By Lance Jenkinson
Western United coach Mark Rudan intends to ride out of the storm.
For the first time, United has struck a form slump in the A-League, sliding to a third straight defeat in a 2-0 loss to champions Sydney FC at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday.
At the crux of the problem for United is its lack of cutting edge, failing to register a goal during the losing streak despite a bevy of chances.
As Rudan points out, it has not been through a lack of enterprise, with United out-shooting their opponents 63-31 over the past three matches. Rudan has steadfastly ruled out any changes to United’s approach while they are creating so many advancements into the opposition penalty area.
“Our philosophy is our philosophy and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the way we play,” he said. “We’re not a counter attacking side, that’s not us, that’s not our belief, that’s not my belief, that’s not my style.
“We’ll continue to push forward.
“I’m also not someone that goes and panics.
“The definition of that is changing our formation.”
Unlike the previous two weeks when it was its finishing that was the stumbling block for Western United, this time it was its poor final ball into the strikers.
The lack of quality was partly due to Sydney FC’s rock solid defence, a lack of patience and quality from the United wingers and a loss of hunger from the front line to present in dangerous positions.
Western United had some chances, but they mostly came when Sydney FC began to sit back and absorb pressure while holding a two-goal advantage.
Where was the insatiable appetite from United in the first half?
That is a question that Rudan will be asking his team yet again after they trailed at half-time to two Adam Le Fondre goals.
“It’s not normal that I sit here and talk about the opposition, but there was one moment in the second half where we broke away and there was something like six or seven blue shirts hounding one of our players to try and win the ball back,” Rudan said.
“They’re the champions for a reason and I think that action tells you a lot about that football club and what they’re about.
“They threw their body on the line very often.
“There were nine blocked shots to zero in the game, so it tells you just how desperate they were in their box as well.”
While Rudan will not be changing Western United’s style, he has not ruled out making personnel changes.
There are strong calls for attacking midfielder Max Burgess to be brought into the starting line-up after some stellar play as a substitute.
“He’s making it harder for me to leave him out,” Rudan said.
The biggest call in the lead-up to the derby will be whether Besart Berisha comes back into the starting line-up after surrendering his spot to Kwabena Appiah-Kubi.
Appiah-Kubi was ineffective as a starter, leading to Berisha’s insertion for the second half.
Rudan confirmed that Berisha was not removed from the starting line-up for the stare off between the player and coach a week earlier.
“It was purely tactical this week,” Rudan said.
Young striker Valentino Yuel, who starred for United in the pre-season, has returned to training following his ankle surgery.
Yuel could be a solution to United’s recent goal scoring woes, but he is yet to receive the green light for a return to action.
Western United’s upcoming clash with Melbourne Victory at GMHBA Stadium on Sunday at 4pm is huge for two at-the-crossroads teams.
With the weather forecast predicting a perfect day and the game of utmost importance for two middle tier teams, United should be able to attract its biggest crowd to a home game this season.