The pre-season has seen the Reds bring back familiar faces in the form of Craig Goodwin and Ben Halloran while introducing new faces with Mirko Boland and Ken Ilsø. Alongside the developing nucleus of local talent, Marco Kurz has the resources to turn this side into a contender.  

Last season

Hyundai A-League: 5th
Finals: Elimination Final
FFA Cup: Finalists

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They will win the league because…

The new signings are smart and strengthen areas of need for United, especially marquee players like Mirko Boland. A box-to-box midfielder who has hit the ground running in the FFA Cup, Boland’s running power will be an advantage to a United midfield which can often be one-paced.

Ken Ilsø has cemented himself as an attacking midfielder in the pre-season and adds the option to shoot from range which covers the loss of Daniel Adlung, who was one of United’s leading scorers last season. Michael Jakobsen has A-League experience and proved a trustworthy defender during his time at Melbourne City, and his signing will only improve one of the league’s best defences.

They will be cellar-dwellers because…    

The worry here is the lack of depth in certain areas. Ken Ilsø has been stationed in the midfield for the majority of preseason which potentially leaves Baba Diawara and George Blackwood as the sole forward options. After seeing Dzengis Cavusevic go down with injury last year and Blackwood struggle to hit the mark at times, Marco Kurz will be hoping to unearth a player capable of reaching double-digits.

Adelaide had a miserable conversion rate last season at 12 per cent (which was only slightly above Wellington’s dreadful 11 per cent), despite attempting a league high 356 shots at goal. In layman terms, Adelaide could not hit a barn door if they tried. Statistically, you are more likely to live to 100 than Adelaide was to score last season.

Similar concerns exist at fullback with Scott Galloway, Ryan Strain and Michael Marrone the only recognised fullbacks in the squad. All three made their starts at right-back with Galloway likely to start at left-back. An injury to one of the three could leave numbers scarce and leaving Kurz rejigging his squad.

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Talk around the water cooler… look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information.

Children aged seven and under won’t remember the North Queensland Fury, but you, dear reader, almost certainly do. In an era no one refers to as ‘peak A-League’, Adelaide United destroyed the North Queensland Fury 8-1, the largest winning margin in A-League history. Adelaide also own second spot on that list after they annihilated the Newcastle Jets in 2015 7-0.

The off-season brought…

In short, new expectations.

Ben Halloran and Goodwin add potency to what is arguably Adelaide’s weakest area, while Ken Ilsø, able to operate as a shadow striker behind Baba Diawara or as a lone-hand up front giving Kurz increased versatility.

Halloran was electrifying at Brisbane Roar and Gold Coast United in his previous A-League life and while his time abroad was mixed, he still maintains the talent which saw him capped at international level. Ken Ilsø has a haircut which will have the hipsters in Bowden drooling but has shown glimpses of high-level talent which could make him, the ‘next big thing’. In the way Sergio van Dijk was a figurehead for United back in the day, Ilsø could be the same talisman figure. Ilsø just has more hair and seems to grasp the concept of running.

It might be enough to see United challenge for the title.

Key player 

Craig Alexander Goodwin.

Back in his hometown where he starred for the Reds in their 2015/16 Premiership season and claimed Player of the Season honours, Goodwin was a coup in the off-season.

Despite being positioned out on the touchline, most of United’s play and end-product has gone through Goodwin in preseason. He’s been acting as a Raumdeuter, a term popularised by Thomas Muller, which translates in English to space interpreter.  Acting as a Raumdeuter, Goodwin has been regularly positioned at the top of the box on the left-hand side rather than far wide. It allows for better overlap on the left-hand side but also utilises Goodwin’s best attributes such as his finishing and crossing.  It has worked early on for the Reds as Goodwin has scored in every round of the FFA Cup so far.

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One to watch 

Ryan Strain may have flown under the radar around the league but is highly touted around Coopers Stadium. Not long after signing a scholarship deal with United, Strain was elevated to a full-time professional deal. While the Reds have bought in Scott Galloway to boost the fullback department, Strain has quietly made the right fullback position his own, starting all the FFA Cup fixtures after featuring heavily last year. If Strain can add an offensive element to his game this year, big things may await the smooth-mover.

Ins and outs

INS: Michael Jakobsen (Melbourne City FC), Craig Goodwin (Sparta Rotterdam), Ken Ilsø (Penang), Mirko Boland (Eintracht Braunschweig), Scott Galloway (Wellington Phoenix), Louis D’Arrigo, Ben Halloran

OUT: Tarek Elrich, Johan Absalonsen, Ben Garuccio, Dzengis Cavusevic, Mark Ochieng, Daniel Adlung, Jordan O’Doherty, Ersan Gulum

Full squad list:  

Goalkeepers: Paul Izzo, Daniel Margush Isaac Richards

Defenders: Ryan Strain, Michael Marrone, Taylor Regan, Jordan Elsey, Michael Jakobsen, Scott Galloway

Midfielders: Isaias, Lachlan Brook, Kristin Konstandopoulos, Nathan Konstandopoulos, Vince Lia, Mirko Boland; Pacifique Niyongabire, Paul Wilson, Carlo Armiento, Louis D’Arrigo

Forwards: George Blackwood, Baba Diawara, Nikola Mileusnic, Ryan Kitto, Craig Goodwin, Apostolos Stamatelopoulos, Ken Ilsø, Ben Halloran

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A student at University of South Australia who hopes his writing disguises his lack of sporting prowess and a fan who masquerades his choice in mediocre teams as being hipster