Hand Of Fate

The season hasn’t quite gone to plan for Sydney FC, but new captain STEVE CORICA believes the team’s destiny remains in their own hands

There-s no crisis is the blunt message from Sydney FC captain Steve Corica.

Members of the media - AFW included - have mentioned that word with Sydney FC in recent weeks and, with statistics in tow, would appear to have a good case for it. Despite a win away to Newcastle Jets recently, the defeat to Central Coast Mariners last week meant it-s now two wins in 10 games for John Kosmina-s team, hardly Championship-winning form.

Captain Corica, however, says it-s a problem all the teams have faced this season in the Hyundai A-League. “Most teams have struggled for consistency,” Corica says. “Even if you look at Adelaide and Melbourne, they-re at the top but they-ve lost their fair share of games too. This year is a lot closer than it was last year.” This is true, but with a record of two wins in half a season, Sydney still find themselves right in the mix for a top four spot, a shot at finals football, as well as a top two berth and a lucrative Asian Champions League qualification.

“It has been frustrating,” Corica says of the team-s recent form. “It-s not good and, like everyone else, we-d like to be a bit higher than we are at the moment, but after a good result last week (against Newcastle Jets) we got back in to the four and now we lose a game and we-re back out again.

“But it doesn-t take much to turn it around. There-s six games left and we need at least four wins.”

NUMBERS GAME

Of the six games Corica mentions that will define Sydney FC-s season, three of them are away to the teams currently occupying the top three spots in the A-League: Adelaide United, Melbourne Victory and Queensland Roar. From the outset it-s a run-in a team struggling for form and consistency would rather avoid, at least that-s what you-d think.

“I don-t think it really matters whether they-re the top three or the bottom three,” Corica admits. “At the moment everyone-s picking up points here and there, so each game is going to be really tough and we-ve got to pick up points from each one.

“We do love playing the big top teams, so hopefully that might be a benefit for us.” That big-game mentality will be very important during the run in with the competitive games fast approaching and only six rounds left. Change is needed now, though.

“It-s surprised me how we-ve struggled; we-ve got a very good team, but we-ve had difficulties with injuries,” he explains. “But with the players that we-ve still had on the park we should have picked up more points than we have.”

Then there were games where the team has shown their inconsistency. “I wouldn-t say there-s a lack of motivation, because we have put on a good show, like against Central Coast when we were winning 3-0 and then they fought back to get a draw.

“We need a bit of consistency because we haven-t had that all season. We need to put a few games together, back-to-back with a couple of wins because we haven-t done that since the start of the season,” Corica explains.

With Sydney facing those occupying the top spots they-re after, the opportunity to overtake them is a challenge Corica-s looking forward to. “If we can get a couple of wins on the trot then we-ll be back in the top four and by playing the teams above us it-s even better, because by beating them you-re going to draw them in as well,” he says.

But the pressure is clearly evident across Sydney FC. As relaxed as they appear in pre-match interviews, the frustration has been visible on the pitch. It-s hard enough when a team is scratching for form, but when you wear the sky blue jersey of arguably the league-s glamour club, there-s an added weight of expectation that comes with it. Not that expectation is something new to Steve Corica, who-s played for a variety of clubs across a successful 18-year career that included long spells in England.

“We should be doing better and with the team we-ve got we were talking about the top two at the start of the season, but at the moment we-re a bit short of that - we have to turn it around,” Corica says defiantly.

IN SEARCH OF GLORY

First stop on the road to the finals is Perth Glory at the Sydney Football Stadium this Sunday. A game that was a bankable three points for Sydney at the start of the season is now far from assured.

Perth have been improving as the season-s progressed, while Sydney haven-t been able to replicate their blistering early-season form. As always, Corica remains focused on the job in hand rather than the opposition he and his teammates face.

“Every game is hard and this one is going to be difficult because the pressure is going to be on us… and we need to win at home,” he says. “They-ve done well and picked up a few points lately and they-re playing decent football.”

Come game time, however, Sydney might find themselves five points adrift of the four if results don-t go their way. Corica remains cool on this possible scenario. “You don-t take that into consideration when you-ve get a big game like that,” he says. “You should be focused on that game and getting three points whether anyone wins before you - it doesn-t matter because we have to win our home games.

“We have three games at home so we need to pick up nine points and then pick up more away from home.”

What about the player himself? When we sat down over a coffee with Corica after the first few rounds this season, everything looked different: Sydney FC were firing on all cylinders and looking like certainties for a top-two finish, goals were flowing and Corica was having his best start to a season. “My form-s been a bit like the teams- this season: up and down,” he admits. “I-m scoring as many goals as I have in previous years but I-ve lacked a bit of consistency, like the team really.”

It-s a fair assessment. As part of the attacking quartet coach Kosmina regularly deploys (with John Aloisi, Mark Bridge and Alex Brosque), Corica and those around him have struggled somewhat to maintain rhythm. “If we knew why that was happening we would have changed it by now,” he answers bluntly when probed for a possible reason and/or solution. “It-s just one of them things I suppose, but we-re not as fluid as what we should be with the amount of good players we-ve got.”

The task ahead of Corica, who is in the infancy of his leadership after taking over the captaincy since Tony Popovic-s retirement, is a formidable one. A team touted as front runners and pace setters for this season are falling short of these lofty expectations. But their destiny remains theirs and theirs alone. With his experience, Corica remains an important driving force behind Sydney FC-s push for glory this season. Like the captain says, don-t write them off quite yet…