Kruse control key to Jets victory

HE is the talk of the A-League, the competition's leading goal scorer, soon to become a Socceroo and though he could have been at the Newcastle Jets is now the man they have to stop.

HE is the talk of the A-League, the competition's leading goal scorer, soon to become a Socceroo and though he could have been at the Newcastle Jets is now the man they have to stop.

No, it is not Archie Thompson but former wild child Robbie Kruse.

Kruse has been a revelation in his second season at perennial powerhouse Melbourne Victory.

And with Thompson (hamstring) out of Monday's blockbuster at AAMI Park, Jets fullback Tarek Elrich was quick to label Kruse as the Victory's new go-to man.

Rightly so. The string-bean 22-year-old with the mop hair and electrifying pace has scored 10 goals and provided two assists in 14 games.

His stunning start to the campaign has been rewarded with a place in Holger Osieck's 50-man preliminary Socceroos squad and many experts have predicted he will be in the final 23 for the Asian Cup next month.

"I played with him in the Aussie under 20s and knew he was quality," Elrich said.

"[Former coach] Gary van Egmond tried to get him to the Jets when he had the falling out with Brisbane [Roar] a couple of years ago.

"He ended up at Melbourne and is now starting to realise his potential. Moving away from Queensland has obviously been good for him and probably helped him grow up.

"Having quality players around you also helps; being able to learn off the likes of Archie and Carlos Hernandez."

Kruse produced a sublime back-heel for Thompson to open the scoring in the Victory's 2-0 win over Perth last round. The moment was bitter-sweet as Thompson injured his hamstring in the process and scans yesterday showed a tear.

The Victory are accustomed to life without the livewire No.10, who missed the opening 13 games recuperating from a knee reconstruction.

But in a triple whammy, he will be joined on the sideline on Monday by Matthew Kemp (groin) and Grant Brebner (suspended) and Hernandez (ankle) is in doubt.

"Victory have plenty of depth - they have showed that over the years - but you can't take quality players out and say it will not affect them," Elrich said.

"Look what happened to us at Wellington. We were missing three or four players and it was a real mission."

The Jets welcome back suspended trio Ljubo Milicevic, Kasey Wehrman and Jobe Wheelhouse and feisty midfielder Ruben Zadkovich (back) for the trip south.

Before the 4-0 defeat to the Phoenix, which snapped a seven-game unbeaten streak, the Jets had conceded 12 goals in 18 rounds.

"After a disappointing result, the next game can't come quick enough," Elrich said. "We don't fear Melbourne.

"We have a good record down there . . . I know Ljubo and Nikolai, after missing out on the Socceroos, will be up for it. Right across the board we will be giving it our all."