Roderick’s defensive arts are making Victory purr

To emphasise the quality of Roderick Miranda, it’s worth casting back to his career a few years ago through a Portuguese lens.

The then Rio Ave defender was knocking down the door of a national team that had won Euro 2016, competing with the likes of Pepe (Real Madrid), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Cedric Soares (Southampton), Jose Fonte (West Ham) and Bruno Alves (Cagliari).

Roderick got that close – he was one of the unlucky players cut from Fernando Santos’ 26-man 2017 Confederations Cup squad, which lost in a semi-final penalty shoot-out to Chile (a La Roja side that had struggled to a 1-1 draw with the Socceroos in one of the greatest performances of Ange Postecoglou’s tenure).

His Rio Ave form (including four goals in 37 games), led to Wolverhampton Wanderers swooping for 2017-18.

“That year was the best football I’ve played. It was one helluva year. The team went very well, myself as well. That was my best one,” Roderick recalled.

“I was in the 26 player list, unfortunately I didn’t make the final (23) for the Confederations Cup. But I can say I wore the Portuguese national shirt for the Under 20 and Under 19 national teams, a country that won the Euros and was the second best in the world. That’s a nice trajectory.

“Until now, I’ve made a beautiful career. Australia is a different continent, I want to do good, not just to prove myself but to give to Victory the return of confidence they gave to me. I’m here to help them achieve what I want them to achieve.

Roderick scores the first goal of Victory’s season to earn a win versus Western United.

“If you look at history it’s a big club and also in Asia. That’s my focus, help team get back to good place. My career is a nice career, that is in the past.”

While the sample size is small, everything about Roderick’s brief Victory tenure so far indicates that he could become one of the signings of the season. Vice-captaincy – he wore the armband after Josh Brillante’s late omission – and a debut goal, via a clinical set-piece header.

But in the fashion of a typical Benfica-bred defender, Roderick, 30, was proudest of the clean sheet.

“That was most important for me. As a defender you try and keep to zero goals. But (scoring) goals are most important. I was very happy with my goal and our work defensively,” he said.

“When I came I was totally blind (about the A-League). I had no idea about the competition. Since the first minute I stepped on pitch I was very surprised, I didn’t expect it (the standard).

“When I saw quality and ambition I was impressed. Western United have some good players, and are a good team. I’m excited for the next games and to try and keep winning and give some happiness to fans.

“The opening game was very good for me and the team. It was a surprise to be named captain of the team.”

Roderick’s true defensive qualities attracted coach and ex-Socceroos defender Tony Popovic, who is big on small details.

… and celebrates his goal in style.

Roderick came through an esteemed Benfica academy which included Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Ederson (all Manchester City), Ivan Cavaleiro (Fulham), Nelson Oliveira (PAOK). While it includes world-class attackers, they take as much pride in the game’s lesser discussed traits.

“The coach when I was there in the first team was the same that is there now. In tactical way, they’re always aiming for perfection. They need defenders to defend in perfect way,” said Roderick, who’s also played for Deportivo La Coruna and Olympiacos.

“They want more mobility in attack, but when defending you have to be like the coach says, not 1 centimetre to the left or the right. That’s why in those years I was there I grew a lot with him.

“Defensively they are difficult to beat, to score against. It’s a team that everyone speaks about defensively. It’s all about trainings, normally the coach always split the team, attack and offensive midfielders on one side and defenders and defensive midfielders on another side of the pitch and work with us.

Roderick tackles Fabio Borini of Italy playing for Portugal U21 in 2011.

“He said it’s always easy to defend with 11 or 10 players, but a good team can defend with four or five players. Working, covering the lines, dropping or pushing higher. There is a lot of process, but lot of training. After 3-4 weeks, everything is so natural, you’re like a robot, everything seems to flow so naturally.”

Like Portugal, Roderick said there is a strong focus with and without the ball at Victory.

“Our coach Tony Popovic works a lot on the defensive process, if we don’t concede we are one step closer to three points. We do 1 v 1 and 2 v 1 drills, mainly about the position of teammates. We try to understand, if teammate is there, where we need to cover. Lots of speaking.

“When I speak here, it seems messy. When on the pitch it (makes sense).”

And thus far, Roderick’s football has been doing some serious talking.