We’re less than three weeks away from the start of the new Hyundai A-League season and the opening round can’t come quick enough for Wellington Phoenix attacker David Ball.
The Englishman is desperate to get back on the pitch for his new club after his first competitive match in Phoenix colours ended in disappointment.
Ball missed a potential match-winning penalty in extra-time of their FFA Cup 2019 Round of 32 clash against Brisbane Strikers, as well as another attempt from the spot in the penalty shootout.
It proved costly as Ufuk Talay’s men were defeated by the Queensland NPL outfit in the biggest upset of this year’s competition.
The 67-day wait before Phoenix’s next competitive match has felt like an eternity for Ball, who revealed he apologised to his teammates for his role in the shock loss to the Strikers.
"You've got to put yourself forward to score but sometimes you miss them and it's unfortunate," Ball told reporters on Monday.
"I apologised to the lads after the game because that was my deed to do that but it's football and the best players in the world miss penalties. Unfortunately that night it was my time."
"They [Phoenix teammates] were like 'no, we should have won in normal time' and that just shows the group we've got.
“Immediately it was like it was nothing to do with you, we win and lose as a group.
"I'm still happy to put myself forward to be the penalty-taker and I'm sure if you asked the boys in there they'd put myself forward again. I'll be right in for that."
The one area Verbeek wants Reds to improve
They are through to yet another FFA Cup Semi Final and have been impressive through the entire pre-season, but Gertjan Verbeek admits Adelaide United’s attack is still a work in progress.
The Reds warmed up for next week’s FFA Cup Semi with a goalless draw against Western United FC in Ballarat on Saturday.
It comes after the club also just squeezed past a 10-man Newcastle Jets 1-0 in the FFA Cup 2019 Quarter Finals last week.
“On Tuesday (against Newcastle Jets in the FFA Cup) it was one hour okay. It was good. And [against Western United FC] it was less than the hour I saw on Tuesday,” the Dutchman explained.
“I don’t know how, maybe it’s the opponent. They played a different system, they played a 5-3-2.
“We had difficulties to find the open spaces and a lot of duels. We had a few good chances but it was not good enough to beat the opponent.
“We still have problems with making the good choices to defeat the opponent.
“The weak spot from the opponent we have to find… it’s taking too long and the opponent every time can re-organise and then you see not a lot of big chances.”
The positional change that sparked Aaron Calver
He’s a Championship-winning Hyundai A-League defender but Western United FC’s Aaron Calver hasn’t always been a tough-tackling centre-back.
Before arriving at Sydney FC in 2012, the 23-year-old was a dashing striker coming through the ranks in Wollongong.
But it was a stint at the New South Wales Institute of Sport as a 15-year-old that saw Calver make the switch which has changed his career.
“I was a striker at Wollongong which was fun, but I also love to play centre-back,” Calver to the club’s official website.
“I was converted when I spent some time at the New South Wales Institute of Sport.
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“I have to say, I loved my seven years at Sydney – and won a Championship. Nothing beats that!”
Having established himself as a starting player at the Sky Blues last season, it came as a surprise to some that Calver decided to head south and join Mark Rudan’s United.
“I liked that it was a fresh start and we get to build the club from the bottom up – everyone’s in the same boat,” Calver explained of his move.
“It’s refreshing, there’s a great atmosphere and culture already, couldn’t say anything bad about any of the lads... we’re going to go a long way.”
Calver will get the first chance to go up against his former club on Friday when United take on Sydney FC in Ballarat.
Click HERE for Western United's Q & A with Aaron Calver