Season 2008/09 Club Previews
Dave Cooper previews Adelaide and Central Coast's season ahead.
Last season proved disappointing for Adelaide United, as they finished out of the finals after winning the 2007 Pre-Season Cup. Injuries to key players Michael Valkanis, Bruce Djite and Paul Agostino certainly didn-t help their cause at critical times.
Keeping the ball out of their own net proved the biggest problem, especially late in the season, where in their last six games they won just once, drew one and lost four games to slip away from the finals race.
The Reds off-season was dominated by the AFC Champions League, which they successfully negotiated, becoming the first Australian team to make it through to the knockout phase of Asia-s biggest club competition.
Since that achievement there has been considerable movement of their playing roster, with most notably young stars Bruce Djite and Nathan Burns securing moves overseas, while fullback Richie Alagich retired after a long career at the top of Australian domestic football.
Replacing these three was never going to be easy, but the arrival of Brazilian striker Cristiano from Holland looks a good piece of business, as does Sasa Ognenovski-s move south from Queensland Roar to bolster the defence. The return of Scott Jamieson and Paul Reid from overseas might also prove two astute signings, while Alameo, another Brazilian, is the wildcard and we will have to wait and see whether he proves a good capture or not.
Probably the biggest thing from Adelaide-s perspective will be how much focus they place on the Champions League and whether they can progress beyond the quarter finals. If they continue to progress, it will be difficult for them, as the travel will possibly have a big effect on their domestic form.
There is no doubting they have one of the strongest squads in the competition and should do well. In Travis Dodd and Lucas Pantelis they have plenty of attacking punch and Diego will have the extra responsibility to be the creative force in the centre of midfield in Burns absence.
If Aurelio Vidmar can keep most of his players fit and healthy and juggle them around the demands of the AFC Champions League, then a top four finish should be achievable.
Players In - Daniel Mullen, Sasa Ognenovski (Queensland Roar), Cristiano (Willem II, Holland), Alameo (CA Juventus, Brazil), Mark Birighitti (AIS), Scott Jamieson (Bolton Wanderers, England), Robert Younis (APIA Leichhardt, NSW), Paul Reid (Brighton & Hove Albion, England)
Players Out - Bobby Petta (released), Dez Giraldi (released), Robbie Bajic (released), Shaun Ontong (Newcastle Jets), Milan Susak (released), Nathan Burns (AEK Athens, Greece), Bruce Djite (Genclerbirligi, Turkey), Richie Alagich (retired)
The reigning Hyundai A-League Premiers, following a stellar 2007/08 season. But once again the title of Hyundai A-League Champions eluded them, after losing their second grand final by 1-0, this time to arch rival Newcastle Jets.
The Mariners start was what got them the Premiers Plate and a place in next years AFC Champions League, winning four of their opening five games and setting up a significant early lead on the competition ladder. An unbeaten month of November, which included three wins and a draw, had a top four place confirmed half way through the season and while they stumbled home to only just win the Premiers Plate on goal difference ahead of Newcastle, it was no more than they deserved.
However it was probably the arrival back home of Qantas Socceroo striker John Aloisi they created the most buzz on the Coast and his experience and goals proved valuable in the run home. Unfortunately he was unable to lead them to the Championship and that ended up being his last game for the Mariners, as he headed down the road to Sydney.
Lawrie McKinna, one of only two coaches still remaining at their original club, was quick to move in the transfer market with Adrian Caceres and Ahmad Elrich signed up. These signings again emphasised the Mariners plan to use the width of the park as a major point of attack and compensated for the loss of Tom Pondeljak, who decided to return home to Melbourne and Adam Kwasnik, who only recently moved across the Tasman Sea to play with Wellington Phoenix. In place of Aloisi, McKinna has recruited Dylan Macallister, who has returned from stints overseas in Sweden and Norway, while he will be hoping Nik Mrdja will finally overcome his injuries that have plagued him since the inaugural season.
There is no doubt he will also be hoping for continued improvement from his young players like Nigel Boogaard, Matt Simon, Brad Porter and Mile Jedinak, whose rise in the past 12 months has seen him capped for the national team.
The recent injury to Andre Gumprecht will hurt in the middle of the park and leaves a lot of onus on John Hutchinson to stay injury free at the start of the season. Pedj Bojic, obviously doesn-t have the experience of Tony Vidmar, but is a more than useful replacement for the veteran at the back.
The Mariners will also have to contend with the loss of Danny Vukovic for a period of five matches to serve his suspension for the Grand Final indiscretion, although the potential signing of former Australian keeper Mark Bosnich on a short-term deal, will arguably be one of the most significant signings in the Hyundai A-League's short history.
Remains to be seen how big a loss Aloisi will be, but you can always expect a tough test from the Mariners and they will be thereabouts for a place in the top four.
Players In - Adrian Caceres (Melbourne Victory), Ahmad Elrich (Wellington Phoenix), Dylan Macallister (FC Lyn, Norway), David D'Apuzzo (APIA Leichhardt, NSW), Pedj Bojic (Sutherland Sharks, NSW)
Players Out - Tom Pondeljak (Melbourne Victory), John Aloisi (Sydney FC), Adam Kwasnik (Wellington Phoenix), Matthew Trott (released), Ian McAndrew (released), Damien Brown (retired), Tony Vidmar (retired)