Perth Glory's slim hopes of rescuing their dismal season took another hit yesterday when the club agreed to let goalkeeper Danny Vukovic leave for a five-month loan spell in Japan.
Vukovic, 28, flies out today to join Vegalta Sendai, the J-League club managed by former Socceroos coach Graham Arnold.
Glory owner Tony Sage said Vukovic had asked for the move to enhance his chances of making the Socceroos squad for this year's World Cup in Brazil.
Vukovic has been one of the A-League's better keepers this season but is behind Mitch Langerak, Brad Jones and Mathew Ryan, who have been named in the Socceroos squad for Wednesday's friendly against Ecuador.
Vukovic apologised to fans via the club website for not being around to see the season out.
"I would have loved to have finished the season with Glory but due to the transfer window closing in Japan, this isn't possible," he said.
Sage said the former Australian under-23 goalkeeper's move would allow him to play at least 20 games before Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou names his World Cup squad in May, hopefully increasing his chances of selection. Glory have just six regular-season games left.
Vegalta Sendai will have the option to buy Vukovic at the end of the five-month loan spell, but it is understood he could return to the A-League because the J-League has a limit of three foreign players a side.
The departure of Glory's first-choice goalkeeper will give an opportunity to 20-year-old Jack Duncan, who was part of the Australian squad at last year's under-20 World Cup.
Glory fell to last on the ladder with Friday's 3-1 loss to Brisbane.
They are three points behind ninth-placed Melbourne Heart and are favourites for the wooden spoon.
Speaking yesterday morning, Glory coach Kenny Lowe said he believed finals remained a possibility, but the club also had to start thinking about next season.
"I think looking into the last few games, you're probably looking more into beyond," he said.
"At the present second there's players out there that are available, so you want to get out there and get after those players if you want to improve your squad.
"That's something we need to do here, so it's a fine balancing act to just seeing the season out or actually starting to prepare now for the season next year."
Lowe bemoaned the form of signings Nebojsa Marinkovic and Darvydas Sernas, who have shown only flashes of class.