Slumping Heart suffer injury blow

John van 't Schip admits his young Melbourne Heart side are not yet at the level of runaway Hyundai A-League leaders Central Coast and defending champions Brisbane Roar.

John van 't Schip admits his young Melbourne Heart side are not yet at the level of runaway Hyundai A-League leaders Central Coast and defending champions Brisbane Roar.

And their hopes of joining them in the near future look to have suffered a significant blow with captain and midfield marvel, Fred, facing several weeks on the sidelines.

The 32-year-old Brazilian only rejoined the Heart squad for Sunday's 1-1 draw on the Gold Coast, but in the 38th minute he came off after aggravating his troublesome groin.

"We have to have a better look at it but it's the same problem. He will be out longer now, this time, for a few weeks," van 't Schip said.

It's far from welcome news for the Red and Whites, and the Dutch coach suggested the club might have rushed their skipper back into their side ahead of time.

"We had plans of maybe playing him on Wednesday and we had good talks with the doctors," he said.

"Fred himself, a professional at 32, said that he felt OK and that's very important as well.

"He trained and had no problems at all, but maybe we did rush him in - after the game you can always say that."

When Fred exited the game, it was as if he took with him all the movement and incisive play the Heart had created in the opening stages of the match.

The Melbourne side were less comfortable in possession and looked content to sit back and defend their slender 1-0 lead, which was cancelled out late on and could have been wiped away entirely had United been more fortunate in front of goal.

"We stopped playing, we stopped getting into our positions and actually brought Gold Coast into the game," van 't Schip said.

The draw leaves the Heart in third place, equal on points with the second-placed Roar but having played a game less.

But before the young upstarts plot their rise to the top, they have to focus on their own game, according to van 't Schip.

The former Ajax and FC Twente boss said his men still have a lot to do before they can feel like they belong in the company of the Mariners and the Roar.

"We're not (as far along) as Brisbane, as Central Coast," he said.

"They're far more steady teams, and they're clearly playing better at the moment - even Brisbane had their bad period but they're still the best playing team in the league.

"Central Coast is just very functional, good in every department and getting better."

"We're not that far yet. We're making steps. We have to learn to keep the ball longer, have more possession so we can take more breaths.

"We want to control the game. We want to develop young players but you can't expect them to read a game together and play at the right moments, so that's the next step we have to make."