Heart's Fred finished for A-League season
Melbourne Heart star Fred's troubled A-League season is over, and his future beyond this campaign remains in doubt.
The 33-year-old captain tore his quadriceps at training this week - the latest in a long line of injury setbacks to plague him this season.
Coming off contract, one of the finest players to don an A-League jersey must wait for end-of-season discussions to see whether he has a future at the Heart.
Coach John Aloisi admitted it had been a difficult season for the Brazilian playmaker, who has struggled with a succession of soft tissue problems since undergoing surgery at the end of last season.
In Fred's 19 games this campaign, he has lasted 90 minutes just five times - the latest in December against Wellington Phoenix.
"Fred's out for at least a month, so that's his season over," Aloisi said of an injury sustained while striking a ball during a training drill.
"After that operation he had in the off-season, he hasn't fully recovered. It's been a tough time for him.
"We'll sit down with Fred at the end of the season and go through what we feel and discuss what the future holds for him."
The Heart have been forced into a major restructure for Sunday's away clash with Brisbane Roar, with four players including Fred missing.
Central defensive pairing Simon Colosimo (suspended) and Patrick Gerhardt (international duty) are unavailable, while Jonatan Germano is also injured.
Aloisi said he would team youngster David Vrankovic with veteran Jamie Coyne in central defence.
The Heart remain a mathematical chance to make the finals, but must beat the Roar to keep that hope alive.
While they could finish as high as fifth, they could also finish last if they lose both remaining games - and would appear more likely to miss the finals than make them.
The Roar are far better placed, two points ahead of the Heart and able to leap into the top six with maximum points.
The Heart have lost their past three matches, and have been abysmal on the road this season.
They have not won outside Melbourne since December, 2011 - and their only "away" win this season was at Etihad Stadium against Melbourne Victory in week one.