Pre-season is a time for trying new tactics and getting players fit. Results don’t really matter. Everyone knows that.
However, when you get trounced by your cross-city rival 5-0, alarm bells start ringing.
This was the Bulls’ first match in pre-season compared to their rivals and they also had players missing, however Ante Milicic’s normally tight defence was lost at sea against their slick opponents.
Macarthur are one of the favourites to win the A-League this season. They have spent well in excess of the cap and used up all the designated spots for star players.
There is no shame in losing to Sydney FC in a behind-closed-doors friendly, but what about losing it 5-0?
The match was already over after 20 minutes with Sydney completely dominant and Brazilian goal machine Bobo scoring the opening two goals.
While more chances were produced in the first half, the teams entered halftime with Sydney comfortably up 2-0.
The goal procession didn’t stop in the second half as an Elvis Kamsoba strike was sandwiched in between two Adam Le Fondre goals.
I am not exaggerating when I say Sydney were lucky not to have broken double figures. They had several chances that they should’ve put away.
Anthony Caceres, Rhyan Grant, Michael Zullo, Milos Ninkovic and Trent Buhagiar led a lengthy list of experienced players missing from the Sky Blues.
Debutants Max Burgess and Elvis Kamsoba – who also had two assists with his one goal – were very impressive.
It was good to see Calem Nieuwenhof get a hit-out after a lengthy period injured last season – as well as the introduction of two bright youngsters in defender Aaron Gurd and forward Luka Smyth.
Gurd will be looking to gain experience and knowledge from one of the country’s best defensive units, while Smyth is a previous prolific junior forward who scored 36 goals in one season.
Sydney has drawn a lot of criticism for several years of being a chequebook club and not wanting to play youth.
This season they will enter again with one of the oldest squads in the league with ten players over 30 and pressure starting to firmly mount on coach Steve Corica.
They have already been written off for the title, which is scary considering their winning mentality and league know how. Experience has always been a factor for success in the A-League.
What to make of Macarthur, though, after this debacle?
The result itself needs to be taken into context – it was only their first official hit-out of pre-season and players were also missing.
On the other side of the coin, though, the Bulls were second best in every department on the day and the scoreline completely flattered them.
Ante Milicic has spent a lot of money this off-season on attacking players: Tom Juric, Craig Noone, Daniel De Silva, Ulises Dávila and Al Hassan Toure.
They were one of the lowest scoring teams in the A-League last season, but the way his normally reliable defence was carved up will give Ante Milicic heart palpitations.
Macarthur still have the tallest and physically strongest defence in the league.
Adam Federici stands at six foot one and was the league’s best goalkeeper last season.
The reliable fullbacks Jake McGing and James Meredith are both over six foot one.
Then there is Aleksandar Susnjar, Tomislav Uskok and Aleksandar Jovanovic, who are all six-foot-three man-mountain centre backs.
Milicic’s slow, pragmatic build-up play last season might not work with the several attackers he has brought in for this season.
If he alters to an easier-on-the-eye style of play, the midfield and cumbersome centre backs will be in trouble against fast-paced counter-attacking teams.
Whether he is as cool on the inside as he is on the outside is another question. The Macarthur board will be expecting a title push, considering they have outspent every other team in the off-season.
Like I said earlier, it was just a friendly. However there’s nothing friendly in getting hammered 5-0 by the team you want to emulate in the long term.