Smith: Roar need to step up
Brisbane Roar need to raise their standards to defend their A-League title, newly re-signed skipper Matt Smith said.
Two pre-season losses to A-League opposition are proof that the reigning champions need to improve, Smith said.
But there is optimism at the Queensland club with the nucleus of the Roar's back-to-back title-winning side intact after Smith, marquee man Thomas Broich and four other players signed long-term deals.
Gloveman Michael Theo, Brazilian winger Henrique and full-backs Ivan Franjic and Shane Stefanutto also committed to new contracts in a remarkable show of faith in the direction of the team under new coach Rado Vidosic.
But after a 1-0 loss to Newcastle one week ago and a disappointing 6-2 defeat to Adelaide on Friday, Smith is fully aware that just keeping this group together will not be enough for Brisbane this season.
"The two pre-season games we've played so far have shown that the A-League (quality) is increasing," he said.
"We need to be better than last year, there's no doubt about that."
However, the 29-year-old centre-back assured fans that Brisbane have been experimenting in the pre-season, and that the recent results are nothing to worry about.
"I'm not concerned at all by the results - we've got new players, new rotations, and we're still developing," Smith said.
"We've been working on some new systems this year but for us, pre-season games are pre-season games.
"Trust me, when it comes to the first round against Perth, we'll certainly be ready."
Reigning Johnny Warren medallist Broich, one of two players to sign a four-year contract extension, is now almost certain to finish his career with the Roar.
"I remember a conversation I had with Rado two years ago when I first came here," the German said.
"I was a long way from home and I felt a bit homesick, and he said just give it time. After two years, this feels like home now."
Veteran defender Stefanutto also committed to a further year with Brisbane, which means his new deal will expire at the end of the 2014 season, when he will be 35.
"I'm not saying it's the end after that year or anything like that, I'm just happy to be here today," Stefanutto said.
Vidosic said he was proud that the six players have decided to stick with the Roar.
"It means that we're going to continue with our stability, our playing style, our club culture, and (it gives us) security for our future," he said.
"I've been part of the last few years and obviously as an assistant coach you get to know the players maybe a little bit more than the head coach.
"I've developed some really good relationships with all of them and I was not surprised that all of these players decided to stay with us.
"They have been very loyal to the club and in our family, loyalty is a two-way street. Today we repay that loyalty back."