A-League mid-season report card: Sydney FC

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It’s the time of the year when clubs look towards the home stretch of the season and The Football Sack critiques each club’s progress so far.

Do you agree with our assessment?

Semester summary: Out of the 14 games played by the Sky Blues so far, they’ve won nine, drawn two and lost three. These pretty impressive overall results have the squad currently sitting in third place on the ladder, only one point behind Melbourne Victory and four points behind Perth Glory. Sydney FC have scored 27 goals and conceded 17, which is not a bad effort after only 14 rounds.

This squad has talent and depth, with both young and experienced players eager for success. With an equally as determined and ambitious coach in the form of Steve Corica, this team may just make it all the way this season.

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Areas of excellence: The Sky Blues have a lot of positives at the midpoint of the season. They’ve got a good win ratio, and have scored an average of just less than two goals a game. The team seems to almost always be in sync with one another – every player knows what every other player is doing, where they’re moving, and which ball they are going to play. This understanding between the team makes for consistent performances with good possession and great movements off the ball.

The midfield powerhouses of Brandon O’Neill and Joshua Brilliante provide strong defence through the middle of the park whilst giving good supply forward. The squad boasts a number of quality attacking players in the form of Milos Ninkovic, Adam Le Fondre, and Alex Brosque. Defensively, Rhyan Grant brings width, pace and a hard working attitude to the full back position. The players in the team and the amount of depth throughout the squad is arguably the defining attribute that will set them apart from the rest.

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Areas in need of improvement: Sydney FC’s attacking philosophy relies on possession and combinations, where each player knows exactly what rotation and run should be made; and for the most part, it’s worked for them. But the Sky Blues have been criticised for this philosophy, with many beginning to believe their style of play is becoming too predictable and therefore easy to undo. This was the case during Sydney FC’s 3-1 loss to Perth Glory, with head coach Tony Popovic attributing his team’s victory to tactically countering Sydney’s predictable style of play.

Slow starts are another problem area for the Sky Blues. Out of the 14 games played so far, Sydney have conceded first in seven of these – a pretty average stat for a team sitting in third place on the table. It’s something the side will have to fix as they head into the business end of the season.

Top student: Adam Le Fondre – The Englishman is currently the top goal scorer in the league, scoring 11 goals in only 14 games. The striker’s attacking ability has made up for what Corica’s side were lacking since the departure of Bobo, with Le Fondre scoring over 40% of Sydney FC’s goals. It’s hard to say if he can beat Bobo’s golden boot run in the A-League, but so far the 32 year old hasn’t put a foot wrong. It’s sure to be an interesting second half of the season for the striker, let’s see how many more he can put away!

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Class clown: Jop van der Linden – there was a lot of hype surrounding the Dutchman’s arrival to Sydney FC, but it’s safe to say he’s not lived up to expectations so far. The centre back hasn’t even made the roster in the last few weeks, with Corica opting for youngster Aaron Calver instead. Although the Dutch international scored 20 goals with 23 assists in Holland, he’s failed to register a goal or assist so far in this A-League season. The defender was supposedly known for his skill from dead ball positions, but this aspect of his game is yet to come to fruition for the Sky Blues. Although van der Linden started the season off okay, some poor defending and risky decisions makes him the class clown at the halfway point of this season.

Grade: B+

Outlook: If things go right for this squad in the second half of the season, there’s no reason why Sydney FC couldn’t go on to win the title. They’ve got enough talent in the squad to take it all the way, and with positive results so far they’re certainly on the right track. It will be important in the second half of the season to make sure key players remain injury free, especially with the hectic A-League schedules approaching. They’ve got talent, they’ve got resolve, and they’ve got passion. Who knows, they may even go one better than last season and come away with a grand final win.

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Lani Johnson
Bachelor of journalism student from the University of Sydney covering Sydney FC. Passionate about writing and football.

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