“Every time we play them we have a plan for Castro, how to stop him, and we did it again tonight,” Arnold said after Sydney FC’s 3-0 win over Perth in the 2017 semi-final. “Once you take his creativity out of the game, it makes it tougher for them.”
On Saturday night, that plan may no longer be in place. The 37-year-old Castro is still the main threat to Sydney, according to Corica, but the Sky Blues can no longer afford to allocate too many resources to stop one player.
Glory now have the tactically astute, flexible and methodical coach Tony Popovic, who is sure to have a plan B in case of Castro’s nullification. His recruitment suggests as much, with Glory’s attack now boasting Socceroo Chris Ikonomidis and former A-League Golden Boot winner, Bruno Fornaroli. Should Sydney focus solely on Castro, it would leave their defence vulnerable to being breached by the Glory’s other attacking talents.
“He sets up a lot of chances for both of those players, but other players can do a lot of stuff with the ball,” Corica said. “Fornaroli likes the ball to feet and he’s a good player on the ball, technically and skilful as well. Ikonomidis likes to run in behind, he’s quick and a good finisher as well. We will have our hands full on the weekend, so we need to be good defensively and structurally as well.”
In previous years, Sydney FC’s preparation for games against Perth were centred around stopping the former La Liga star. Their first team would train against their second team, which included a player wearing a different colour bib to represent Castro. Whenever he had the ball, coaches would bark orders for an immediate closure of all avenues around the player in the bib.
This week, Sydney’s preparations have been far more holistic and a large part of that is undoubtedly due to the Glory posing a collective threat.
“They are a dangerous team, they have great players up front,” Corica said. “For me, Castro pulls the strings so we definitely need to shut him down and make sure we need to stop him making the play if we can. It’s never easy because he’s a great player, but they have Fornaroli as well. They are a little bit different to last year. They had Keogh but he and Fornaroli are different players.”