Friday, 9 October 2015

PREVIEW: Hyundai A-League Round 1


Adelaide will be looking to improve on their 3rd place finish from last season heading into the new season. Early into the off season saw the departure of much loved manager Josep Gombau, who moved to New York with his family to start up his own footballing academy, but this left major shoes for the board to fill. Step Up Guillermo Amor.

 The former Barcelona and Spanish international will look to start his managerial career with a bang this weekend with a first round victory against bitter rivals Melbourne Victory. Off season saw 4 players come into United’s locker room with laccapo La Rocca, Mate Dugandzic and George Mills all signing for the club with Eli Babalj signing on loan from AZ Alkmaar. Departure wise saw Nigel Boogaard, Awer Mabil, Cameron Watson and Paul Izzo all leave to other clubs whilst Palanca and Cassio were both released from their contracts.

Pre-season was a fairly successful one for United winning 6 of their 9 games and beating both of the A-League opponents including a double over Melbourne City. Adelaide also had the privilege of facing European Giants Villareal, Liverpool and Manchester City. Despite losing all three matches there were plenty of positives to come out of them. 

Pre-season also saw Adelaide face local sides Adelaide Blue Eagles and Adelaide Comets and travelling to the red centre to face an Alice Springs All Stars team. The off season also saw the road to the title defence of the FFA Cup, and they couldn’t have hoped to start it any better as they beat Darwin Olympic 6-1 in the round of 32. Round of 16 saw them face a determined Sydney FC side who were desperate to get one over the reigning champs, but despite taking and early league Sydney couldn’t hold on as Adelaide ran out extra time winners. Their title defence came to an end in the Quarter Finals against Melbourne Victory losing 3-1 in a good competitive match.

Victory will be looking to start their A-League title defence off with a big win this week. Victory go into this season as favourites by many to take out the league once again and with the squad they have put together it is easy to see why Kevin Muscat’s side is high up on the list of favourites. Despite losing Captain Mark Milligan, Melbourne were able to recruit Socceroo Oliver Bozanic, Perth Glory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, Giancarlo Gallifuoco and George Howard who was promoted from the youth side.

Having only played 4 pre-season fixtures as well as 3 FFA Cup matches, Victory go into the season with not a whole lot of match time under their belt. FFA Cup saw them come up against Sydney sides Balmain Tigers and Rochdale City Suns before coming up against title holders Adelaide United. Having overcoming all three opponents, they will now face Hume City in the Semi Finals, a side who they also faced during their pre-season preparations. 

Victory won all 4 of their trial matches 1-0 (Brisbane), 4-0 (Port Melbourne), 4-3 (Hume City) and 3-0 (Central Coast). Haven beaten 3 of their A-League opponents in pre-season/ FFA Cup Victory will be confident that they can go all the way again this season.

Keegan's Tip: 3-1 Victory
Alex's Tip: 2-1 Adelaide
Ty's Tip: 2-1 Victory

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Central Coast are in line for another difficult season, after an 8th place finish last season, they are being tipped by quite a few people to challenge for the wooden spoon. The offseason has seen a number of players leaving the club, including Captain John Hutchinson retiring from professional football at the end of last season and prolific striker Matt Simon and defender Zac Anderson being released so that they could sign with Sydney FC. Mariners have invested in bringing over Mitch Austin (Cambridge United) and Roy O’Donovan (Mitra Kukar) both on free transfer as well as signing Paul Izzo the young keeper from Adelaide United.

FFA Cup came to an abrupt end, bowing out in the round of 32 after a 1-0 loss to Wellington. Pre-Season saw Central Coast beat both of the Sydney A-League sides 3-1 and 3-2 respectively before suffering losses to Melbourne Victory (3-0), Newcastle Jets (1-0) and Brisbane (3-1). Despite these losses, the Mariners had success against Canberra FC (3-2), Gungahlin United (3-1) and Western NSW Mariners (7-0). In their 8 hitouts, Central Coast were able to net 20 goals and only concede 10 which is impressive considering that they only scored 26 goals in 27 games last season.

Before I move on to Perth Glory, I must first say I feel very sorry for all Mariners fans. I feel sorry for them because of the utterly disgusting shirt that they are forced to watch their team run around in every week. Whoever this design must have gone through to be approved I seriously question your judgement, I like the idea that you are going for but it just doesn’t work, palm trees shouldn't go on shirts.

Perth were flying high last season, before it all crashed and burned in front of them when they were found to be in breach of the salary cap. But still despite being found as cheating they weren’t relegated to last place, which is a judicial system that will have to be fixed. Since being found out as cheating star players Andy Keogh, Jamie Maclaren, Youseff Hersi and Danny Vukovic have all departed the club. They have been replaced with the likes of Ante Covic, Jerad Tyson, Antony Golec and Alex Grant from Stoke City.

Perth go into the season having only played 2 A-League sides in which both went to penalty shootout in the FFA Cup. In the round of 32 Perth faced a Jets side looking for history not to repeat itself in the round of 32, at 2-2 at the end of extra time, it was Perth Glory who prevailed, and after going through Lions FC, they faced Western Sydney in the Quarter finals which they once again won on a penalty shootout. They will now face Melbourne City in the Semi-Finals to compete for a spot in their second consecutive year. 

In other friendlies Glory went up against Cockburn City (1-0), Inglewood United (4-0) and WA State Team (1-0) and won all 3 matches. Entering the season playing only 2 A-League sides and having not been able to put one over them in normal time, makes me question how well they will go this season.

Keegan's Tip: 1-1 Draw
Alex's Tip: 1-1 Draw
Ty's Tip: 2-1 Perth

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Sydney FC head into the new season on the back of the grand final lost to bitter rivals Melbourne Victory. A new season and a few new faces and Graham Arnold’s side looks like hot contenders to get to the final again. 

Arnold was faced with the task of replacing the big Austrian Marc Janko who left Sydney to join FC Basel in Switzerland, and they also lost young winger Bernie Ibini as well as Terry Antonis and Corey Gameiro. Having recruited A-League stars Andrew Hoole (Newcastle), Matt Simon and Zac Anderson (Central Coast Mariners) along with Serbian duo Filip Holosko and Milos Ninkovic (both free agents), they will all be looking to kick start their careers with the Sky Blues.

Pre-season for Sydney was one full of a mixed bag of results, not having beaten any of their A-League opponents (Wellington, Adelaide and Central Coast) they may go into the season quietly concerned although there isn’t too much that can be read into pre-season. Despite the losses, Sydney put in convincing wins against South Coast Wolves, Earlwood Wanderers, Macarthur Rams and Belconnen United as well as a Round of 32 win against Sorrento FC before bowing out in the round of 16 to Adelaide.

Melbourne City are my personal favourites to win the league this year, having performed well in the preseason matches that I have seen and the signings they have made. The new faces John Van ’t Schip have brought in seem to perfectly fit the contrast between youth and experience. Marquee signing has seen veteran goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen joins City from Stoke City will be a key inclusion heading into the new season. Along with Sorensen City have signed Corey Gameiro, Ivan Franjic, Harry Novillo (on a permanent deal), Aaron Hughes, Michael Zullo, Bruno Fornaroli, Jason Trifiro and Callum Richardson.

During the pre-season saw the first meeting between Melbourne City and their “big brother’ Manchester City, in a match that saw Melbourne dominate for good parts of the match. Whilst it was against a second string Manchester side, it was an impressive hit-out for Melbourne who could have very well hit the lead a number of times bombing chances, even missing open goals. 

Other preseason fixtures saw City face Newcastle Jets (1-1), Adelaide United (3-4 loss), North Geelong Warriors (5-0 win), Oakleigh Cannons (8-0 win) and a second match against Adelaide United (1-3 loss). FFA Cup sees City facing Perth Glory in the Semi Finals, on the road to the semi’s City faced off against a determined Edgeworth Eagles side who played superbly but 2 Aaron Mooy freekicks were enough to put City through. The round of 16 saw City dispose of Wellington Phoenix with ease running out 5-1 victors, which then saw them face Victorian NPL side Heidelberg who were no challenge for City who ran out 5-0 winners.

This game whilst will be probably the match of the round, with two sides looking to improve on last season and both sides will be title contenders. Expect this match to be free flowing with a lot of attacking play.

Keegan's Tip: 2-1 City
Alex's Tip: 3-2 City
Ty's Tip: 2-1 Sydney

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Wellington go into the new season against a Jets side who have done a lot of rebuilding with coaching and playing groups. Having played 12 preseason games plus 2 FFA cup games, Wellington go into the new season with the most amount of game time under their belt. Whilst a lot of the matches they played were against New Zealand local sides or specially selected sides, but they also played the likes of Western Sydney Wanderers, Sydney FC, APIA Leichardt, Auckland City and the Fiji national side. 

Of the 12 matches, the Phoenix won 6, which Wanderers, Sydney FC and APIA were all a part of, they also netted 33 goals. FFA Cup saw Wellington travel across the ditch to face the Mariners where an 18th minute Appiah-Kubi goal was enough to seal there path through to the round of 16 where they faced a rampant Melbourne City side. Wellington were never really in that match and were rolled 5-1 knocking them out of the cup.

The transfer window saw very little happen for Wellington, with the departures of Nathan Burns, Tyler Boyd, Kenny Cunningham and Michael Boxall, the Phoenix lost a lot of their attacking outlets. Despite losing these players, Wellington have only brought in 3 new faces, Jeffrey Sarpong (free transfer), Blake Powell (APIA Leichardt) and Troy Danaskos (Sydney Olympic). I will be very interested to see how these players work into the squad and what they can produce.

The Newcastle Jets. Coming off the back of a nightmare season where they convincingly deserved the wooden spoon, releasing key senior players, a deluded manager and owner running the club into the ground and many fans finally standing up and saying that Newcastle deserves better. Ever since the FFA took control of the Jets, things have looked increasingly brighter, the sacking of Phil Stubbins, reinstating players, unfortunately David Carney was reinstated but I am sure as the season wears on you will all hear my rants about my disliking of Carney, and possibly the best thing since the FFA took over is the increased community involvement the club has had, further gaining the respect and support of the fans. 

Scott Miller has had only a number of months to scout and bring in all the players he sees as the right players, bringing in Themba Muata-Marlow, Nigel Boogaard, Lachlan Jackson, Mateo Poljak, Cameron Watson and bringing in Leonardo Vitor Santiago, a player who hasn’t played in 10 months since leaving 1860 Munich last year and Milos Trifunovic, a 30 year old striker who has played the majority of his career in Eastern Europe and Asia. 

This season also sees the return of Labinot Haliti and Jason Hoffman who both left the Jets a few seasons ago but have returned to Newcastle to continue the next phase of their careers.

Last Week manager Scott Miller appointed Nigel Boogaard as the new captain for the Jets. Boogaard is a local Newcastle lad, who started his professional Career with the Mariners where he played for the first 5 years of the A-League before transferring to Adelaide United where he has spent the last 5 years. Appointing Nigel as captain was almost a no brainer for Miller with the experience he has with the league and that he has been a quality performer as well as being a local lad which is something most fans wanted to see. A Newcastle boy as our Captain.

Going into the season the Jets have played 5 matches, 1 FFA Cup match and 4 friendlies. FFA Cup was a case of history repeating itself facing another visit from Perth Glory at Magic Park, whilst the game this year was a lot more competitive, going all the way to a Penalty Shootout, Perth were eventually once again successful. In the friendlies the Jets were successful in defeating Bentleigh Greens and Central Coast Mariners (both 1-0) whilst they were held to a 0-0 draw with Brisbane and la 1-1 draw with Melbourne City. Despite having an alright pre-season, the Jets have a dreadful record in New Zealand and I suspect that that will continue this week.

Keegan's Tip: 3-1 Wellington
Alex's Tip: 1-0 Jets
Ty's Tip: 2-1 Wellington

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