A-League Season Preview club by club
By Sean Ellicott
Adelaide United FC
Coach: Josep Gombau
Captain: Eugene Galekovic
Last Season: 4th
A Spanish revolution looks to have occurred at Adelaide this year with the appointment of new coach Josep Gombau. In case you haven’t heard, the Spaniard was once employed as a youth coach at FC Barcelona and has promised to bring the Catalonian tika-taka philosophy with him. Of course a new style of football and depending on the quality on the pitch will take time. However with five managers walking in and out of Hindmarsh over the past three years, time is something the board and frustrated supporters are reluctant to give. The transfer of leading goal scorer Dario Vidosic provides a setback for the Reds but highly rated Spanish additions Sergio Cirio and Isaias Sanchez will be looked upon to create a lively spark and accommodate the new gaffer’s style of football. Perhaps Gombau will bring stability back to the under achieving Reds.
Sergio Cirio (L’Hospitalet), Tarek Elrich (Western Sydney Wanderers), Jordan Elsey (youth), Steven Lustica (Hajduk Split), Awer Mabil (youth), Isaias Sanchez (Ponferradina), Michael Zullo (FC Utrecht)
Fabian Barbiero (Croydon Kings), Iain Fyfe (Mes Kerman), Tomi Juric (Western Sydney Wanderers), Evan Kostopoulos (released), Iain Ramsay (Melbourne Heart), Dario Vidosic (FC Sion)
Brisbane Roar FC
Coach: Mike Mulvey
Captain: Matt Smith
Last Season: 5th
After an ordinary 2012-13 season, Brisbane will be looking to assert themselves as the powerhouse they once were for the campaign ahead. In a boost for the Roar, talisman and former captain Matt McKay has returned after stints in Scotland and Asia whilst former Manchester United and Perth Glory midfielder Liam Miller will line up alongside him in the centre. Despite key players, Mitch Nichols, Ben Halloran and Massimo Murdocca moving on, Mike Mulvey’s men still have the quality on the park to give the title a real shake. If fan favourites Besart Berisha and Thomas Broich can rekindle the form they displayed during Brisbane’s 36 game unbeaten streak, just like the Postecoglou days, Roar supporters can expect an entertaining and successful 2013-14 season.
Diogo Ferreira (Melbourne Victory), Matt McKay (Changchun Yatai), Liam Miller (Perth Glory), Dimitri Petratos (Kelantan).
Ben Halloran (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Matt Jurman (Sydney FC), Steven Lustica (Hajduk Split, loan ended), James Meyer (released), Massimo Murdocca (Melbourne Heart), Mitch Nichols (Melbourne Victory), Stefan Nijland (PEC Zwolle -loan ended)
Central Coast Mariners FC
Coach: Graham Arnold
Captain: John Hutchinson
Last Season: 2nd (Champions)
Third time lucky but the Central Coast Mariners finally lifted the Championship trophy on the final day of the 2012-13 season. The Mariners have indeed lost almost half of their championship medallists including Matt Ryan, Patrick Zwaanswijk and Pedj Bojic but Graham Arnold has replaced the vacancies in his squad with proven quality. Clinical striker Matt Simon re-joins CentralCoast off the back of a spell in China who will be accompanied by 2011 Johnny Warren Medallist Marcos Flores, seeking retribution after an ordinary season with Melbourne Victory. Mariners scored the equal most goals in the competition last season thanks to the evergreen Danny McBreen and Arnold will be hoping Simon and Mitchel Duke can become as potent in front of goal if they are any chance of claiming back-to-back titles.
Matt Simon (Chunnam Dragons), Marcos Flores (Melbourne Victory), Storm Roux (Perth Glory), Tom Slater (Sydney FC), Marcel Seip (VVV Venlo), Liam Reddy (Sydney United).
Pedj Bojic (Sydney FC), Mathew Ryan (Club Brugge), Bernie Ibini-Isei (Shanghai SIPG), Oliver Bozanic (FC Luzern), Patrick Zwaanswijk (retired), Adriano Pellegrino (CCM Academy), Brad McDonald (CCM Academy).
Melbourne Heart FC
Coach: John Aloisi
Captain: Harry Kewell
Last Season: 9th
Harry Kewell. Harry Kewell. Harry Kewell. Yes, Harry Kewell signed for Melbourne Heart over the winter and the former Victory marquee and newly appointed skipper is looking to prove himself in the A-League after a much tamed debut season. After a dismal 2012-13, transfers, retirements and axings has seen majority of the club’s spine from last season exit the door with veterans Clint Bolton, Simon Colosimo, Richard Garcia and ex-captains Fred and Matt Thompson leaving the club. Despite a large exodus Aloisi took no time to replace the vacant positions in his squad. A wealth of experience has been bought into the squad with Socceroo Patrick Kisnorbo, Malta’s all-time leading goal-scorer Michael Mifsud and Roar veteran Massimo Murdocca signing on. However in a huge setback for the club, Dutch international and marquee Orlando Engelaar broke his leg in pre-season and the much acclaimed holding midfielder is set to return in 2014. Heart are expected to display a completely different line up for the Derby in round one compared to last year’s opener and with a new squad, Aloisi will be hoping his players can gel in time.
Aziz Behich (Bursaspor), Orlando Engelaar (PSV), Harry Kewell (Free), Patrick Kisnorbo (Leeds United), Michael Mifsud (Valletta), Andrea Migliorini (Koper), Massimo Murdocca
(Brisbane Roar), Iain Ramsay (Adelaide United), Tando Velaphi (Melbourne Victory), Rob Wielaert (Roda JC), Luke O’Dea
Eli Babalj (AZ Alkmaar), Clint Bolton (retired), Simon Colosimo (Dempo), Jamie Coyne (released), Cameron Edwards (Perth Glory), Fred (released), Richard Garcia (Sydney FC), Steven Gray (released), Vince Grella (retired), Marcel Meeuwis (FC Eindhoven), Josip Tadic (HNK Rijeka), Matt Thompson (released).
Melbourne Victory FC
Coach: Ange Postecoglou
Captain: Mark Milligan
Last Season: 3rd
One of the championship favourites and with his second season in charge, Ange Postecoglou will be hoping his side can bring the title back to Melbourne. Despite finishing 3rd and bowing out in the semi-finals, depth proved to be Melbourne’s main concern last season. Struggling defensively, marquee and Chilean international Pablo Contreras is set to add stability to the back four whilst Mitch Nichols, joining his former coach from Brisbane will add strength to the midfield alongside new skipper Mark Milligan. Socceroo James Troisi looks to be a quality signing for Victory and will hopefully provide for some flare on the wing after Marco Rojas, last year’s Johnny Warren Medallist left for Stuttgart. Fans will also be hoping fellow new addition Kosta Barbarouses can match the efforts of his recently departed Kiwi counterpart up front and combine well with the always-exciting Archie Thompson. With youngsters Andrew Nabbout and Connor Pain bursting onto the scene last year, expect Postecoglou to provide his younger troops plenty of opportunities.
Kosta Barbarouses (from FC Alania), Pablo Contreras (from Olympiakos), Rashid Mahazi (NorthcoteCity), Mitch Nichols (Brisbane Roar), James Troisi (from Atalanta – loan)
Marcos Flores (Central Coast Mariners), Diogo Ferreira (Brisbane Roar), Tando Velaphi, (Melbourne Heart), Marco Rojas (Stuttgart), Daniel Mullen (Dalian Aerbin), Billy Celeski (to Al Shaab), Sam Gallagher (Richmond), Spase Dilevski (released), Theo Markelis (released), Matthew Foschini (released)
Newcastle Jets FC
Coach: Gary van Egmond
Captain: Ruben Zadkovich
Last Season: 8th
An inconsistent 2012-13 season plagued the Jets, narrowly missing out on a finals berth by one point. Newcastle will be looking towards target man Emile Heskey to finally assert himself on the competition and will be hoping youngsters Josh Brillante, Craig Goodwin and Connor Chapman can announce themselves on the big stage. Coach Gary van Egmond has introduced some experience in his defence to accommodate for the wealth of youth, signing 35-year-old former Dutch International Kew Jaliens. The centre back is set to provide some much needed consistency and stability at the back for the Jets along with fellow new addition and Socceroo Jacob Burns who signed a one year loan deal. With a core group of U21 national representatives, it is an exciting time for Newcastle and whether or not finals are achievable getting minutes into these young players will no doubt be one of van Egmond’s goals for the season.
Nathan Burns (Incheon United – loan), Joey Gibbs (Western Sydney Wanderers), Kew Jaliens (Wisla Krakow), John Solari (WhiteCity).
Jack Duncan (Perth Glory), Ryan Griffiths (Beijing Baxy), Bernardo Ribeiro (IFK Mariehamn), Dominik Ritter (released).
Perth Glory FC
Coach: Alistair Edwards
Captain: Jacob Burns
Last Season: 6th
Fans caught a glimpse of coach Alistair Edwards last season after replacing Ian Ferguson in Feburary – making a late surge into the finals and with a full preseason at the helm, the new boss would be expecting his team to improve upon last season’s 6th position. Glory boasts one of the most impressive catalogues of youth in the A-League and Edwards, former U16 Socceroos coach is expected to structure his squad around his youngsters; In particular 16-year-old prodigy Daniel De Silva, Blackburn youth product Jamie Maclaren and son Ryan Edwards on loan from Reading. In a blow for the club, midfielder Liam Miller has departed to Brisbane but Edwards is confident his central midfield pairing of Jacob Burns and Steven McGarry will fill the void. The main concern for Glory this season will be scoring goals, having netted the least of any club last season. Putting an injury riddled season behind him, potent striker Shane Smeltz will need to fire if Glory are any chance of booking a place in the finals, but the Kiwi international will however be sidelined until round five – recovering from hip surgery.
Jamie Maclaren (Blackburn Rovers), Ryan Edwards (Reading – on loan), Cameron Edwards (Melbourne Heart), Isaka Cernak (Wellington Phoenix), Jack Duncan (Newcastle Jets), Sidnei Sciola (Alki Larnaca), Matthew Davies (Perth Glory NYL), Riley Woodcock (Perth Glory NYL), Daniel De Silva (Perth Glory NYL).
Liam Miller (Brisbane Roar), Dean Heffernan (Western Sydney Wanderers), Storm Roux (Central Coast Mariners), Lewis Italiano (Wellington Phoenix), Evan Berger (Marconi Stallions), Neil Young (retired), Nicky Ward (released), Matias Cordoba (released)
Coach: Frank Farina
Captain: Alessandro Del Piero
Last Season: 7th
Putting a horrid 2012-13 season behind them, the Sky Blues would be quietly confident of turning around their fortunes for the upcoming campaign. Frank Farina looks to have injected life and energy into his squad which was sorely missed out on last year. Lining up alongside new captain Alessandro Del Piero, latest signings Richard Garcia and youngster Corey Gameiro will provide for a lively combination up front, but only if the trio can gel together in time. Aside from losing brothers Joel and Adam Griffiths, Farina’s squad looks in good shape ahead of their season opener against Newcastle. Nicky Carle upon his return to Australia will be bursting to show A-League fans why he was rated a million dollar player in England and with the attacking quality around him, Sydney FC supporters should be excited by the prospects awaiting the 2013-14 season.
Matthew Jurman (Brisbane Roar), Nick Carle (returning from loan – Baniyas), Marc Warren (Airdrie United), Pedj Bojic (Central Coast Mariners), Corey Gameiro (Fulham), Richard Garcia (Melbourne Heart), Nikola Petkovic (Red Star Belgrade).
Joel Griffiths (Qingdao Jonoon), Fabio Alves (Philadelphia Union), Lucas Neill (Omiya Ardija), Nathan Sherlock (Sydney United), Adam Griffiths (Selangor), Paul Reid (Rockdale City Suns), Kruno Lovrek (NK Sesvete), Trent McClenahan (released), Jarrod Kyle (released)
Wellington Phoenix FC
Coach: Ernie Merrick
Captain: Andrew Durante
Last Season: 10th
Will 2013-14 A-League season see the rise of the Phoenix? For last year’s wooden spooners, the only way is up and in a massive coup for the club, former Melbourne Victory and two-time championship winning coach Ernie Merrick has been appointed at the helm. The Scotsman has also been joined by former Victory play maker and Costa Rican international Carlos Hernandez. Hernandez, the 2010 Johnny Warren Medallist is set to bolster Phoenix’s attacking arsenal, lining up alongside fellow new signing and fellow Costa Rican international Kenny Cunningham as well as Jeremy Brockie and Paul Ifill. Conceding a total of 49 goals last season, if the Phoenix can sort out their defensive woes and get firing up front, the Cake Tin (Westpac Stadium) is sure to become the fortress it once was.
Luke Adams (Derby County), Josh Brindell-South (Moreton Bay United), Reece Caira (Western Sydney Wanderers), Kenny Cunningham (The Strongest), Carlos Hernandez (Prayag United), Lewis Italiano (Perth Glory), Alex Rufer (Wairarapa United)
Isaka Cernak (Perth Glory), Jimmy Downey (released), Cameron Lindsay (Team Wellington), Tony Lochhead (released), Lucas Pantelis (released), Mark Paston (retired), Dani Sanchez (released), Alex Smith (Oakleigh Cannons), Benjamin Totori (Oakleigh Cannons).
Western Sydney Wanderers FC
Coach: Tony Popovic
Captain: Michael Beauchamp
Last Season: 1st (Premiers)
Last year’s premiers fell agonizingly short of a dream debut season, narrowly missing out on the Championship – defeated in the Grand Final by Central Coast 2 – 0. Tony Popovic and his side will inevitably be looking to go one better this season. Changes to the team have been few and far between throughout the off season with Popovic keeping a settled squad. The Wanderers prided themselves on their stubborn defence last year and latest additions, Socceroo Matthew Spiranovic and Dean Heffernan will bolster the already strong defensive cavalry. The Wanderers will be hoping they don’t get a case of ‘second year syndrome’ and their fanatical supporters will be looking towards veterans Ante Covic and Michael Beauchamp to continue the stability at the back with fan favourites Shiji Ono and Youssouf Hersi to fire in the final third.
Dean Heffernan (Perth Glory), Tomi Juric (Adelaide United), Brendon Santalab (Chongqing Lifan), Matthew Spiranovic (free)
Reece Caira (WellingtonPhoenix), Tarek Elrich (Adelaide United), Joey Gibbs (Newcastle Jets), Dino Kresinger (Zavrc), Rocky Visconte (Croydon Kings).
[Thank you to Sean Ellicott for this preview. Sean writes for the Victorian football web site ‘Corner Flag’: http://www.cornerflag.com.au/ ]