Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Soccer: A-League season set to kick off

It's time for the Wellington Phoenix to deliver. Photo / File
It's time for the Wellington Phoenix to deliver. Photo / File

The upcoming A-League season gets underway on Friday night. APNZ's Daniel Richardson casts his eye over this year's teams.

* Adelaide United

The Lowdown: The John Kosmina-coached outfit boast prolific striker Sergio van Dijk but it was a lean time in South Australia last year as the Reds slumped to ninth place, finishing above only the lowly - and now defunct - Gold Coast United.

Key signing: Marcelo Carrusca comes with decent pedigree after spells at Estudiantes de La Plata and Galatasaray. The left-winger also represented Argentina at the Under-20 World Cup in 2003.

Watch out for: Forward Bruce Djite has all the ingredients to be a top striker in the league but needs to find the recipe for consistency. The eight-cap Socceroo was loaned out to Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Sainty during the off-season and scored four goals in 12 games.

Prediction: Kosmina hasn't added a lot to last year's squad other than a couple of Argentines, Adelaide youth players and some Gold Coast off-cuts; 8th.

* Brisbane Roar

The Lowdown: They might have lost former manager Ange Postecoglou to the Melbourne Victory but former assistant Rado Vidosic will fill the void and the Roar have kept a majority of their championship-winning side from last year.

Key signing: Ben Halloran. This kid was probably the only good thing about Gold Coast's woeful campaign last year and when the club from the Glitter Strip folded his signature was highly sought-after.

Watch out for: Besart Berisha is the league's premier goal poacher up front and expect more of the same from the fiery Albanian international this summer.

Prediction: Their manager might be gone but this is still a great side, led by German midfielder Thomas Broich. Hard to see anyone stopping them; 1st.

* Central Coast Mariners

The Lowdown: The Mariners don't splash out in the transfer market but have built a reputation as an overachieving club with a solid squad.

Key signing: Defensive midfielder Nick Montgomery spent 12 years at Sheffield United and comes to the A-League with a solid background in the game.

Watch out for: Matt Ryan is one of the most talented goalkeepers in the A-League and, at only 20, is a genuine player of potential. He was voted the best custodian in the league last year and his efforts in goal will be crucial to the Mariners' hopes again this year.

Prediction: They probably haven't added enough X-factor to keep pace with the clubs who have bought big, but they will still be there or thereabouts; 6th.


* Melbourne Heart

The Lowdown: These guys aren't even the best team in their home city. Coached by former Socceroo John Aloisi, they will again be trying to battle for relevancy with fans in their own market.

Key signing: Winger Richard Garcia, who has collected 14 caps for Australia since 2008, returns to the country of his birth after spending 13 years playing in England. After a recent five-season stint with Hull City he will be primed to make his mark on the A-League.

Watch out for: Simon Colosimo is a rock-solid defender with international experience and will again be in the middle of the Heart's backline this season.

Prediction: With an untested head coach, the Heart could be in for a long season; 9th.

* Melbourne Victory

The Lowdown: This is a decent squad who grossly underperformed last year but have pulled in former Brisbane boss Ange Postecoglou to lead the way this summer.

Key signing: Marco Flores. The former Adelaide attacking midfielder is a dangerous player and will give the Victory plenty of spark in the front third given the other talent they have to work with, including All White Marco Rojas.

Watch out for: Rojas. He was under-used last season but the livewire attacker is great with the ball at his feet and should be deployed in a different capacity by Postecoglou.

Prediction: They're going to be a strong outfit and have the potential to go deep in the competition; 3rd.

* Newcastle Jets

The Lowdown: About the only bloke who is on the books from last season is coach Gary van Egmond who has a near-new playing roster at his disposal this year.

Key signing: Former England striker Emile Heskey is a highly-touted recruit no matter what your opinion of him is. He has a solid playing record and has been involved in plenty of big-time fixtures in his lengthy career.

Watch out for: James Brown was another Gold Coast youngster who was snapped up when the club went under. Injuries plagued him last season but he is a player with plenty of potential.

Prediction: It's often a lottery when a club re-shapes their roster but it's hard to see the team from the Hunter region factoring hugely in this year's campaign; 7th.

* Perth Glory

The Lowdown: Beaten finalists last year, the men from Western Australia are always a tough prospect given the travel schedule that opposing teams face.

Key signing: Michael Thwaite is one of the most underrated defenders in the A-League and will provide great depth to the Glory's backline.

Watch out for: Shane Smeltz. The All Whites' striker is a regular on the score sheet and is one of the most consistent performers in the competition. If he fires again, so could the Glory.

Prediction: Expect them to be in the playoff mix. They're simply too strong at home to not be considered a threat; 5th.

* Sydney FC

The Lowdown: If you have read one news story about the A-League during the past few weeks there's a good chance there would have been a mention of Alessandro Del Piero somewhere in there. If you haven't read about it yet, he has been signed by Sydney FC for two years.

Key signing: It has to be Del Piero, doesn't it? The former Juventus striker is the biggest name to set foot in the A-League.

Watch out for: Former Blackburn Rovers' stalwart Brett Emerton is a solid figure in the midfield for the Sky Blues and will direct traffic again for them this summer.

Prediction: It's hard to go past Sydney as contenders; 2nd.

* Wellington Phoenix

The Lowdown: It's simply time for the Phoenix to deliver. They've regularly made the playoffs but have never broken through to a grand final or a maiden title.

Key signing: Jeremy Brockie. He might not be world-class but Brockie is a good player at A-League level and bagged 18 goals in the club's pre-season campaign; handy numbers by any measure.

Watch out for: Former Belgian international Stein Huysegems comes to Wellington with a decent record having spent time in the Belgian and Dutch top flights. It remains to be seen if he can cope with the physical style of the A-League but appears to have all the tools needed to survive.

Prediction: The club have said this is the best squad they have ever assembled and it looks that way on the surface; 4th.

* Western Sydney Wanderers

The Lowdown: The new boys on the block have been added to the competition as seemingly every sporting code in Australia tries to capture the imagination of the western Sydney sporting public.

Key signing: Japanese midfielder Shinji Ono is a decent acquisition and his technical ability and strong passing game should be a focal point of the Wanderers' offence.

Watch out for:Aaron Mooy is an exciting young Australian midfielder who was on the books of English club Bolton Wanderers from 2009-2010 before he joined Scottish Premier League outfit St Mirren for a spell.

Prediction: The squad appears to be largely former players from other A-League franchises with a sprinkling of unknown foreign players. Don't expect them to set the league alight; 10th.

- APNZ

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