City confronting ALM fixture crunch as more players test positive

Melbourne City coach Patrick Kisnorbo has acknowledged fixture congestion looms as a significant issue for his side after four more City players contracted COVID-19 this week.

Ten days on from revealing that all but five members of his squad had contracted the coronavirus – forcing the postponement of an FFA Cup and A-League Men fixture over the Holiday period – Kisnorbo confirmed on Friday that another four members of his squad, as well as a number of City staff, had returned positive tests this week.

Though the City gaffer confirmed that those affected were doing well, their mandatory isolation period means that they will be unavailable for this week’s trip to face Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium on Saturday evening. 

See Also: Kicking it at Coopers: Melbourne City ALW coach Rado Vidošić welcomes Coopers Stadium challenge

“It’s been difficult times, to be perfectly honest with you,” Kisnorbo said. “It’s something that we can’t control but it’s trying to adapt the best way. 

“We’re doing our best at the moment, it’s very hard to sort of get a rhythm when players are still contracting the virus. It’s the current world that we live in, we understand that but we’re just trying to adapt to circumstances that we face at the moment.

“We’re close [to every member of the squad having had COVID]. We’re very close. 

“It’s going around – it’s only a matter of time. But, obviously, timing is the most critical part. Again, we are just doing our best to sort of keep the boys as healthy as possible, and be as diligent as possible to prepare for the games coming up.

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“I won’t share [who the players are] but they’re important members of the squad like everyone else.

“But we move on and it’s maybe a chance for someone else to come in and get the opportunity presented to them.”

Under APL policy adopted in the face of the wave of Omicron hitting the A-Leagues, clubs can request a postponement of their next fixture if five members from their squad from their previous game were rendered unavailable due to COVID. 

In such a scenario, and assuming that all the players that have returned positive tests featured in City’s entertaining 3-3 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday, just one more member of Kisnorbo’s team would need to be diagnosed with the virus before City could seek to have their contest with the Reds postponed. 

See Also: A-Leagues fixture pile-up will clear but concern rises over Covid’s long-term impact

However, with City set to wrap up their regular season and focus on their Asian Champions League commitments in early April, the very real logistical problem of when the defending champions will have enough time to play any postponed games is beginning to rear its head for club and league officials.

It means that, even if City did meet the criteria for a postponement, there’s no guarantee the club would pursue one.

“We’re struggling fitting in games as it is,” said Kisnorbo. “We have a very busy schedule from now until the Asian Champions League. 

“Where we fit in the game if we did cancel if someone contracted a case where it makes it five, I don’t know where we have the time to put it in. 

City coach Patrick Kisnorbo has had four more members of his squad return positive COVID tests.
Image Credit: Melbourne City

“We’ll push for tomorrow’s game and start preparing for that. And if [a positive test] happens to another member of the team, that’s something that, I’ll speak to the medical staff and see how that goes.”

City last faced Adelaide in round two of the 2021-22 campaign, ostensibly sitting pretty at 2-0 up with just over ten minutes to go until the Reds, helped by some City brain fades, struck twice in the dying stages to steal a 2-2 draw. 

United is set to be without Ross Aloisi in the dugout on Saturday after the assistant coach returned a positive COVID-19 test himself, although head coach Carl Veart is set to return after missing his side’s 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory last Saturday due to an infection. 

City will once again be without standout defender Curtis Good for the contest as he continues his recovery from his bout with COVID, Kisnorbo saying that the lingering effects of the virus meant he needed more time before he could be considered for selection. The fitness struggles are a blow to Good, who loomed as a serious contender for Socceroos selection in the wake of Harry Souttar’s ACL injury against Saudi Arabia in 2021. 

“We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Kisnorbo said on beating Adelaide.

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“We’ve been creating a lot of chances in the right areas. [There are] things improve on, yeah I understand that because we’re not perfect, we make mistakes, that’s the way football works. 

“But we’ve done enough in games to show that we’ve got some strengths, and if we can just keep going and doing the things that we do and keep following our processes [results will come]. That’s what we believe in and that’s what we’ll do – we won’t change.”

Saturday evening’s contest will also mark the first game for United utility Josh Cavallo since he was subjected to anti-gay slurs during the game against Victory and it was revealed that he had been sent a constant stream of threats and abuse on social media since he came out as a gay man in October of last year. 

A former coach of Cavallo when he was a youth prospect at City, Kisnorbo said abuse wasn’t needed in football. 

“I don’t think there’s any need for anything like that,” he said. “That’s with Josh Cavallo, racism or whatever.

See Also: Adelaide United’s Josh Cavallo subjected to anti-gay slurs

“Just because you pay to watch a game doesn’t give you a right to abuse anyone. It doesn’t have to be Josh, that could be anyone in the league, even coaches like me. It doesn’t give people the right. 

“It wasn’t our fans, so I can’t really comment on other people. But for me, it’s not needed in sport because, Josh Cavallo the person isn’t identified as a player, he’s a human. End of the day, you take football away, football is not the identity of Josh. End of the day, Josh has a private life. He’s got it. He’s a human, like everyone else. 

See Also: Football Australia to consider national bans for Cavallo abusers

“Just because he wears a shirt and kicks a ball, it doesn’t mean anything. 

“[Abusive behaviour is] not warranted. End of the day Josh Cavallo is like everyone else, regardless of what type of shirt he has or not.”

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne City

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