It’s the time of the year when clubs look towards the second half of the season and The Football Sack critiques each club’s progress so far.

Semester Summary: It’s been a strange first half of the season for Marco Kurz and his players.

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Initial fears of where the goals would come from were realised early on but George Blackwood and a fit Baba Diawara have seemingly rectified that. However a spate of injuries and international duties have left the squad decimated in recent matches.

The side isn’t short of confidence though and wrestled a draw with the reigning champions and dynasty-building Sky Blues last Sunday. This was made all the more incredible as the full-strength Sydney line-up came up against an XI more familiar to the suburban fields of the Y-League.

The Reds also pushed the favourites all the way in a truly memorable FFA Cup final in which they were beaten 2-1 in extra time. Their German coach is fast to adapt and has his fifth-placed side playing attractive, practical football with a squad carrying tremendous potential.

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Areas of Excellence: In a very short space of time Kurz has displayed no fear to play his younger players and it could not have paid better dividends so far. Ryan Strain has been a revelation at right back while Nathan Konstandopolous has shown strength and composure playing a “washing-machine” type of role in the middle of the park.

Blackwood, Ben Garrucio and Paul Izzo have all earned call-ups to the Australian under-23’s for their efforts in red, whilst Apostolos Stamatelopolous and Jordan O’Doherty have also been rewarded with starts.

Experienced signings have shown their worth as shrewd purchases with Johan Absalonsen, Ersan Gulum and Daniel Adlung all providing the poise, maturity and know-how to lead the team.

The Reds have also taken 22 more shots than anyone else in the A-League [248], though conversion is a different matter entirely.

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Areas in Need of Improvement: You guessed it! Adelaide’s conversion rate sits at a meagre 10% which is the lowest in the competition. To put that in perspective, Sydney’s rate is a far more efficient 23%.

Although Ryan Kitto and Nikola Mileusnic have been impressive at times the wingers are at fault for numerous fluffed chances, particularly when Absalonsen was out of action.

The signing of Karim Matmour was an abrupt failure with the creative attacker returning to Germany in December to reunite with his established musical career.

 

To be fair, teething problems were expected at the recently-overhauled club.

The management have done a rather brilliant job to have the Reds sitting pretty in fifth, lurking around the latter spots in the top six as crucial players recover for a championship charge.

Top Students:  It’s hard to believe I’ve written half the report card without mentioning this man, but Isaias has a vein of form so rich that Gina Rinehart has been spotted eyeing him off.

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The holding midfielder has been nothing short of irresistible, contributing as a fifth defender, a playmaker, a captain and a mentor.

The Spaniard’s excellence is reflected in both offensive and defensive midfield data with Isaias sitting 5th in chances created, 2nd in passes, 7th in crosses, 3rd in through balls pushing forward.

Defensively Isaias is 1st in interceptions, 5th in clearances and 4th in effective tackles for league midfielders.

Honourable mentions fall to Izzo – one of the standout A-League keepers this season – and Strain, who has contributed so much to the squad in such little time.

Class Clown: Although his season has actually been somewhat of a breakout in terms of playing time and impact Mileusnic earns the title of clown for some ridiculous missed opportunities.

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The lightning fast winger has scored some worldies this season but opportunities that went begging from close range will haunt United’s point tally for the entire season.

Nikola’s has struck 8 of his 30 shots on target this season at a percentage of 26%. This ranks him at 105th in the league, marginally worse than another misfiring Red in Diawara [102nd].

The second semester could absolutely bring greener pastures for the 24-year-old but time will tell if he can take this statistic to task.

Unable to win his spot back from a man 10 years younger, Michael Marrone warrants a mention here. Who can forget the ball boy incident?

Grade: B+

Outlook: Not quite an A for Kurz’s men, but there’s no reason for anyone in the franchise to drop their heads.

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Only Newcastle has played more entertaining and even matches consistently against the leaders this season with the rivalry maturing like a Jacob’s Creek Shiraz as the season trudges along.

Adelaide United are showing the hallmarks of a team ready for a title tilt, their campaign likely to be boosted by the introduction of several currently unavailable missing players that would heavily contest the first eleven.

A standing ovation at the conclusion of last Sunday’s clash – a 0-0 stalemate – is reason enough to believe that hope and optimism has been restored to the festival state.

If Marco Kurz can tap into those energies, a bright and potentially trophy-winning future is on the near horizon.

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Adelaide-based writer, content creator and story-teller. Like one of those determined ants that require a second flick.