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Opinion

A-League 2020-21 preview: Can the youthful Adelaide United rise to the challenge?

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18th November, 2020
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Young and local talent is the way to describe Adelaide United this season, with the majority of their players either coming from South Australia or coming through the Adelaide United youth team.

The Reds have had a history of producing great young players, with both current Socceroo Awer Mabil and emerging Olyroo Riley McGree coming through the Reds system, to name just two. But the question remains whether this group of young Reds can lift United back into the finals and make a name for themselves.

Goalkeepers
With currently four goalkeepers on their books, the Reds have a huge hole to fill after being saved on numerous occasions over the last three seasons by departing goalkeeper Paul Izzo. They’ve retained young goalkeepers Dakota Ochsenham and Ethan Cox, with Ochsenham hoping to potentially make a senior start for the club after being named on the bench several times last season.

Adelaide boy Joe Gauci joined the club along with former Australian under-20s goalkeeper James Delianov. Ochsenham has started both preseason games for the club, but it is still yet to be known who the No. 1 goalkeeper will be. But with Eugene Galekovic as their goalkeeping coach, the young goalies have a fantastic mentor and will no doubt develop into good goalies for the Reds.

Defenders
The defence is arguably the Reds’ most experienced area, with Ryan Strain, Jordan Elsey, Ryan Kitto, Michael Jakobsen and Michael Marrone all returning, with four out of five of them having over 100 games experience in Australia’s top flight. However, Reds fans would be concerned with the leaky defence just prior to the COVID-19 break after conceding five twice and three.

While the defensive record improved under Carl Veart after Gertjan Verbeek left the club, fans will still be hoping that these experienced five will improve this. The Reds have young left-back Noah Smith rising through the ranks. He’ll be putting pressure on Ryan Kitto to fill the left-back spot.

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After having experience playing for Schalke in Germany, George Timotheou will be looking to make a name for himself in the Australian leagues and will be one of the defenders to watch this upcoming season.

Adelaide United fans celebrate

(Photo by James Elsby/Getty Images)

Midfielders
After losing reigning club champion Riley McGree this will be a big season for Stefan Mauk, with the Reds No. 8 announcing he wants to be the midfield general of the team. He will be looking to recreate the form he had in the 2015-16 championship-winning team, when he was pivotal for the Reds in the latter half of that season.

Louis D’Arrigo will be looking to continue his form from last season after the young midfielder made a name for himself last year, having done a good job to fill the void left by club legend Isaias Sanchez.

Experienced Socceroo James Troisi will be looking for a better second season at the club after an injury-riddled campaign prevented the Reds from getting the most out him, but at his best he looked very good and was pivotal to many of the Reds wins. Keeping him fit could allow the Reds to get the most out of Troisi, which could be the difference between making finals or not.

Young Red Nathan Konstandopoulos will be looking to regain the form he had prior to his ACL injury once he recovers. Former Brisbane Roar midfield Joe Caletti joins the Reds, the small, composed hardworking midfielder hoping to break into the team and perhaps make an appearance in the Olyroos squad.

Attackers
This is arguably the youngest part of the Reds squad. With Ben Halloran being the most experienced of this group, he will be hoping to continue his fantastic form from last year after scoring nine goals. While the Toure brothers will be hoping to continue to bring a spark into the team, with Al Hassan Toure looking to be the striker of the squad after the departure of Norwegian Kristian Opseth.

Pacifique Niyongabire looked promising after the season restart and Reds fans will be hoping to see him doing backflips every week. Young Kusini Yengi will be hoping to break onto the scene after missing out on his opportunities last year largely due to injury, and he’s started well by scoring one in the preseason.

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The Reds have also brought in young Domenic Costanzo, who scored 14 goals in 18 games for Croydon Kings in the NPL and will be wanting to become the next Reds legend after his father, Angelo Costanzo. Exciting prospect Yaya Dukuly also joins the side and will be wanting to break into the squad.

Al Hassan Toure

Al Hassan Toure. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Verdict
Though they have an experienced defence, the Reds have a very young attack. The question remains, though, whether the voids of Riley McGree and even the big Norwegian Kristian Opseth, who became a fan favourite after scoring four goals at the season restart, can be filled.

There is big pressure on the young attackers to score these goals, having combined for only 19 goals in Australia’s top flight. But all signs are that the players are loving working under Carl Veart, and the Reds legend may be the man to lead his young squad back into finals.

Fans would be expecting the side to push for finals, with the team likely pushing for those final fifth and sixth spots if their key players remain fit and healthy.