CAPE TOWN – Cape Town City were smooth and enterprising in possession in defeating SuperSport United at the weekend, but they were just as fragile and vulnerable when they lost the ball. It’s an area head coach Benni McCarthy has noted and will have impressed on his players after the SuperSport victory. Because, as good as City were in victory at the weekend, it’s just as important they focus on the shortcomings of their performance.
City are back in action when they take on Baroka FC in a PSL fixture at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane tonight (7.30pm kickoff) - and McCarthy, no doubt, has quickly latched on to a weakness his team will have to shore up rather rapidly.
While the Cape side defeated SuperSport 2-0 at Cape Town Stadium on the opening day of the new league season on Saturday, their approach certainly leaves them open to teams who play on the break.
McCarthy’s men are comfortable on the ball, they love to pass their way out of trouble and, often, on attack, they commit too many players forward.
So, when they lose the ball, and especially with both flank defenders Edmilson Dove and Thami Mkhize bombing forward, the opposition is able to take advantage of the space between the attacking line and the defence.
It is a known fact that Baroka have had the better of City - and the Polokwane-based club have done so by using the strategy of catching the Capetonians on the counter.
McCarthy is aware of the threat posed by Bakgaga, and he is also mindful that his team needs to be more focused and in shape when they lose the ball. If not, City could well fall prey to the Baroka bogey again.
But McCarthy’s confidence ahead of tonight’s match, though, stems from the giant they have in goal - new Dutch number one Peter Leeuwenburgh.
In previous games against Baroka, McCarthy feels they were let down by some shoddy goalkeeping; this time, he has the solid presence of Leeuwenburg to rely on.
The City coach, though, also acknowledged the off-field difficulties he faces in the job. Coaching is not just about setting out a team and thinking about tactics, it’s also about man-management and creating an environment for players to feel comfortable.
After the arrival of Leewenburgh, however, McCarthy knew he had a tough job on his hands in explaining the situation to the other goalkeeper, Sage Stephens.
Stephens came to prominence in a big way last season - now he has to go back to being the number two. Who would want to be a coach?
“Explaining the situation to Sage was one of the toughest things for me to do,” said McCarthy.
“Last season, he came in as a back-up to Shu-Aib Walters - and I told him that if he worked hard and showed me what he could do, then he would get his opportunity. When he got a chance, he made the jersey his own.
“Now the situation is that we’ve got Peter. He has been at Ajax Amsterdam for 14 years, which means he has a good pedigree.
“In Amsterdam, a player is assessed every year and the fact that he was kept on all those years means he is a good player; if not good enough, Ajax Amsterdam will move the player on.
“And you could see when Peter played in the pre-season friendly against Kaizer Chiefs that he is a very good goalkeeper.
“Sage had to understand. I had a discussion with him; I know it wasn’t easy to take, but he has accepted it.
“For us, though, it means that we have two good goalkeepers who can push each other because healthy competition always brings the best out of players.”
Today: Free State Stars v Maritzburg United; Golden Arrows v Bloemfontein Celtic; Baroka FC v Cape Town City (Peter Mokaba Stadium, 7.30pm); Chippa United v Orlando Pirates; SuperSport United v AmaZulu
Tomorrow: Highlands Park v Black Leopards