Adelaide United kick-off its Hyundai A-League 2017/18 campaign with a great sense of anticipation, starting with an away trip to Wellington Phoenix on Sunday afternoon.
The Reds will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2016/17 season and with a squad overhaul as well as the arrival of a new Head Coach over the off-season, there is plenty of reason for optimism.
Eleven new players were added signifying the Club’s ambition to return to playing finals and desire to compete for trophies.
And life under new German Boss, Marco Kurz, has been promising to say the least. An almost invincible pre-season, where Adelaide also reached the semi-finals of the Westfield FFA Cup, along with several new faces mean supporters are also quietly confident of experiencing a successful season.
Kurz arrives at the Club with a plethora of Bundesliga experience having plied his trade in the German top-flight for 15 years as defender, before venturing into coaching. The 48-year-old’s greatest coaching highlight saw him guide 1. FC Kaiserslautern to promotion before taking them to a seventh place finish in the 2010/11 Bundesliga.
Throughout this pre-season, the team’s identity has also begun to reflect Kurz’s footballing philosophy, with the side defensively organised as well as tactically flexible when switching formations. Former teammate, Filip Tapalović, joins Kurz as one of his Assistant Coaches.
The new signings
The gloveman returned to Adelaide, putting pen-to-paper on a three-year deal, after a two-year spell with the Central Coast Mariners. Izzo had been with the Reds for four years prior to departing for Gosford, honing his skills and serving as the back-up goalkeeper behind Eugene Galekovic. He has since returned as the Number One shot-stopper and his assured displays has seen him yet to concede a goal in this season’s Westfield FFA Cup.
Blackwood joined Adelaide following three years at Sydney FC. The 20-year-old striker has been a revelation over the off-season and showcased his maturity and poise to lead the line. He has enjoyed a productive pre-season scoring three goals, which included a penalty against Melbourne Victory in the last 16 of the Westfield FFA Cup.
After moving back to Adelaide from Brisbane Roar, Konstandopoulos played a handful of games with the Youth Team in the local National Premier League. He signed with the senior outfit and has since impressed in midfield under Kurz. The 21-year-old is known for his technical prowess on the ball and has the ability to break the lines and push forward. Konstandopoulos also scored a memorable long-range goal to seal the Reds’ 3-0 Cup win over the Victory.
Gülüm lands in Adelaide on-loan from Hebei China Fortune. The Australian-born Turkish international boasts a wonderful pedigree, having played for and captained Süper Lig giants Beşiktaş. The central defender will be a commanding presence at the back, combining his tenacity and astute reading of the game to plug the void in the heart of defence.
Blessed with raw pace, Absalonsen has demonstrated how his speed enables him to evade his opponents at will. The Danish winger boasts an admirable resume, amassing over 300 appearances for the likes of Brøndby IF, Odense Boldklub, SønderjyskE and FC Copenhagen and will impart plenty of knowledge to his teammates. The 32-year-old has settled into life extremely well since touching down in the city of churches in July, registering a number of assists in pre-season, in addition to netting two goals.
With the squad still relatively young, Kurz determined more experience needed to be added. And in August, Lia was officially announced as a United player. The 32-year-old has amassed more than 200 appearances across 12 years in the Hyundai A-League and adds a steely resolve to the midfield. Lia has illustrated his grit in the two Cup matches he has featured in.
The French-born Algerian international provides the Reds another dimension going forward. Matmour, who has spent the majority of his career in the German first and second division, is deceptively quick and his silky skills have certainly caught the attention of Reds fans. He made his Club debut against Heidelberg United and nearly pulled off an audacious rabona effort.
Adlung was the final import acquired by Adelaide over the off-season and has spent almost his entire career in the 2. Bundesliga. The German’s versatility will be crucial as he can operate anywhere in the midfield. Having made his unofficial debut in a behind closed doors friendly, the 30-year-old looked composed on the ball and was not afraid to venture forward.
Three Youth Team players, Apostolos Stamatelopoulos, Kristin Konstandopoulos, and Ryan Strain, have also been added on scholarship contracts to bolster the squad’s depth.
The Reds also re-signed Nikola Mileusnic, Mark Ochieng, Ryan Kitto, Jordan Elsey, Ben Warland, and Baba Diawara after the 17/18 campaign.
Aforementioned, Adelaide start the season with tough back-to-back road trips – first to Wellington and then Brisbane. Rounds’ 3 and 4 sees the Reds entertain Victorian sides’ Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City respectively. Kurz’s men then take on Perth Glory away in Round 5.
Three weeks later, the South Australians play host to Western Sydney Wanderers and later Sydney FC, before again tackling bitter rivals the Victory, only this time interstate.
In March, Adelaide have three straight home fixtures, before playing its final two matches to close out the regular season in Sydney.
Adelaide United will face Wellington Phoenix in Round 1 of the Hyundai A-League 2017/18 season on Sunday, 8 October at Westpac Stadium. Kick-off is at 2.30pm ACDT.