You get to experience a lot of first when you’re involved in an expansion club.
Anticipation builds as you make your first signing, watch the first training session and attend the first pre-season hit out.
When the season begins proper, there’s that first game, first goal and, hopefully, sooner rather than later, the ecstasy of that first win.
But the joy dwells with beauty— beauty that must die.
For the first time in their history, A-League expansion side Western United are undergoing a lean-patch; losing their third game on the bounce to Sydney FC on Sunday afternoon.
As they are wont to do, the defending A-League champions were lethal when they needed to be at Kardinia Park. Steve Corica’s side took the lead in the 27th minute when Adam Le Fondre met an out-swinging corner from Alex Baumjohann with a powerful, downward header.
The Harboursiders then took advantage of some wanting United defence to lethally move from defence to attack in the fourth-minute of first-half extra time when Brandon O’Neill played a ball beyond a ball-watching Dario Jertec to spring Baumjohann.
The German promptly picked out Le Fondre to fire home and move to third all-time on Sydney’s goalscoring ranks.
United’s best chance of the first half came moments into extra time when Dario Jertec lets loose with a long-range effort that just fizzed past the post.
That’s not to say, though, that this was a game that Sydney comprehensively dominated.
Indeed, as the were moving forward, United once again demonstrated the nous and attacking nous that has come to define their play but, for the third week in succession, there proved to be no final product.
Concerningly, however, the Sydney FC loss – compared to defeats against Newcastle and Central Coast – wasn’t afflicted by an inability to finish off well-constructed chances but, instead, their inability to create them at all.
Despite outshooting their opponents 22-8, United failed to land a shot on target until a tepid Panagiotis Kone effort in the 83rd minute. He then followed that up with another effort that Redmayne saved a minute later.
Yet, by then, the game was already largely decided – Sydney going two points clear atop the table and United losing further ground on the top two in the fifth position.
How United respond to this problem will be one of the key storylines going forward.
The side assembled under Head Coach Mark Rudan has the talent in Diamanti, Scott McDonald, Jertec, Panagiotis Kone and Besart Berisha to slice and dice through any A-League defence.
Nonetheless, there was always going to be some sort of reaction from opposition coaches after enough game film had been accumulated of the A-League’s 11th side and now, with eight games under their belt – there is going to be a need for United to adjust to the adjustments being made in their face.
Sydney FC demonstrated on Sunday that they don’t necessarily have to fire on all cylinders to secure three points – a habit that champions, especially away from home, specialise in.
United perhaps need to show they can do the same.