A near dozen players have been released by the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Iacopo La Rocca, Ante Covic, Jason Trifiro, Tomi Juric, Antony Golec, Nikita Rukavytsya, Kerem Bulut, Nick Ward, Nick Kalmar and Adrian Madaschi have all been released by the Western Sydney Wanderers. Out of the 15 players coming off contract this season, the above 10 players, along with Yianni Perkatis, have been cut from the club that won the Asian Champions League before slumping to a 9th placed finish in this season's A-League Premiership.
The exodus leaves a yawning gap in the Wanderers squad, one which will require an immense recruitment drive to fill. The likes of Tomi Juric, Antony Golec and Iacopo La Rocca will head overseas to continue their careers, while Jason Trifiro & Nick Kalmar will look to another A-League gig.
Coach Tony Popovic recently renewed his contract for another 3 seasons, and will have his work cut out rebuilding the Wanderers in time for their fourth season in the A-League.
Rumours are swirling at likely replacements, with Perth Glory keeper Danny Vukovic looking set to head across the continent to take up the gloves left behind by Covic.
The remaining players left with expiring contracts are Jaushua Sotirio, Marty Lo, Sam Gallaway, Yusuke Tanaka and Yojiro Takahagi. It is unknown at this stage if those players will be staying at the club, their exclusion from these releases indicates they are either in negotiations or have already signed on. Should both Japanese imports stay, the Wanderers will have their international marquee spot open, reportedly with a 'blank cheque' behind it.
Freed of ACL commitments due to their poor performance, and having reportedly fallen out with supporter favourite Bulut, the pressure will be on Popovic to recruit hard and well, and to put the Wanderers back into the top 2 picture from Week 1 of season 2015/16.
The Western Sydney Wanderers are reigning Asian Champions no longer, having been eliminated in the group stage in 3rd place behind FC Seoul.
Despite taking all 3 points against Guangzhou, the Wanderers would rue only picking up a solitary point at home. FC Seoul scored in the 91st minute of their match against Kashima Antlers to see Group H finish Guangzhou 10 points, FC Seoul 9, the Wanderers 8 and last placed Kashima on 6.
The only other Australian team in the competition, the Brisbane Roar, also fell after being comprehensively beaten 2-1 by Urawa Red Diamonds on the Gold Coast to end what little hope they had of progression.
Mark Bridge scored the goal that gave Western Sydney the lifeline. He took full advantage of sloppy defence as a miskick from a Guangzhou defender turned into a sublime through ball for Bridge who cut inside onto his right foot and placed a shot into the bottom corner.
Guangzhou had little in response, with Tomi Juric securing the victory in the 93rd minute only for Seoul to have already scored their eventual winner in the 91st minute of that match.
The failure to progress in the ACL brings to a close a season of two halves, the initial burst of sunlight that was the triumphant Asian Champions League campaign as the A-League kicked off, only to be followed by defeat at the Club World Cup, internal bickering and strife over the pay for that competition, finished with an abject performance in the A-League that saw the Wanderers scrap into 9th place to avoid the wooden spoon.
Western Sydney will now rebuild for their fourth season, with no continental commitments and a full pre-season to come, Tony Popovic will be under pressure to get his recruitment right this time around, and to get his side into top 2 contention for Season 2015/16 of the A-League.
Guangzhou Evergrande vs Western Sydney Wanderers
Date and Local Kick-Off Time at Stadium: Tuesday 5 May 2015 - 7:00PM
Sydney Kick-Off Time: 9:00PM EST
Round: Group Stage
Competition: Asian Champions League
Location: Guangzhou, China
Stadium: Guangzhou Tianhe Stadium
Click here to view the record
A match that meant next to nothing was overshadowed by a vicious and indiscriminate pepper spray attack by the NSW Police that caused a young teenage boy to be hospitalised.
With the disgraced Perth side expelled from the final series for salary cap breaches taking on a Western Sydney Wanderers team who would finish in 9th place regardless of the result, neither team had anything but pride on the line. Jamie Maclaren opened the scoring in the 16th minute, latching onto a through ball and firing at goal, Dean Bouzanis not getting down fast enough to the shot to keep it out.
Youngster Liam Youlley made his debut for the Wanderers, and he celebrated it with an equalising goal in the 52nd minute. A free kick on the right wing just outside the area was played short to the diminutive midfielder, his effort was relatively tame but it bounced like a pinball through a sea of legs to wrongfoot Danny Vukovic.
Perth were back in front 10 minutes later through the man at the centre of the salary cap breach. Andy Keogh, who was paid outside the salary cap through payments to his wife, drifted between Topor-Stanley & Antony Golec, received a pass and smartly curled a shot with his ill-gotten left foot past Bouzanis.
Off the pitch saw several disgraceful incidents from a handful of members of the New South Wales Police. During the first half a smoke flare was lit in the central RBB of bay 56. Witnessing this, a handful of officers standing on the far edge of bay 55 remarked to the effect that they should "go in and get everyone", made their way into bay 56 and began an 'investigation' that resulted in several members of the public being harassed, interrogated, shoved and ultimately, resulted in the police using an indiscriminate wave of pepper spray in a space containing dozens of law abiding citizens, many of whom were minors. In one case, spraying a young boy and causing him to be admitted to hospital.
With an toxic atmosphere building around the RBB, the leaders of the group decided to leave at half-time. Almost the entire north end was vacated, followed in hot pursuit by the Police. With the crowd outside still chanting, the police formed a riot line. Once again pepper spray was fired into the crowd at random, injuring dozens.
It is simply not good enough for police to respond to a single flare that hurt no-one by charging into the bay, creating disturbances and then targeting people at random with pepper spray. The 'response' from the Police that no-one was hurt is a pure lie.
This was the second occasion this season I wasn't able to watch the second half of a match because of police action. The first was on a much smaller scale, but weeks later this incident was on a scale not seen since August 2012 when the Sydney United supporters were attacked by riot police and dogs asa result of a single firecracker being let off.
All the people involved in the security at Wanderers matches need to go back to the drawing board, because the way things are going there will be at some stage a major injury created by their indiscriminate brutality. A flare is not reason to randomly attack people and pepper spray them at a football game. Nor is chanting outside the stadium any grounds for dousing an entire line of people with pepper spray.
Western Sydney Wanderers vs Perth Glory
Date and Local Kick-Off Time at Stadium: Saturday 25 April 2015 - 5:00PM
Sydney Kick-Off Time: 5:00PM EST
Competition: A-League Regular Season
Location: Parramatta, New South Wales
Stadium: Parramatta Stadium
Click here to view the record