Rodriguez may remain on Jets' bench
He may have saved Newcastle's A-League title hopes, but Colombian import Milton Rodriguez is unlikely to be rewarded with a starting berth for the Jets' most important game of the season next weekend.
The livewire striker, who has earned a cult following in the A-League this season with his flowing locks and white headband, scored a crucial away goal for Newcastle in its 2-1 loss to Sydney in the first leg of the elimination semi-final at Aussie Stadium on Friday night.
His 71st minute strike breathed new life into the Jets' finals campaign just as Sydney appeared set to take a commanding two-goal lead to the return leg in Newcastle next Friday.
As he has done in previous weeks, Rodriguez came on as a second-half substitute, replacing veteran forward Vaughan Coveny in the 57th minute.
Newcastle must beat Sydney in front of an expected full house at EnergyAustralia Stadium to have any chance of progressing to the preliminary final.
But despite Rodriguez's late heroics, coach Gary van Egmond will be loath to change his line-up for the re-match.
"I thought Vaughan did exceptionally well last week (in the 4-0 win over Melbourne) and you've got to pay the people who have done well some credit, they got us into the situation where we're now into the top four," said van Egmond.
"I know Milton has definitely played a big part in that, but Vaughan worked extra hard in that first half, and sometimes there are players that come on and play better when the pace of the game is a little bit out of it.
"And Milton is definitely one of those players."
Rodriguez's goal was his seventh of the season - and third against Sydney at Aussie Stadium.
In round four he stunned the defending champions by scoring twice in the second half of his A-League debut to claim a dramatic 2-2 draw.
His goal on Friday, where he turned Sydney defender Iain Fyfe inside out and then rocketed a left-foot strike into the right corner of the net, though, may yet prove far valuable if the Jets do advance to the grand final qualifier.
"The boys came in a little bit shellshocked (after trailing 2-0 at halftime), but ... the change of Milton coming in for Vaughan I thought was influential," van Egmond said.
"We started to ask a few question of their defenders, I don't think (Sydney's defenders) like to go in certain areas where (Rodriguez) took them.
"But whether I start Milton and reverse it with Vaughan, time will well.
"I'll have a look at the DVD and see how I go, but if we are going to achieve anything it's not just going to be with 11 players, it's going to be with 14 or 15."