Melbourne City boss John van ‘t Schip feels his side has taken some giant strides forward despite falling one game short of the Hyundai A-League Grand Final for a second straight season.
City’s remarkable campaign – in which they smashed the league’s scoring record – came to an end with a thud on Friday night with a 4-1 semi final loss to Adelaide United.
It’s another heavy defeat to end the season for the club, after losing 3-0 defeat to bitter neighbours Melbourne Victory at the same stage last year.
But despite the sobering end, van ‘t Schip feels the side is heading in the right direction.
“Looking purely at the football I think the team really improved compared to last year,” he told reporters after the game.
“We played some very good football, we scored the most goals, we tried to entertain, especially at home.
"Compared to last year we surely have made steps.
“We finished with a lot more points as well but again we wanted to make the next step and that was playing in the grand final. We didn’t succeed in that and that’s a disappointment.”
Van ‘t Schip conceded the Reds thoroughly deserved their win, suffocating his side out of the match from the opening whistle.
After a goalless first half, Adelaide struck twice within 15 minutes of the restart through Bruce Djite, before Nick Fitzgerald gave City hope pulling one back with 18 minutes left.
But the Reds finished stronger, scoring twice late on through Dylan McGowan and sub Pablo Sanchez.
City’s star striker Bruno Fornaroli was an isolated figure up front, while Aaron Mooy only showed glimpses of his quality with his side on the back foot.
“They were on the top of their game, their top players were available and performed on a very good level and we couldn’t match that,” the Dutchman said.
“We didn’t keep the ball good enough, we didn’t create, Bruno [Fornaroli] was isolated too much because we didn’t get enough players around him.
"It was a hard fight and hard work but not enough play.
“We didn’t get to the level we thought we could. It’s disappointing but we have to regroup and make sure we come back stronger the next season.”
And City’s squad could have a very different look for the 2016/17 campaign, with speculation the likes of Mooy and Caltex Socceroos defender Alex Wilkinson could be two players moving on.
Mooy, who has been arguably the A-League’s best player this season, is attracting plenty of interest from European clubs and reports are he is likely to move abroad.
Asked if a rebuild of the squad was likely, van ‘t Schip said: “We have to wait. We don’t know exactly, that’s something that we’ll look into in the future.
“The only thing we know is we have players that are coming off contract, and that we have to now look which players we want to keep and if they don’t stay, how to replace them.
“That’s something we’ll have time to sit down and look at now.”