AFW catches up with Sydney FC key midfielder Stuart Musialik.
After a rocky start, STUART MUSIALIK has emerged as a key component in Sydney FC-s charge towards the Hyundai A-League title this season
For Stuart Musialik, it was a case of a dream debut turned bad when he finally stepped on to the field for Sydney FC in round two of this year-s Hyundai A-League season. Away to Central Coast Mariners and with his new side leading 2-1, a two-minute spell midway through the second half turned Musialik-s debut on its head.
First, ex-Sydney man Sasho Petrovski levelled the scores, and then Musialik received a yellow card for a tackle from behind. His reaction to receiving the booking was enough for referee Ben Williams to give Musialik another yellow, and it was game over for Musialik-s debut.
Having left Newcastle Jets after winning the grand final last season, and missing most of the pre-season, plus the first match of the regular season with Sydney because of Olyroo Olympic duty, it-s been a difficult start for a player who has been touted as one of the country-s brightest young talents. More importantly, he-d been kept waiting to make an impact on arguably a bigger stage than what he-d played so far in his professional career.
It was important for Musialik to prove his worth right away in illustrious surroundings, but it had turned out to be a debut to forget.
“You want to have a solid pre-season when you go to a new club, but I wasn-t here so it was pretty tough for me,” Musialik says. “Getting sent off in my debut didn-t help the cause.
“It was disappointing because it wasn-t the dream debut I was hoping to have for Sydney and it-s one of those things that happens in football you don-t want it to happen and wish it hadn-t, but it-s how you bounce back from them.”
Bounced back he has. Halfway through the season and things are a lot better for Musialik. Since the red card, he-s played a starring role in Sydney FC-s season, so much so it-s been said that when he plays well, the team plays well.
Deployed as a defensive midfielder to link defence with midfield, Musialik - who idolised legendary Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane - has been key to Sydney FC and their playing style this season. Since serving a one-match suspension, Musialik has played every minute of Sydney-s season and has been one of the big success stories of the side-s push for A-League glory this year.
And although his role in front of the back four has received much praise, his coach still demands more from the player. “Kossie gets on my back, saying he wants me to get forward a bit more,” Musialik says.
“He thinks I have it in me to bag a few goals as well.”
The coach-s sentiments proved correct when, in round seven at home to Queensland, Musialik popped up after three minutes of injury time to snatch an equaliser for Sydney and rescue a point. To do so in front of the Cove made it extra special for the player not known for his goal-scoring exploits.
“It was good for me to get a goal like that and to try and put aside the bad memories I had of the debut,” he says looking back at that goal.
But on the whole, it-s been an upward trajectory for Musialik this season. He says he-s not a box-to-box player, in the conventional mould of a central midfielder, but the responsibility Musialik has in the team is what inspires him most in his role.
"I like to have that responsibility in controlling things and controlling the tempo of the game,” he explains. “Also, I like having as many touches as I can and in that position you probably get the most touches out of everyone so I like that position.”
But, as much as Musialik relishes the responsibility that comes with his position, areas of this are still something he-s looking to harness further.
“In my position it-s important to organise the team and I definitely have to work on that,” he admits. “Also, my left foot is my weaker foot and it-d make it a lot easier if I could switch play with both feet.”
While a young player will always have areas in which to grow, opposition managers recognise the impact Musialik is having for Sydney FC - and none more so than former coach Gary van Egmond at Newcastle Jets, who deployed a man marker on the young midfielder when they played each other at EnergyAustralia Stadium. It-s a tactic not often used on a player so far away from the opposition-s goal.
“Any time coaches from the opposition use someone to man-mark you it-s a compliment,” he admits about the tactic. “A lot of times in my position, opposition tend to let you have a bit more time and space and let you go a bit more freely because you-re not a striker or immediate danger to their goal, so you take it as a compliment.”
A compliment, in terms of a squad full of superstars, of what Musialik is to John Kosmina-s side. As comfortable as he has slotted into the team on the pitch, Musialik remains unfazed by the household names and reputations he now calls teammates in the Sydney FC dressing room.
“The big names in our team don-t let it go to their head or anything,” Musialik explains. “They-re really down to earth and they-re the ones who train the hardest and it gets the best out of you.”
With the season nearing the half-way stage, Musialik believes there-s still more to come from the Sydney side. “We-re still only playing at 70 or 80 per cent of our best,” he believes. “And to still be up there is a positive - if we can come home strong towards the end of the season I-m sure it-ll get us in the top four.”
A top-four finish is surely a lower-end-of-the-scale prediction from Musialik, as he-s aware of the expectation that comes with playing for one of the glamour clubs in the A-League. Nevertheless, if his recent form is anything to go by, the blip during his debut will become a minor blemish on a successful playing career.