Western United racing to add to striking stocks

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Assistant coach John Anastasiadis is expecting A-League expansion club Western United to be tough to break down, but acknowledges adding bite up front will be the final piece of the jigsaw.

With pre-season training barely two months away for the new entity, the squad to be led by head coach Mark Rudan is stacked with defensive and midfield talent.

But it’s in the final third where the newcomers have still to assemble their full armoury with 16 players announced thus far - and at least seven more to come.

A forward in his playing days with Greek powerhouse PAOK before distinguishing himself as the coach of NPL side Bentleigh Greens, 

Anastasiadis was United’s first official signing.

And he knows better than anybody how important an end product will be to a club pledged to lighting up the competition.

Other than the vastly experienced Scott McDonald, 35, the roster is at yet light on firepower.

McDonald - with 180 career goals in 521 senior appearances across nine clubs   - is ensured talismanic status as he schools the likes Valentino Yuel, plucked from Bentleigh Greens and former Adelaide United forward Apostolos Stamatelopoulos.

“The front third is an area where we’re looking at some other players coming through in the next month, no doubt,” said Anastasiadis.

“They’ll be a few foreign legion players filling those roles I expect but who they will be is down to the coach and the board.

“Players like Scott McDonald will have a leadership role and his presence will be important for the likes of Stamatelopoulos and Yuel to learn from.

“But will need of course to bring in more players around them at that end of the field.”

If building from the back is football’s first law of engagement then United, Anastasiadis believes, are already in good shape.

“We’re going to be a ball playing team, who’ll try and dictate games,” he added.

“The players we’ve signed aren’t the type who’ll just want to get rid of the ball at the first opportunity.

“We’ll play through the lines but we’ve also signed a lot of hard workers to get that blend right.

“There’s been a good reason for every signing. We’ve looked at hundreds of players and we’ve picked the ones we’ve thought would buy into the philosophy, culture and style of the club.

“There are more to come - and as I’ve said the front line needs some additions.

“But any visa players we bring in will need to be better than what we’ve got and will need to bring something different.

“We’re not interested in players just coming here for the lifestyle. We want players who are hungry and will add a different dimension to the team and put bums on seats.”

With solidify at the back the key building block, Anastasiadis sees A-League keeper of the year Filip Kurto as the ideal man between the sticks.

Socceroo Josh Risdon at right-back was an early capture and there is deep defensive depth with the likes of Aaron Calver, Jonathan Aspropotamitis and Brendan Hamill on board and former Besiktas utility Ersun Gulum offering leadership qualities.

Anastasiadis is also excited by the potential of young midfielders Sebastian Pasquali, fresh from the Ajax development system and Melbourne City recruit Josh Cavallo.

They’ll come under the influence of marquee Greek signing Panagiotis Kone in the central areas, with Connor Chapman in a holding role.

Connor Payne will operate on the left and Risdon, and possibly Dylan Pierias will provide thrust and pace down the right.

“Sebastian has been part of a fantastic Ajax system and would have learned heaps. Now is the right time for him to step up to the senior fold at a club like ours.”

He’s also a Cavallo convert, anointing him as “one for the future”.

“He can play the six or eight roles and he has a great future ahead of him. The world is his oyster,” said Anastasiadis.

“Look, we’re not coming into make up the numbers. We want to be leaders and we’re aiming to make a big impression from the word go.

“This isn’t about coming in for our first year and saying we’ll just get by. No, from our first day of pre-season we’ll be going from it.”