Hyundai A-League season review: Adelaide United

A frustrating season for Adelaide United saw their Hyundai A-League title defence fail to catch fire in what was a challenging season on and off the field. We look back at the season that was for the Reds and take a glance at what 2017/18 might look like.

Hyundai A-League season review: Newcastle Jets

Opta Widget: media:opta:c7116229-f208-48a4-95f7-f6d485e6cef6

Position: 9 th  

Record: Played 27, Won 5, Drawn 8, Lost 14

Goals: 25

Conceded: 46

Leading Goal Scorer: Dylan McGowan (4)

Dylan McGowan celebrates his goal in Adelaide United's stunning win over Jeju United in the ACL on Tuesday night.

Best home crowd: 14,908 – Round 3 against Melbourne Victory

Star performer: Dylan McGowan

For the second consecutive year, the former youth international was a model of consistency, playing every minute of Adelaide’s season. He was a rock in the heart of the Reds’ defence and was often charged with marking the opposition’s most dangerous attacker. The final game of the season was McGowan’s 100 th  in the Hyundai A-League and when he scored Adelaide’s last goal of the campaign it took him above all other goalscorers at the club in 2016/17.

Breakout player: Riley McGree

The emergence of the South Australian born teenager was one of the few positives to come out of the 2016/17 season. After a handful of appearances from the bench, the 18-year-old was thrust into the starting line-up and excelled to the point that he was selected in the Caltex Socceroos squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Iraq and UAE. The meteoric rise didn’t seem to affect him as he then featured prominently in both the Hyundai A-League and Asian Champions League. At season’s end he was voted into the PFA team of the season by his fellow professionals, while proving how grounded he was by bringing his mum to the Dolan Warren awards.

Teenage Caltex Socceroo and Adelaide United midfielder Riley McGree will move to Club Brugge on a four-year deal.

Goal of the year: Mark Ochieng

With just one win in their first 15 games, expectations were low when Melbourne City visited Coopers Stadium in mid-January.  At 1-1 late in the match, Gui Amor introduced 20-year old Mark Ochieng and the youngster seized his chance. A long ball was placed expertly into his path by Sergio Guardiola and Ochieng produced the finish of a seasoned veteran, taking the ball to the edge of the penalty area before coolly slotting into the top corner to the delight of the home fans.

Highlight: Baba Diawara’s arrival

The Senegalese striker breathed new life into Adelaide’s ailing attack when he joined the club in the January transfer window. In seven games he scored three goals, including important strikes in the back-to-back wins over Brisbane and Central Coast which lifted the Reds from the foot of the table and helped them avoid the wooden spoon. In a season of slim pickings in front of goal, Diawara was an extremely welcome shining light.

Adelaide United striker Baba Diawara looks to get between two Perth Glory defenders.

Lowlight: Their title “defence”

But for a late season mini-revival, the Reds would have produced the worst title defence in the 12-year history of the Hyundai A-League. As it was, the follow-up to their maiden championship campaign was utterly underwhelming. One win in their first 14 games, an inability to score goals, failed signings, injuries and rumours of internal discontent combined to make this season as miserable as the last one was memorable.

What they need:

First, they have to find a new boss. Gui Amor’s long-expected departure was confirmed by the club yesterday, with the recruitment of a new coach already underway. In terms of players, a proven goalscorer would be a very good start. When your centre-back wins the Golden Boot, there’s plenty of room for improvement in the attacking third and Adelaide was the only side to average less than a goal a game this season. But with fewer than ten players confirmed for next season, it’s probably easier to list where Adelaide don’t need reinforcement.

Acquisitions for next season:

Paul Izzo

Paul Izzo returns to Adelaide United after signing a three-year contract.

Losses for next season:

While player movements have yet to be confirmed by the club, veteran goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic is almost certain to depart, while it seems likely he’ll be followed out the door by some or all of Marcelo Carrusca, Dylan McGowan, Sergio Cirio, Iacopo La Rocca, Baba Diawara and Kim Jae-sung.

Outlook for 2017/18:

With Gui Amor leaving and a massive sixteen players off-contract, it’s anyone’s guess what the Adelaide United roster and coaching staff will look like when the new season rolls around. Without knowing that, it’s impossible to predict whether Reds fans are in for another championship season, consecutive disappointing campaigns or something in between in 2017/18.