A-League Olyroos: The engine room

They're the young Australian midfield stars who put their respectively unique and effective skills on show throughout the 2020/21 A-League campaign to earn the call-up to Graham Arnold's 22-player squad bound for Tokyo 2020.

Whether offering strength and speed, class and control, flair and technique or a combination of it all, these five players lit up the A-League in 2020/21 - and Arnold took notice, calling Connor Metcalfe, Reno Piscopo, Keanu Baccus, Cameron Devlin and Denis Genreau into his squad preparing to take on the world.

As the countdown to Tokyo 2020 continues, read on to see how each of the selected players fared throughout the 2020/21 A-League campaign.

READ: Which A-League clubs featured Olympic-bound talent in 2020/21
MORE: 
Boogaard preparing to take part in coast to coast walk for men's mental health

Connor Metcalfe - Melbourne City

A-League 2020/21 Season

  • Games: 24
  • Goals: 5
  • Assists: 3

Melbourne City's midfield machine had a season to remember in 2020/21, capping off his consistent contribution to his side's double-winning efforts with a maiden Socceroos cap and a spot in the Olyroos squad.

Metcalfe's 24 games for the season matched the 24 played throughout his three previous A-League campaigns, taking his total appearances in the league to 48.

Metcalfe started every game he featured in for the eventual Premiers and Champions. City boss Patrick Kisnorbo subbed Metcalfe on just seven occasions, allowing the 21-year-old to clock up 2085 minutes of game time across 15 wins, six losses and three draws.

The City starlet got off to a flyer in 2020/21, scoring the first goal of the A-League campaign - and in some style. Metcalfe's strike against Brisbane Roar was the solitary goal in a 1-0 City win. The curling effort off a one-two with Jamie Maclaren earned Metcalfe Goal of Matchweek 1 honours.

Goal of the Week: Connor Metcalfe | A-League

City lost four of the next five games as they stuttered through the following month of fixtures, before going on a club-record winning streak of six games in which Metcalfe came to the fore. In the middle of that six-game run was a Melbourne Derby obliteration in which Metcalfe netted a quick-fire brace in his side's 6-0 win over Melbourne Victory

Metcalfe enjoyed a passing accuracy of 85% throughout the season, created 25 chances, played 22 key passes and notched three assists as he helped City to a maiden piece of A-League silverware: the Premiers Plate. Metcalfe would go on to miss the Finals Series on national duty, where he became Socceroo #611, making his debut in June against Chinese Taipei.

WATCH: Metcalfe strikes twice in Melbourne Derby romp

Keanu Baccus - Western Sydney Wanderers

A-League 2020/21 Season

  • Games: 25
  • Goals: 1
  • Assists: 4

Busy Wanderers midfielder Keanu Baccus returns to the Australia U23 squad to take care of unfinished business, after helping guide the Green and Gold to Tokyo having played his part in the third-place finish at the AFC U-23 Championships in January 2020 which secured qualification to the Olympic Games.

Baccus featured 25 times for the Red and Black throughout the 2020/21 A-League campaign. The 23-year-old's best form came early in the season through nine consecutive 90-minute appearances in which the Wanderers built a seven-game unbeaten streak bookended by two defeats. Baccus registered two of his four assist for the season along that seven-game stretch, notching more than 100 touches of the ball on three of those occasions.

His third assist of the season showed the passing range and vision possessed by the midfielder. Baccus picked Mitch Duke out with an invasive lofted through pass from deep in his defensive half in a 3-0 win over Perth Glory, sending him past the chasing Luke Bodnar and through one-on-one with Liam Reddy to finish.

ASSIST: Baccus picks out Duke for the finish

Tough times were to follow for the Wanderers as the Red and Black limped to an eight-placed finish. Baccus saw his game time reduce as head coach Carl Robinson attempted to find the answer to his side's inconsistent form, and after playing just 80 minutes across four games Baccus was reintroduced to the starting 11 for the final three games of the season.

He proceeded to score his only goal of the campaign in a tight loss to Wellington Phoenix before contributing to a win and draw to see the Wanderers end a disappointing campaign on a positive note.  

GOAL: Baccus leaves it late to net first goal of campaign

Denis Genreau - Macarthur FC

A-League 2020/21 Season

  • Games: 23
  • Goals: 2
  • Assists: 2

In a Macarthur FC squad full of veteran stars, 22-year-old Denis Genreau stood out above the rest to clinch the club's inaugural Macarthur Medal after what was a brilliant breakout campaign for the newly-capped Socceroo.

Genreau featured 23 times for the Bulls throughout 2020/21, after moving from Melbourne City in the off-season. The midfielder played just 543 minutes across three prior seasons at his former side, but under Bulls boss Ante Milicic Genreau thrived, receiving 1,892 minutes of playing time and excelling surrounded by the likes of the experienced Markel Susaeta, Beñat Etxebarria, Matt Derbyshire and Mark Milligan. 

Genreau earned a spot in the A-League Team of the Week for Matchweek 14 after scoring one of his two goals for the season in a tight 1-0 win over Wellington Phoenix. 

GOAL: Genreau goal enough for Bulls to see off Phoenix

He would go on to earn become Socceroo #610 making his debut alongside Metcalfe against Chinese Taipei in June off the back of his stellar A-League season in which he showed metronomic control in midfield, taking more than 90 touches in a single game on seven occasions throughout the season. Genreau passed with an average accuracy of 83%, created 27 chances and added two goals to his two assists across eight losses, six draws and nine wins in a stellar first season for the Bulls. 

Reno Piscopo - Wellington Phoenix

A-League 2020/21 Season 

  • Games: 16
  • Goals: 2
  • Assists: 2

Reno Piscopo's injury-plagued 2020/21 season was not without its brilliant moments as the attacking midfielder stole the show for Wellington late in the season to remind all watching on of his unbounded talent and potential as a rising Australian star.

Piscopo missed Wellington's first four games of the season through injury, returned to action in February but lasted just nine games before suffering another injury setback in late March which kept him sidelined until May.

The creator made a cautious return to action before tearing Western United apart in Matchweek 22, starring in a sensational display as Wellington made a long-awaited return to Sky Stadium.

Piscopo scored a cracking goal in the 3-0 win, created four chances and passed with a 90% accuracy in the final third on that memorable day in New Zealand. 

Hearts were in mouths the following game when Piscopo succumbed a shoulder injury just 16 minutes into Wellington's clash with Western Sydney. Questions were immediately asked about the midfielder's chances of Olympic eligibility, but Piscopo made a stunning return the very next game, playing from the start in a 2-2 draw with Perth before putting 90 more minutes into the tank in a 3-0 win over Macarthur FC to end the campaign.

It was a disrupted season for the Phoenix star, with injuries taking their toll. But Piscopo persisted through it all, showing glimpses of his technical ability and X-factor along with his neat, skilful play and positive, creative approach to the game.

SIGNING NEWS: Glory swoop to bring Socceroos midfielder home

WATCH: Piscopo stunner sinks Western United

Cameron Devlin - Wellington Phoenix 

A-League 2020/21 Season 

  • Games: 23
  • Goals: 1​​​​​​

Announced as one of four 'Train On' players in the Olyroos squad, Cameron Devlin's steely approach to the game earned the battling midfielder the opportunity to join Graham Arnold's group preparing for Tokyo 2020.

Devlin departed Wellington Phoenix after two impressive seasons under Ufuk Talay to join Newcastle Jets ahead of 2021/22. He featured 23 times in his last campaign as a Phoenix player, making 17 starts across nine wins, seven draws and seven losses.

The midfielder offered security on the ball, passing at an accuracy of 91.6% off 1,363 attempts. Devlin made 55 tackles, 16 clearances, 13 blocks and 43 interceptions along the way, earning selections in the A-League Team of the Week for Matchweek 21 and 22 for a pair of starring performances. 

In Matchweek 22, Devlin took 124 touches and laid 109 passes at 97.2% accuracy in Wellington's 3-0 win over Western United. It was the standout performance of the 2020/21 season for Devlin - a season highlighted by a stunning goal against Western Sydney which shot his name into Goal of the Season contention.

GOAL: Devlin - An absolute screamer from the midfielder