On the train back from Etihad Stadium last night, my mind wandered to a day a mere two months ago. My beloved Melbourne Victory, already a force to be reckoned with both on and off the field, announced that they had signed one of Australia’s, nay, the world’s premier footballers, Harry Kewell.
It was massive news, and created an influx of positive interest, and press, for the A-League and for Victory.
The uninitiated fawned over the rock star that is Kewell. The A-League fence-sitters jumped on board and were prepared to give the league a chance. And the diehards, and football press, were crowing about the incredible potency, on paper, of the Victory forward line, which already boasted club legend Thompson, mainstays Hernandez and Allsopp, and Brisbane Roar recruit Solorzano.
‘Who could stop them?’ they asked. Fears about our ability to defend were waved away by the logic that a 4-3 win is still a win. Halcyon days were on our doorstep.
The shudder of the brakes as the train arrived at my station brought me out of my daydream, and I was faced with a sobering reality.
In over 270 minutes of football, the Melbourne Victory have not scored a goal. Why, in 270 minutes of football, the Melbourne Victory have not even looked like scoring a goal. The Victory forward line, potent on paper, are impotent off it.
Let’s discuss potency then. From a physiological point of view, potency is a male’s capacity to mate with a female. It encompasses strength, virility, effectiveness. It is, instinctively, a desirable trait, as it helps ensure the continuation of the species.
In today’s world, though, potency is not enough to ensure one’s name lives on. Mating requires a relationship be built and maintained, for parties to know, trust, and love each other enough to embark on that journey together. These relationships can take any amount of time to find, and will have countless obstacles, but that commitment is rewarded in time.
So, it has to be asked: What’s stopping the most potent forward lineup from, pardon the pun, scoring?
The parallels with the dating game, and the Victory’s troubles, are painfully obvious. Theoretically, they should be able to wipe the floor with all comers.
The strength, ability, and effectiveness of their forward players has been proven time and time again. Thompson can score goals, Allsopp can score goals, as can Hernandez and Solorzano. Add in Harry Kewell and they should be the greatest forward lineup the A-League has ever known.
Possibly, it is because those necessary facets for a relationship, the knowing and trusting of each other, don’t exist yet. This is understandable for a team with key players, in Covic and Kewell, added in on short notice, but not for long.
It could be because the coach, Mehmet Durakovic, doesn’t trust himself enough to radically change the Victory game plan set by his predecessor, Ernie Merrick, causing players like Thompson and Kewell to be constantly played out of position.
Or maybe, ten of the players on the field just don’t trust themselves enough to take a chance when it’s easier to pass it to Harry Kewell and pray for some trademark magic.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad for the Victory. They’ve stolen two points from their three games, thanks, in no small part, to a surprisingly effective defence, led by a revelation in goal named Ante Covic. This, and the 80,000 that have gone through the gates at Etihad over the first two home games, will be small relief for Victory HQ.
However, this will not stand for long. Melbourne must soon start to live up to the hype, or risk letting the season that was to be their biggest yet, become their undoing.
They need look no further than the Brisbane Roar for inspiration. There, a team with no real standout, but with trust in each other, and ability in spades, already seems to be cruising towards a second title. Add the attitude of the Roar to the list of the Victory, and the end result would no doubt amaze.
For the team’s sake, and the league’s, one can only hope it happens soon.