Salsa style at Mariners
Adrian Caceres could never be accused of lacking flair or flamboyance. Born in Argentina and raised in Perth, the Central Coast Mariners midfielder carries a sense of style, on and off the pitch.
''He loves his cars, colognes and designer brands,'' said a Mariners insider. ''There's even a rumour that he's been taking Salsa dance classes.''
And with those nimble feet and creative instincts, the 27-year-old has quickly got in step with attack-minded Central Coast in the Hyundai A-League after moving to Gosford from Melbourne at the start of the season.
A member of Melbourne Victory's all-conquering side in 2006-2007, Caceres grew increasingly frustrated in a role that often saw him coming from the bench. Eighteen of his 42 appearances with the Victorian club over two years came as a substitute.
But at the Bluetongue Stadium, Caceres has already seen more game time in terms of minutes this season than the previous three, with starts in 15 of 17 matches up to the end of round 19.
With potent strikers like Matt Simon, Dylan Macallister, Sasho Petrovski and Nick Mrdja, Caceres has become an effective linkman from midfield with the Mariners scoring more goals than any other club in the competition.
Wearing the number 10 shirt (he wore 14 at Melbourne), Caceres can play either in his familiar left-sided position or in a more central role. He's also been known to go up-front, although that's rarely needed at the Mariners, given their abundance of international class forwards.
As well as playing entertaining football, the Mariners have garnered a reputation as a team who dig deep in the face of adversity. They've become Australia's comeback kings: seven times this season, they've scored goals in the last 10 minutes to win or draw matches.
One of the rare times they came up short was in round 19 at home to Queensland Roar where they trailed 4-2 after 69 minutes. Matt Simon pulled a goal back with nine minutes left but the visitors hung on for a 4-3 win.
Caceres' creative instincts were born as a junior at Buenos Aires club Velez Sarsfield and developed on trips back to Argentina as a teenager as he grew up in Western Australia.
Another influence was former England coach Glenn Hoddle who managed him during a spell at Southampton when they were in the Premier League in 2000-2001.
The then 19-year-old came tantalizingly close to making a Premier League appearance, regularly travelling with a first team squad that included Matt Le Tissier and sitting on the bench for a home game against Charlton.
Caceres went out on-loan to Brentford and had short spells at several lower league clubs including Yeovil Town, Wycombe Wanderers and Aldershot.
In between, he was part of the Perth Glory side that won two consecutive titles in the old National Soccer League (NSL). And by 2005, Caceres was back in Australia with Perth in the inaugural season of the Hyundai A-League, signed by former Liverpool and England midfielder Steve McMahon, the then-Glory coach.
As well as the prospect of playing in the upcoming A-League finals, Caceres is likely to line up for his second consecutive AFC Champions League campaign. He produced some lively AFC displays for Melbourne last season and is likely to a pivotal figure as the Mariners embark on their inaugural mission in Asia.
Central Coast are in the same group as Korea's Pohang Steelers, Kawasaki Frontale from Japan and Chinese club Tianjin Teda. They open their campaign at home to Korean FA Cup winners Pohang on March 11th.
Q: Adrian, in percentage terms, how Argentinean do you feel?
A: I'm very much Argentinean. Obviously I was born there and have my family background and everything from there. I feel very Argentinean but also I'm lucky enough to live in this wonderful country. I also feel very Australian so I'd love to be both Argentinean and Australian.
Q: What do you remember about playing for Velez Sarsfield as a young kid?
A: I was obviously very young and it was also for a small period of my life. But obviously the training and the little games that we used to have are fond memories of mine. I picked up a lot of little things that they teach you there at a young age.
Q: How would you compare playing for the Mariners with playing with Melbourne Victory?
A: It's hard to compare any team here in Australia to another because they're all different and they're all unique. At the moment, I'm enjoying my football here at the Mariners. Playing 90 minutes has been very important to me. I'm just enjoying my time. It's just hard to compare, really.
Q: What qualities make the Mariners unique in the A-League?
A: I think the will not to give up and play right until the end and have faith in ourselves, knowing that we can always come back from hard times. Obviously playing better football is always good too. But coming back is probably our greatest strength.
Q: What are your favourite memories of playing in England?
A: From my time in England, I've got a lot of fond memories. Obviously, playing at Southampton between 18 and 20 and being part of a Premier League club. Training with the likes of Matt Le Tissier who was a great player and learning football off him and others. It was an amazing time in my career.
Q: How far do you expect the Mariners to go this season?
A: All the way, I hope. Hopefully we'll be there in the finals and go on from there. We're in the Champions League so hopefully we'll have a successful campaign there as well.
Q: What players in world football in your position do you admire the most?
A: I think Xavi at Barcelona and Frank Lampard at Chelsea are a couple of very good players in my position who I try to emulate and really look up to.
• Australian-born Jason Dasey (www.jasondasey.com) is an international broadcaster and corporate host. He covered the 2006 World Cup and 2007 Asian Cup for ESPN.