Queensland’s best FFA Cup hope revealed
THE FFA Cup roars to life on Wednesday when the Round of 32 starts.
Five Queensland clubs - Brisbane Roar, Brisbane Strikers, Olympic FC, Magpies Crusaders and Coomera Colts - remain in the competition.
While the Roar are the state's strongest club, their tough draw suggests they may not last as long as their fellow Queensland outfits.
News Corp football writer Marco Monteverde speaks to each side's coach and rates their team's chances of progressing to the next round.
5. COOMERA COLTS
COOMERA Colts desperately wanted to play an A-League team in the FFA Cup round of 32, but they settled for the next best thing - a road trip.
The Gold Coast Premier League club have travelled to Mackay for tonight's Cup clash against NPL Queensland outfit Magpies Crusaders.
"It was a dream to get an A-League team," Coomera coach Steve Macdonald said.
"But after that the boys just wanted an away trip, so we got that - it's not a bad draw for us.
"We never expected to get as far as we have done, and we never expected to get up to the national stage."
Despite all their players having day jobs, the Colts will travel to Mackay on Tuesday and return home on Thursday.
"We may never have this opportunity again so I just want the boys to live every single moment of it," Macdonald said.
"We were keen to go up the day before the game, have a bit of team bonding, have the game on Wednesday, and come back the next day.
"Whatever happens Wednesday, we'll go out and we'll celebrate either what we've done or fingers crossed, a win."
And having already beaten higher division sides Redlands (NPLQ), Ipswich Knights (FQPL) and Logan Lightning (FQPL) on their fairytale Cup run, Coomera are confident of causing another upset in Mackay.
"We'll go up there respectful, but we'll definitely go up there without any fear," Macdonald said.
Round of 32 match: v Magpies Crusaders, Wednesday 7.30pm, Sologinkin Oval.
The Verdict - Coomera are dangerous in that they have nothing to lose, having already exceed expectations in getting this far. With international trio Yuto Okada (Japan), Payden Pemberton (United States), and Ferdinand Annor (France) in the Colts squad, the visitors can't be underestimated.
4. BRISBANE ROAR
NEW Brisbane coach Robbie Fowler will be an instant hit with the Roar fans if he can take the club on a good FFA Cup run.
The Roar have struggled in the Cup since the competition's inception in 2014.
They haven't been an A-League team in the Cup, with their best performance being a round of 16 berth five years ago.
The 2019 draw hasn't done the new-look Brisbane any favours, but Liverpool legend Fowler will welcome the challenge reigning A-League champions Sydney FC will present at Leichhardt Oval.
"It's a massive opportunity to start the season in the right way," Fowler said.
"I want to do well. Regardless of the history of Brisbane in the FFA Cup, that doesn't concern me because this is now. I want to do well from now.
"Sydney are champions and it will be probably the toughest game we could have had but it's a real test for us, and probably all the pressure is on Sydney.
"They'll be big strong favourites and we're obviously a relatively new team … but it's a great challenge and every player who I've signed should be relishing it.
"You should be relishing playing against the champions in the first game. It's special."
Round of 32 match: v Sydney FC, Wednesday August 7, 7.30pm, Leichhardt Oval
The Verdict - The Roar couldn't have asked for a tougher start to their Cup campaign, especially with some many new faces in the Brisbane squad. But Sydney would be silly to be complacent against a team that will include seasoned professionals Jay O'Shea, Tom Aldred, Brad Inman and Roy O'Donovan.
3. BRISBANE STRIKERS
BRISBANE Strikers' frustrating NPL Queensland season has them determined to make amends in the FFA Cup.
Despite a recent form revival, the Strikers are out of the running for a NPLQ top-four spot because of a poor start to their campaign.
But their chances of causing a "Cupset" at home on August 7 against a Wellington Phoenix side hit in the off-season by the departure of their star coach Mark Rudan and a host of key players are good.
"It's a massive game for us," Strikers coach Owen Baker said.
"The club's had good success in the Cup, and we want to get beyond the round of 32, so we'll be putting everything into this game to make sure we're best prepared to try to win.
"We're disappointed not being in the (top) four so we want to go into the Cup on a good run, with good momentum and good form, so having league games will be a good thing for us going into the Cup."
Baker said it was a good time for the Strikers to be playing the Phoenix, now coached by Ufuk Talay and whose recruits include former Roar defender Luke DeVere.
"If you're going to be up against an A-League team you want them first up, but Wellington have made some good signings over the last few weeks," Baker said.
"They'll put 11 professional players out on the part and they'll be very good, but we've just to learn that they're still trying to learn their shape and maybe not as cohesive as some teams that have been together for a long time."
Round of 32 match: v Wellington Phoenix, Wednesday August 7, 7.30pm, Perry Park
The Verdict - The Phoenix are vulnerable and as Baker said, it's a good time to get them. Andy Pengelly is scoring goals for fun for the Strikers, and is receiving great service from the likes of Jake McLean and Fraser Hills.
2. MAGPIES CRUSADERS
BUOYED by their 4-3 upset weekend NPL Queensland win over Olympic, Magpies Crusaders are full of confidence heading into Wednesday night's FFA Cup clash against fellow Queenslanders, the Coomera Colts.
Representing the Mackay-Whitsunday region, Magpies Crusaders have entered new territory in reaching the Cup round of 32.
Under recently appointed coach Henry Kennell, Magpies Crusaders are fighting their way up the NPLQ ladder, with the Cup adding excitement to the club's mini resurgence.
"There's a bit of momentum, and hopefully we can roll with it going into Wednesday night - we're looking forward to it," Kennell said.
"Each week we keep chipping away, trying to get better, and the guys are starting to get a bit of chemistry. It's important too that they're playing for each other. That's a good platform.
"I'm pretty excited. This is the first time our region's been this far in the FFA Cup … I love the Cup."
That's despite the juggling of NPLQ and Cup commitments, which is difficult for players who aren't full-time professionals and have day jobs.
"We're working hard and we want to see a bright future for our community," Kennell said.
Round of 32 match: v Coomera Colts, Wednesday 7.30pm, Sologinkin Oval
The Verdict - The form of striker Michael Lyall and midfielder Liam Shipton has the Magpies Crusaders firm favourites to beat the Colts. And if they get through this and get another home game next round, a quarter-final berth is within their reach.
1. OLYMPIC FC
OLYMPIC FC coach Ben Cahn admits he might have derailed his team's NPL Queensland campaign in the quest for FFA Cup glory.
But despite having a few regrets in fielding a weakened side in Olympic's shock 4-3 NPLQ loss in Mackay to Magpies Crusaders, Cahn said his team's Cup battle on Wednesday night at Perry Park against West Australian club Bayswater City was "massive".
"It was potentially a mistake we made (against Magpies Crusaders) but we're very serious about the Cup ¬ we're very determined to do well," Cahn said.
"It's just good for an ambitious club to be in the Cup's round of 32 year in, year out. With that comes the exposure. It's important for the club to be successful in all competitions."
Cahn said Football Queensland had not done Olympic any favours in terms of match scheduling.
"Unfortunately Football Queensland have been not so accommodating with us in terms of our requests for managing the schedule. We were pretty disappointed with that," he said.
"Given that we're playing two games in four days including the Cup, we requested to move (this Sunday's) league game against Lions so we could recover from the two games in such a short period with flights but they weren't happy for us to go ahead with that.
"But we've got full belief in the players we've got to manage the next two games at get two positive results."
Round of 32 match: v Bayswater City, Wednesday 7.30pm, Perry Park
The Verdict - An Olympic side containing gun striker Chris Lucas, experienced pair Alex Smith and Matt Mundy, and emerging duo Jez Lofthouse and Jack Glover should dispose of a fellow NPL club that has made the long trip over from Perth.