‘We’ve got a fantastic foundation’ – Rudan believes future is bright for Western United
Western United’s fairtytale story may have been brought to a crushing halt by state rivals Melbourne City but coach Mark Rudan believes the best is still to come.
The start-up club reached a Semi-Final in their debut season and controlled for more than an hour at Bankwest Stadium but City goalkeeper Tom Glover’s heroics, a penalty from Jamie Maclaren and an own goal from Tomoki Imai brought a painful end to the Green and Black’s maiden campaign in a 2-0 loss.
Making a competition debut in a season affected by a global pandemic, a four-month lockdown, a inter-state relocation and 14-day quarantine period may have been far from ideal – but Western United were forced to deal with a huge turnover of players throughout their inaugural season.
Five of the foundation players from the club’s historic opening game win against Wellington Phoenix departed ahead of the Finals Series, including marquee midfielder Panagiotis Kone, but Rudan could not be more proud of what the club achieved over the back half of the campaign.
“If you look at the last eight to 10 games, I dare say we’d be up there as one of the top teams in the competition,” Rudan said.
“If you have a proper pre-season to work with this current group, and add a few as well going forward, because we’re always looking to improve – we’ve got a fantastic foundation and a fantastic base.”
“I think you can see just how much we’ve improved from the first game of the season to the kind of football that we like to play and want to play towards the end of the season,” Rudan added.
“I’m really proud of them. Things take time but for a new club – I know we’re not the only club to have gone this far as a start-up – but it’s been a hell of a ride.
“We have not had a lot of time to put this club together. To see just how far we’ve come, to make the last four and be one of the best four teams in the competition, I think it speaks more than enough for all of the effort that we’ve put in.”
United battled through adversity to advance to the last four, including an enforced quarantine period which left them needing to play eight games in 33 days, but Rudan does not believe the marathon schedule had an effect in a Semi-Final clash that his side dominated.
“I think up until [the goal], I think we were the better side,” Rudan said.
“We had more shots on target, we created the better opportunities, we looked the better side for me.
“I’m astounded by how well they backed up and how hard they fought throughout the match. I didn’t see any fatigue out there.”
Rudan hailed Erick Mombaerts’ impact during his debut season in the City dugout and believes the French tactician has changed the culture at the Bundoora-based club.
“I’ve got a huge amount of respect for [Erick Mombaerts] as a person first and foremost, and as a coach,” Rudan said. “I think he’s changed the perceptions of Melbourne City.
“When they went 1-0 up they were about to really defend stoutly and, as someone who has done that with their own team, you can see the change in mentality.
“There was a lot of pressure of them to ensure they played in the Grand Final because of the history of the club and the background with the club.
“I wish them nothing but success in the Grand Final and they deserve to be there…
“They’ve got a little bit of steel about them now. They are going to be hard to beat in the Grand Final.”
Hyundai A-League Grand Final 2020
Sydney FC v Melbourne City
When: Sunday, August 30
Kick-off: 6.30pm AEST
Venue: Bankwest Stadium
Broadcast: ABC ME delayed at 8.25pm, FOX Sports 507
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports, ABC iView