For Sydney Olympic and Sydney United 58 FC, the Westfield FFA Cup is a welcome opportunity to return to the national stage albeit against tricky opponents.
Olympic coach Grant Lee said his team would be working hard to overcome the logistic nightmare of a midweek trip away to Canberra’s Gungahlin United FC.
“It’s funny how these things work out. We were the only (Football NSW) team to get an away game at this stage last year, and it’s happened again,” Lee said.
“So now we have to play two games in three days, which is hard with part-time players, but of course it’s a fantastic concept and it’s generating a lot of talk and discussion, so we’re better off for it.”
Lee said he was familiar with some of the Capital Football NPL side’s players, and was expecting a tough match in tougher conditions.
“It’s a cold, winters night in Canberra and with Olympic’s history, this is a big match for Gungahlin. It will be a bit of a grand final for them,” Lee said.
“I know a bit about them... looking at their list, there are some good young players and some of them I’d had trial for Olympic too.
“Hopefully we can get up there and try and kill it off early, but we’ll be prepared for a tough game.”
Olympic negotiated the round of 32 last season but suffered defeat against eventual semi-finalist Bentleigh Greens in the round of 16.
Sydney United 58 exited at the same round of last season’s competition, losing to Hyundai A-League outfit Sydney FC, coach Mark Rudan’s former club, in front of over 8,000 people.
United young gun Giuseppe Camera was a new signing at the club on that night and was not called up for the game.
The anguish of missing out has him was chomping at the bit for United’s round of 32 cup tie at home against South Hobart, as the Waratah Cup champions look to continue their fine cup form this year.
“I joined United halfway through the season last year for the under-20s and it was just around that time, so I didn’t get to play,” Camera said.
“I didn’t get the chance last year … but it was an incredible atmosphere. The crowd was unreal, especially for the players.
“The boys still talk about it in the dressing room, so hopefully we can beat South Hobart and draw another Hyundai A-League team. We’re undefeated in cup games this season.
“I don’t know a lot about them, so we’re expecting a tough game against tough opposition – but I just want to show to Mark and the club the best I have because in the short time I’ve been at the club I’ve been treated very well.”
Meanwhile, current PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 leader Blacktown City FC has an interesting tie of its own when it comes up against reigning NPL champions Metrostars SC from NPL South Australia.
City has endured a mixed month, drawing their last three league games and losing the Waratah Cup final to Sydney United 58, but coach Mark Crittenden said he was excited to see Blacktown back on the national stage.
“We’ll do a bit of homework, but they’re a very good side, with some name players like (Fabian) Barbiero, which gives them some good players going forward, but I’m happy with my squad,” Crittenden said.
“We lost at this stage last year to Bentleigh (Greens) and that was disappointing because they’ve scored a bit of a nothing goal and we couldn’t break them down.”
City star Travis Major said amending last year’s wrong was definitely on the agenda for the club this time around.
“They’ve got a few ex-Hyundai A-League boys in their team, so we know they’re good,” Major said.
“No one is worried about the individual exposure, we just want to go as far in this competition as we can.
“Last year is definitely a driving force. Bentleigh came here and hit us on the break early on and then sat back and we couldn’t break them down despite hitting them with wave after wave of attack, so we definitely want to go one better last year because that was gut-wrenching.”
Last season just two out of six Football NSW clubs progressed to the round of 16, proving the difficulty of the task ahead for the five clubs involved this season.
Four of the five Football NSW sides have been drawn at home and will hope the home ground advantage helps ease them through to the round of 16, particularly Balmain Tigers who will be dreaming of the ultimate fairytale win against Melbourne Victory.
It would be a brave person that bets on the Tigers’ against the current national champions, but in cup football, you just never know.