15/04/2024
Max Burgess scoring for Sydney.

Max Burgess celebrates his first goal for Sydney FC. (Photo: KEEPUP)

It took Max Burgess seven years to score his first goal for Sydney FC, but the enigmatic midfielder is finally ready to shine.

It took Max Burgess more than seven years to score his first goal for Sydney FC, but the enigmatic midfielder is finally ready to shine for Steve Corica’s men.

The date is October 11, 2014, Round 1 of the 14/15 A-League competition, Sydney FC versus Melbourne City. On the pitch, a young midfielder is set to make a debut for his hometown club.

The name is Max Burgess. The tall boy comes on to replace goalscorer Corey Gameiro in the 88th minute and a couple of seconds later he nearly steals the show, seeing his low shot go just wide of the post, in what is set to be his first and last appearance for the season.

Former Spain international David Villa also made his A-League debut in the same game.

We fast forward to today – December 30, 2021. More than seven years and five clubs later, at the age of 26, Burgess has just scored his first goal for the Sky Blues in a 3-0 win over rivals Macarthur FC.

The 26-year-old returned to New South Wales in the summer, after spending time away with Uniao Madeira in Portugal, Sydney Olympic in the NPL, and Newcastle Jets, Wellington Phoenix, and Western United in the A-League Men.

He even had to endure a whole season without football, after United declined his request for an early release as they were reluctant to let the playmaker go on a free. But that wasn’t enough to stop Burgess, who had already decided that he’s ready to do anything to return home.

MOTM against Macarthur

On Boxing Day, Burgess had to step up as it was revealed that star attackers Adam Le Fondre and Bobo would miss out due to injury and COVID respectively. They joined a lengthy list of absentees, which made life a bit tougher for Steve Corica. Or so it seemed.

At Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney ran riots around the Bulls, going back in the tunnel with a 2-0 lead on the break. Burgess was heavily involved in both goals, setting up the opener following a smart run in behind, and scoring the second one himself from around 10 yards.

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This was undoubtedly the best game of football that the Sydney native has played in a sky blue shirt, Corica was full of praise for him in his post-match presser.

“We brought Maxy in because we knew the quality he had,” Corica told media post-game.

“It was just about getting match minutes and game time because last year he was out for most of it.

“He’s getting stronger and stronger. In that season at Western, he started to score goals.

“That’s what we want from him and he got his first goal for the club and he should’ve had a second with a header.”

But goals aren’t the only thing that the ex-Wellington man offers to this team.

Starting as the left-sided 10 in place of Milos Ninkovic, who has been struggling with knee pain, he played 67 minutes and (according to FotMob) managed to create the most goalscoring chances (three), and make the most tackles (two).

Heat map
Max’s heat map against Macarthur. (via Sofascore)

As seen from his heat map against Macarthur, the #22 most often received the ball deep in his own third, but the majority of his passes (15 out of 23) were actually made in the opposition half.

In a Ninko-esque fashion, he frequently managed to open up space with his close control and dribbling which allowed Sydney to progress the ball via the left-hand side.

The defensive part of his game was also impressive, as he won seven out of 11 ground duels and made three recoveries, while also showing good discipline and understanding of pressing out of possession.

Similar all-round displays are what made Ninkovic the fan-favourite and superstar he is now, and with the Serbian not getting any younger (turned 37 on Christmas), Burgess could only do himself a favour by continuing to play like he did on Sunday.

Sydney’s next game is against Western United, and if everything goes as planned it should be played on the January 7. Burgess will have every opportunity to take revenge on his former employees for stalling his dream move and cement a spot in Corica’s preferred XI.

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