Off-Season Transfer Recap

With the A-League now entering the pre-season it seems like a good time to recap the changes across the competition since Adelaide won their first Championship back in early May. It’s still too early to make any predictions for the upcoming season, and almost all sides still have some big recruitment decisions to make or announce but plenty has happened in the last six weeks or so.

Adelaide United
In: Ryan Kitto (Newcastle Jets), Marc Marino, Ben Garuccio (Melbourne City), Jesse Makarounas (Melbourne Victory).

Out: Craig Goodwin (Sparta Rotterdam), Eli Babalj (AZ Alkmaar- Loan Return), Pablo Sanchez (Released), Bruce Kamau, Ruon Tongyik (Melbourne City) Ben Warland, Mark Ochieng, John Solari, Dylan Smith (All released).

Current best available XI: Galekovic, Marrone, McGowan, La Rocca, Isaias, Mauk, Carrusca, Dugandzic, Cirio, Djite.
Reserves: Hall, Elsey, Garuccio, Mells, Makarounas, Kitto, Marino.

Starting with the defending Champions and Adelaide have managed to keep a large portion of their Championship winning roster in tact with just Craig Goodwin, Bruce Kamau and Pablo Sanchez moving on from the Grand Final winning side. In their stead are a few South Australians playing elsewhere in the league with Ben Garuccio, Marc Marino, Jesse Makarounas and Ryan Kitto adding extra depth.

The one position still to be filled by the Reds is the right wing role where Bruce Kamau established himself last season. They do however have a visa spot to play with so they could yet bring in a quality replacement. All up though things are looking relatively smooth for the defending champs.

Brisbane Roar
In: Kye Rowles (Palm Beach), Connor O’Toole (Adelaide United Youth), Jacob Pepper (Western Sydney).

Out: Devante Clut (Newcastle), Jean Carlos Solórzano (Rochedale Rovers), Shane Stefanutto (Retired), Javier Hervas (Zeljeznicar), Steven Lustica (Western Sydney), James Donachie (Melbourne Victory), Henrique Silva (Negeri Sembilan), Miguel Corona (Almeria).


Current best available XI:
  Young, Hingert, North, Bowles, Brown, Pepper, Petratos, McKay, Oar, Broich, Maclaren.

Reserves: Theo, Polenz, DeVere, Rowles, O’Toole, Caletti, Borrello, Brady.

It’s been another off-season of discontent in the river city with the clubs financial and ownership dramas once again in the foreground. There has also been a fair drain of talent off the roster leaving John Aloisi’ side looking rather thin at this stage.

The likes of Stefanutto, Corona, Henrique and Donachie have all moved on or retired, with just youngsters Rowles and O’Toole, plus ex Wanderer Jacob Pepper as additions. The focus for John Aloisi will likely be in the middle and front third where departures have left his options limited.

Central Coast Mariners
In: Ivan Necevski (Sydney FC), Jacques Faty (Sydney FC), Mickael Tavares (Sydney FC), Connor Pain (Melbourne Victory), Blake Powell, Kwabena Appiah (Wellington Phoenix), Jake Adelson, Adam Berry (Youth promotions).

Out: Luis Garcia (Retired), Anthony Kalik (Hajduk Split), Mitch Austin (Melbourne. Victory), Alistair Bray, Dan Heffernan, Tomislav Uskok, Francesco Stella (All Released).

Current best available XI: Necevski, Roux, Faty, Poscoliero, Neill, Montgomery, Tavares, Ferreira, Powell, Pain, O’Donovan.
Reserves: Izzo, Heward-Belle, Adelson, McGing, Ascroft, J. Rose, Berry, L. Rose, Appiah, McDonald, Bingham,  Buhagiar, Fletcher.

Last season was a  have undergone something of a transformation in terms of their squad with Tony Walmsley adding 8 players to his squad so far. Most of those recruits will add some much needed experience to the spine of the team, however they still do perhaps lack the game breakers to go on and make an impact in the competition.

With 24 players signed it’s likely that this is the squad which the Mariners will enter the new season with, however if there was to be any new additions a creative player to link the midfield to the front third would be a handy addition.

Melbourne City
In: Luke Brattan, Anthony Caceres (Man City- Loan), Bruce Kamau,  Ruon Tongyik  (Adelaide United), Manny Muscat (Wellington Phoenix), Daniel Arzani (FFA Centre of Excellence).

Out: Aaron Mooy (Man City), Harry Novillo (Manisaspor), Alex Wilkinson, Michael Zullo (Sydney FC), Ben Garuccio, Marc Marino (Adelaide), Patrick Kisnorbo (Retired), Aaron Hughes, James Brown, Jason Trifiro, Wade Dekker (All released).

Current best available XI: Sorensen, Franjic, Muscat, Chapman, Clisby, Malik, Brattan, Caceres, Kamau, Fitzgerald, Fornaroli.
Reserves: Bouzanis, Retre, Tongyik, Melling, Arzani, Gameiro, Kuzmanovski.

City have spent up big in the closed season with a number of additions, and the possibility of more to come. A big part of their squad building has been swaps with their big brother in Manchester, with marquee man Aaron Mooy departing for England while Luke Brattan and Anthony Caceres return to the A-League on loan moves.

The real position of need for City appears to be at back where they could do with both a central defender and a left back, however rumours are swirling that they’re about to take advantage of the FFA’s newly introduced third marquee rule and bring Tim Cahill to the A-League.

Melbourne Victory
In: James Donachie (Brisbane), Mitch Austin (Central Coast), Alan Baro (Ponferradina), Lucas Spinella, Stefan Nigro (Victory Youth).

Out: Kosta Barbarouses, Gui Finkler (Wellington Phoenix), Thomas Deng (PSV Eindhoven-loan), Jesse Makarounas (Adelaide), Mathieu Delpierre (Retired), Dylan Murnane, Giancarlo Gallifuoco, Joey Katebian, Archie Thompson (All Released).

Current best available XI: Vukovic, Geria, Donachie, Baro, Galloway, Broxham, Valeri, Bozanic, Austin, Ben Khalfallah, Berisha.
Reserves: Thomas, Nigro, Ansell, Georgievski, Mahazi, Ingham, Howard.

Victory have lost a number of key players in the aftermath of their Champions League exit with Delpierre Finkler, Barbarouses, Deng and long-time fan favourite Archie Thompson all moving on.

Replacements have been slow in arriving so far, but they have upgraded their backline with the addition of ex-Roar defender James Donachie and Spaniard Alan Baro. Creativity in midfield and another wide attack are amongst the likely players the Victory will bring in before the start of the season.

Newcastle Jets
In: Devante Clut (Brisbane), Wayne Brown (SJK Seinäjoki), Daniel Alessi (Western Sydney), Andrew Hoole (Sydney), Jack Duncan (Randers), Ivan Vujica (Dinamo).

Out: Mark Birighitti (Heading to Europe-TBC), Ryan Kitto (Adelaide), Cameron Watson, Enver Alivodic, Leonardo, Josh Barresi, Brendon Lundy (All Released).

Scott Miller has a reasonably well rounded squad entering the pre-season, however the one area that still needs to be addressed is upfront, where Newcastle have a bunch of unknowns outside of Nordstrand and the returning Andrew Hoole. The addition of Devante Clut will also add some much needed goals from midfield.

Of those that have departed the Hunter, the biggest loss would undoubtedly be goalkeeper Mark Birighitti who is trying his luck in Europe, however the addition of former understudy Jack Duncan ensures Newcastle will have solid options to choose from in goal.

Current best available XI: Duncan, Hoffman, Mullen, Boogaard, Vujica, Ugarkovic, Poljak, Clut, Brown, Hoole, Nordstrand .
Reserves: Kennedy, Cowburn, Alessi, Muata-Marlow, Jackson, Kantarovski, Cooper, Brennan, Haliti, Pavicevic.

Perth Glory
In: Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough), Joseph Mills (Oldham), Chris Herd (Chesterfield), Liam Reddy (Western Sydney), Brandon Wilson (Burnley), Nick Feely (Unknown).

Out: Ruben Zadkovich (Retired), Jerrad Tyson (Western Sydney), Gyorgy Sandor, Diogo Ferreira, Hagi Gligor, Krisztian Vadocz, Ante Covic, Jacob Collard (All Released).

Current best available XI: Reddy, Risdon, Djulbic, Lowry, Mills, R. Williams, Herd, Marinkovic, Harold, Castro, Keogh.
Reserves: Feely, Thurtell, A. Williams, Grant, Warren, Wilson, Oxborrow, Petratos, Garcia, Taggart.

Perth have been by far the busiest side this off-season in strengthening their roster ahead of the new season with the emphasis over in the west on bringing home the many talented West Australians playing elsewhere in the league and abroad.

To that end the additions of Williams, Herd and Taggart who is like a new addition despite signing in January make the squad much stronger and cover the losses of Covic, Sandor and Vadocz. A lot will still depend on marquee duo Diego Castro and Andy Keogh however.

Sydney FC
In: Alex Wilkinson, Michael Zullo (Melbourne City), Josh Brillante (Fiorentina).

Out: Jacques Faty, Mickael Tavares, Ivan Necevski (Central Coast), Ali Abbas (Pohang Steelers), Andrew Hoole (Newcastle), Zac Anderson (Emirates Club), Shane Smeltz (Kedah), Chris Naumoff (Retired), Robert Stambolziev, Jacob Tratt, Riley Woodcock, Alex Mullen, Anthony Bouzanis (All Released).

Current best available XI: Janjetovic, Ryall, Wilkinson, Jurman, Zullo, O’Neill, Dimitrijevic, Ninkovic, Holosko, Carney, Blackwood.

Reserves: Grant, Calver, Brillante.

After a disappointing season last time around Graham Arnold has cleaned house with 13 players departing the club, most of which spent large parts of last season out of the side due to form or fitness.

So far replacements are rather thin on the ground with just City duo Alex Wilkinson and Michael Zullo coming in, along with the recently announced Josh Brillante who returns to the A-League after a spell with Fiorentina in Italy’s Serie A. Out of contract duo Alex Brosque and Matt Simon are both expected to re-sign, although neither has done so at this stage.

Wellington Phoenix
In: Kosta Barbarouses, Gui Finkler (Melbourne Victory).

Out: Manny Muscat (Melbourne City), Justin Gulley, James McGarry, Oliver Sail (Wellington United), Kwabena Appiah, Blake Powell (Central Coast Mariners), Ben Sigmund, Albert Riera (Retired), Troy Danaskos (Released).

Current best available XI: Moss, Fenton, Durante, Fox, Doyle, Lia, Bonevacia, Finkler, McGlinchey, Barbarouses, Krishna.
Reserves: Italiano, Ridenton, Rufer, Rodriguez, Watson, Rogerson.

News from across the Tasman has been a bit sparse in recent weeks with just Victory duo Gui Finkler and Kosta Barbarouses as confirmed signings at this stage which suggests that there are signings to come.

The main area which figure to be focused on in terms of recruitment are at the back, where Ben Sigmund’s retirement leaves a hole in the middle of defence and there appears to be a general lack of depth.

Western Sydney Wanderers
In: Jerrad Tyson (Perth), Steven Lustica (Brisbane), Bruno Pinatares (Cerro), Artiz Borda (Alaves), Jumpei Kusukami (Sagan Tosu), Robert Cornthwaite (Selangor).

Out: Mark Bridge (Chiangrai United), Dario Vidosic (Liaoning Whowin), Daniel Alessi (Newcastle), Josh Macdonald (Wollongong Wolves), Albero Aguilar, Andreu Guerao, Romeo Castelen, Golgol Mebrahtu, Federico Piovoccari, Matt Sim, Liam Reddy, Shayne D’Cunha, Alusine Fofanah, Jacob Pepper (All Released).

First XI: Redmayne, Neville, Borda, Topor-Stanley, Jamieson, Pinatares, Delgado, Nichols, Sotirio, Kusukami, Shabow .

Reserves: Tyson, Cole, Cornthwaite, Aspropotamitis, Hamill, Bandiera,  Baccus, Lustica, Scott, Youlley.

It’s been another off-season cull from Tony Popovic with 14 players moving on despite a top two finish and Grand Final berth. Of those who’ve moved on, perhaps the loss most closely felt will be Mark Bridge whose been an integral part of Wanderers since the club formed in 2013.

The squad has been strengthened at the back with Spaniard Artiz Borda and former Socceroo Robert Cornthwaite joining the squad. It’s upfront however where the holes are for the Wanderers with limited options as things stand as evidenced by youngster Mario Shabow being listed in the current best XI. There’s likely to be at least one new striker joining the red and black before October, while Brendan Santalab’s new contract is yet to be officially confirmed.


A-League marquee rules set to change

All class ( Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac)

All class ( Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac)

A-Leagues clubs will soon have more flexibility in building their squad, with the FFA set to makes changes to the marquee player system for the upcoming A-League season.

Currently teams are permitted one marquee player from anywhere in the world, in addition to a second marquee player who must be Australian, however that rule is set to change with the system set to be changed to allow clubs to sign two marquee players from anywhere in the world.

That means that clubs who wish to spend beyond the salary cap will now be able to bring in two high priced visa players, which the league hopes will bring more star players to the A-League in the years to come.

In the immediate future, this has no impact on the Roar, who already have their two marquee players signed for this season in Thomas Broich and Matt McKay – plus the owners have vowed not to spend another dollar on the club-.

The rule change is a good -and overdue- one, with very few Australian players currently of marquee stature, I just cant help wondering what would have been if this rule had come in 12 months ago and if it was; would Besart Berisha still be a Brisbane player?


A-League Transfers update

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It may be the close season however there has been plenty of news going around the league since Brisbane defeated the Wanderers in May to conclude season 9 of the competition. Here’s a wrap up of the completed moves to date.

Adelaide
17 players signed: 5 foreign, 0 marquee.

In: James Jeggo (Melbourne Victory), Dylan McGowan (Hearts- Scotland)
Out: Daniel Bowles (released), Jake Barker-Daish (released), Jon McKain (released), Michael Zullo (FC Utrecht- loan return).

Adelaide have been one of the quieter teams this off-season to date with just the two signings to date, although both McGowan and Jeggo figure to be prominent when the season kicks off in October. In terms of departures, Jon McKain is the biggest loss of the off-season to date for the Reds, with the two parties failing to come to terms on a contract extension. Youngsters Jacob Melling, Jake Barker- Daish and Daniel Bowles have all been released, with the latter linked in the media with Brisbane earlier in the close season. In addition the Reds are reportedly shopping Jeronimo Neumann around in order to free up a visa spot with an eye to improving the side, and also the impending reduction of foreigners in 2015 from 5 to 4.

Looking to strengthen: Defence.
For all their attacking firepower, Adelaide still appears to be short on defensive options as things stand. At least one central defender figures to be on the agenda for Gombau, and possibly a left back with just the ageing Cassio – who missed last season injured- as an option as things stand.
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Brisbane:
19 players signed: 4 foreign, 2 marquee.

In: Devante Clut (youth promotion)
Out: Matt Acton (Yangon United- Burma), Diogo Ferreira (Perth Glory), Besart Berisha (Melbourne Victory)

The champions have been relatively inactive thus far in the transfer market, with just Devante Clut added to the first team squad- and that was announced months ago. Berisha is obviously the biggest loss, with the Albanian set to become Melbourne Victory’s marquee man and finding a replacement has been the priority. Diogo Ferreira has opted to go West in search of a longer term contract with the rebuilding Perth, while Matt Acton was surprisingly let go in the back-up keepers role.

Looking to strengthen: Upfront.
The biggest move Brisbane will make this off-season is upfront, and Mike Mulvey is returning to Germany in the search for the clubs next marksman. 1860 striker Benjamin Lauth and Freiburg’s Mike Hanke both reported targets of Mulvey. They also need a back-up keeper and to that end we’ve seen strong rumours that English based Jamie Young would be the replacement, however that is yet to be confirmed by the club. In addition to a new striker and a backup keeper, they will also be looking for depth given their rigorous upcoming season with added games in the ACL and with that in mind Daniel Bowles has been linked to the club as defensive depth.
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Central Coast
18 players signed: 2 foreign, 0 marquee

In: Anthony Kalik (Australian Institute of Sport)
Out: Justin Pasfield (Tampines- Singapore), Adam Kwasnik (retired), Bernie Ibini- Isei (Shanghai Dongya- loan return), Mile Sterjovski (retired), Marcos Flores (Newcastle).

The Mariners are another team who’ve yet to make many moves in the off-season suggesting that either Phil Moss is happy with his current group, or is unable to secure his targets as yet. With 18 players signed and still a few key players yet to have their futures officially confirmed –Matt Simon and Matt Duke- it will be interesting to see which direction the Mariners go in as we approach the new season. Youngster Anthony Kalik is well regarded at the AIS and could be the next Mustafa Amini or Tom Rogic. Not a lot has happened in Gosford since the season ended.

Looking to strengthen: Upfront.
With just real recognised strikers officially signed on –there’s a good chance at least 1 of Duke and Simon are signed up-, they will need some more firepower, and perhaps a different type of player than they currently have before the season starts. Perhaps this is where their 3 visa spots could come into play.
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Melbourne City
17 players signed: 2 foreign, 0 marquee, 1 guest.

In: Aaron Mooy (Western Sydney), Jacob Melling (Adelaide), James Brown, Connor Chapman (both Newcastle), David Villa (New York City- USA (10 game guest stint))
Out: Patrick Gerhardt, Sam Mitchinson, David Vrankovic, Jeremy Walker, Orlando Engelaar (all released), Aziz Behich (Bursaspor- loan return), Harry Kewell (retired)

It’s all change for the team formerly known as the Heart with a new name and colours linking the club with their new owners other clubs. Transfer wise they’ve been busy as well with some strong signings including youngster Aaron Mooy and Connor Chapman. They’ve also made the signing of the season with Spanish World Cup star David Villa set to play the first part of the season for City before starting his new life in New York from 2015. They’ve not lost too many players of note, however Aziz Behich’s loan spell has come to an end and Harry Kewell has retired.

Looking to strengthen: Front third.
City look solid enough at the back –although a left back is needed-, in the front third however they’ll be looking to add some extra quality. Someone to create the chances from midfield is needed, with Marco Bresciano linked to the club as a marquee player. They’ll also need someone to fill the void when Villa’s guest stint comes to an end.
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Melbourne Victory
19 signed: 3 foreign, 1 marquee.

In: Besart Berisha (Brisbane), Carl Valeri (Ternana- Italy)
Out: Tom Rogic (Celtic- loan return), James Troisi (Atalanta – loan return) Adama Traore (released), Pablo Contreras (retired)

Victory haven’t stood still either in light of what their cross-town rivals have done, adding the league’s best striker to an already impressive attacking group. Carl Valeri also figures to be a good addition to the midfield third, especially as Mark Milligan is reportedly attracting the interest of Middle-Eastern and European teams once again. Elsewhere, on-loan duo Tom Rogic and James Troisi will return to their parent clubs next season, while Adama Traore has decided to leave Australia after 5 years and pursue opportunities in Europe.

Looking to strengthen: Defence.
The backline has been the problem for the Victory in recent times, with a lack of experience perhaps one of the reasons the side fell at the semi-final hurdle in the past two seasons. With Adama Traore and Pablo Contreras both departing, Muscat will surely be looking to acquire a defender of note to shore things up.
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Newcastle
21 players signed: 2 foreign, 0 marquee.

In: Adrian Madaschi (Jeju United- Korea), Joshua Barresi (Western Sydney), Marcos Flores (Central Coast)
Out: Joey Gibbs, Nick Ward, Josh Mitchell, Emilie Heskey (all released), Ruben Zadkovich (Perth), Connor Chapman and James Brown (Melbourne City), Michael Bridges (retired).

New Jets boss Phil Stubbins has wasted little time stamping his impression on the Newcastle squad with one of his first moves sanctioning the release of club captain Ruben Zadkovich to join Perth. Adding experience seems to have been one of the goals this season with Adrian Madaschi and Marcos Flores joining to provide experience to what is a young squad. Some of those youngsters, most notably Connor Chapman at Melbourne City, have sought an opportunity elsewhere while marquee man Emilie Heskey wont be back for a third season. There are also doubts over the futures of Mark Birighitti and Adam Taggart, with Birighitti strongly linked with Bayer Leverkusen, while top scorer Taggart may also attract offers if he impresses in the World Cup.

Looking to strengthen: Midfield.
Newcastle have done a good job this off-season of filling gaps in their side with the signings of Madaschi and Flores along with the re-signings of David Carney and Joel Griffiths. The only area that may require strengthening is the middle of the park where currently relying on Zenon Caravella to carry the load along with a bunch of youngsters including the promising Joshua Brillante.
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Perth
21 signed: 3 foreign, 0 marquee.

In: Diogo Ferreira (Brisbane), Dino Djulbic (Al Wahda- UAE), Youssouf Hersi (Western Sydney), Andy Keogh (Milwall), Ruben Zadkovich (Newcastle).
Out: Ryan Edwards (Reading- loan return), Darvydas Sernas (Gaziantepspor- Turkey), Jacob Burns (retired), Travis Dodd (released), Adrian Zahra (released), Steven McGarry (released), Shane Smeltz (Sydney).

Perth have wasted little time in turning over their roster after a somewhat surprising decision to retain coach Kenny Lowe despite poor results at the back end of last season. The squad looks to be much stronger with Djulbic, Hersi and Keogh strengthening the spine of the side. The combative Jacob Burns has been replaced by the equally so Ruben Zadkovich, while veterans Travis Dodd and Steven McGarry have departed the club.

Looking to strengthen: Depth.
Perth figures to have already made the big moves they intended to make and will be looking to add to the squad with some depth in the lead-up to the new season. It’s likely that given the mandate of promoting kids from the Western Australian System, and further signings will likely come from that direction.
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Sydney
18 players signed: 2 foreign, 0 marquee.

In: Shane Smeltz (Perth), Bernie Ibini (Shanghai Dongya- loan)
Out: Brett Emerton (Retired), Terry McFlynn (Retired), Alessandro Del Piero (released), Richard Garcia (Minnesota United- USA), Marc Warren (APIA Leichardt- NSWPL), Blake Powell (APIA Leichardt- NSWPL), Mitchell Mallia, Matt Thompson, Josh MacDonald, Ranko Despotovic, Joel Chianese (all released).

Another team under a new manager with Sydney dispensing of Frank Farina’s services and offering a lifeline to Graham Arnold after his unsuccessful stint in Japan ended after just three months. He’s so far brought in just the two local players in Ibini and Smeltz, with the remainder of the squad likely to comprise of youngster promoted from their NYL winning team, foreign players and a pair of new marquee players. One of which if you believe the rumours could be Alex Brosque. Going the other way were host of players, including marquee man Alessandro Del Piero, Richard Garcia and Ranko Despotovic who netted a combined 22 goals for the Sky Blues last campaign.

Looking to strengthen: Up front.
With Sasa Ognenovski filling the void in the heart of the defence, the Sky Blues will be looking to flex their financial muscle to bring in a pair of attacking marquee players before the start of the new season. They’ll also however need to fill the left back slot which has been a problem position for the Sydneysiders in recent times.
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Wellington
19 players signed: 3 foreign, 0 marquee.

In: Alejandro Gorrin (Sunderland- England), Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast via Vegalta Sendai- Japan).
Out: Luke Adams, Josh Brindell-South, Paul Ifill, Leo Bertos, Stein Huysegems (all released).

After a solid first season Ernie Merrick is looking to make his mark on the Phoenix roster and he acted quickly to sign Sunderland’s u/21 squad captain Alejandro Gorrin to bolster his midfield and reports today suggest he’s also added All Whites creative spark Michael McGlinchey to the mix. If so those additions should go a long way to replacing Carlos Hernandez, who asked for a release from the final year of his deal and joins top scorer Stein Huysegems, Paul Ifill and Leo Bertos in leaving the Nix.

Looking to strengthen: Defence.
Wellington were reasonable going forward last year and have some impressive youngsters, and while they will need to replace Huysegems goals, their defence also needs work. With first choice duo Ben Sigmund and Andrew Durante getting old and little cover for them, or the full-back roles Merrick will likely be looking to find some solutions in the coming months.
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Western Sydney
17 players signed: 2 foreign, 0 marquee.

In: Dean Bouzanis (Carlisle- England)
Out: Jerrad Tyson, Jerome Polenz, Adam D’Apuzzo, Michael Beauchamp, Tahj Minnieccon (All released), Aaron Mooy (Melbourne City), Joshua Barresi (Newcastle), Youssouf Hersi (Perth), Shinji Ono (Consadole Sapporo- Japan), Dean Heffernan (Retired).

The now independently owned Wanderers will be looking to bounce back from another Grand Final loss and also prepare for the final stages of the Champions League. With that in mind Tony Popovic has been typically ruthless in turning his squad over with a host of regulars departing the club in the close season. Since the Grand Final loss to Brisbane they’ve lost six first team regulars including marquee Shinji Ono making next season a rebuilding year of sorts for the Wanderers. So far that rebuilding consists of Dean Bouzanis who could take the #1 jersey away from Ante Covic this year, along with Antony Golec who was signed in January but ineligible for the A-League.

Looking to strengthen: Out wide/ creativity.
Both in attack and defence, the Wanderers wide areas figure to be overhauled in the coming months with their dangerous right hand side combination moving on along with D’Apuzzo on the left. They’ll also be in the market for some creativity after the losses of Ono and Mooy.


Report: A-League to continue through Asian Cup

Reports have emerged today that the A-League may not come to a complete stop for next summers Asian Cup. FFA Head of A-League Damian de Bohum today hinted that the domestic competition and the regional showpiece may run concurrently, at least in part. The FFA then released a further statement denying the schedule for next season had already been confirmed and that discussions were ongoing.

From a Brisbane perspective, this tournament already figures to be a hindrance given their home stadium figures to be out of action for several weeks during the season. That however is nothing new given the stadiums propensity to host concerts during the season anyway, including another one next week. Infact in some ways it could be a blessing if the club could get a stack of home games at the end of the season again to avoid additional travel in what figures to be the clubs second Champions League campaign. In addition to stadium availability issues, there’s also the chance that several Brisbane players will feature in the tournament. Already Ivan Franjic and Matt McKay are apart of the Socceroos setup, while others including Luke Brattan, Matt Smith and Jade North are possibilities to be included.

The 2015 Asian Cup runs from January 9-31, and will see matches in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne. That rules out Lang Park and the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium from hosting games until the end of the quarter finals on January 23. Hunter Stadium in Newcastle meanwhile is out of action until the end of the tournament however having been designated to host one semi-final, and the 3rd placed playoff. With Homebush being the only Sydney venue, A-League games could still be hosted in Perth, Adelaide, Gosford, Sydney Football Stadium, Parramatta, Docklands and Wellington. From that sense, it does seem possible and plausible to continue the season, but is that the best idea? It is also worth remembering that the 50 over Cricket World Cup is set to be hosted in Australia in February 2015 which would take some media attention away from the A-League. Ultimately I could see the A-League taking a couple of weeks off over the group stages, before resuming later in the month, possibly the weekend after the group stage, or even restarting with the FFA Cup final on Australia Day.


A League 2.0

By Brian McIver.

First home game of 2013/2014. Walking to the stadium. People are wearing their colours proudly, laughing, and singing. The pubs are loud and the streets are packed. The field is immaculately manicured; the returning members don’t know whether to look at the grass, or try to memorise the way to the seats they will be sitting in for the rest of the season.  Later, when the first home goal is scored, people scream, fireworks go off and a huge jet of flame blasts in front of the supporters’ bay.

It’s a new season for the A-league, and the change in the air is palpable. The atmosphere at home games has been absolutely electric;  Suncorp stadium lets off fireworks every time the Roar scores, and the fans at Bluetongue have a brass band which adds both a European feel but also a lovely busking vibe.

Australian football now enjoys massive sponsorship, and the level of coverage in the media since even the last season is staggering. Two free to air channels have covered the A league games this year, either as one off events or regular programming. As well, we now have weekly variety shows providing commentary on the round’s matches. And the best thing is that none of them use the dreaded “S” word – which Australia is only just starting to wean itself off using.

We’re well past the stage of having to use foreign marquees to prop up the league, and actually now regularly export Australian trained players to other leagues and teams overseas. Our coaches are now seen as world class and are marketing themselves globally as our players have done. Assistant coaches step up when the head coach moves on, and these new head coaches usually do well.

 But every football fan already knows this; we watch the news and know what’s happening. We know our game and our teams.

So what is the long term future of the A league? How big can the league grow in a country of just 20 odd million?

What is most important is how the Australian brand of football develops and defines itself on the global stage. Alongside other styles such as the English long ball game, and the attack heavy South American game,  Australian football must rely on and be led by players who have learnt the game here in order to continue our style – counterattacking panache, dominance by possession,  and physicality.

Together with the way we play the game, the way we support our teams is just as important. The home supporter bays are regularly full, with the call and respond chants now being sung by the majority of the crowd. But we still have room to grow; watching the home crowds in the AFC is certainly food for thought and definitely played a part in the performance of the A league teams.

But we need to not simply scream and cheer at the games. We need to support the players stepping up from the Youth League. We need to take the time to learn their names, and support them as much as the first team. Every time a Youth player makes their debut, this should be the highlight of the match, as it shows the A league is succeeding and perpetuating itself.


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.


Substitutes increased from 4 to 5

Via FFA: Today the Football Federation has confirmed that from next season the amount of substitutes on the bench will go up from 4 to 5. The intention of the move is to provide greater tactical flexibility for coaches in their substitutes, and there is also a belief that it might further encourage coaches to pick younger players in the games, with the knowledge they have an extra player on the bench to replace them with. The increase was reportedly strongly encouraged and campaigned for by all of the coaches around the league.

More players on the bench, but the plastic chairs survive

More players on the bench, but the plastic chairs survive

This move makes a tonne of sense obviously, and anything that gives coaches greater degrees of flexibility is a good thing, and they’ve been using 5 man benches for the finals series for about 4 years now anyway. The foolish argument about ‘travel costs for an extra player’ was always a flawed one given that most weeks for away games teams have their NYL squads with them, and they typically travel with a spare player anyway when they don’t. It will be interesting now to see how coaches use this new found flexibility, and with Brisbane having a lot of younger players hopefully it allows them to get some more time in and around the first team squad. From the sounds of it however, they will still be using the plastic ‘Bunnings’ chairs for the upcoming season –except in Wellington for some bizarre reason-, despite almost all of the grounds having proper bench capacity.