Can you name the previous two winners of the Australia Cup? Hint: they’ll be fighting for survival in the upcoming playoffs. The reversal of…
The eighth edition of Australian football’s domestic cup competition will be played on Saturday night, with history the theme underpinning the match.
Sydney United 58 have been on a giant-killing run, disposing of two A-League clubs along the way to the final, and are now in search of a third top-tier scalp and the silverware that would come along with it.
In reality, it is a little tough to imagine such a result playing out; yet the same could potentially have been said in the lead up to their quarter-final and semi-final clashes with Western United and Brisbane Roar respectively.
Should one of the NSL’s most famous clubs manage to lift the trophy, history will be made, with Sydney United 58 a chance to become the first non A-League club inscribed on the cup: something that should be celebrated.
Macarthur FC are a completely different kettle of fish in many ways, yet are also taking a shot at the history books, with the chance for new manager Dwight Yorke to earn the club its first ever piece of silverware.
With little heritage, few fans and a pandemic causing all sorts of issues across their first two seasons in the A-League, the club did manage to defy many critics. The Bulls achieved mid-table finishes both seasons and after staying afloat longer than a few had suggested, will begin their third campaign next weekend when they face the Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.
The cup looms as a brilliant starting point, where Macarthur’s excellent off-season recruitment could well bear fruit for the first time and be a pre-cursor to their most successful season to date.
Amongst others, Matthew Millar, Kearyn Baccus, Jonathan Aspropotamitis, Jerry Skotadis, Daniel Arzani, Georgian Bachana Arabuli and Barbadian international Mario Williams, have been brought into Yorke’s squad.
Added to names like Ulises Davila, Lachlan Rose, Craig Noone and Filip Kurto, it is clear that the manager will be playing with a full deck in the upcoming A-League season and a deck that on paper, should be able to manage the threat of Sydney United with ease.
However, cup play does funny things to hearts, minds and limbs; and history is littered with examples of cupsets that on the basis of logic, should not really have occurred.
Sydney United’s penalty shootout win against Western United in the quarter-final was one of those moments, and the same could be said of their toppling of Brisbane a month later, after they trailed early and looked likely to succumb to the emotional fatigue of the entire journey.
However, with substitutions vital, the extra-time triumph against a tiring Roar ignited plenty of passion and interest around the country, as a second-tier team continued to dare to dream.
Sydney will have to be prepared for plenty of defensive work, with Macarthur, like Brisbane back on September 11, almost certain to dominate possession and create more shots on goal.
The back four of Christian Gonzalez, Jordan Roberts, Adrian Vlastelica and Yianni Perkatis withstood a barrage against the Roar, with few errors made and brave defending late in the game was supported by superb goalkeeping from Danijel Nizic.
All of the above will be required against the Bulls, with Taisei Kaneko and Tariq Maia the men aiming to cause problems in the midfield and Patrick Antelmi and Devante Clut potentially providing the quality off the bench that seemed to surprise Brisbane.
There is no need to kid ourselves: Macarthur will enter the match as the firmest of favourites and bookies have their opposition paying $13 to win, odds that only Sydney United’s passionate fans will believe can be overcome.
The contest will be history-making whichever way it falls. The fairytale of Sydney United, potentially the greatest ever story in the domestic game, or a Macarthur win serving as a huge moment for a club that has been the brunt of many a joke whilst in its infancy.
Join me here on The Roar on Saturday night from 7.45pm (AEST) for live score updates and a commentary blog that will describe all the action, drama and tension.
My tip? Well, the Bulls should win it in a canter.
But this is cup football, and I have been known to get the odd tip wrong over the years!