After a rusty start in his first 30 minutes as Wellington Phoenix captain, Ulises Davila is ready to return to his best against A-League newcomers Macarthur on Saturday.
When COVID-19 forced the league’s shutdown last season, Davila's pregnant wife headed home and the Phoenix skipper was without his family when the campaign resumed. His form was never the same afterwards.
Wife Lily and son Ulises Junior joined him in Wollongong after two weeks in New Zealand isolation, which should see him back to his best.
Pre-COVID, he dominated the league and had a standout debut year for the ‘Nix, scoring 12 goals in 25 appearances and taking out the club’s Golden Boot award.
Now with his family around him, he feels he can go even better this time round and push the New Zealand side to a top-three finish.
"When you're on the pitch, you don't think of these things, but during the week, you're more stressed and you overthink, so for sure, it affects you," Davila says. "I can now be happy with them and can focus on football, and not have to worry about many Facetime calls with them.
"It's an amazing feeling and I'm so happy to bring them here. Everything is perfect now, so I can just focus on football now."
In 30 minutes of game-time during the opening loss to Sydney FC, Davila still managed more shots than any other Wellington player, but was guilty of sloppy passes.
"Last game I was maybe a little bit too excited and missed some passes that normally I don't have to think about,” he says. “I wanted to come in and make an impact quickly, and to change the situation.
"I've worked hard over the last 3-4 weeks, so I'm ready to play the most minutes possible.
"I want to play good minutes, not just 90 minutes and maybe struggle in the last 10. I want to play the maximum minutes, but the best way possible."
Next up for Wellington is an ‘away’ trip to league debutants Macarthur, who have one win and one loss in their first season.
The Phoenix have already played the new boys once in pre-season, with the Bulls taking the spoils 1-0, so they'll be out for revenge and aiming for their first win of the new season.