Adelaide United nullified Sydney FC in last Friday night’s Hyundai A-League opener, and Siem de Jong was one of the most obvious victims.
Having arrived at the Harbour City with big expectations and the club standard raised sky-high, the 29-year-old will understandably be under the spotlight during his one-year tenure on Australian soil.
And while the FFA Cup Final 2018 won’t be his litmus test, how de Jong responds from Friday’s clash may go a long way in proving his ability to guide Sydney FC to silverware.
FFA CUP FINAL PLAYER TO WATCH: Craig Goodwin
REDS HISTORY: Relieving the 2014 FFA Cup Final
HISTORY: Adelaide's ecstasy, Cahill's heroics: A look at every FFA Cup Final
TICKETS: Secure your seat now for the FFA Cup Final 2018!
Like the rest of his Sydney FC teammates, de Jong struggled to influence Friday night’s Hyundai A-League curtain raiser.
The Dutchman was crowded out effectively by Adelaide and only Andrew Redmayne, Alex Brosque and Adam Le Fondre had less touches of the ball.
Moreover, just 57.1% of de Jong’s passes in the Adelaide half found their mark, and despite floating across the middle third with creative intention, Marco Kurz’s side had clearly done their homework on the Sky Blues marquee.
De Jong has been listed in a central attacking midfield role in his three Sydney FC appearances to date but has regularly plied his craft across the pitch - including the right of midfield.
This has allowed right winger Trent Buhagiar to occupy a position as the most advanced Sydney FC attacker – even beyond Le Fondre himself.
A partnership with the former Mariner and de Jong was blooming with huge optimism prior to Buhagiar’s unfortunate anterior cruciate ligament injury, captured perfectly by how the duo dovetailed in the FFA Cup Semi Final.
Buhagiar’s speed has been one of the most lethal attacking weapons of the early Steve Corica era, and de Jong’s ability to split defences and find the 20-year-old in behind saw his teammate establish the crucial early goal against the Western Sydney Wanderers.
That moment, and the free-kick that was so gracefully dispatched fifteen minutes later – underlined de Jong’s creative ability.
With the former Newcastle United talent ostracised against the Reds last week, de Jong’s ability to create space and conduct the tempo of the match will be one of the key tactical elements ahead of kick off.
And if he escapes the shackles, Adelaide must be wary of the devastating and potentially title-retaining effect Sydney FC’s Dutch maestro can have on tipping the balance their way.