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Should Scott McDonald get another Socceroos shot?

by John Davidson on Nov 30, 2012

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Australia’s striking stocks remain remarkably low and Middlesbrough forward Scott McDonald is in red-hot form, pushing hard for a recall to the national team, John Davidson writes.

It’s a sad fact but there are very few Australian strikers who are currently scoring goals regularly this season, either at home or abroad.

After eight rounds of the A-League, 35-year old Mariners centre-forward Daniel McBreen surprisingly tops the goal-scoring charts with seven. The next highest placed Aussie, in fourth place on the ladder, is Adelaide’s Socceroo Dario Vidosic with five goals. Of the top ten goal scorers on the chart, just three of them are Australian, with Ryan Griffiths joining McBreen and Vidosic on the list.

It’s a similar story overseas.

Nathan Burns has struggled to get on the park for Incheon United in Korea, the same for Shanghai Shenhua’s Joel Griffiths in China and Nagoya’s Joel Kennedy in Japan this season. Robbie Kruse and Nikita Rukavystsya, both arguably more suited on the wings then as natural strikers, are getting some game time in Germany and finding their feet. True also for Matthew Leckie at FSV Frankfurt who has found the back of the net a few times.

Youngsters Brent McGrath in Denmark and Kerem Bulut haven’t appeared much for their clubs this season, and Eli Babalj and James Troisi are both talented but still earning their dues at Red Star Belgrade and Atalanta respectively. Arguably the most potent Aussie has been Alex Brosque – who had six goals for Shimizu S-Pulse in the J-League before departing to the weaker UAE competition, where he has banged them in. Sydney-born Uruguayan marksman Richard Porta also plays in the UAE and has found the defences there easy to breach.

And then there is Scott Douglas McDonald.

Few Australian players seem to polarise fans more when it comes to Socceroos selection than the former Celtic and Motherwell striker. It’s not hard to figure out why – his return of 26 games and no goals for the senior national team hardly makes for pretty reading. Not that long ago McDonald seemed to be on the outer at his Championship side Boro, but suddenly that has all changed.

McDonald is on fire.

The Gippsland Falcons junior has scored six goals in 2012-2013, including a brace this week against Huddersfield and two assists, and is his club’s top goal-scorer. His form is all the more impressive because he has only started six games this season and came off the bench in four others. His goals have helped Middlesbrough stay in the playoff places, he has regained a starting spot and he is getting plaudits from manager Tony Mowbray.

Does McDonald deserve another crack at the national team?

Considering our lack of experienced, in-form strikers he is a chance. Apart from Archie Thompson, who has knocked in three goals in his last four Socceroo appearances, we have no other traditional centre-forwards who are scoring regularly for their club sides.

McDonald is a predator – he won’t score many from 30 yards out but he is lethal around the six-yard box. He has the instincts and the nous to be useful. He has played on the big stages, like in the Champions League against clubs such as Manchester United, and scored. The former Joey, Young Socceroo and Olyroo’s club record is nearly a goal every second game and he is only 29 years of age.

McDonald is far from a lost cause for the Socceroos.

International football may be a different beast to club football, but the English Championship is no second-rate league. It is a very tough and physical competition where defences are tight to break down and scoring is rare. McDonald just needs to get some confidence and break his duck for the national team, and the goals should come.

It appears as though the East Asian Cup has come too soon for the Melbourne-born forward, which is a shame as the likes of Guam and Hong Kong would be tailor-made for him. But if McDonald keeps knocking them in on Teesside, it will be hard to write off a Socceroos recall in the future.