Melbourne City v Brisbane Roar Preview

Jonathan Tay provides a detailed preview of tomorrow’s A-League Women game including coverage of Melbourne City’s media conference with interim head coach Dario Vidosic and attacker Rhianna Pollicina plus a look at Brisbane Roar star Shea Connors and a chat with Roar fan and fellow Impetus writer Ben Carey about the Queensland side (2/12/22).

Above: Joy for Melbourne City in Wellington during Round One. Photo: Melbourne City.

THE GAME

Melbourne City vs. Brisbane Roar, 3:00 pm AEST, Saturday 3 December, Casey Fields, Melbourne

THE CONTEXT

“Not much will change.”

That’s the message from new Melbourne City interim head coach, Dario Vidosic, as he enters his first matchday weekend on the job. Vidosic has been thrust into the role after his father, Rado, became caretaker boss for City’s men’s team last week. However the 35-year-old is hoping the preparation is the same, regardless of who’s managing the team.

“I know we worked on a lot of stuff in the pre-season, we’re continuously building on that,” Vidosic said, speaking at his pre-match press conference. “It’s hard to throw everything out the window. Our ways of playing football and our thoughts are very similar, so that’s why I wanted to be here as an assistant to learn, especially being a young coach just starting.

Above: Dario Vidosic at his pre-match press conference on Friday. Image: Melbourne City.

“It’s the typical City-style of football: we want to dominate the game, with and without the ball. Me, as the coach, I want the ball; that’s what we’ve instilled. We [also] don’t want to just pass it round the back, for the sake of passing; we want dangerous possession where we’re in the front third, constantly applying pressure. When we don’t have it, we’re hungry to win the ball back.”

It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster for the Melbourne club just two weeks into the season, having seen captain Emma Checker and star striker Hannah Wilkinson begin the campaign on the injured list, emergency replacement Maria Rojas sign on, then sizzle against Wellington Phoenix, and now the whirling of the coaching carousel.

“I think in football, it’s almost a day-to-day basis,” Vidosic explained. “Take myself, being an assistant [coach], and pretty much overnight I become the interim head coach. I’ve learned throughout my career, and I’m learning now as a coach on the other side, things can change very quickly.

“I know I’ll make mistakes like any player, and I think that’s where you learn the most. Especially with the quality of coaches in the league, very experienced, there’s going to be something every matchday, every training day.”

The changes have also extended to City’s formation for this season too. Having predominantly used a 3-4-3 (or 5-2-3) last season, against the Phoenix in gameweek one they went with four at the back. For the 35-year-old head coach though, the mindset matters more than the shape.

“It’s just on paper at the start of the game, it depends on the mentality,” Vidosic pointed out. “You can set up as a [back] three and be ultra-defensive, or you could set up as a [back] five and want to maintain possession, want to get forward; at the end, it doesn’t factor too much on formation, it’s the way we go about it. Regardless of how we set up, we still want the ball, we still want to attack, be on the front foot, [and] play in their half.

Above: Melbourne City’s average player positions vs Wellington Phoenix. Credit: Wyscout.

“That’s the beauty of our squad and the quality of the players that we have. We are flexible, so we can analyse the opponent, and see what would be best suited. I won’t give away today what we have for tomorrow, but we can go with a four, a three, maybe we can even change the midfield or the front line. That’s a credit to the players; no matter [the formation], they can still apply the same principles in our football philosophy.”

City midfielder Leticia McKenna echoed those thoughts in our Midweek Dub interview last month. “Last season we used a few different formations and I think that’s something we’re able to adapt to.

“It’s really fun and enjoyable for us to play in and makes it harder for our opponents – that’s something we like to have in our locker, having multiple playing styles. It’s about keeping the ball, moving it as quickly as possible and making the opposition run.”

Vidosic is also hoping to lean on his professional experience as a former player to help guide his team for the rest of the season, something that the group has already responded to, even whilst he was in the assistant coaching role. 

Rhianna Pollicina, who also spoke to the media on Friday, said, “losing your head coach is a massive loss. But we’re lucky to have someone like Dario who can step in, not change things, and add even what he experienced as a player to the group. It’s just a different side of knowledge, and the group’s more than happy as well.”

Above: Rhianna Pollicina giving her thoughts to the media. Image: Melbourne City.

Vidosic expanded, “I’ve learned that even a simple passing drill, it means a lot more. Every pass is important, every movement is important; those small details could make a big difference. Just trying to pass on as much knowledge as an ex-player to the ladies, but they’ve got a lot of qualities. Wherever I can help them a little bit as a group and as individuals, I’m more than happy to spend time with them either on or off the pitch.”

Melbourne City will want to build off their promising and visually-pleasing opening game. Rojas wasn’t the only stand-out last match; Pollicina picked up where she left off last campaign with two goals and an assist, Americans Emina Ekic and Julia Grosso dovetailed well on the left side, and their host of Young Matildas each shone, with goalkeeper Sally James particularly composed in her first regular-season start for City.

Their opponents Brisbane Roar have also started positively, earning four points from their first two games. A win against Newcastle was followed up by a hard-fought draw with Canberra United in stifling 34 degree celsius heat, where two drinks breaks were taken each half. They will present a more dangerous attack than Wellington did, having returned most of their forward group from last year, spearheaded by Matilda Larissa Crummer and American Shea Connors.

Pollicina added, “Brisbane are a quality team, and you can see last year they beat us one-nil. We know what we need to do, and our game plan will be to play the way we want to play, set the pace from the start and hopefully pick up the three points.”

A STAT

16 years 154 days – Daniela Galic became the sixth-youngest player ever to suit up for Melbourne City in Gameweek 1, her first domestic professional game. Not only did the attacking midfielder not look out of place, she picked up an assist and completed the most final third and key passes of anyone in her side.

A QUOTE

“All of Australia should be excited about her.”

That was Vidosic’s response when asked for his thoughts on Galic. “The one thing I’ll tell you is she is starting. I’m very excited about her, she’s an excellent player at 16 years old.

“It doesn’t matter how old or young you are if you perform and play well, and she certainly has. At the moment she’s flying, and she doesn’t look like a 16-year-old when she crosses that line.”

Pollicina shared similar sentiments about her midfield partner. “She is a quality player that’s going to be the future of our game. She’s got good touches on the ball and we link up really well together.”

A PLAYER TO WATCH

Shea Connors – the speedy forward has gotten off to a fast start for Brisbane, notching an assist, producing a combined six goal- and shot-creating chances, and attempting 24 dribbles (most in the league) across her first two games. Playing on the right of a front three, the second-year winger will pose a handful up against fellow US import, Grosso.

Connors is looking to help the Roar get back to the finals, having gone through what she called a “rebuilding year” in 2021/22. Speaking to us for our Midweek Dub interview this week, Connors affirmed, “the intent for this season is to hit the ground running and try to take control from the beginning and get results.

“I love Brisbane and it feels like home. I feel like having a team culture where everyone is driven to the same goals is really important. I think you play better when you’re happier and everyone says I look so happy in Brisbane.”

THE OPPOSITION

Three questions with fellow Impetus contributor and Queensland native, Ben Carey.

Brisbane were a sieve last season, conceding 30 goals in total, second-most in the league. What are your thoughts on their defence for this campaign?

BC: Before the start of last season the Roar lost three Matildas to overseas clubs, including Claire Polkinghorne, Australia’s most experienced defender. It was a massive blow and had huge consequences.

This season, the new signings should vastly strengthen the backline. Experienced defenders Talitha Kramer and Kajsa Lind, will provide leadership for Jamilla Rankin and Annabel Haffenden, where this was perhaps lacking last season. Hensley Hancuff in goal has already proved worth her weight in gold.

With Katrina Gorry currently out – taking the first month of the season off after a busy 2022 – how are Brisbane accounting for that hole in midfield?

BC: Gorry is absolutely essential to controlling the midfield and setting up quality attacks. Until she returns, Roar veteran Ayesha Norrie will have her hands full. She will though be assisted by the experienced Mariel Hecher and an exciting signing from Canberra United, Margot Robinne.

Does Larissa Crummer have what it takes to become the undisputed backup striker to Sam Kerr for the Matildas? What does she need to do to prove that?

BC: I think Crummer is one in a long list of talented strikers putting their hand up to be a Sam Kerr-backup; currently, I think Caitlin Foord and Mary Fowler eclipse her. Crummer will need to ramp up her intensity, consistently give one hundred percent for the full 90 minutes, and work on her finishing if she wants to become the preferred backup to Kerr.

A HOT TIP

It won’t be 34 degrees at Casey Fields on Saturday.

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