An up and down season for Melbourne City saw the club win their first piece of silverware but also plummet from the Hyundai A-League Finals at the first hurdle. We examine City's season and look ahead to the 2017/18 campaign.
Position: 4th, beaten in finals week one
Record: Played 28, Won 11, Drawn 6, Lost 11
Leading Goal Scorer: Bruno Fornaroli (17)
Best home crowd: 24,706 – Round 11 against Melbourne Victory
Star performer: Michael Jakobsen
After conceding 48 goals last season, John van't Schip moved to shore up his back four and the Danish centre-back was key to that. The stylish, composed defender brought the experience of playing well over a dozen years at the top level in Europe and for his national side and immediately solidified the rearguard.
Injury affected his season but that just reinforced his worth as City conceded an average of two goals per game in his absence.
Breakout player: Ruon Tongyik
Defensive composure is rare in such a young player, but the rookie Sudanese-born centre-back looked every inch a star of the future in his 15 appearances during what was a debut Hyundai A-League campaign.
At the end of the season, the talented youngster was named among the reserves in the PFA Team of the Season.
Goal of the year: Tim Cahill
One of the big pre-season questions was how long it would take Australia’s greatest ever goalscorer to make his mark in the Hyundai A-League. As it turned out, the answer was less than half an hour.
In front of 43-thousand enraptured fans in the round two Melbourne derby at AAMI Park, the ball broke to Cahill forty yards from goal and his audacious long-range strike into the top corner announced his arrival in no uncertain terms and spawned a thousand replays across the next few months. It never gets old.
Highlight: Derby delight
Cahill's goal above was followed by three more as City put their cross-town rivals to the sword, playing some awe-inspiring football and looking every inch a championship contender. New imports Nicolas Colazo and Fernando Brandan combined effortlessly in attack with Cahill, Bruno Fornaroli, Bruce Kamau and Luke Brattan while at the back, it took a special piece of Marco Rojas skill to breach a compact looking rearguard.
Even that was a consolation goal as Melbourne City became the early favourites to claim the silverware in 2016/17.
Lowlight: Meek finals surrender
The signs were there leading into the finals series, with City losing three of their previous four games, but even so, their 0-2 home loss to Perth in the elimination final was hard to fathom. With their season on the line, City were utterly flat in the first half and Perth took advantage with goals from Diego Castro and Joel Chianese giving them a buffer they never relinquished. City finally woke up in the second half, but by then they were chasing the game and Glory allowed them just two shots on target all game.
As they left AAMI Park with their collective shoulders slumped, City seemed a million miles away from the team that had started the season with such promise.
What they need:
Like Adelaide and Phoenix, a decision on the coach for 2017/18 needs to come before anything else. All signs point to a new man at the helm and when he arrives his main recruitment focus will fall on the extension (or not) of the loan deals of Luke Brattan and Anthony Caceres as well as finding replacements for Nicolas Colazo, Josh Rose and Thomas Sorensen. The main issue though seems to be moulding one of the best on-paper squads in the competition into a side that can fulfil its undoubted potential.
We saw glimpses – and they were amazing – but it's consistency that must now be found and maintained.
Acquisitions for next season:
Losses for next season:
Thomas Sorensen, Nicolas Colazo, Josh Rose, Corey Gameiro, Steve Kuzmanovski
Outlook for 2017/18:
Next season is likely to begin in much the same way this one did, with rightful – if cautious – optimism. With the likes of Cahill, Fornaroli, Jakobsen, Brandan, Franjic, Kilkenny and Kamau on the roster, City really should be challenging for the silverware.
They won the FFA Cup this season, but that simply whetted their fans' appetites for bigger trophies. At some point, City need a breakthrough season – they’ll hope it's coming in 2017/18.