A-League tonic for Heart's Olyroos' pain
Melbourne Heart coach John van `t Schip says being thrust straight into A-League action should ease the pain of his returning Olyroos' dashed Olympic dream.
The Dutchman anticipates key Heart youngsters Mate Dugandzic, Jason Hoffman and Aziz Behich will all play at least some part in Sunday's clash with top-placed Central Coast at AAMI Park.
The trio, part of the Australian under-23 team that lost to the United Arab Emirates early on Thursday (AEDT) to end their Olympic qualifying hopes, were not back in time to train with the Heart on Friday.
But provided they pass a Heart medical assessment and make it through training on Saturday, van `t Schip planned to field all three against the Mariners, although probably not for full games.
With the fifth-placed Heart's season delicately poised, the coach said the youngsters were better off playing than dwelling on the Olyroos' failure.
"I think that's the best thing," van `t Schip said on Friday.
"They had maybe a disappointment, but it was already difficult to qualify.
"It's clear now that they're not going to go, so they can concentrate fully on the last games with the Heart.
"I think that's something that will help them get over the disappointment of not qualifying for the Olympics."
The Mariners also have three players - Mat Ryan, Oliver Bozanic and Mustafa Amini - back from Olyroos duty.
The Heart were already boosted last weekend by the return from injury of captain Fred and fellow veteran Matt Thompson, who helped deliver a 1-0 win over Gold Coast, the club's first victory in seven weeks.
Van `t Schip said along with the three points, he saw signs that the club were returning to form at the right time.
"We're confident, we're feeling strong, we've had players coming back from injuries, but also what we already mentioned, the Olyroos, so I think it's right on time to be strong and go for the last part of the league," he said.
The Mariners drew 3-3 with Gold Coast on Wednesday night, but van `t Schip did not expect Central Coast's short break between games to benefit the Heart.
"That's no guarantee. We had that same run and we had good results playing a lot of games mid-week ... they're physically prepared," he said.