John Aloisi and one weird trick to increase the size of your A-League Men roster

After turning to the kids for his side’s midweek FFA Cup clash with Wellington Phoenix, Western United coach John Aloisi believes that, despite his group’s elimination, a number of youngsters showed enough to deepen the talent pool he can call upon at A-League Men level.

Having previously eliminated Newcastle Jets from the competition in a Round of 32 play-in game using what was close to a full-strength side, the midweek, mid-season nature of Wednesday evening’s Cup clash with the ‘Nix led Aloisi to field what amounted to a brand new team at Kardiania Park: a full 11 changes made to the side that defeated Melbourne City last Saturday.

Yet despite the exuberance of youth, the group proved unable to take the chocolates in what was for many a senior starting debut: a similarly fresh-faced Phoenix ending United’s first-ever FFA Cup by securing a 1-0 win thanks to a 35th-minute strike from ‘The Waine Train’ Ben Waine.

Nonetheless, Aloisi found positives from the contest, both in terms of the performance and what it means for the future: declaring he now had trust in a few more players ability to perform should they be called upon at A-League Men level.

“It’s only round three and we’ve got a small squad as it is, we didn’t want to take that risk,” Aloisi said of his changes.

“We also wanted to give players an opportunity that have been training well and had a good pre-season. I was pleased with the performance. Obviously, we were disappointed with the result but the performance was good.

“A lot of the younger players did well. It shows that they’re up to a level and when need be, if called upon, they can step in and do well for us.

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“That’s why you want to do that, especially when it’s such a short turnaround. It would have been different if we were in round ten and we were in the FFA Cup and you can throw in a lot of players that played on the weekend, to back up but at the moment it’s hard for them to back up from game to game – let alone to a game every two or three days.

“It does feel like we’ve got a [bigger] squad, even some of the scholarship players that at the season we weren’t sure if they were going to be ready to make that step up, they’ve proven that they can. For example, Adisu Bayew and Christian Theoharous, I think they showed good signs. That’s important for us because it makes our squat depth that little bit deeper.”

United will return to Kardinia Park on Saturday evening for a visit from Brisbane Roar with a chance, if results elsewhere go their way, to go top of the A-League Men table with a third straight win.

Any such result, though, will have to be done without the services of Aleksandar Prijović and Rene Krhin, with the former still being along slowly nursed back from hamstring tightness and Krhin absent with a personal issue.

That means that Dylan Wenzel-Halls will once again lead the line for Aloisi; the newly signed striker himself riding a two-game streak of scoring heading into the weekend.

“He’s started really well here,” said Aloisi. I’m sure that he’s full of confidence at the moment and he’s playing against his former club where he knows the players really well. Strikers, when they’re feeling hot they feel like every time they walk on the pitch they can score. So, I’m sure he’s feeling like that at the moment and, hopefully, it lasts the whole season.

“[Brisbane] is a side that can cause you problems. You saw in round one against Melbourne City they were unlucky not to get something out of that game. Last week against Adelaide it was pretty even.

“They’re a team that can defend deep but can also press you and they’ve got good players going forward. Rahmat Akbari is one that I’ve coached and he’s come of age. They’ve got strikers that can get into good areas, they get bodies into the box for crosses, so we’re going to have to be at our best.

“There are no easy games in the A-League Men. We know that. And the players are ready for it. So we’re expecting a tough game.”

Another player that may feature for United, albeit unlikely in a starting role, is Theoharous.

A former teenage A-League Men starlet, the attacker signed with German Bundesliga side Borussia Mönchengladbach after a red hot end to the 2017-18 season with Melbourne Victory but never played a senior match for Die Fohlen: released earlier this year and returning to Australian football with United.

Aloisi previously coached the now 22-year-old while a youth coach at Victory and believes that the youngster has what it takes to serve as a “gamechanger” for his side if the effort is put in.

“He will definitely be involved [in the weeks ahead],” said the United gaffer. “Christian, he knows that he just needs to improve on his fitness.

“I worked with Christian when he was 15-years-old, so I know how talented he is and what he can give. So what’s important now with him is just building his fitness and that’s not only match minutes — that’s also his fitness in training and training at a level each day. Because when you train consistently at a level it’s easier to throw a player in because you know that they’re ready.

“So, we know that Christian will get to that level and we’re trying to help him with it. And when he does, he’s a gamechanger. We know that he can beat a player, he’s got that ability that the first five meters he’s very hard to catch. He’s got a low centre of gravity and he’s got a great strike or a cross. He’s someone that we’re working closely with – like all the young players.”

Enjoying Joey’s coverage of Australian sport? Your support helps keep it possible.
You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

You can support his ongoing work by buying him a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/joeylynchy 

Header Image Credit: Western United

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