Phoenix lose Hernandez for Perth match
The Wellington Phoenix are confident they can operate fluidly without playmaker Carlos Hernandez, who will miss their A-League game against Perth Glory with a quad muscle injury.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick is considering Paul Ifill or Stein Huysegems as candidates to replace Hernandez in Perth on Friday.
The Costa Rican international tore the muscle while taking a shot late in their 0-0 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday and is sidelined for at least one week.
Merrick received better medical news from striker Jeremy Brockie, who is fit to start after missing last week with a hamstring strain.
Spanish midfielder Albert Riera will undergo a fitness test on Friday after picking up a groin niggle, prompting Merrick to include New Zealand under-17 midfielder Matthew Ridenton in an expanded squad of 17 as cover.
Left back Reece Caira will return to a starting role after Manny Muscat was suspended for a game.
Hernandez has been the most influential attacker for the ninth-placed Phoenix, who have drawn four and lost three games.
Merrick, a long-time mentor of Hernandez at the Melbourne Victory, says the 31-year-old leaves a sizeable hole to fill but the team won't change their attack-minded outlook in his absence.
"We're putting ourselves under pressure to continue playing that style of football," he said..
"I'm confident that we've got the depth to cover the players that are out and I feel that we're going in with a very strong team.
"We're going with an attacking lineup. Look at last week, we finished with four strikers on the park."
Huysegems has the inside running to slot back into an unfamiliar role behind the front line, with Merrick believing the Belgian's possession and passing skills are underrated.
The Phoenix flew out on Wednesday for the longest trip in world soccer for a domestic league game.
Merrick says his side's winless record is still not affecting their morale.
"I feel we're competing well with every team in the competition," he said.
"If we weren't creating so many chances, then there would be some concerns. But the spirit's good and the attacking play is good."