Phoenix get first test of how well they’re travelling

WELLINGTON Phoenix FC’s impressive home record underscores the impact of travel demands on teams in the Hyundai A-League.

WELLINGTON Phoenix FC-s impressive home record underscores the impact of travel demands on teams in the Hyundai A-League.

Unbeaten in 21 competition matches at Westpac Stadium since October 2008, the most recent last weekend-s 2-0 win against the Central Coast Mariners, the Phoenix have made their home ground a fortress where they have almost come to bank on taking points from visiting teams.

But the Wellington club-s record away from home tells a different story, with points on the road much harder to come by. The Phoenix have won or drawn 15 of 36 away matches since their inaugural season in 2007/08. At home, the Phoenix have won or drawn 32 of 39 matches.

They have a one draw, one win record in their first two games of the 2010/11 season, both at Westpac Stadium. On Friday night the Phoenix play their first away game of the new season, against Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.

Midfielder Leo Bertos knows that if the Phoenix are to be serious title contenders this season they need to start picking up points on the road more often.

“Four points from two games is not bad but we need to improve our away form and that-s the target this year,” he said. “We-re still playing a little bit of catch-up after having the bye in the first round, so it-s important to get something in Brisbane.”

Bertos knows plenty about the impact of long-distance travel after spending his Hyundai A-League career with the competition-s two most geographically “challenged” clubs – the Phoenix and Perth Glory.

“It-s a massive advantage when the away teams have to travel so far. Look at our record in Wellington – no team likes travelling over here, or to the other side of Australia to Perth. That-s just how it is in this league and what you have to deal with.”

Despite that, as well as spending more than four seasons at the opposite poles of the Hyundai A-League, Bertos himself still doesn-t have all the answers to dealing with the distances and time differences involved.

“There are the differences in weather and conditions too, so all those things are factors. But it-s something that-s always going to be there. Our focus this season is to finish in the top two and to do that we need good results away.”

The Phoenix have tried a range of ways to mitigate the impact of travel on players, including flying several days before matches or flying as late as possible.

“It does take a while to adjust,” Bertos said, “but I really think it-s more of a mental thing. We probably need to treat the away games like home games, to try and take that mentality into it. Physically we-re a fit and strong side and we can cope with anyone in that department. The main thing is getting our mindset right so we-re ‘on- from the opening whistle and not chasing games, especially away.”

The first test of how well the Phoenix are travelling comes on Friday against a young Roar side that has started the season well. History is also against the Phoenix, who have never won at Suncorp Stadium. In five matches in Brisbane, the Phoenix have lost four and drawn one.

Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoenix
Friday, 27 August 2010
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Local kick-off:
8.00pm AEST (10pm NZST)
Referee: Chris Beath

Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports 1, FS1 HD & on Sky Sport 2. Hyundai A-League club broadcast partner is 1035AM The Radio Network (Wellington).

Brisbane Roar Squad: 1. Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2. Matt SMITH, 3. Luke DEVERE, 4. Shane STEFANUTTO, 6. Erik PAARTALU, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Massimo MURDOCCA, 10. HENRIQUE, 11. REINALDO, 12. Matt MUNDY, 14. Rocky VICSCONTE, 15. Matt McKAY (c), 17. Mitch NICHOLS, Andrew REDMAYNE, 22. Thomas BROICH, 23. Milan SUSAK *one to be omitted*

In: 8. Massimo MURDOCCA (returns from injury), 12. Matt MUNDY, 14. Rocky VISCONTE (promoted)
Out: 5. Ivan FRANJIC (quad strain – 1-2 weeks), 18. Luke BRATTAN (illness – 1 week)
Unavailable: 9. Jean Carlo SOLORZANO (awaiting ITC)

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 10. Oscar Roberto CORNEJO, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Mirjan PAVLOVIC, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 19. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Dylan MACALLISTER *one to be omitted*

In: Mirjan PAVLOVIC (promoted), Danny VUKOVIC (gk, new signing)
Out: Griffin McMASTER (gk, omitted)
Unavailable: Diego WALSH (knee – 3 weeks), Jade NORTH (international duty – 2 weeks), Reece CROWTHER (gk, ribs – 7 weeks)

Head-to-Head: All matches (played 9): Brisbane Roar 5 wins, Wellington Phoenix 1 win (3 draws)