'Popa set Wanderers up for success': Canberra junior Lustica

Steven Lustica's soccer career has taken him around the world and the A-League, but the 26-year-old journeyman says he's found a home at the Western Sydney Wanderers and is ready to chase a title.

Lustica is adamant the sudden departure of coach Tony Popovic will not derail the Wanderers' preparations as they prepare to start their season against the Perth Glory on Sunday.

Popovic was one of the reasons Lustica joined the Wanderers last year after forging a relationship with the former Socceroo when they were both part of Sydney FC's youth system.

But the attacking midfielder says the Wanderers are ready for a new beginning after Popovic quit the club less than a week before the first round to join Turkish club Karabukspor.

"Obviously Popa was a big part of everything we do, but he laid the foundation in pre-season," Lustica said.

"He's moved on now and a lot of what we do is because of him, but [Hayden] Foxe is stepping in now and we'll just get on with it.

"I learnt a lot from Popa. He's a top coach and there's a reason why he's going to bigger and better things. He improved my game and made me a better player.

Lustica will be starting his eighth A-League season on Sunday and is one of four Canberra juniors in the competition.

Carl Valeri and Jason Geria will team up at the Melbourne Victory to chase grand final redemption, while former Wanderers skipper Nikolai Topor-Stanley has returned to the Newcastle Jets.

Lustica has never spent more than three years in the same place since leaving Canberra to join the Sydney FC youth side in 2008.

He has played for the Gold Coast United, Croatian giant Hajduk Split, Dugopolje, the Brisbane Roar, Adelaide United and the Wanderers.

The former Canberra FC star missed a large chunk of the season earlier this year after tearing ligaments in his ankle, but says he's ready to fire.

"I'm not thinking long term, I've got a contract with the Wanderers and that's what my focus is," Lustica said.

"My body feels really good and I'm really excited by this season. It's all about winning titles and that's definitely want our goal is this year with the Wanderers."

Canberra's pathway to the A-League is set to open up after Capital Football secured a licence to play in the National Youth League competition.

The Canberra United side is viewed as a stepping stone to the capital getting a team in the A-League and an opportunity for young players to chase professional dreams.

Valeri, who will captain the Victory, said it was a massive step forward for showcasing the city's soccer talent.

Melbourne Victory captain Carl Valeri says a NYL team in Canberra is a massive step forward.

Melbourne Victory captain Carl Valeri says a NYL team in Canberra is a massive step forward. Photo: AAP

"I think that's a great start. We definitely needed something in Canberra and it creates a bit of exposure there for the young players," Valeri said.

"It's something to strive for and puts them on a showcase, and then other teams who are playing in the A-League, your Melbourne Victories for example, can see these young players playing consistently and it can definitely be a pathway for the young generation for Canberra.

"Having a team in the Youth League is a massive foot forward and it's going to put 20 young players from Canberra in the limelight.

"It's going to give a coaching job for someone, it's going to make football that much better in Canberra."

The 33-year-old went through the ACT Academy of Sport and Australian Institute of Sport programs before he signed with Italian giants Inter Milan as a teenager.

He played more than 50 games for Australia and now he's the midfield general for the Victory.

The Victory will begin their A-League campaign with a grand-final rematch against Sydney FC in Melbourne on Saturday.

"It's a big game [against Sydney], people obviously love the rematch of the grand final, but for us it's the first game of the season and that's our biggest regardless of who it is," he said.

"The fact that it's Sydney makes it even that little bit better.

"There are many teams that have changed personnel this year and the first few rounds are going to be quite exciting and we won't know what to expect.

"Sydney have kept a similar squad to last year and we've changed a fair bit. It should be interesting.

"You've got teams like Newcastle have bolstered their squad, Central Coast the same, so anything could happen."

This story 'Popa set Wanderers up for success': Canberra junior Lustica first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.