Young talent begining to emerge through the A-League

Over the past few weeks as the A-League has began, I’ve had some discussions with a few people both online and at the games about how there’s no good young players coming through the A-League. I disagree completely with that given that there are more young players getting an opportunity than ever before including a host of players who performed admirably at the recent u/20 World Cup. With that in mind, here’s a squad of young players who have either set the A-League alight, or will in the coming weeks and months.

Firstly- a few parameters on this selection:
– All players are either aged 21 or under as of today.
– For the sake of this I’ve just adopted the mandated 1-4-3-3 formation Australia has adopted at youth level.
– In some cases where there’s an extra youngster worthy of consideration, they’re listed as a honourable mention (HM)

Goalkeeper:
Paul Izzo (Adelaide United)

Age: 18
Games: 3

Paul Izzo (Morne de Klerk - Getty Images AsiaPac)

Paul Izzo (Morne de Klerk – Getty Images AsiaPac)

This is the one position that’s selected by default given he’s the only keeper aged 21 or under who has A-League experience (Mark Birighitti is the league’s youngest regular keeper at age 22). Izzo –backup to Eugene Galekovic at Adelaide United- made his A-League debut last season away to league leading Central Coast Mariners and he made some good saves on debut in a 2-1 loss. He then backed that up keeping goal at home against arch rivals Melbourne Victory in a 4-2 win. All up he’s made just the 3 appearances to date for his club, but he has been a regular at youth international level, including the 2011 u/17 World Cup, and the recent U/20 World Cup where he showed encouraging signs of being able to play out from the back which is important for all modern day goalkeepers.

Right Full-Back:
Jason Geria (Melbourne Victory)
Age:
20
Games: 10

Jason Geria (Scott Barbour - Getty Images AsiaPac)

Jason Geria (Scott Barbour – Getty Images AsiaPac)

The one that got away for Brisbane fans after they opted to sign Yuji Takahashi on a loan deal (who now cant get a game in the J2 league!) to a first team deal ahead of Geria, and Victory pounced with a 3 year contract. Geria made his A-League debut late in the 2011-12 season and quickly became the first choice option at right back for a young Melbourne side. He’s versatile enough to play in the centre if needed, but he’s also very good at playing the modern short passing game and gets forward often down the right hand side. Geria has also been a fixture in the junior national teams including the recent u/20 World Cup in Turkey.

HM: Storm Roux (Central Coast Mariners)

Left Back:
Corey Brown (Brisbane Roar)
Age:
19
Games: 11
Brown made his professional debut in the continents biggest

Corey Brown (Bradley Kanaris - Getty Images AsiaPac)

Corey Brown (Bradley Kanaris – Getty Images AsiaPac)

competition on matchday 6 at home against Beijing and he didn’t put a foot wrong. They Brisbane native was then forced to watch on and wait for his opportunities which have been few and far between, however with some solid preseason form and an injury to Shane Stefanutto he has finally got some regular senior football. Brown has also been a regular at youth international level having been apart of the u/17 side that reached the last 16 of the 2011 u/17 World Cup, however he was left out of the recent u/20 World Cup squad.

Central Defenders:
Trent Sainsbury (Central Coast Mariners)
Age:
21
Games: 46
Sainsbury is universally recognised as the league’s best young Trent Sainsbury (Paul Kane - Getty Images AsiaPac)defenders and has reportedly attracted interest from Europe including Swiss champions FC Basel. Sainsbury made his debut in the F3 derby against the Jets and stepped in to form on of, if not the league’s best defensive pairings with Patrick Zwaanswijk following Alex Wilkinson’s move to Jeonbuk which culminated in their Grand Final victory last season. On the international front Sainsbury has been on the periphery of the senior national team without ever being selected to make his debut, he was however a member of Australia’s 211 u/20 World Cup squad.

James Donachie (Brisbane Roar)
Age
: 20
Games: 23

James Donachie (Tony Feder - Getty Images AsiaPac)

James Donachie (Tony Feder – Getty Images AsiaPac)

James was a shock inclusion for the final M1 derby after Brisbane had lost the premiership, and he looked solid on his debut against a difficult opponent in Maceo Righters. He was then thrust into another tough scenario last season due to the failures of Jurman and the injury to Matt Smith and struck up solid partnerships with Smith and new signing Jade North that helped stabilise the defence. Donachie has also been a regular in the international sides, including being a squad player in the u/20 World Cup. Some may be surprised at the selection of Donachie over Chapman, however despite Chapman arguably being more established im basing this purely on what I’ve seen from both as players in their careers to date.

HM: Connor Chapman (Newcastle Jets)

Central Midfielders:
Josh Brillante (Newcastle Jets)
Age:
20
Games: 42

Joshua Brillante (Tony Feder - Getty Images AsiaPac)

Joshua Brillante (Tony Feder – Getty Images AsiaPac)

Brillante is arguably the best of the Gold Coast refugees following the demise of the Gold Coast and has gone on to establish himself in the Jets midfield. He got his chance at United against the Fury and showed versatility by playing more as a right back in the early days before really cementing a regular berth in the last season of the Coasts existence before becoming a regular at the Jets. Brillante was another who has caught the eye at the recent u/20 World Cup playing in a box to box midfield role.

Daniel De Silva (Perth Glory)
Age:
16
Games: 7
Daniel came from nowhere last season to make his debut against

Daniel De Silva (Paul Kane - Getty Images AsiaPac)

Daniel De Silva (Paul Kane – Getty Images AsiaPac)

Sydney FC and has shown flashes of brilliance to date despite being managed carefully by Alistair Edwards. His rise to prominence continued at the recent u/20 World Cup where despite being the youngster player in the competition he put in a man of the match display in the draw with Colombia. De Silva tried to sign for Everton as a youngster before opting for Perth, but with his World Cup displays earning the attention of Manchester United and Barcelona he could be heading overseas soon enough.

Terry Antonis (Sydney FC)
Age:
20
Games: 40
Antonis signed for Sydney after being told he couldn’t sign for

Terry Antonis (Cameron Spencer - Getty Images AsiaPac)

Terry Antonis (Cameron Spencer – Getty Images AsiaPac)

Everton and eventually made his Sydney FC debut against Wellington Phoenix. His time in Sky Blue has been interrupted with both injury and international call-ups but his talent has attracted the interest of Utrecht and Parma amongst others. On the international stage he’s gone to the u/17 and u/20 World Cups and also made his Socceroos debut in the 2013 East Asian Cup Qualifiers.

HM: Ben Kantarovski (Newcastle Jets)

Right Wing:
Kwame Yeboah (Brisbane Roar)
Age:
19
Games: 7
Kwame has been the revelation of the season to date with some

Kwame Yeboah (Bradley Kanaris - Getty Images AsiaPac)

Kwame Yeboah (Bradley Kanaris – Getty Images AsiaPac)

impressive form in the opening two months of the season with some fantastic match winning goals. The 19 year old Ghanaian born Australian made his debut as a late substitute against Wellington late last season before earning regular playing time this year with solid pre-season form. Kwame hasn’t featured on the international stage to date however it’s s surely only a matter of time. I thought about Andrew Hoole of Newcastle for this position given that Yeboah has been making his name as a #9, but he’s played on the right as well and he impacts the game more at this stage.

Left Wing:
Connor Pain (Melbourne Victory)
Age
: 20
Games: 18

Connor Pain (Scott Barbour - Getty Images AsiaPac)

Connor Pain (Scott Barbour – Getty Images AsiaPac)

Pain burst onto the scene in the Melbourne Derby with his pace and direct style earning him a regular spot in Ange Postecoglou’s Melbourne revolution in the run to the finals. If there’s one knock on his game right now it’s a lack of goals –just one- to go along with all his great play. Internationally Pain was a standout down the left flank for Australia in the recent u/20 World Cup which earned him his Socceroos debut

Striker:
Adam Taggart (Newcastle Jets)
Age:
20
Games: 36
Taggart has been one of the league’s biggest revelations this

Adam Taggart (Tony Feder - Getty Images AsiaPac)

Adam Taggart (Tony Feder – Getty Images AsiaPac)

season scoring the last 6 goals for Newcastle including a hat-trick at the weekend against the Jets. He made his debut against Brisbane back in 2010 as a sub with Perth Glory before going on to establish himself in the Hunter. His impressive form earned him the attention of former national team boss Holger Osiek and he made his debut in the 2013 East Asian Cup Qualification series where he also got his first international goal against Chinese Taipei. Taggart was also a member of the u/20 World Cup squad this year

HM: Corey Gameiro (Sydney FC)

880470_Australia

Here’s how an u/21 A-League side would stack up, and there’s depth as I mentioned above with Kantarovski, Gameiro and Roux amongst a handful of others making their marks in the A-League. If you change the parameters to u/22 you can include the emerging striker from Western Sydney Tomi Juric. From a Brisbane perspective, the Roar have always been one of the better sides at youth development and giving youngsters a chance, but league wide now there’s a group of good young players coming through.

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