Adelaide United season preview: Cornthwaite's huge praise for rising Reds teen

Falling one step short of the Grand Final and winning the FFA Cup meant last season was a fairly successful one for Adelaide United.

So how will new boss Gertjan Verbeek push his squad to even greater heights in the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Season?

We caught up with former defender Robbie Cornthwaite to get his take on Adelaide’s prospects. Read on as Cornthwaite pinpoints where Adelaide must improve and casts his ladder verdict - along with one or two bold predictions!

Last season: Fourth
Robbie Cornthwaite’s predicted position: Fourth

Click here to find out how to watch Adelaide United take on Central Coast Mariners in an FFA Cup Semi Final from 7:30pm AEST.

Preview: Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United

A-League.com.au's three things to watch

1. Who will score the goals?

The two main contenders to fill Adelaide's long-standing need for a central source of goals might be at opposite stages of their careers, but either could be the answer to the club's prayers this season.

Kristian Opseth’s highlights reel suggests he could score some spectacular goals, while youngster Al Hassan Toure has been in red-hot form during the FFA Cup 2019. If both can find their feet, the Reds could be a major contender. 

2. Who can replace inspirational skipper Isaias?

There hasn’t been a more influential player at Adelaide in recent seasons than ex-skipper Isaias.

The Spanish maestro led the way not only with his precocious talent but also through his leadership, hunger and passion, which inspired those around him.

With Isaias no longer pulling the strings in midfield, it will be up to the likes of Mirko Boland, Nathan Konstandopoulos, Lachlan Brook and Vince Lia to make their mark. 

3. Gertjan Verbeek 

Adelaide turned to enigmatic Dutchman Gertjan Verbeek following the departure of Marco Kurz to Melbourne Victory. A colourful character with a intriguing past, can he take the Reds to bigger and better things?

STORYLINES: Everything you need to know before 2019/20 Season kick off

The first five fixtures

Sydney FC (H)
Melbourne City (a)
Newcastle Jets (a)
Brisbane Roar (H)
Central Coast Mariners (a)

Click here to see the full 2019/20 fixture list

Le Fondre
For the second season in a row, the Reds will host Sydney FC in the season opener

Cornthwaite's key match-ups: Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory

“Victory is the marquee fixture for Adelaide, the Original Rivalry as they call it. [Former Reds boss Marco] Kurz’s return makes it even more intense and the one the fans look forward too.

“But I’m looking forward to seeing Adelaide play against Sydney as well. They have a bit of history in the FFA Cup Final in recent seasons, they are super competitive against one another and when I was playing back in the day when the A-League first started, Sydney FC was Adelaide’s main rival.

“We were competing for first and second and in finals as well. They were always a fiery game and Round 1, opening game of the A-League season, I think it’s going to be a must-watch.”

Cornthwaite's players to watch

1. Ben Halloran

“He was a little bit disappointing last season coming back from overseas.

“He spent a bit of the season playing out of position as a number 9 but I think back out on that right-hand side he can be very dangerous when he uses his pace.

“If he can raise his game a little more I think he can be a difference maker for Adelaide.”

Ben Halloran
'Halloran can be a difference maker for Adelaide United'

2. Jordan Elsey

“He has the potential to be one of the best centre-backs in the league. He’s still just 25 years old.

“If he has one or two big seasons he could make a move to Asia. He has all the attributes to play at the top level in Asia.

“It’s just about putting it together consistently and Adelaide having a good season.

The squad

In

Riley McGree (Club Brugge) Story
Michaël Maria (Charlotte Independence) Story
Kristian Opseth (Erzurum BB) Story
Al Hassan Toure (promoted) Story
Kusini Yengi (promoted) Story

Out

Isaias (released) Story
Scott Galloway (Melbourne City) Story
Baba Diawara (released) Story
Craig Goodwin (Al-Wehda) Story

MCGREE: New-look Adelaide still boast old spirit

Riley McGree is primed for big things with Adelaide United this season
Riley McGree is back where it all began with Adelaide United this season

Cornthwaite's squad verdict

“The core of the squad is very solid. We can expect Adelaide to be competitive but [losing Craig Goodwin and Isaias], we’re yet to see replacements for them.

“[Michael] Maria is more of a left-back but has been playing on the left wing, he doesn’t have a great scoring record and certainly won’t be scoring as many goals as Craig Goodwin.

“And the club hasn’t signed anyone in Isaias’ position. They brought in Riley McGree who’s more attacking and it looks as though Mirko Boland is going to be the one sitting in that hole. He has the right attributes to do it but I’m yet to see enough form him in that position to make me fully confident. I think he lacks a bit of pace but certainly he adds some depth in that area.

“The jury is still out on their signings if I’m honest. We haven’t really seen [Kristian] Opseth due to his international clearance issues.

“But at the same time Al Hassan Toure has come in taken his chance. He’s the type of player that is going to put bums on seats, he’s going to bring people to the game and is very impressive. He has a lot of pace, good trickery and he’s scoring goals for fun.”

Adelaide United's 2019/20 roster: Paul Izzo, Daniel Marguš, Isaac Richards, Jordan Elsey, Michael Jakobsen, Michael Marrone, Ryan Strain, Mirko Boland, Lachlan Brook, Louis D’Arrigo, Ben Halloran, Ryan Kitto, Nathan Konstandopoulos, Vince Lia, Carlo Armiento, George Blackwood, Nikola Mileusnić, Pacifique Niyongabire, Riley McGree, Michaël Maria, Kristian Opseth, Al Hassan Toure, Kusini Yengi

The boss: Gertjan Verbeek

“He’s a guy that likes to play attacking football. He wants to do things his way and he’s got his finger on the pulse in every area. He’s a guy that has a finger across everything that goes on at training and he really is the boss down there.

“Most of the training has been with the ball. It is always difficult when someone comes in with new ideas and tries to implement them, it does take time.

“When you have someone who is the boss and it’s ‘my way or the highway’, for me personally that’s better. Sometimes when you have a coach who second guesses himself and goes along with what the players want at times, things can get messy.

“There’s no doubt he’s the man in charge there, things are going to be done his way and he’ll live and die by that.”

Gertjan Verbeek
At the helm: Adelaide boss Gertjan Verbeek

Cornthwaite's verdict

“I’ll say fourth. They have a strong squad but I think there’s just one or two things missing at the moment. But there’s still time to fix it.

“They are going to be super competitive and I can’t see them missing the finals.

“[Coopers] Stadium is a wonderful ground, Friday nights there are always fantastic. The crowd really does help them get over the line in those games.”

The kits

In a modern twist on the club’s predominantly red strip, there are also splashes of the South Australian state colours of navy and yellow.

The kit, which was manufactured by the Reds’ on-field partner Macron, features an embossed horizontal diamond pattern on the front of the shirt.

NEW STRIPS: Every club's kit for the new season

A crew neck replaces a collar which is accentuated by navy and yellow trimming, as too are the outline of the sleeves, complementing the overall design.

The away strip is a predominantly white strip with red trimming around the neck and shoulders. There is also embossed white pinstripes on the front and back of the shirt which add some subtle character to the slim-fit jersey.

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Adelaide 'keeper Paul Izzo
Adelaide 'keeper Paul Izzo