Ricki Herbert has handed playmaker Daniel his first opportunity to start for the Wellington Phoenix this season and the Brazilian-turned-Kiwi is focused on making the most of his opportunity.
Daniel has been on the bench for the Phoenix’s first four Hyundai A-League 2009/10 matches but gets his chance to impress from the opening whistle at Westpac Stadium on Friday night against Adelaide United.
“It has been a long time for me on the bench,” the 29-year-old said. “But I respect Ricki’s decision. Of course I was not happy to be on the bench, it is not a nice place to be. Every player wants to start, but you have to respect the coach’s decision.
“I decided I would work very hard at training and now it is my time. I want to do my job and help us get three points at home.
“I’m probably not quite 100 per cent fit. Every player needs to play 90 minutes and I have gone a long time without starting. But I have been working hard and I want to play as long as I can against Adelaide.”
Daniel formed a terrific partnership with Tony Lochhead on the Phoenix’s left flank in the club’s inaugural season and he is keen to reignite that productive partnership with his fellow left-footer at Westpac Stadium.
“Tony is an excellent player, he is running all the time, and we play well together because we understand each other. We need to get that back again and create problems for other teams.”
Daniel’s focus is also on ensuring the delivery of quality ball to his strikers – a la his superb cross for Chris Greenacre’s headed goal against Brisbane Roar in the 1-1 draw at Suncorp Stadium in round 3.
“I must put in good crosses for Chris and Paul (Ifill) and I know I can do this.”
As well as Daniel, Herbert is poised to give Vince Lia a start against the Reds. Lia, Ben Sigmund and skipper Andrew Durante are the candidates to slot into right back in place of Manny Muscat, who is away on international duty with Malta, while Jon McKain will start in central defence.
“Like Daniel, Vinnie’s been patient and his impact off the bench when required has been very, very good,” Herbert said. “I’ve seen the hunger in his eyes and he’s been training well, so I’m expecting a big game from him.”
While the news is good for Daniel and Lia, there is disappointment for talented youngster Marco Rojas. The 17-year-old was set to take a spot in the playing squad for the Adelaide match but a calf strain has seen him sidelined.
“Marco would have been on the bench,” said Herbert. “That would have been fantastic for him and reward for all his work. So, if not for a calf strain, he would have been part of it. Marco’s got an abundance of ability but I need to ensure that when he gets his chance he’s able to grab it. I need him at 100 per cent and if things go well (with his recovery) I’ll certainly be looking to take him to Melbourne for the match against the Victory (on September 13).”