Picking the A-League’s best U-23 XI

That A-League Fan Roar Rookie

By That A-League Fan, That A-League Fan is a Roar Rookie

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    Despite a below-average performance in the Under-23 Championship, Australia’s youth aren’t as bad as results suggest.

    There’s no Bobo in this squad, but plenty of promising youth talent, all of whom are destined for bigger things in the future.

    Paul Izzo (Adelaide United)
    The former Mariners custodian has worked his way into Adelaide’s first team this season. With Izzo’s help, the Reds are second-best for goals conceded this season.

    Ben Garuccio (Adelaide United)
    Garuccio has won 38 duels so far, the second-best in the competition, while he wins three-quarters of tackles. The former AIS product is no slouch in the attacking third either, with 20 successful crosses at 75 per cent accuracy.

    Thomas Deng (Melbourne Victory)
    Born to South Sudanese refugees, the 20-year-old is flourishing in the A-League. Deng has been busy in his 12 starts for the Victory, with 50 clearances, 11 blocks and 23 clearances to his name. Rock solid at the back.

    Jonathan Aspropotamitis (Western Sydney Wanderers)
    The 21-year-old is a pinpoint passer from the back, with 87 per cent accuracy. He’s also made 20 clearances in his five starts. ‘Aspro’ has been tagged as a future leader, having captained the U-23s in all three games at the AFC qualifiers last year.

    Stefan Nigro (Melbourne Victory)
    Nigro burst onto the scene with a Man of the Match display in 2016, marking Thomas Broich. This season, he’s made nine starts so far, including a vital 32 interceptions.

    Daniel Arzani (Melbourne City)
    At just 19, Arzani has made two assists in just three starts for City. He also has 40 per cent crossing accuracy and 21 successful dribbles. His influence will grow with every game.

    (AAP Image/Hamish Blair)

    Matthew Ridenton (Wellington Phoenix)
    The young Kiwi has made 32 key passes from the midfield, including two assists. He’s been vital to the struggling Wellington Phoenix and started 15 out of 16 games this term. In 2014, he was called up to the All Whites’ senior squad, aged just 18.

    Daniel De Silva (Central Coast Mariners)
    All hail the passing and dribbling master. At 20 years of age, De Silva is already a pivotal member of the Mariners first team. He boasts 13 key passes at nearly 85 per cent accuracy, also registering 18 successful dribbles, two goals and an assist.

    Jordan O’Doherty (Adelaide United)
    Although he’s only made three starts for Adelaide this season, O’Doherty has impressed with 89 per cent passing accuracy. He was a constant menace in his second start against Sydney FC, keeping them to a goalless draw.

    Joe Champness (Newcastle Jets)
    The Jets youngster has netted three goals this season, including one against leaders Sydney FC in a 2-2 draw. He’s also won 23 fouls and shown an impressive work rate, contesting 72 duels in December.

    Bruce Kamau (Melbourne City)
    The Kenyan-born winger boasts 100 per cent shooting accuracy, pinching three goals, as well as crossing accuracy of 40 per cent. He’s been a handful with the ball at his feet too, winning 24 fouls.

    Which young A-League talents have most impressed you this season?

    Have Your Say



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    The Crowd Says (33)

    • January 23rd 2018 @ 9:42am
      Franko said | January 23rd 2018 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      Does Jordan Elsey count, he’s had a brilliant year.

      Would probably have Lachlan Wales in ahead of O’Doherty and I’d be finding room for Ryan Strain, has been brilliant at RB, LB and CM.

      • January 23rd 2018 @ 10:35am
        That A-League Fan said | January 23rd 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

        I would consider some of your suggestions. But Lachlan Wales missed an open goal against Sydney! Strain is good but hasn’t started as much as Nigro. I agree that he is useful because he can play in multiple positions.
        I’m afraid Elsey, doesn’t count, he’ll be turning 24 in March. But he has played well as well.

        • January 23rd 2018 @ 1:56pm
          Kangajets said | January 23rd 2018 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

          Lachy Wales missing an open goal in his 4 th game , doesn’t take away from how brilliant he played against . Melbourne City and victory.

          Last week , you rated George Blackwood as a possibility to go to the World Cup !!!

          • January 23rd 2018 @ 4:17pm
            Fadida said | January 23rd 2018 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

            I’m still laughing about that one!

            • January 23rd 2018 @ 4:47pm
              Kangajets said | January 23rd 2018 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

              Who Blackwood to the World Cup?

              • January 24th 2018 @ 7:35am
                Fadida said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:35am | ! Report

                Yep, Blackwood to the WC

          • January 24th 2018 @ 12:08am
            That A-League Fan said | January 24th 2018 @ 12:08am | ! Report

            Alright then, well I never said I didn’t consider Wales. I heard he was good as well.
            Aspromotis, I haven’t heard much about until the U23, who was the captain.
            I’d put him in for the leadership.
            And Blackwood for the world cup, well I did say he could go to Russia, but perhaps not yet, as he should be scoring more for Adelaide. I never said he scored regularly for Adelaide.
            And about Theoharous, to some, I admit I haven’t seen him play much, but a low passing accuracy is unimpressive. It is a very low passing rate, even by ‘Winger’ standards.

            • January 24th 2018 @ 7:36am
              Fadida said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:36am | ! Report

              You’re admitting you aren’t watching players, but going on stats. I suggest you ignore stats and start watching…

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 10:27am
                Mantis said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:27am | ! Report

                nailed it. theres a lot that stats dont count for

    • January 23rd 2018 @ 10:23am
      Fadida said | January 23rd 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

      The danger of using stats!

      No stat in the world will convince me that Kamau will ever be a consistent player capable of playing at a higher level.

      Aspro? His 87% passing is deceptive. Centre backs pass to each other and into the 6. You expect high stats. He lacks the physicality, pace and aggression to make it.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 23rd 2018 @ 12:15pm
        Stevo said | January 23rd 2018 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

        Kamau hasn’t got it.

        • January 23rd 2018 @ 4:20pm
          Fadida said | January 23rd 2018 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

          I won’t be surprised if he’s drops out of the A-league. At times he’s not even NPL standard, falling over, miscontrolling. I suspect he’s mentally fragile, showing all of the bad traits of Andrew Hoole

          • January 24th 2018 @ 8:06am
            punter said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:06am | ! Report

            Kamau, Hoole, throw in Apiah & even Buhagiar, it’s their decision making that is just so poor, all these players have some good skills & some are very quick, but it’s their decision making that just leaves me scratching my head. Look at Messi, unfair to compare to the very best, but apart from his unbelievable & outrageous skills, his decision making is spot on.

            Poor old Paul Okon, he coaches 3 of these players.

            • January 24th 2018 @ 9:05am
              Nemesis said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:05am | ! Report

              Decision-making happens with match time. Playing competitive matches against strong opponents. Most of these talented kids would’ve cruised through their youth football. Their technical ability would’ve given them time to do what they want, often selfishly, and rarely making decisions under pressure.

              That’s why it’s so important for ALeague clubs to be playing NPL.

              And, the way the ALeague clubs enter the NPL, the team that enters the Senior competition can only have u20 players.

              The team that enters the u20 NPL competition must all be u17 (or maybe even u16).

              Already this is producing results. MVFC has played 3 seasons in NPL. Started in Div2, promoted 1st season, then relegated back to Div 2.

              Lads like: Pasquali, Nigro, Deng, Theoharous all played NPL with MVFC. 3 more lads who are regularly on the bench in ALeague this season: Waring, Hope, McGilp played NPL in 2017.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 11:24am
                punter said | January 24th 2018 @ 11:24am | ! Report

                Don’t disagree there.

                However some players like Hoole, Kamau & Apiah has been playing senior football for awhile & their decision making just not up to standard, they have other attributes but…..

    • January 23rd 2018 @ 10:46am
      Nemesis said | January 23rd 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

      I’d have Tongyik before Aspro in the Starting XI

      Other names are fine.

      Here are other u23 in ALeague who have impressed me:

      Theoharous
      Cowburn
      Italiano
      Atkinson
      Strain
      Warland
      Baccus
      Buhagiar
      Caletti
      McGree
      Mauk

      George Blackwood impressed me in the u23 AFC Championship. He could’ve done a lot more, but he was far more relaxed & seemed to enjoy himself. In ALeague he seems petrified.

      • January 23rd 2018 @ 11:26am
        mad monk said | January 23rd 2018 @ 11:26am | ! Report

        ivan vujica has had a breakout year for the jets.

        • January 23rd 2018 @ 2:00pm
          Kangajets said | January 23rd 2018 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

          Agree abt vujica

          • January 23rd 2018 @ 3:46pm
            Kangajets said | January 23rd 2018 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

            Nemesis

            Cowburn is an interesting player at the jets . It’s seems like he’s been there 10 years .

            I understand he is naturally a midfielder, but has been stuck in a left back role when needed .

            He’s going to need a lot of first team action to see his potential, I think with Vijiuca playing well, he will have to bide his time .

        • January 23rd 2018 @ 4:40pm
          Nemesis said | January 23rd 2018 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

          Yes, was going to inclued Vujica but always thought he was not Aussie. He is listed as Croatian nationality on the football website I checked, because he played for Croatia u19. But I now see he was born in Sydney! Great news.

      • January 23rd 2018 @ 4:22pm
        Fadida said | January 23rd 2018 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

        Nice list Nemesis. I’ve no idea what their “stats” are, and don’t care. All show potential

    • January 23rd 2018 @ 10:53am
      That A-League Fan said | January 23rd 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

      I like some of your u23 suggestions but:
      Tongyik hasn’t played for Melbourne City at all though.
      I am not a fan of Theoharous, his passing accuracy is terrible. 42% in the opposition half.

      • January 23rd 2018 @ 11:13am
        Nemesis said | January 23rd 2018 @ 11:13am | ! Report

        1) Tongyik hasn’t played THIS SEASON for Melbourne City. He obviously doesn’t fit into Joyce’s style of hoof ball. He is an elegant ball-playing, centre half. He played in 15 matches last season.

        2) I don’t need ridiculous stats to assess a guy like Theoharous. All I do is open my eyes & watch the player.

        • Roar Rookie

          January 23rd 2018 @ 12:20pm
          Stevo said | January 23rd 2018 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

          I like what Tongyik has done and how he goes about his play. Definitely a prospect. Maybe underestimating what Joyce is doing. He may have judged that it was a little too early to bring Tongyik into the senior team. Or maybe Joyce is a little conservative when it comes to matters like these.

          • January 23rd 2018 @ 12:41pm
            Nemesis said | January 23rd 2018 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

            “He may have judged that it was a little too early to bring Tongyik into the senior team”

            Tongyik played 15 times for City last year; he started 13 of them only subbed off once.

            Joyce actually chooses to play Manny Muscat ahead of Tongyik in the Back 4. That tells me enough about Joyce’s style of football.

            You are a City fan, so up to you what you want from your team. But, as an outsider, I found City a far more entertaining team last year. This year it’s deadly dull to watch tiem.

            • Roar Rookie

              January 23rd 2018 @ 8:04pm
              Stevo said | January 23rd 2018 @ 8:04pm | ! Report

              That was last year. This year La Rocca and Schenkeveld were recruited to provide depth and experience so Tongyik has had extra competition for a spot. Joyce has introduced Atkinson and Arzani as regulars on match day and they have done very well. Maybe Joyce knows what he’s doing in regards to youth. We will see at the end of this season how it’s worked out for him.

      • January 23rd 2018 @ 4:24pm
        Fadida said | January 23rd 2018 @ 4:24pm | ! Report

        Kenny, you do realise that attacking players will always have lower passing stats? Less space and more pressure on the ball.

        Watch a player, don’t judge based on stats

    • January 23rd 2018 @ 12:31pm
      Will said | January 23rd 2018 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

      u23 starting 11:

      Izzo
      Atkinson, Deng, Rowles, Garuccio
      Keanu Baccus, Mauk
      Italiano, De Silva, Arzani
      Champness

    • January 23rd 2018 @ 2:06pm
      Kangajets said | January 23rd 2018 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

      Vujica at the Jets is very promising

      ugarchovic and magree at the jets too as well as Champness

      Italiano deserves a mention from Perth

      Lachy Wales at ccm is a gun

      Connor O’Toole at Brisbane

      Adelaide have brought a heap of young players

      Nathaniel Atkinson at city

      Ryan strain at Adelaide should rate a mention

      Theoharus at victory

      I like the idea of your article, it’s good to see youth getting a go .

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