Best of the Press: Macarthur’s Mexican maestro details how close he came to quitting the game

ROUND PREVIEW: We take a look at the upcoming matches in Round Six of the Isuzu UTE A-League. wraps up all the pre-weekend media activity across the Isuzu UTE A-League as Wellington receive a huge injury boost while Ufuk Talay delivers a strong warning to his Sydney FC stars.

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Bulls star almost quit football after devastating family tragedy

Macarthur captain Ulises Dávila has revealed he almost didn’t return to the Isuzu UTE A-League this season and considered hanging up the boots altogether following a harrowing 18-months.

The Mexican lost his wife, Lily, in 2022 following a short battle with a form of brain disease known as Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM).

That, coupled with a season-ending knee injury sustained in February of this year, left Dávila and his young son Ulises Jnr at a major crossroads in their lives.

“To be honest after Lily passed away, really I thought to stop,” said Dávila . “Then I found the strength and the team helped me to come back and I started to enjoy it (football) again.

“I always tried to find a way to come back,” continued Dávila as he was joined by his young son at the press conference. “This little one (Ulises Jnr) gave me hope and that gave me strength to wake up every day to come and enjoy.

Following his injury the 32-year-old returned home to his native Guadalajara to receive help from his parents as he juggled life being both a single parent and an injured footballer, but returned in pre-season with a renewed vigour for life and football.

“The people here are very good, everyone helped me and to be honest that’s why I try to give my best every day for the team because everyone here is like a family.”

Dávila was given the night off as his Macarthur teammates defeated Shan United 4-0 in Bangkok, leaving them top of their AFC Cup group with one game to play and in pole position to book their spot in the next round.

The Bulls are unbeaten so far this season but will feel as though they should have had two more wins to their name after throwing away victories in stoppage time against both Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory.

“We are a young squad,” said Dávila when discussing his side’s last two fixtures. “We need to learn, we need to get better every week but the boys are doing well and we are showing we are a good team.

“We know each other better. The boys who came this year, they’ve brought a lot of quality. Clayton (Lewis), Valere (Germain), Rafael (Borges Rodrigues) Yianni (Nicolaou) – a lot of players bringing something different that maybe we missed last year and that that makes the squad stronger.”

Mile Sterjovski’s Macarthur host Adelaide United on Monday night at Campbelltown Stadium where a win could see them move up as high as second on the ladder.

Macarthur FC v Adelaide United
Monday, December 4 2023
Campbelltown Stadium
Kick-off: 7:00pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+,

Talay demands more from ‘timid’ Sky Blues as Derby defeat lingers on

Sydney FC Head Coach Ufuk Talay says his new side need to get ‘fitter and stronger’ if they are to play the way he wants them to.

The Sky Blues are still licking their wounds following week’s 1-0 Sydney Derby defeat to the Wanderers at Allianz Stadium.

“I think we started the game a little bit timid and I don’t understand why,” said Talay when reflecting upon the loss to their fiercest rivals. “I don’t think we should be timid against anybody.

“I think once the game settled and especially in the second half, we started to take ownership of the game and started to dominate the press as well and create opportunities from that.

“One thing we need to do is obviously get fitter and stronger to be able to play the way that we want to play and that’s something we’re working on with the boys so they can maintain that high intensity within the game.”

And the new boss has certainly been putting his players through their paces at training. The squad now undergoes an intense four-day lead-in before all of their matches but midfielder Anthony Caceres says the group is enjoying the challenge.

“We train hard most days of the week,” said Caceres. “We’re training more often and we strive to play a style of game which allows us to dictate and involves us being very aggressive in our press.

“He’s very driven,” said Caceres when discussing his new coach’s methods. “It’s been really great. It’s been thought-provoking and intense and I think everyone is enjoying themselves.”

Speaking of intensity, the Sky Blues’ physical approach – most notably towards Wanderers forward Brandon Borrello – was questioned by some following their Sydney Derby defeat, but Caceres believes his side were merely matching their opponents.

“It’s a derby, these things happen in football,” said the 31-year-old when discussing the injury sustained by Borrello during the match. “It’s unfortunate that it happened to Brandon, he’s an important player for them and you don’t want to see a fellow footballer suffer an injury and be out for a long time.

“It was just purely a heated derby where you have to fly into challenges and try to be aggressive. There was no intent to hurt him.”

The Sky Blues are back at Allianz Stadium for Round Six of the Isuzu UTE A-League when they play host to a Perth Glory side who they’ve beaten in nine of the last eleven meetings.

Sydney FC v Perth Glory
Saturday, December 2 2023
Allianz Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+, 10 Bold

Defence proving the key for Rudan’s resilient Wanderers

With just two goals conceded in five games, Marko Rudan’s Western Sydney have seemingly set the standard when it comes to defending this season.

In fact both of those goals came within the same half of football – a 2-2 draw with Newcastle Jets – meaning the Wanderers have actually kept a clean sheet in four of their five matches this campaign.

“It’s not just the back four or the goalkeeper,” said Rudan when discussing his defence. “We press and we press well. It gives us the ability to produce turnovers and force opponents into making mistakes.

“It’s a joint effort and we’re all working together. I think that’s why you see that column (Goals Against) with that number (2) next to it, even though we weren’t happy because those two goals came in one half of football.”

The Wanderers’ defence will undergo another tough examination on Friday night when they head to Suncorp Stadium to face a in-form Brisbane Roar.

“We’re in a pretty good place, we didn’t get carried away with last weekend’s result,” said Rudan when discussing the Round Six clash at Suncorp Stadium.

“I believe this is our biggest challenge yet going away to Brisbane, who are playing a good brand of football.

He continued: “It’s a very experienced team and they want to play, similar to us. It’s probably our biggest challenge to date, we have a lot of respect for the opponent and we need to earn the right to play because it’s going to be a tough contest.”

Brisbane are in good form heading into the game against the league leaders, having won two-in-a-row, and they’ll be aiming to make it three-straight wins in the competition for the first time since April 2021.

Brisbane Roar v Western Sydney Wanderers
Friday, December 1 2023
Suncorp Stadium
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+

‘Desperate’ Aloisi hoping for a bit of luck as Western aim to end rough run

They may be on a four-game losing streak but Western United Head Coach John Aloisi says spirits are still high amongst his players.

Western host high-flying Wellington Phoenix on Saturday evening having most recently been defeated 3-1 at home by Adelaide in a game which saw them create seven big chances and produce an xG of 2.84.

“Mainly this week it’s been about making sure that we’re hard to beat, that desperation in defending,” said Aloisi when asked what they’ve been working on in training.

“It feels like we’re getting punished for every little thing at the moment going the other way. Trying to change their mindset on that, let’s make our luck.

“We know that we’re good enough to turn it around. It’s now believing it and having that desperation to make sure that we don’t let that luck go for the other team.”

Aloisi’s side are currently sat last on the ladder with just three points from five matches and are now the lowest scorers in the league, finding the back of the net just twice.

“The boys have to believe the goals will come,” said Aloisi when discussing his team’s bluntness in front of goal. “I know what it’s like as a striker, when you think the ball is going to go into the net, a lot of the time it does.

“I don’t care if a player misses a chance. I care if a player stops believing that he’s going to score.”

‘Nix handed huge boost as star striker makes speedy recovery from injury

Wellington Phoenix have been dealt a huge boost ahead of the game with news Oskar Zawada is fit enough to make the journey across from New Zealand.

The Polish hitman was initially thought to be sidelined for up to three games after picking up a groin injury in training but Head Coach Giancarlo Italiano has confirmed Zawada will travel to Ballarat.

“He had a good week of rehab,” said Italiano. “better than expected. So hopefully we can give him some game time depending on how the game pans out.

“I’m hoping to at least give him maybe 20 minutes just to see how he is but he’s doing a lot better than what we thought.”

Giancarlo Italiano on the return to fitness of striker Oskar Zawada.

With three wins and two draws to their name Wellington are one of four unbeaten sides left in the competition this season however much has been made of the contrast in styles between performances at home and on the road.

At Sky Stadium, Giancarlo Italiano’s side have scored eight goals and chalked up wins against Melbourne City, Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory, but away from home they’ve scored just once – and that was an own goal by Melbourne Victory’s Damien Da Silva.

In fact, across the two away games this season against both Western Sydney and Melbourne Victory, Wellington have managed just five shots – with all of those coming in the clash against the Wanderers.

“It’s not by design, let me tell you,” quipped Italiano. “We’re not going there thinking ‘we’re not going to shoot’ – it’s just sometimes things like travel, things like team cohesion and sometimes the opposition do things tactically that change within the game and we don’t necessarily change quick enough.

“We’re not peaking now, we want to peak at the end of the season and it’s a work in progress.”

Wellington will no doubt be confident of ending their shyness in front of goal on the road when they face a Western side with the third worst defence in the competition this season, having conceded 11 goals.

Western United v Wellington Phoenix
Saturday, December 2 2023
Mars Stadium
Kick-off: 5:30pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Paramount+