Victory squad long on experience, short on numbers

Melbourne Victory still have several spots available on their roster for next season, with their most pressing need to find a replacement for the New Zealand international winger Marco Rojas, who left the club to move to the Netherlands in the off season.

It is thought unlikely that Victory, who have a high wage bill after signing a number of experienced and high-profile players, will run with a full A-League complement of 23 players in the squad this season given the salary cap pressures it may be under.

However Victory still have a foreign visa spot available and could yet look to find an attacking wide player as an overseas signing for the upcoming campaign.

So far coach Kevin Muscat has gone for the tried and tested, bringing former skipper Mark Milligan back to the club and retaining - after much negotiation - James Troisi, who had been set to sign for Melbourne City.

In addition he has strengthened his defence with the signature of the vastly experienced former Socceroo Rhys Williams from Perth Glory. One of the most talented defenders Australia has produced in recent years, Williams' career has been blighted by injury. Should he stay fit and healthy this season and play regularly he should be a tremendous addition.

Still, the Socceroos' failure to secure automatic qualification for the World Cup in Russia will give Muscat some unwanted headaches at the beginning of the new A-League season, with no club likely to be hit harder than Melbourne Victory.

Midfield utility Mark Milligan and attacking midfielder James Troisi, both involved in the frustrating 2-1 win over Thailand last week, can be expected to be called up for the October 5 and 10 Asian World Cup play offs against Syria.

The first leg - which the Syrians will stage in Malaysia - comes just 24 hours before the new season kicks off and 48 hours before Victory is due to entertain Sydney FC in a grand final replay. The second leg takes place in Sydney five days later.

Should the Socceroos get through that they will have to face a team from FIFA's north and central region, with those ties being played on November 6, in the Americas, and November 14, in Sydney.

Milligan and Troisi would be expected to be called up for those ties too, which would see them miss the pre-Melbourne Cup match against Western Sydney Wanderers at Etihad Stadium and the November 11 fixture against Brisbane Roar at the same venue.

While they would be free to face Perth Glory in WA on November 19 they are hardly likely to be in the best condition to do so.

Muscat's concerns would not just be with the Australian duo. His skilful winger Kosta Barbarouses, a mainstay of the Victory attack, is also likely to be on duty with New Zealand in its World Cup qualifying playoff.

The All Whites face South American opposition, at home on November 6, away on November 14.

The international calendar always presents a problem for leading A-League teams with Socceroo regulars or fringe players at the start of the season, and the FFA has always refused, despite entreaties from clubs, to make weekends of international matches fixture-free. The headaches are unlikely to stop until they do.

This story Victory squad long on experience, short on numbers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.