Newcastle Jets boss Ernie Merrick believes the best is yet to come for impressive Argentine recruit Pato Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, 27, joined Newcastle in January as an injury-replacement for Ronny Vargas and has played five games for the club, including three starts.
The winger has shown glimpses of his quality in an advanced role but Merrick insists there’s plenty of upside to the ex-Santos and AEK Athens attacker.
“Pato’s [Rodriguez] been terrific - he’s never really been a goalscorer, he’s always been a person that delivers crosses into the box, and now he’s getting in the box and scoring some fantastic goals, Merrick told reporters on Tuesday.
“I’d like to get him to do that more often during matches.
“He’s just one of a couple of players who are fairly new. Riley McGree is getting the hang of how we play and is picking it up very quickly.
“If we can take advantage of this over the next five or six weeks going into the finals we can be a better team, and that’s what we focus on.”
Rodriguez netted a classy goal on debut against the Mariners in Round 15 and picked up a crucial assist in Newcastle’s 2-2 draw against City in late January.
While the Argentine’s performances have been slightly subdued in recent weeks, Merrick believes his new recruit has the potential to be a regular goal-scorer in the run to the finals.
“That’s always the case, I think, when you come from overseas,” Merrick said.
“Now that he’s learning how we play and how we can be of service to him, he’s becoming a much more dangerous player, whereas in the past he’s always felt he’s the one who’s had to create things for himself or for other players.
“I think we’ve got a player who’s got a lot of goals in him.”
In-form midfielder Ben Kantarovski will miss the clash with a hamstring injury, though fullback Daniel Georgievski is set to return from suspension.
New-signing Riley McGree or Englishman Wayne Brown will come into midfield in place of Kantarovski.