Bridge reborn with Wanderers
Western Sydney's remarkable debut A-League season has featured many success stories but few sweeter than the rejuvenation of Mark Bridge.
The born-again attacker scored in the Wanderers' 2-1 win over Newcastle on Saturday night and has proved a key component in the newcomers' rise to second place.
It continued a great run for the 27-year-old, who has rediscovered his mojo after a disappointing end to his stint with Sydney FC.
After scoring nine times in the Sky Blues' victorious 2009/10 campaign, Bridge contributed only four goals in 36 games over the following two seasons.
He admitted he needed a change and was released with a year on his contract to join the competition new boys.
And Bridge hasn't looked back.
Flourishing under the coaching of Tony Popovic and with a "more professional" approach to his game, Bridge has already contributed eight goals and two assists.
That's come despite playing in a wide role and Popovic feels Bridge has found his ideal position.
"He's adapted very well," Popovic said of Bridge, a goal scorer in two A-League grand finals.
"I think early on in the year you could see the amount of chances he was getting and the amount of chances we were creating, he just wasn't scoring.
"For us, he's a winger, he's not a midfielder and if he was playing deep he wouldn't have the amount of chances he does.
"It's the same with Youssouf (Hersi). They've got chances every game and good chances, not half chances.
"That's a positive for us and we're becoming more clinical in the final third."
The Wanderers' fifth-straight win moved them to within four points of leaders Central Coast.
Popovic can no longer play down his side's title hopes but says an upcoming run of matches against third-placed Melbourne Victory (away), Perth (home) and the Mariners (away) will be decisive.
"It's a great time to be a player right now," Popovic said.
"We've got real games to look forward to and I'm sure after the next three games we'll know how high we can finish."