Coach calls on Sydney FC players to help Del Piero


SYDNEY (AP) -Sydney FC coach Ian Crook says Alessandro Del Piero needs more support from his teammates if he's to shine in Australian football's A-League.

Del Piero made his A-League debut in Sydney's 2-0 loss at Wellington on Saturday and Crook said the former Juventus star wasn't helped by sloppy service from fellow players.

The 37-year-old Italian started up front in Sydney's 4-3-3 formation but was forced to drop back because of a lack of opportunities in attack. Crook said it was up to Del Piero's teammates to ensure the league's star recruit was provided with more and better chances.

"All good players need good service too," Crook said. "We've got the players to provide it, things just didn't work out for us at the weekend."

Sydney FC officials are anticipating a record crowd for Del Piero's first home game this weekend, with the Sky Blues' facing a Newcastle Jets lineup expected to include former England striker Emile Heskey.

The club's biggest crowd for a regular season home game was 33,458 when it hosted Melbourne Victory in 2008. The Jets opened with a 2-0 home loss to Adelaide United, with Heskey playing 70 minutes.

The recruitment of Del Piero and Heskey and Japan's Shinji Ono - who joined new club Western Sydney Wanderers this season - has already translated into extra attention for the fledgling league, which was floundering after two clubs folded in the last two years. Sydney has already signed up more season members than ever in its seven-year history.

Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley announced Monday that a total 93,800 fans attended matches in the season-opening round last weekend - beating the single-round record of 87,000 set last season - and that the average satellite TV audience per game topped 100,000, up 53 percent from last season's average.

The A-League, which struggles to compete against the Melbourne-based Australian rules Australian Football League and the Sydney-based National Rugby League competitions in terms of crowds numbers and TV ratings, is negotiating a new broadcast deal and Buckley was confident that the interest already shown this season would help secure the code a better deal.

Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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