Western United Head Coach Mark Rudan is extremely proud of the way his young players performed in his side’s 2-1 win over Sydney FC on Saturday night.
Eight players aged 21 or under featured for the Green and Black, either from the start or off the bench.
Rudan was quick to highlight their impressive performances in the post-game press conference.
“I’m very proud of the young players,” Rudan told reporters.
“Not just the ones that started but also the ones that came on. I thought they were exceptional.
“They’ve worked ever so hard all year, as have my coaching staff in implementing the right behaviours and habits that’s required in each position.
“We mixed up a few experienced players with some younger ones and we had full belief and faith that the young players would be able to do what they did tonight.
“It’s just rewards for all the hard work that they’ve put in
Rudan praised the performances of wing-backs Dylan Pierias and Josh Cavallo, who replaced usual starters Josh Risdon and Connor Pain.
Pierias, who played a full game, provided the assist for United’s 90th minute winner against the Sky Blues.
“We know the speed that [Pierias] has. He’s pretty quick and he can do it three or four times, but he needs to be able to do it for 95 minutes.
“You saw in the 90th minute how he went past two players, one of which just came on, and sets up the winner for Stevie [Lustica].
“It was a training move as well, which made me even more happier.
“Josh Cavallo hasn’t played a lot of football.
“We’ve tried to convert him to that position [wing-back] as well.
“He was up against a Socceroo in Rhyan Grant and he held his own.”
The victory confirms finals football for Western United, who become the third A-League expansion side to qualify for finals in their first season.
Rudan believes it was one of the best results in the club’s short history.
“I thought it was up there as one of our best ever results.
“Considering the changes we made and how well the players played.
“When you consider we’re only in our infancy in our first ever year, to play the premiers on their own turf in a game where they were at full strength, I thought it was one of our best performances and we deserved to win.”
Western United will switch their focus to their final regular season match against Melbourne City next Wednesday, August 19, before lining up in an elimination final next Saturday or Sunday.