Cougars face tough Strikers test
COUGARS coach Washington Gonzales could never be accused of being pessimistic even though he has had a tough week with his team and tonight has the daunting task of taking his young squad to Perry Park to face the Brisbane Strikers.
Michael Cay's decision to play down the grades as opposed to the Hyundai QSL was a real shock and he will be sorely missed from a defence that needs his style and experience.
However, as one door closes another opens for Sean Jasperson who has been named in the Cougars' starting 11, replacing Cay as centre back.
“It is an opportunity for Jasperson, especially as he should line-up next to Trevor Wood,” Gonzales said.
“We have to create a new central defender as we are looking to the future.”
Wood is the heart of the team as he is a tough competitor and has an astute football brain. As the team captain he plays a vital role in assisting and guiding the younger members of the squad.
It is a big ask for the youngster as the Strikers are a good football team that likes going forward and regularly finds the back of the opponent's net.
Matt Thurtell has a goal-a-game record at this level of the game and is the type of footballer who enjoys unsettling defenders.
Gonzales said he has worked with the squad this week and is set to play a different formation to one in the first two matches.
“I am confident, as we have tried to make some tactical changes,” he said.
Gonzales admits he is a big fan of what the 4-3-3 system offers him, especially as he has two speedsters on the flanks in Tyler Stross and Chris Swain.
In his preferred formation, Michael Steere acts as the target with the fast men collecting knock-downs and then using their pace to get past the last defender.
However, Steere misses this trip due to work commitments and as there is no automatic replacement target man the coach has been forced to adopt a new plan.
“We do not have a striker and so I will expect the pace of my two young front-runners to create some problems,” Gonzales said.
Into the left-side midfield role comes Matt Sauer and he will be a part of an all-Bluebirds mid-three alongside his brother Johnathon and Jarred Lancaster.
Tim Hickey was impressive last week against Mackay and he will be the link man or attacking midfield player.
“I have tried to make the changes to suit the players we have,” Gonzales said.
“We have to attack with five players all the time.”
Gonzales also hinted one or two members of the squad might still be nursing injuries from last week's match but was certain they would be fit enough to line-up tonight.
In the past, the Cougars have been able to cause a surprise when travelling to Perry Park but not last season when the team was hammered 5-1 in one of the matches.
In the return match at Ryan Park the local side put in a far better showing and was perhaps a little unlucky not to beat the Strikers.
Gonzales has respect for the Strikers as a football club.
“They have a very strong team and are hungry for success,” he said.
Gonzales believes if conditions are wet it will assist the Strikers rather than his own squad, but is still confident the team has enough talent to be competitive.
“We believe in our players,” he said with confidence.
The squad for tonight’s game with Brisbane Strikers at Perry Park:
Tim English, Trevor Wood, Sean Jasperson, Joe Burke, Jonathon Sauer, Jarred Lancaster, Tim Hickey, Chris Swain, Tyler Stross, Bryce Ruthven, Matt Sauer, substitutes: Jordan Miller, Max Thompson, Chris Thompson. Coach Washington Gonzales, manager Brett Harkin.