School’s out and the reports are in!

How did Adelaide United fare in the wash-up in season 2018/19?

This season:

A-League: 4th (12 wins, eight draws, seven losses)

Finals: Semi-finals

FFA Cup: Winner

Top-scorer: Craig Goodwin (10 goals)

Season Summary

Adelaide’s season shaped as the ultimate three-part hero story: A promising start which featured an FFA Cup triumph over Sydney FC alongside being unbeaten in five of their first six games in the league, had Adelaide fans wondering what could be.

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The prodigal son in Craig Goodwin, returning from an ill-fated adventure in Europe, was carrying this team, torching fullbacks at will and producing end-product which helped an attacking third which lacked a striker.

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Their form from December to January was patchy as they won three games from 10 starts while they went winless between 9 February till 15 March. It all seemed to be going wrong for United at this point, Marco Kurz’s contract situation had become a farce while marquee man Ken Ilso was provisionally banned after cocaine was found in his system in drug test while Baba Diawara  hadn’t been sighted since earlier in the year.

Seemingly down and out, Adelaide began a thrilling final act, following a galvanising win against Central Coast spurred a five game unbeaten streak inclusive of the elimination final which culminated in one of the best semi-finals in A-League history despite Adelaide losing to Perth Glory 5-4 on penalties after coming back to make it 3-3 in regular time. The tragic hero death.

Areas in need of a improvement

There were questions in pre-season about whether Adelaide had enough substance up forward to make it a contender and that proved to be its achilles heel. Adelaide were the lowest scoring team in the top six, even more damning, only Central Coast trailed Adelaide for goals scored in the regular season overall.

Craig Goodwin was scintillating cutting in off the left-wing and finished with 10 goals while Nikola Mileusnic was best of the rest with five goals. George Blackwood was good after returning from injury, scoring clutch goals but he doesn’t shape as the striker Adelaide can build around, he shapes as a second striker potentially or even an attacking midfielder.

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Baba Diawara was in fine touch at the end of the season, his presence provided Adelaide with a sense of structure going forward, scoring two goals and assisting another in the final three games. Trouble was Baba was barely on the park when Adelaide needed him.

Jordy Thomassen was an unimagined disaster after coming in January failing to score in any of his nine games. Ken Ilsø felt like a round peg in a square hole, he can play either as an attacking midfielder or striker, but he wasn’t particularly good at either.

The new manager will need to find a marksman to make this side realise it’s potential.

Top Student

There’s a few in this boat including 2018/19 club champion Isaias and leading goal-scorer Craig Goodwin but the season of Michael Jakobsen has been undersold so far. Moving across from Melbourne City in the preseason, Jakobsen added composure and leadership to a young defence. Jakobsen’s immaculate passing, 89 per cent completion rate, and breaking up possession (Jakobsen ranked in tenth overall) and ability to win contests against opponents (Jakobsen ranks fifth overall) steeled Adelaide’s defence, which was the equal second-best for goals conceded.

Class clown

This is Ken Ilsø in a nutshell.

Hype surrounded Ilsø’s arrival and it was one of the few occasions in which a foreign played wanted to come to the A-League but that is where the positives stop. Ilsø looked unfit from the get-go, regularly being subbed off and appearing like he’d run the Boston Marathon twice and failed to deliver when he was on-field scoring three goals and no assists from 19 games.

The provisional ban was the icing on the cake for a very bad season.

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Outlook

Given Marco Kurz won’t be at the helm next season, it’s hard to get a read on United for next season. The young players in Ryan Strain and Mileusnic improved throughout the season but the loss of Scott Galloway hurts the club, and there is the possibility of a rebuild on the cards with key players out of contract. A very good season this year gives the incoming manager big shoes to fill but it’s hard to pass judgement when there is a lot to play out in this space.

Grade: A

Feature image credit: Phil Radoslovich

 

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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