WELLINGTON Phoenix midfielder Daniel has plenty of incentive to turn in a top-shelf performance against Melbourne Victory on Friday night.
Not only are the Phoenix gunning to equal the Hyundai A-League record on unbeaten games at home, but the skilled Brazilian-Kiwi will also celebrate his 50th cap for the Wellington club at Westpac Stadium.
Even more importantly for the 29-year-old, he-ll be playing in front of his baby daughter for the first time.
Daniel-s wife, Danielle, and their son, Daniel, returned to Rio de Janeiro several months ago for the birth of the couple-s second child, a girl they named Luiza. With Luiza now aged two-and-a-half-months and old enough to make the long trip home to Wellington, the family will be reunited in the New Zealand capital on Thursday – the eve of the game against the Victory.
“On Friday it will be the first time my daughter will see me play and little Daniel will be able to understand more football. Also, my father loves football and he will be coming to spend a month with us here in Wellington.
“So it-s a very special time for me and my family. Fifty matches for the Phoenix is great. I love this club and I want to play more and more – 100, 200 matches – and stay here a long time.”
While it-s a special time for Daniel personally, in the context of the team he recognises the importance of Friday-s match.
A win or a draw against Melbourne will see the Phoenix equal the Hyundai A-League record of 14 matches unbeaten at home, matching the run set by Sydney FC in 2005/06. The Phoenix have made Westpac Stadium a fortress, unbeaten there since October last year.
The Phoenix are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 4-1 loss to Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium last weekend. Although they remain in sixth place on the table, the tight nature of the competition has seen the contenders bunch up in the chase for the title.
“We play good football but in Brisbane when we went a man down (Manny Muscat red-carded early in the second half with the score at 1-1) it became difficult,” Daniel said.
“But we must forget that now and focus on beating Melbourne. We need the three points. We-ve got the next two matches at home and we need to get maximum points to push for the playoffs. Melbourne are at the top of table but at home we always play good football and the crowd helps us a lot.
“As players we all have to do our jobs and that is what we work towards.”
With Muscat suspended for three matches following his elbow on the Roar-s Tommy Oar last weekend, Troy Hearfield is set to slot into right back in an otherwise unchanged Phoenix squad for Friday night-s match.