Cape Town - Maritzburg United have their fingers crossed with regard to the availability of three foreign players as they chase their first points of the new Absa Premiership season.
The Team of Choice, who opened 2019/20 with a 1-0 loss to Arrows, say they are hoping the two men they signed from Oceania recently - midfielder Micah Lea’alafa and defender Daniel Morgan - will finally have their work permits processed before Friday’s clash with Highlands Park at home.
In addition, United boss Farook Kadodia said yesterday that José Alí Meza of Venezuela - an attacker offered to them on loan by Sundowns recently - would be given until the end of the week to notify them whether he has sorted out his much-reported family issues and could commit to the United cause this season.
The situation involving the three players also seems to have an impact on what coach Eric Tinkler can settle for as his main tactical approach for the season, considering that some players will give him better options than others for his essential choice between persisting with a 3-5-2 formation or changing to a 4-4-2.
Morgan and Lea’alafa, both 28 years old, had to miss the team’s unsuccessful outing to Arrows in Durban last Sunday, and wait longer to make their debuts under Tinkler.
Said Kadodia about the three men: “We can’t say for certain whether Morgan and Lea’alafa will have their paperwork sorted this week, but we are hopeful it will be done.
“As for Meza, he is still dealing with his family who apparently want him to remain in Venezuela. We are giving him until the end of the week to give us a final answer on the possibility of him coming to us. If it is no, then we will have to look for another attacking player.”
Tinkler said after the clash with Arrows on Sunday he was disappointed that Meza had not been able to sign with United yet because he saw the player fulfilling a special role "as a No. 10" in his team.
Tinker has 25 warriors in his squad at present, comprising three goalkeepers, six defenders, 12 midfielders and four strikers. Two of the very mobile and energetic midfielders, Bandile Shandu and Mxolisi Kunene, have been featuring as wingbacks on the right and left respectively.
But is probably only when all the new men are available that the fans will be able to see Tinkler’s system of choice and the 11 men he believes are best suited for it from the start of the match.
Against Arrows at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium on Sunday, the coach granted Phumlani Ntshangase a debut next to Miquel Timm in central midfield, while Zimbabwean recruit Gabriel Nyoni was employed as a striker next to Judas Moseamedi but later moved to the right flank as part of changes designed to bring United an equalising goal that never arrived. But it is possible that these players might end up being used differently in the future, not least because different opponents require different strategies.
Said Kadodia: "It was disappointing to concede that goal through a defensive error against Arrows last Sunday. I thought a draw would have been a fair result on the day.
"Now, we are looking for a good game and good crowd turn-out against Highlands Park on what is a public holiday on Friday. Everybody knows they are tough to beat, so our guys have to be up to the challenge on the night."
Kick-off at 20:00.