Ersan Gulum's a bit chirpy. Filip Kurto's new skills are coming on, as is the team. FTBL analyses the evolving Western United FC a month out from the new A-League season.
Western United continued their pre-season winning streak with a 2-1 win over a depleted Melbourne City at the CFG training base.
It was their first game against A-League opposition and a timely chance to assess where the squad is at a month out from their historic first A-League fixture at Wellington Phoenix.
What was learnt and what can we glean from the display?
Here are five discussion points from the friendly.
1: Rudan’s revolution is shaping up nicely
When you face NPL opposition, as they have in their first three friendlies, it’s hard to get a handle on where you are at.
And even if City were without Socceroo striker Jamie McLaren and a clutch of their Olyroos, it’s clear coach Mark Rudan has this side moving in the right direction.
They are nowhere near as fit as they can be but there’s a steel to this side.
They are one key signing away from being a real threat this coming A-League season.
2: Sweeper-keeper Kurto
Against City, Filip Kurto came out of his box to clear balls on numerous occasions (proving he’s a very good header of the ball, too).
The Pole has been challenged by Rudan in pre-season to improve his sweeper game.
It’s part of a broader plan to have a higher defensive line at United.
Kurto did well in his sweeper-keeper role.
Though he may’ve been red-carded in a competitive game when he cleaned up a City player after he came out of his box to clear a ball late in the game.
He’s a quality shot-stopper too.
It’ll be fascinating to see his skills outside the box this season as United's higher line is deployed.
3: Defensive block rock solid
Kurto, Durante, Gulum, Chapman, Hamill, Aspro, Calver, Risdon and Vujica.
If the key to successful sides is building from the back first, then United are onto a winner with this mean defensive block of options.
As City coach Erick Mombaerts conceded after the game, United can be a very difficult side to open up when they play five across the back.
4: Gobby Gulum sets the tone
The 32-year-old Carlton-born Turkey international Ersan Gulum can get a bit chirpy out there.
United needs a vocal presence, someone to keep the team on the edge - whether they like it or not - and let the opposition know they mean business.
The defender will stir up the banter, harangue referees and there’ll be scuffles and perhaps red cards as a result of his approach.
But Gulum will be vital in keeping Rudan’s intensity levels ramped up to 11 on the park.
Just a pity Berisha isn’t still with Victory - their battle would be something to witness.
5: Central striker signing needed
Scott McDonald plays off a central striker, that's when he's at his best.
Max Burgess is an up and comer like Apostolos Stametelopoulos. And Valentino Yuel may have four in four (mostly against NPL opposition), but Rudan needs a big, experienced focal point.
And you can’t read too much into Yuel’s goals, though it’s been a good start for him and it’d be nice to see an NPL talent break through.
That said, United could use a big, experienced and potent central attacking presence.
Someone who can play with his back to goal, go short and link up, but is also able to make forward runs and is clinical in the box.
One who can get into double-digits this season and finish off the work - and be on the same wavelength in the final third- as playmaker Kone and attacking midfielder Diamante.
A Roy O’Donovan or an Andy Keogh type striker would do nicely.
The search continues.
If United can find a striker who fits this bill - and they’re frantically searching - this could be a very good season for the men in green and black.