METROSTARS faced a club brimming with A-League talent and willing to bankroll interstate scouting missions as they vied for a place in the last eight of the FFA Cup.
But coach Michael Pirone has praised his part-time players’ ability to rise to the challenge after the Klemzig club fell 1-0 to Victoria’s Oakleigh Cannons on Tuesday night.
“The boys were shattered, each and every one of them,” Pirone said after the match.
“But I’m extremely proud of the effort the players put in.
“I thought we were the better of the two teams over the 90 minutes ... but we just couldn’t capitalise on that pressure.
”Oakleigh’s line up included five players with recent national league experience — Steve Pantelidis (Melbourne Victory, Perth Glory), Kofi Danning (Sydney FC, Brisbane Roar), Mirjan Pavlovic (Wellington Phoenix), Sean Rooney (Newcastle Jets) and Matthew Foschini (Melbourne Victory).
Rocky Callisto dribbles the ball along the sideline for MetroStars. Photo: Roger Wyman.Source:News Corp Australia
Pirone said the Cannons also flew representatives west to watch MetroStars’ final match of the SA Premier League season against Modbury last month.
“On paper it was definitely tough,” he said.
“So for us to really outplay them for the majority of the game, it’s testament not just to MetroStars but to our league.“It would have been very easy for us to sit back and say ‘hey, they’re packed with ex-A-League players’ and be submissive.
“But we gave as good as we got.”
The National Premier Leagues champion went close to taking the lead on three occasions in the first half.
The Cannons scored the winner in the 66th minute when keeper Dan Godley misjudged a through ball and Pavlovic slotted home.
Adam van Dommele keeps the ball from Kofi Danning.Source:Getty Images
Pirone defended the ex-Adelaide City NSL veteran, who hung up his gloves after a 402-match senior carer.
“People will magnify Daniel’s mistake because it cost a goal, but that’s the unfortunate fact of being a goalkeeper,” the mentor said.
“Daniel was the reason we got there in the first place and he was outstanding (in the round of 32) against Blacktown.”
Pirone said he would look to reinforce his squad with “one or two” additions ahead of next season after a disappointing seventh place league finish.