Canterbury are to be respected - Tribulietx
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - The Navy Blues search for a third straight win is under threat when unbeaten Canterbury United Dragons visit Kiwitea Street on Sunday. The Willy Gerdsen-coached Dragons are fresh from a morale-boosting Stirling Sports Premiership derby win over Southern United with former All Whites midfielder Aaron Clapham in sharp form.
Clapham, who was part of the All Whites FIFA World Cup adventure in South Africa six years ago, bagged an impressive hat-trick as Canterbury shoved Southern United aside last week. Coach Ramon Tribulietx said the Dragons possess an array of good qualities that the Navy Blues must show respect for.
"Canterbury are a very physical team they're defensively well organised and they're going to press us high at times. "When that happens at Kiwitea Street it can be difficult but at other times they'll drop deep. Its a well organised and well set up team with a lot of strength on the counter attack.
"They've got very good players like Aaron Clapham and a centreback from Papua New Guinea in Felix Komolong who is very good on the ball.
"Up front they have Stephen Hoyle, Andre de Jong, the new signing Wiesenfarth and Juan Chang, these are players that can hurt you.
"Tom Schwarz and Brock Messenger, who has a long throw in, bring a lot of good things to the mix for Canterbury United, so its going to be a tough game.
AUDIO INTERVIEW - Ramon Tribulietx previews Canterbury United Dragons visit
"Playing twice, three times in a row at home is difficult, four is even tougher in its own way. But we've started to understand how we want to play collectively with the ball. "It is a new system and the team looks good and we're in good spirits.
"We've got the personnel looking sharper so hopefully we can play a good game and compete well," he said.
The two teams met in pre-season at English Park in Christchurch with the Navy Blues ekeing out a 3-2 win on the turf when a brace by Joao Moreira and one from De Vries got Auckland City FC home.
Auckland City FC's ranks are strengthened by the return of Clayton Lewis - back from a trial with Burton Albion in England's League One - and Micah Lea'alafa, the Solomon Islands international who starred recently at the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Colombia.
Tribulietx said the impact of both players returning to the Navy Blues fold could not be underestimated.
"Both Clayton and Micah are good players. Clayton is very young but his game came on a lot in the second half of the season and he improved a lot. "He was patient and was one of our most important players - he can play in midfield or up front and for the way we play this year we can use Clayton's versatility in a variety of ways.
"Its good to have him back. Micah arrives in Auckland tomorrow. Its been unfortunate for him and the club but effectively he's been away from Auckland City FC for six months.
"Coming from the Solomon Islands he's played the game in a different way of late so he's going to need some time to get used to what we're doing collectively. "Micah will need some time to adjust to what we are doing and to remember elements of what we did last season.
"Its great to have him back. He was one of our marquee players last season then he had a period of time where they dip but by the end of the season in the OFC Champions League he was a key player.
"He scored two goals and set up the second one for Clayton. Both these guys add huge value to an already good squad and its great to have them back," he said. Sunday's match will be the 36th competitive clash between the two clubs with the Navy Blues now on a 13 game unbeaten streak, their last loss in the fixture a 1-0 reverse in the final match of the 2010-11 season when a late Ken Yamamoto goal settled the match.
But mitigating those grim statistics are a raft of promising signings made by Gerdsen.
Canterbury United have signed wisely in the off-season with Papua New Guinea international Felix Komolong back in New Zealand football for the first time since he helped guide his country to the final of the OFC Nations Cup in June. Andre de Jong returns to inspire the Canterbury midfield after a brief stint in Australia, and alongside the know-how of Clapham, could be a key figure on Sunday.
Half of Clapham's six career goals against Auckland City FC have been scored on Kiwitea Street signalling a clear and present danger represented by the free-kick and penalty specialist. Extra Information Match Details Sunday 6 November, 2016 Auckland City FC v Canterbury United Kiwitea Street, Sandringham Kick-off: 3pm NZST #ACvCU AC (from):
Enaut Zubikarai (GK), Takuya Iwata, Mario Bilen, Angela Berlanga, Harry Edge, Reid Drake, Darren White, Ryan De Vries, Te Atatwhai Hudson-Wihongi, Nicolai Berry, Albert Riera, Dae Wook Kim, Emiliano Tade, Joao Moreira, Alfie Rogers, Yousif Ali Al-Khalisy, Micah Lea'alafa, Marko Dordevic, Danyon Drake (GK), Jacob Spoonley (GK), Fabrizio Tavano, Clayton Lewis.