Evaluating Adelaide United’s turbulent season is more difficult than censoring Kevin Muscat f-bombs for ninety minutes, but The Football Sackare up to the task.

This season

A-League
Regular season – 5th(11 wins – 6 draws -10 losses)
Finals – knocked out by Melbourne Victory in week 1 elimination final

FFA Cup
Runner-up (loss AET against Sydney FC)

Top Scorer
7 – Ryan Kitto

Season summary

After a pre-season where many A-League pundits expected the side to go through a rebuild in 2017-18, perhaps Marco Kurz’s side was not meant to challenge for anything significant this season.

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But they did. A dominant FFA Cup run was only stopped in the final by the greatest side the A-League has seen, and even they were taken to extra time by a gallant Reds side.

However injuries, intermittent form and a unmemorable front three meant Adelaide suffered a tumultuous regular season.

Despite hitting some highs – at times seeming a real threat to end the Sky Blues’ reign of terror (see round 16’s 0-0 draw with a ridiculously inexperienced squad), United were never able to string any serious form together (they were soundly beaten 5-0 against City the following week).

Finals came and went for the Reds, knocked out by Melbourne Victory in a quality clash decided by the finest of Besart Berisha winners.

Areas of Excellence

Despite struggling in other areas of the ground, the midfield pairing of Isaias and Daniel Adlung was superb. The forward bursts and offensive pressure from Adlung complimented the Spaniard’s passing and poise on the ball to a tee.

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In no match was this emphasised better than Adelaide’s incredible 2-2 draw with the Central Coast Mariners in round 20. Down to 10 men from the 18th minute, the Reds found themselves down 2-0 after an ugly Ryan Strain own goal.

With a two-man midfield of you-know-who, the home side not only came from behind, but dominated the final 30 minutes, threatening to skip past the Mariners after Blackwood’s equaliser in the 82nd minute.

Adelaide’s youth were also instrumental to their 2017-18 campaign. The likes of Nathan Konstandopolous, Ryan Kitto, Nikola Mileusnic, George Blackwood, Ryan Strain, Ben Garrucio and Jordan O’Doherty all played significant minutes this year.

Holding on to the core of these players will be key to any chance of stealing the crown off a Sky Blues side on their way down in 2018-19.

Areas in need of improvement

It got ugly at times for United’s front three.

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George Blackwood failed to provide the spark he promised in pre-season and for the Olyroos with just five goals in 24 appearances, albeit many of those came from off the bench.

An injury-riddled Baba Diawara never hit his straps whilst Dzengis Cavusevic did an Abe Simpson, joining in February and pinging his ACL less than two months into his stint at the city of churches.

On the wings, Johan Absalonsen was brilliant but missed much of the season through injury. Nikola Mileusnic drew the ire of many fans, frustrated that his raw pace and talent was unable to translate to anything more than 3 goals and 5 assists from 26 matches.

Ryan Kitto was somewhat more consistent though he also struggled through mid-season form dips. Karim Matmour was a non-factor; he returned to Germany to allow his wife to pursue a singing career way back in December.

Top student

Isaias was a beast in every sense of the word this season. He dictated Adelaide’s play whenever possible, providing the essential link between defence and attack so often during the season.

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The Spaniard was able to drop in as a fifth defender or push up as an attacking midfielder, and it was this wealth of tools that made Isaias so important to Marco Kurz’s tinkering strategy.

As captain, the 31-year-old led admirably. The Reds would have been a wooden spoon contender without this man. 

Class clown

Dzengis Cavusevic had an unfortunate tenure at United to say the least.

The big Slovenian lacked match fitness upon his arrival and got himself sent off in his second substitute appearance just minutes in. To make matters worse, it was in a crucial match against rivals Melbourne Victory and in hindsight the loss just about cost Adelaide a home final.

Cavusevic would eventually find the back of the net but any hope of a turn in fortunes was scuppered after the striker ruptured his ACL in training at the very start of April.

Grade: B

Outlook

Considering the lowered expectations, it was a strong season for Marco Kurz’s side. However one has to feel that the Reds could have and probably should have figured more in finals conversations. Perhaps if they were playing tonight the Reds might have scored an A- or B+, but their early finals exit relegated their mark to a B.

That being said, United have a bright future if they can hold on to two or three of their most important imports. Isaias is an Australian citizen now, so he isn’t going anywhere, but you feel as if Adlung and Absalonsen must feature for the Reds again if Kurz will have any chance.

If they remain or are adequately replaced Adelaide should – with their shrewd tactician and quality youth – have their eyes set on a top two finish in 2018-19.

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