Almanac Soccer: A-League Preview, Part One

Adelaide United

The Reds lost key players from the squad that delivered Adelaide its first A-League Championship, but will be confident in manager Guillermo Amor’s ability to have additions sliding seamlessly into his system.

The quadrella of Bruce Djite (Suwon FC), Stefan Mauk (NEC), Craig Goodwin (Sparta Rotterdam) and Bruce Kamau (Melbourne City) were integral to Adelaide’s success, particularly from December onwards, where they only lost once in the league. They were all attacking weapons, keeping the likes of Grand Final scorer Pablo Sanchez, who has also left, out of a regular starting spot.

Adelaide signed James Holland, capped 15 times for the Socceroos, who will help balance the midfield, but the other arrivals at Hindmarsh Stadium don’t seem to be adequate replacements. Unless Amor can inspire his players to go to yet another level, the A-League will have a new champion come season’s end.


Brisbane Roar

The Roar suffered a heartbreaking loss to Western Sydney in last year’s semi-final after having led 3-0 after 23 minutes. There is little doubt now about John Aloisi’s ability to coach, and he will be determined to take Brisbane to the Grand Final this season.

Questions of financial viability have dogged the club for several seasons now, but the equality provided across the league by the salary cap means that shouldn’t put them at a disadvantage. Brett Holman’s signature was a coup for Brisbane, while Spanish winger Manuel Arana and Danish midfielder Thomas Kristensen will bring a wealth of experience from spells among Europe’s elite.

Aloisi’s main challenge will be to ensure his defence holds up over the course of the season. Brisbane conceded too many goals last season, highlighted by that calamity in the semi-final, and haven’t strengthened defensive stocks in the off-season.


Central Coast Mariners

The Mariners endured a disastrous 2015/16 campaign, winning just three times and conceding 70 goals. Manager Tony Walmsley appeared to have survived the post-season review, but was sacked in August following a loss to Victorian NPL side Green Gully in the FFA Cup Round of 32. Former Socceroo Paul Okon was plucked from the head role at the Young Socceroos to take charge at the Mariners, but at the moment the Mariners are a long way from contending.

He’s turned over enough of the squad to keep fans optimistic about the club’s new chapter, gaining talented, opportunity-starved players Connor Pain and Kwabenah Appiah. Regulars from last season Josh Rose (Melbourne City) and Mitch Austin (Melbourne Victory) have departed the club, but Okon can mould a new team around their replacements.

It’s easy to be negative about the Mariners’ prospects for this season, but from a very low base they should improve drastically under Okon.


Melbourne City

After a fourth-placed finish last season, City have made the most noise in the off-season with the signing of Tim Cahill. It was marketing gold, as City has gained far more news coverage in Melbourne papers than the Victory as a result. The retention of Golden Boot winner Bruno Fornaroli was crucial, and will reduce the dependence on Cahill for goals, however assist kings Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield) and Harry Novillo (Manisaspor) left for greener pastures.

The upshot of all this high-profile movement is that City probably hasn’t strengthened its squad as much as you might think, as the defence remains a worry. Luke Brattan and Nicolas Colazo have also been signed, but Brattan is a midfield terrier and Colazo a striker.

Winning the Championship is certainly a possibility realistic enough for City fans to become excited about, but manager John Van’t Schip will need a vastly improved defensive structure to deliver the club’s first silverware.


Perth Glory

Last season, enigmatic manager Kenny Lowe took Perth to the Finals in his first full season at Perth after bringing several new faces to the club. With another pre-season under his belt, and perhaps the best acquisitions of any A-League side, this could be the year that the Glory wins its first Championship.

Locally-born Socceroos Rhys Williams and Adam Taggart have both returned from England after enduring injuries which cut down their European dreams. Williams will help to sure-up a reasonably leaky defence, while Serbian international Milan Smiljanic adds to an electrifying front half that already contains Johnny Warren medallist Diego Castro and Irish international Andy Keogh.

Perth’s sporting teams naturally face the fight against constant travel, but Glory handled it well last season, amassing the third-most away points in the league. The challenge will be to perform more consistently, because their best will be very hard to beat in season 2016/17.

About Tom Riordan

Tom Riordan is in his second year of a Bachelor of Journalism at Swinburne University. He loves all sports, and plays for Brunswick Cricket Club. He supports the Western Bulldogs and can be found on weekends among half a dozen others in Q38 on the top level of the MCC.

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