As the World Cup draws nearer and teams begin to settle into a rhythm, ESPN's Joey Lynch breaks down four things that impressed and three things that didn't across the third week of the 2022-23 A-League Men season.
Round Three Results: Western United 1-1 Macarthur FC | Western Sydney Wanderers 1-1 Brisbane Roar | Newcastle Jets 3-1 Wellington Phoenix | Melbourne Victory 0-2 Melbourne City | Sydney FC 2-2 Adelaide United | Central Coast Mariners 1-2 Perth Glory
Chief amongst the storylines of Friday evening's clash between Western United and Macarthur was the match-up of Bulls winger Daniel Arzani and Western full-back Risdon -- a golden opportunity for two potential Socceroos to match wits and, with Graham Arnold watching on from the stands, put their case forward for Qatar. And while the game itself might have been a draw, it was the latter that emerged as the victor at the end of the 90.
A week on from Arzani putting in a man-of-the-match performance to reignite his World Cup hopes, Risdon kept him quiet at AAMI Park as he bossed his right flank and, taking advantage of his opponent's positioning, he also got forward and provided the pinpoint assist for Lachlan Wales' equaliser. Arzani didn't have a catastrophic game, showing flashes of his skill and often drawing double and even triple teams when he was on the ball -- but he nonetheless found himself in the shade of his teammate at Russia 2018.
"He comes up against top wingers in our league every week and he puts on great performances every week," Western coach Aloisi said of Risdon, while Macarthur boss Dwight Yorke also paid tribute, calling Risdon an "old fox." Based on form and experience, Risdon is certainly putting together a strong case for selection. The question, unfortunately, is if it will matter.
This week's ALM fixtures represented the first since Arnold submitted a list of 55 players to FIFA from which his final squad of 26 will be drawn; the identity of whom is being kept secret by the Socceroos boss. Risdon told AAP last week that he hadn't heard from Arnold recently and with Nathaniel Atkinson, Fran Karacic, Ryan Strain and Rhyan Grant all speciality right-backs called upon this cycle -- and Thomas Deng also capable of playing there -- it is no sure thing that he made it on to Arnold's longlist.
As Risdon was winning his battle with Arzani, another former Australian wunderkind was doing a job in the middle of the park: De Silva. Initially starting in a more advanced midfield role, De Silva was an influential part of the Bulls' play and performed admirably when he was shifted into a holding role in the second half. With Ulises Davila at some point set to return from injury and join an already crowded attack, regista De Silva could be a handy option for Yorke.
Given that he's been in the ALM for eight years, it feels like De Silva has been around forever but he's still only 25 and, physically at least, just now beginning to enter his prime. Admittedly, seemingly every season there are stretches where the one-time starlet looks a class above only for something -- often injury -- to get in the way of things, but his coach is certainly a believer.
"I've had the experience of international football, I've had the experience of playing at the very top," said Yorke. "When I see a damned good player in Danny -- that's exactly what I watch -- it's my duty as a manager to push someone [with] his class to get into the Australian team."
There was a notable drop in intensity in the second half of their 3-1 win over Wellington and they were mightily lucky to escape with a win against Perth the week prior but the Newcastle Jets have won their first two league matches for the first time in history.
Despite being without Beka Mikeltadze after the Georgian picked up a quad injury, the Jets stormed out of the blocks to take a 2-0 lead after 16 minutes on Saturday, before responding to Bozhidar Kraev pulling one back for the Nix by adding a third moments later.
Initial impressions are that this isn't the same Jets as last season, with the loss of Daniel Penha clearly a significant one and the side seeing significantly less of the ball in their opening two games than they averaged last season. But there are legit ballers in that team. And Arthur Papas can coach.
After three rounds, it's already apparent that the road to silverware will go through the City Football Academy this season: Coach Patrick Kisnorbo's side taking advantage of a calamitous 15-minute stretch from Melbourne Victory to ease to a derby win on Saturday and sole possession of top place on the table.
City isn't invulnerable, there are questions that can be asked of this side by observers and opponents -- especially their ability to create high-quality shots from open play -- and they haven't put forth a dominating display that leaves oppositions left holding on for dear life as they have in past seasons. But the sheer quality assembled by the reigning premiers means opponents are going to have to earn every single point against them this season.
Perth Glory's hopes of a quiet week
Between utility for the token, seasons spent away from home, Daniel Sturridge, ball kid Tony Sage, and more, Perth Glory doesn't really do normal. Something dramatic is always happening out west.
This week, their first win of the season against a disappointing Central Coast Mariners -- Nick Montgomery's side not forcing Liam Reddy to make a single save as they chased the game -- is set to be overshadowed by speculation surrounding Bruno Fornaroli. The Socceroos striker responded to a Glory Instagram post saying he was out because of injury with a since-deleted reply of: "I'm 100% fit and ready @perthgloryfc �� wrong information".
Instead of celebrating a win, coach Ruben Zadkovich faced a barrage of questions about his striker post-match, at one stage even suggesting Fornaroli was possibly "hacked," and said that it was the 35-year-old that had made the call.
"He ruled himself out with a rib injury on Friday, so couldn't finish the final session, which meant that he wasn't available for selection," said Zadkovich. "So there's not really much going on there."
There had been rumblings, echoed to ESPN by sources, that discontent between Fornaroli and Glory had been building. Now it appears it is set to play out in public in the most unedifying manner. It's certainly hard to envision a long-term future for Fornaroli at HBF Park and it's a distraction that Glory don't need.
Red card discourse
Given that it served to completely shift the tide of the game, Hiroshi Ibusuki's red card in Adelaide United's eventual 2-2 draw with Sydney -- Adelaide leading 1-0 at the time of its issuing -- kicked off a firestorm.
Former Sydney legend Alex Brosque said it was "one of the worst red card decisions I've ever seen" and Reds' coach Carl Veart declared it was the type of call that alienates fans. Official league publication KEEPUP got in on the outrage by running a poll, while Football Australia provided comment from head of referees Nathan Magill before full-time.
That Sky Blue midfielder Anthony Caceres later escaped a red card for a similar-looking challenge certainly only added to the confusion and Football Australia's independent match review panel moved to rescind the red card on Monday evening.
Given that they are invariably the only ones involved in any debate to have actually absorbed the latest laws of the game, refereeing is often a thankless task; being technically correct and vibe correct are often two very different things. Abuse, especially at grassroots level, means there's a crisis in numbers.
At the same time, however, the fastidious review process that is undertaken into every ALM game at the professional level remains a largely opaque one, as are how the resulting lessons are implemented. Controversy often goes unacknowledged and uncorrected in the public square, leaving a vacuum quickly by a rancour and disdain that seeps down the pyramid.
The willingness to quickly act and engage with the public by Football Australia on an error is a promising start. Quick action to address concerns is a solid foundation and, hopefully, can lead to a process wherein the public is brought along for the ride more often; preventing referees from being unfairly targeted in the future when they get things right.
Brisbane Roar got their first goal and second point of the season against the Wanderers on Saturday. That's good. Earlier that week, they'd also been slammed for announcing that they were effectively shutting down their academy -- Wellington GM David Dome tweeted out that it appeared to be a cost-cutting measure.
I see Brisbane Roar have essentially shut their Academy down tonight. I haven't spoken to their new CE about it, but i would be pretty confident this is an attempt to stem a capital draining part of their operation.— David Dome (@Domestar) October 18, 2022
Already this season, they've attempted to sack defender Corey Brown after alleging "serious misconduct," only to subsequently lose a hearing at the National Dispute Resolution Chamber. Also not ideal.
Fans, increasingly appear to be at their wit's end with the powers that be at the club and the number of people that genuinely care seems to be rapidly diminishing. That might be worse of all.