CENTRAL COAST Mariners coach Graham Arnold would not be surprised if Jets flyer Craig Goodwin earned a call up to national duty in the not too distant future.
As a former Socceroos coach and long-time assistant, Arnold is well placed to make judgment and he could not have been more impressed by the Adelaide-born 20-year-old.
"Against Sydney, Craig Goodwin, for me, was man of the match," Arnold said. "The kid was up against Brett Emerton, an experienced international, and he was fantastic.
"From what I saw the other night and from what I saw of him at Melbourne Heart, national teams are always crying out for left-sided players."
Tommy Oar was the last player to make the transition from boom A-League rookie to international.
The former Brisbane Roar winger, who is also 20, is in his second season at Dutch club Utrecht, has four Socceroos caps and was in the squad to play Iraq overnight.
Goodwin is not the finished product, but Arnold is wary of his ability to run at players and open up the defence ahead of the opening F3 Derby of the season at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night.
"We need to be on our toes against him and we have to cut out the supply," he said. "I felt that Sydney did not cut out the supply."
Goodwin sent a scare through the Jets camp yesterday when he rolled his right ankle at training during a short-sided game and was unable to complete the session.
He crashed to the ground after a tangle with James Virgili. Physiotherapist Rob Dingle checked him over, and although he limped off the injury is not believed to be major.
The Mariners are yet to concede a goal in two outings and sit in equal second on four points from a scoreless draw with Western Sydney away and 1-0 over Perth Glory at home.
"In the two years I have been here, we have prided ourselves on our defensive structure," Arnold said. "If you look around the world, teams with the best defence normally win the league.
"Against Western Sydney we played a little bit too open for my liking.
"Against Perth we did very well but unfortunately we gave the ball away in transition too much."
The Jets present a different challenge to Wanderers and the Glory. Coach Gary van Egmond changed formation from a 3-2-2-3 he used in the 2-0 loss to Adelaide to a 4-4-2 against Sydney FC (3-2 win).
Arnold would not be surprised if he tinkered with the line-up again.
"Dutchy is well known for changing his tactics and his system regularly," Arnold said. "Against Sydney he changed not only the structure for [marquee striker] Emile Heskey but the way they play.
"They were much more direct. They knocked quite a few long balls to get it up to him and then he had players running off him. It is going to be a good challenge.
"Newcastle have rebuilt the whole squad. They have gone and bought a marquee player for a million dollars.
"We believe in Australian youth down here.
"We don't have the marquee players like other clubs, but we have a good culture and players who are prepared to work hard every day."
AAP reports: Socceroos' midfielder Vince Grella will play club football in Australia for the first time in 14 years after agreeing to join the Melbourne Heart.
Grella, 33, has been dogged by injuries during the past four years at English Premier League club Blackburn.
Prior to that, he spent a decade in Italy playing for Empoli, Torino and Parma.
Grella has earned 46 caps for Australia and was a key member of the national squad at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. His signing is a coup for Heart coach John Aloisi, a former international teammate of Grella.
The Heart have made a fast start to the 2012-13 A-League campaign, with a win and a draw in their opening two games.
The Melbourne-born Grella will link up with his new club on Monday. His only previous experience in Australian club soccer involved single-season stints with the Canberra Cosmos and Carlton in the now defunct NSL.