With the start of the Hyundai A-League season under a month away, pre-season as a whole has offered several significant glimpses of promise for the Wanderers, even despite a disappointing performance against Wellington Phoenix last night.
Although the story of pre-season is likely to be defined by the lengthy list of arrivals and departures in playing staff, one of the most fascinating sub-plots has been the emergence of Jaushua Sotirio as a genuine contender for a position in the starting eleven.
With a range of more experienced options and variations available on both wings, the regularity of Sotirio’s name on the team sheet comes as a pleasant surprise and hints that the 19-year-old could enjoy a key role in Tony Popovic’s plans for the upcoming campaign.
While Sotirio fits the description of the archetypal winger – able to use pace and trickery to beat a man – it’s his flexibility and ability to adapt quickly in all areas across the pitch that has seen him enjoy such promising pre-season.
In last night’s friendly, Sotirio was positioned on the left where his preference was to attack Phoenix right-back Louis Fenton with his directness and pace. He was inclined to cut back inside on his stronger right foot on most occasions, either resulting in a shot on goal or linking up with the likes of Federico Piovacarri and Mitch Nichols.
On a night where the best Wanderers chances were constructed on the counter attack, Sotirio’s pace was instrumental. We’ve seen the opposition defence breached on numerous occasions in pre-season with Scott Jamieson haring down the left wing in support, and Sotirio running into the centre from the left – and it was this phase that led to the best chance of the game in the form of a Wanderers penalty.
Sotirio has been equally as impressive on the opposite flank, where the inclination is to get to the by-line and cross which resulted in a goal for Dimas in the FFA cup tie against Palm Beach as shown below.
Although he’s less direct operating from the right hand side, it’s the area of the pitch from where he’s contributed the most in an attacking sense.
Integral to this has been the former Marconi man’s capacity to find pockets of space in central areas. It’s clear that Sotirio is seen as someone who can influence the centre of the field with his pace, making him the go-to man on the counter-attack.
The increasing involvement from wide players like Sotirio in central areas supports the idea that the Wanderers are placing more emphasis on possession and patient build up play – meaning that wide forwards need to come inside to receive the ball, or else be left isolated.
Sotirio has proven he fits the bill in this regard and his versatility displayed during pre-season is sure to give Tony Popovic a welcome selection headache in the weeks to come.