The FFA Cup returns this weekend with the massive carrot of a place in the national Round of 32 dangling for the four Football West teams still involved.
On Sunday Bayswater City host Rockingham City at Frank Drago Reserve. The teams met at SafeRad Stadium in the NPL WA last month, with Rockingham recovering from 2-0 down to claim a point.
Before that is Saturday’s preliminary semi-final at E&D Litis Stadium between Floreat Athena and Sorrento.
Both sides have enjoyed great runs in the competition previously. In 2016 Floreat almost pulled off an upset against A-League Melbourne City, who went on to win the cup. Sorrento have made the national stage twice before, including in 2017 when they reached the Round of 16.
And an added ingredient to this weekend’s clash is that the respective captains are business partners and best mates.
Reece Vittiglia of Sorrento and Floreat’s Dean Evans are the founders of The Football Centre, the successful indoor training and development facility in Osborne Park.
Indeed, the two former Perth Glory Youth teammates will be running training programs there on the morning of the match and then have lunch together before heading off to do battle. No wonder the pair struggled to keep a straight face when asked to pose for a boxing-style face-off!
However, with the national stage of the FFA Cup so near – and a place in the Belt Up Cup Final also on the line – the excitement was beginning to build when we met on Thursday afternoon.
Evans and Vittiglia were in the Perth SC side which went to Sydney to take on Rockdale in 2015 and the latter said: “We were here last week when the draw happened. Dean was taking a session and when we found out we just looked at each other and laughed. Really we haven’t spoken about it since. But come Saturday it’s game on.
“It’s huge, a real special occasion and the chance to go into the Australia wide draw. We had the best of both of it when we beat Canberra here in Perth then got to go to South Melbourne in the last 16. It was great to be a part of.”
Evans said: “All the boys want a trip away. It’s a great competition and anyone who’s had a taste of it wants more.”
So far this season Evans holds the upper hand over his fellow midfielder, netting twice in Floreat’s 3-1 win over the Gulls in Round Eight. But the Athena player knows that will count for little on Saturday.
“No, it’s a different game. Reece was on the bench that day coming back from injury,” he said.
“We are confident but we know Sorrento are a good side. There is an illusion that Sorrento just play long ball but they play good football. In the second half in that game we had our backs to the wall.”
Floreat head into the match on the back of a 6-0 drubbing of Perth Glory and Evans believes a cup win can act as a springboard for a push for the NPL title.
“We’re seven points off top and that was a great result against Glory in horrible conditions,” he said. “We just have to keep winning to keep the pressure on Perth SC. This cup game is a chance to build momentum.”
Momentum is one thing Sorrento have struggled to maintain in an inconsistent season. Two weeks ago they were fifth, just two points off second. Successive defeats have seen them slip to eighth.
“The last few weeks we have played really, really well but haven’t got the results,” Vittiglia said.
“We dominated Perth and we dominated Cockburn but we need to be more ruthless defensively and in front of goal.
“Beating Floreat will get us back on track. It should be a great game and hopefully the weather will be kind and we can get a really good crowd down.”
FFA Cup Round Seven
Saturday, June 15
Floreat Athena v Sorrento (E&D Litis Stadium, 3pm)
Sunday, June 16
Bayswater City v Rockingham City (Frank Drago Reserve, 3pm)