Season preview | Melbourne Heart

Heart have shown how to build a club; now it’s up to Aloisi to keep up the momentum.

Heart have shown how to start up an Hyundai A-League club; now it-s up to Aloisi to keep up the momentum.

Starting a new club in the A-League is tough enough; doing it in a market as cramped as Melbourne requires every step to be well-planned and perfectly executed. And so far, Heart have done just that.

Eighth in their first season, sixth in their second, and setting up a viable, credible alternative to the dominating presence of Victory, the red-and-white have made admirable progress on and off the field.

But the departure of inaugural coach John van ‘t Schip represented more than just a change in the dug-out; it is a sign that the club is maturing and the honeymoon period is over. Stability has been achieved, now growth is required.

In this respect, John Aloisi-s appointment represents something of a risk for Heart. Promoting from within should be applauded and there is no question that the former Socceroo and Heart Youth team coach deserves his shot.

But the aim for Melbourne Heart is not to lose that momentum, to not get lost in the hype and improving standards of the league. The competitiveness of A-League means small differences can make a big difference.

Aloisi is untested as a head coach at this level and he takes over a much different squad to the one van ‘t Schip created. Some of that fizz of youth has left for Europe, to be replaced by experience - not a bad thing in itself but it has altered the way Heart will play the game.

In their pre-season loss to Perth Glory, Heart were sluggish, second to the ball and seemed to lack direction. Glory were grand finalists last season and are expected to challenge again, and it takes time for any new coach to fully institute his strategies - but on that basis, Heart have a long way to go in a short space of time.

All eyes will be on the club when the Melbourne derby kicks off season 2012/13, and Ange Postecoglou-s rebuilt Victory side represent a huge challenge for Aloisi. A defeat wouldn-t be the end of the world, but Heart-s capacity to stand up for themselves could set the tone for their season.

Key player: Fred The 33-year-old Brazilian suffered from injury troubles last season but he remains a talismanic presence, and a performer of stand-out ability and quality.

Keeping him fit - or perhaps just using him sparingly - will be hugely important to Heart this season as their creative engine in midfield.

X-Factor: Golgol Mebrahtu Picked up from the Gold Coast United fire sale, the 21-year-old attacking midfielder has long been rated an as exciting prospect but so far has only given fleeting impressions of what he may be capable of.

His pace and direct running could be crucial to Heart, even if only as an impact player.

Coach: John Aloisi It-s good to see a young coach being given a crack at one of the top jobs in the A-League but only time will tell if Aloisi-s promotion has come too soon.

Kevin Muscat has opted to serve out a long apprenticeship at Melbourne Victory, but Aloisi has had just one season in charge of Heart-s National Youth League team, one which, with all due respect, was unremarkable.

Aloisi will be backed up by an experienced "coaching panel", and carries a lot of goodwill from his playing days - let-s hope he can carry that quality into his managerial career.

Transfers In: Ben Garuccio (AIS), Richard Garcia (Hull City, UK), David Vrankovic (Sydney FC NYL), Dylan Macallister, Josip Tadic (Lechia Gdansk), Golgol Mebrahtu, Steven Gray, Patrick Gerhardt (FK Zeljeznicar), Andrew Redmayne (Brisbane Roar) Out: Curtis Good (Newcastle United), Brendan Hamill (Seongnam Ilhwa), Eli Babalj (Red Star Belgrade), Adrian Zahra (Perth Glory), Rutger Worm (released), Alex Terra (released), Kristian Sarkies (released), Kamal Ibrahim (released), Kliment Taseski (released), Maycon (released), Nikola Roganovic (released), Craig Goodwin (Newcastle Jets), Wayne Srhoj (released)

Key fixtures Round 1 v Melbourne Victory (A) Not a deal-breaker but what a way to start the season. Much is expect of Postecoglou-s Victory - but what can Aloisi-s Heart pull off?

Round 6 v Brisbane Roar (H) A visit from the champions is always a good test, and six weeks in, we might just have a clearer idea of how Heart-s season will go.

Round 26 v Brisbane Roar (A) A trip to Suncorp in the second-last game of the season is something most side would no doubt prefer to avoid.

Stat Shot Melbourne Heart managed the fourth-most shots on goal last season (352) but scored the third fewest goals (35).

Prediction: Ninth (This is not the author-s prediction but an average of contributors.)

The Hyundai A-League 2012/13 season kicks off on Friday 5 October with the season-s first Melbourne derby at Etihad Stadium. Click here for tickets to all the matches.

The official Hyundai A-League 2012/13 fantasy football game and tipping competitions are also open - so sign up now.