takes one win and you’re back in and people tend to forget about what happened in the past. That’s the A-League – that’s what we’ve seen so far. 

“One game, one result and you’re right back in it and you’re back in the game.

“There’s still five games and 15 points up for grabs as far as we’re concerned. We’ve got three games in Melbourne out of those five as well. We’ve got to make amends.”

As Rudan alludes to, despite their run of poor form, the compact nature of the A-League means that United is still only five points back of second-placed Central Coast Mariners – who they will play on the season’s final day – and four points back of Saturday opponents Sydney FC. 

The parity that has engulfed every side in the final’s race – barring runaway leaders City – handing them a lifeline, Rudan declared that only a win would do against the Harboursiders. 

“It’s a mini-Cup Final as far as we’re concerned,” said Rudan. 

“We need to get back to winning ways. The performance [against Perth Glory] wasn’t too despondent – it was good. But we needed to have maybe that little bit of luck as well. 

“[Saturday is about getting] our mindset right. And that’s about wanting to go out there with a positive mindset and making sure that we got out there where our intention is to win the game.

“A point’s not good enough. Not right now. 

“It’s about three points. It’s a mini-Cup Final for us as far as we’re concerned.”

United and Sydney last met back in March at Jubilee Stadium – coincidently off another three-day break for Saturday’s hosts – with coach Steve Corica’s side winning 2-0. 

When kickoff arrives at Ballarat’s Mars Stadium for Saturday’s re-match, United will have travelled approximately 9,672 km to play their last five fixtures: drawing one and losing three away games across that 15-day stretch. 

Further complicating matters for Rudan, whereas his side will make the journey to Ballarat off a three-day break and return trip from Perth, the Sky Blues will be playing just their third game in 21 days. 

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“[United’s players’] attitude is fantastic and their effort was great,” Rudan said of the last four games. “They’ll put their hand up to play and do whatever job they need to do for the football club. So, I’m really pleased about that. 

“At the end of the day, my team tends to step up against the so-called better teams. Certainly, Sydney is one of the stronger teams in the competition. 

“In that regard, it’s actually one that I’m not too worried about because my players seem to enjoy playing against [the best]. When the challenge or the test is bigger they tend to step up.

“They did it against City earlier in the year, beat the Mariners as well so, from that point of view, the motivation is high. Really high. The players are really looking forward to this game tomorrow.

“It’s about us being compact without the ball and making sure that we’re disciplined. We’ll go through all of that today [in training]. 

“We’ve beaten Sydney, we beat them last year at the back end. We know that we’re able to beat any team in the competition. 

“That’s one good thing about us, even though we’re a relatively new club we’ve beaten every team in the competition over the last two years of our journey. 

“We know that we can do it – it’s about going out there and doing it. 

“When it comes to that it’s about being compact and understanding their movements and being disciplined as a unit.”

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Header Image Credit: Western United

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