Steve Corica will be spending Sydney FC’s bye week scheming how to juggle his squad to cope with the rigours of the AFC Champions League and the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.
Corica put the Sky Blues’ 2-0 defeat against the Newcastle Jets in their Hyundai A-League regular season finale down to tiredness following a midweek trip to China, where Sydney held Chinese Super League champions Shanghai SIPG to a 2-2 draw.
A top-two domestic finish means Sydney swerve an Elimination Final next week, but the Sky Blues travel to the Korea Republic to face Ulsan Hyundai in a make-or-break clash on Tuesday 7 May, days ahead of their crunch Hyundai A-League Finals Series Semi Final.
Corica will need to plot how to best utilise his players for each game and admits getting the balance right will be crucial to his team’s chances of success on both fronts.
“We get an extra day rest for the Semi Final,” Corica said.
“Another day helps the boys recover and get back into their sleep patterns and freshen up, so that will help.
“But, you know, we have to do it. It’s an important game for us against Ulsan.
“We want to try and go through to the next round of the Champions League so we’ve got to make sure we manage the players right, freshen them up and rotate them a bit.”
Corica was forced to withdraw Rhyan Grant 73 minutes into the loss at McDonald Jones Stadium and he revealed the Caltex Socceroo will not travel to Korea Republic because of a 'low grade strain'. Grant will instead focus on recovering for the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.
The Sky Blues coach reserved special praise for 18-year-old left-back Joel King, who made his Hyundai A-League debut on Saturday.
“I thought he did really well, a very good first game for the club,” Corica said.
“He got forward, defensively he did his job. Put in a good three or four crosses which somebody should have been on the end of. I thought he did really well. I’m very pleased with him.”
Goals from Ben Kantarovski and Dimi Petratos did the damage in the Hunter but coach Ernie Merrick admits the Newcastle Jets did not quite do enough to deserve finals football.
“We conceded one goal less than last year, so our defence has been rock solid,” said Merrick.
“The stats on entries into the penalty area, shots, completed crosses, we’re top in the league. We didn’t score enough goals. The points we’ve got, 35, we would have made it in the finals any other time.
“But we didn’t deserve to be in the finals because we didn’t play consistent football and perform like we did [against Sydney FC].”