The news that Brisbane Roar had signed experienced A-League forward Marco Rojas earlier this week was a welcome shot in the arm for the Queenslanders ahead of Friday’s game with high flying Wellington.
The ex-Kiwi international, who has starred for Melbourne Victory and the Phoenix during his illustrious career, will be keen to make an impact on Brisbane’s flagging finals hopes.
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Finals still the goal
After taking just three points from their five games in January, the Roar have slipped to ninth place on the A-League Men’s ladder, but their new signing was talking up their chances when speaking to the press yesterday.
“Success for us this season probably means being able to make the top six considering where we are,” said Rojas.
Rojas himself believes he will initially have an impact from the bench for his new club, revealing that he has been training with his new team throughout January after not playing a competitive game in six months.
He was also open minded as to the position he will occupy once he does make his entrance in front of the Roar supporters.
“I’m flexible on the role – it will depend on the coaching staff. My favourite position growing up was number 10 but I have good memories playing on the wing and up front too,” he said.
It will also depend on how the other players are playing if I’m coming off the bench to start with.”
Getting back to winning ways will be imperative for Brisbane if they are to remain a top six contender, but this was made even harder with Thursday’s shock news that coach Ben Cahn will be taking indefinite leave from his role due to health problems.
The news was another body blow for the beleaguered Queenslanders, who will have assistant coach Ruben Zadkovich in charge for this evening’s clash.
One of the bright points of a dismal January for Brisbane was the return of influential attacking midfielder Henry Hore, who made his first start since early December in last week’s defeat at Central Coast Mariners.
Hore was also on the front foot when discussing the Roar’s finals chances.
“We’re still confident [of making finals], this league’s very tight and if you win a few games you can get right back up there. Hopefully we can start that this weekend,” he said.
The Roar will also be aided by the return of talismanic midfielder Jay O’Shea from suspension, with key defenders Scott Neville and Corey Brown due back in the coming days.
But it was new signing Rojas that has captivated both fans and players alike, and Hore is full of praise for his new teammate.
“He’s a great signing. I remember watching him back in the day, he was so good for Melbourne Victory and Wellington. Hopefully he can bring that quality in the final third,” he said.
Starting February with a win will be big ask for a team that hasn’t won at home since late November, especially given the opponents are sitting top of the A-League men’s ladder.
The Phoenix are unbeaten in their last four games and have not lost since a 3-1 defeat to a resurgent Sydney FC in late December.
While captain Alex Rufer has been instrumental in guiding his team’s success from his pivotal role in defensive midfield, it is star striker Kosta Barbarouses who has been grabbing the headlines, with 8 goals in 14 games so far this season.
The diminutive striker may be a familiar name for older Roar fans, as he made 33 appearances for the Queenslanders during the 2010-11 season, scoring 13 goals as a 21-year-old back in the Postacoglu era.
While those days are long gone, Barbarouses is clearly still a threat in front of goal and stopping him will go a long way to securing the points for Brisbane this evening.
The sense of occasion was not lost on Rojas when asked how he felt about potentially making his own Roar debut against his old club.
“What a special occasion to start again. It all seems to be coming together quite nicely for me and it would be nice to get a run against one of my old clubs,” he said.
If he can rediscover the goalscoring touch this evening – even if it is from the bench potentially – he will be an instant hero in Brisbane.
Whether he can be the catalyst for Brisbane to start climbing the A-League ladder again and reach the top six is another matter entirely, but a winning goal and three points tonight would be the perfect start.