United in will to make top-four
THE cool heads and will-towin of Adelaide United’s experienced imports will be crucial in the run to a potential W-League finals appearance, coach Ivan Karlovic says.
Reds players travelled to the capital to face Canberra United today, knowing victory would be a major step towards securing a top-four finish for the first time.
Karlovic said US centre back Amber Brooks and Icelandic midfield enforcer Gunnhildur Jonsdottir would again be key in leading the way for his youthful squad.
“We don’t look too far ahead,” said Karlovic, who also praised eight-goal American striker Veronica Latkso and Iceland international attacker Fanndis Fridriksdottir.
“But the experienced players do give us a boost and help the younger girls around them.
“The most important thing they give us is the hunger and desire to win, which rubs off on to the rest of the playing group.
“We don’t accept mediocrity and we’re always striving to be better and to get success.”
Fourth-placed Adelaide sit one point clear of Brisbane Roar, fifth, with four regular campaign matches remaining.
It spent last week in a midseason camp on the Gold Coast, where Karlovic said two friendlies against the Chinese national team had provided valuable game-time against quality opposition.
He said facing Canberra at McKellar Park would be a challenging assignment, despite Heather Garriock’s side languishing six points adrift of a finals berth.
“Canberra have traditionally got a really good home record,” said Karlovic, whose side recorded a 2-0 home win over the ACT side in November. “It’s something we want to change and we’re going there to get three points and continue on our path. IT is the moment Ken Ilso feels he has truly arrived as an Adelaide United player.
Twenty-one minutes into Wednesday’s home clash with bitter rival Melbourne Victory, the Danish forward sees centre back Thomas Deng receive the ball just inside the visitors’ half.
Instead of allowing the onecap Socceroo time to settle, Ilso shuts the defender down in a flash, forcing a turnover which sets him speeding off towards goal.
One touch and a composed finish under Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas later, the ball is in the back of the net and the Reds are on their way to a season-defining A-League win.
“I’m always happy when I score because I want to score in every game,” said Ilso, a winter arrival from Malaysian club Penang. “But it meant a little bit more due to it being my first goal at Coopers (Stadium).
“I’ve been longing to score my first goal at the home ground in front of our fans and it’s even nicer when there’s a lot of people in the stands.
“I think it’s normal, no matter where you go, you will always need some time to adapt to the league. But maybe it’s taken me a bit longer here than it has other places.
“On the other hand, I’ve been feeling really welcome and at home from the minute that I put my feet into Adelaide United and on the field, I’m feeling like I’m getting there.”
Ilso’s moment of instinct and quality reflected the ingredients which delivered Adelaide’s eye-catching 2-0 success over the reigning champion.
Marco Kurz’s men, led by inspirational captain Isaias, pressed the Victory relentlessly from the kick-off, forcing it to repeatedly surrender possession. The hosts also cranked up the speed of their ball movement in transition and produced some much-needed cutting edge, as evidenced by the sweeping move for Craig Goodwin’s opener.
It was a far cry from four days earlier at Hindmarsh. Then the Reds had 32 shots and 61 per cent of the ball, but drew a blank in a frustrating goalless draw with 10-man Wellington Phoenix.
Ilso said an aggressive mindset would again be required when United faced Sydney FC in another stern test at Jubilee Stadium.
“We promised each other before the Victory game that it was going to be different and we were going to challenge them from the first minute,” Ilso, 32, said. “We put them under a lot of pressure and it came to good opportunities and dangerous situations.
“We have to bring that same effort and bring a lot of energy into this game against Sydney (today). Even though it’s an away game, we want to come and show that Adelaide is not there for fun, we’re there to get three points.”
Adelaide welcomes back experienced midfielders Vince Lia, from suspension, and Mirko Boland, from the hamstring injury which has kept him sidelined since November.
The fifth-placed Reds trail the Sky Blues by four points, but will meet an opponent coming off a chastening 3-1 loss to Perth Glory.
It is a chance for United to extend its four-match unbeaten streak and make a statement in the first of three straight away outings in the next 10 days.
MAKING HIS MARK: Ken Ilso heads the ball for Adelaide United.