Silvera’s stunner marks paradigm shift – but can kids be difference-makers?

We may only be four rounds into the new Hyundai A-League season but one trend has already become clear - the next generation is here.

The new kids on the scene have been lighting up the 20 Hyundai A-League matches played so far, and the stats produced by Opta back that up.

Samuel Silvera’s match-winner for the 2018/19 wooden spooners Central Coast Mariners in the back yard of the Premiers, Perth Glory, may have been a statement that the paradigm is shifting.

The Hyundai A-League is evolving and the normal is no more.

Silvera’s strike was the 10th goal, from 51 in total, scored by an under-23 player in this campaign. That’s the highest ratio, 19.6%, through four rounds since since 2012/13.

It’s not only among the goals where young players are making an impact. The amount of minutes played by teenagers is at its highest since 2012/13.

A total of 2,198 of the total minutes clocked this season are by players under 20, that is 5.6% of the entire league.

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British pundit Alan Hansen once famously stated 'you cannot win anything with kids' before a youthful Manchester United side stormed to the Premier League title, but are these emerging talents key to finding success in the Hyundai A-League? 

Or, are the old guard the essential building blocks behind a Championship-winning roster? 

Below we look at some of the rising stars that are already making the leap in 2019/20.

Al Hassan Toure

Club: Adelaide United
Age: 19

The breakthrough star of the Red’s FFA Cup march to glory has not let up in the Hyundai A-League. 

Toure struck in the season opener against Sydney FC and, after penning a contract extension, has established himself as a key component of Gertjan Verbeek’s attack.

Keanu Baccus

Club: Western Sydney Wanderers
Age: 21

With 45 Hyundai A-League appearances under his belt, it feels like Baccus has long been established as a quality Hyundai A-League player.

But the swashbuckling midfielder has taken his game to the next level in 2019/20, and he led a youthful Wanderers middle three - including 19-year-old Kosta Grozos and 20-year-old Tass Mourdoukoutas - against Brisbane Roar.

Kristian Popovic

Club: Perth Glory
Age: 18

Popovic announced himself to Hyundai A-League fans with a super sub appearance to deny Western United three points against the Premiers in Round 2.

An emerging talent in the Young Socceroos set up, the coach’s son is yet to make his first Hyundai A-League start but is proving to be a genuine threat off the Perth Glory bench.

Riley McGree

Club: Adelaide United
Age: 21

McGree may not be a new kid on the block but the Scorpion King has been leading from the front after signing for his hometown club in the off-season.

After a career-best return of seven goals in 2018/19 for Melbourne City, McGree has netted three in three already for Adelaide and offers an attacking threat that opposition defences must play close attention to.


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Matt Millar

Club: Newcastle Jets
Age: 23

Millar has gone from strength-to-strength since crossing the F3 Derby divide in the off-season.

A diamond in the rough last season for Central Coast Mariners, the late developer is becoming a playmaker from right-back and one of the Jets stand-out performers in 2019/20.

Connor Metcalfe

Club: Melbourne City
Age: 19

Having only made six senior substitute appearances before this season, Metcalfe has established himself as a permanent fixture in the City midfield.

The Young Socceroo started all five FFA Cup matches during City’s run to the final and three of four in the Hyundai A-League, netting his first goal against Wellington Phoenix on Saturday.

Ben Waine

Club: Wellington Phoenix
Age: 18

Long tipped by many to become the future of the New Zealand nation team, Waine turned the heads of Hyundai A-League followers with his late strike against Melbourne City in Round 4.

A month ago, the Kiwi hotshot fired the Oly-Whites to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, scoring eight goals in the qualifying tournament in Fiji. Now, he is well on the Hyundai A-League radar.

Daniel De Silva

Club: Central Coast Mariners
Age: 22

There may have been a few false dawns for the former Perth Glory and AS Roma attacker but De Silva finally appears to have found his home in Gosford.

After a stop-start Championship-winning season at Sydney FC, De Silva is taking his chance and proving to be a legit danger man for Alen Stajcic’s charges.

Samuel Silvera

Club: Central Coast Mariners
Age: 19

Expectations were high for this teenager after moving up-state from Western Sydney Wanderers having not made a senior appearance in Red and Black.

And the dynamic attacker showed a glimpse of what he is capable of with a stunning match-winner in the home of the Premiers, Perth Glory, on Sunday.

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The value of experience

While these electric young talents can get the pulses racing, may clubs have focused their team-building approach around more experienced heads.

Western United have benefited from the likes of Alessandro Diamanti and Panagiotis Kone setting the tone, while Perth Glory recruited a proven goalscorer in Bruno Fornaroli.

Western Sydney put their trust in prolific Bundesliga frontman Alexander Meier to lead the line, while Milan Duric has been brought in to add experience to the Central Coast midfield.

Former Premier League attackers Gary Hooper and Craig Noone have added calibre to the Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne City forward lines, while Melbourne Victory entrusted in Andrew Nabbout and Sydney FC looked to Kosta Barbarouses to bring the goals.

The key question is: who are the biggest difference-makers in the race for Hyundai A-League glory? 

Would you rather have a core of seasoned pros and rely less on the unpredictable nature of young prospects?

Or, would you prefer your team to have a 'high risk, high reward' approach of cutting down on veterans and handing opportunities to potential breakout stars?

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