The Western Sydney Wanderers’ shocking injury run looks set to continue with the club sweating on the result of scans on Mark Bridge’s groin injury, which could see the forward sidelined for several weeks.
Bridge was hurt during the first half of the 1-0 loss against Brisbane Roar on Sunday, managing to play out the first 45 minutes before needing to be substituted.
The club is already without striker Brendon Santalab and utility Shannon Cole (both shoulder injuries) for the rest of the season and Brendan Hamill (torn quadriceps) may not make it back in time for the final few domestic matches.
Coach Tony Popovic revealed that Bridge appeared to have injured either his “abdominal or groin” after the match, admitting the early prognosis “doesn’t look good” as he hobbled into the changerooms.
Western Sydney returned to Sydney on Monday from their unsuccessful trip to Brisbane and only went through a light session, with their gruelling schedule giving Popovic and his assistants little opportunity to put much work his squad.
The Wanderers were hoping to get a swift answer on the extent of the injury but will not have the results of the scan until early Tuesday. However, he is certainly out of the club’s upcoming home matches, against Melbourne City on Wednesday and then against Melbourne Victory just 48 hours later.
The coach said he believed that Bridge’s injury was not just the result of a sheer accident at Suncorp Stadium, saying the seeds of such soft-tissue injuries were sewn in the absence of a proper pre-season and an unforgiving match schedule.
“I think it’s an accumulation [related injury],’ Popovic said. “We certainly didn’t do the pre-season that we’d done in the first two years, we missed 50-odd days of training going through the Asian Champions League.”
“We wouldn’t change it for anything, winning the ACL, going to Morocco, but when we came back we were certainly not at the level that we wanted to be at and hence we’ve picked up a lot more injuries than we did in the first two years.”
The stifling humidity in Brisbane took a major toll on two sides still trying to recover from their midweek Asian matches, with the Roar staying on a high after their 1-0 win over Urawa Reds – with a Brendan Borrello strike deciding both matches.
“It was a really tough game. The conditions were difficult, both teams trying to back up from ACL commitments, and physically we found it difficult,” Popovic said. “We’ve got a lot of players that are new to the club, we’ve got a lot of players now that are unfortunately long-term injuries – we’ve got five, possibly another one.
“Physically I think we’re struggling. The effort’s there, the commitment’s there but we’re just not quite at the level that we want to be.”
With the A-League season all but finished for the Wanderers, despite having a third of the season still to play, Popovic is likely to start trying even more players with a view to deciding who he wants to keep for next season.
There’s a strong chance the Wanderers will field two entirely different sides for the matches against City and Victory, with those players who fronted up against Brisbane more likely to be rested against City to give them extra time to prepare for the Victory game.
Journeyman Nick Ward was recently added to the A-League squad and the 29-year-old, who has not played professional football since taking to the field with the Newcastle Jets in April last year, may get a chance to make an impression and save his career.
Midfielder Nick Kalmar, technically only eligible for the Asian Champions League, looks set to also be re-activated as an injury-replacement player for Bridge, three weeks after his last injury deal expired.
After facing the Victory on Friday night, the players then fly to South Korea for their battle with FC Seoul the next Wednesday and then race back to Sydney to face the Newcastle Jets at home on the subsequent Saturday –before trips to Brisbane and Perth await in the week after.