Adelaide United completed one of the most extraordinary stories in Hyundai A-League history going from bottom to top and a maiden championship. We examine a history making campaign for the Reds and look ahead to the 2016/17 campaign.
Record: Played 27, Won 14, Drawn 7, Lost 6
Leading Goal Scorer: Bruce Djite (11)
Best home crowd: 50,119 – Grand Final against Western Sydney Wanderers
Star performer: Craig Goodwin
Adelaide build their success around the quality of their team meaning a host of players could have been considered as their best this season. But Goodwin caught the eye week in, week out for his consistency and quality, whether playing at left-back or further forward.
The 24-year-old’s defensive improvement was his biggest asset this campaign, while his crossing was deadly and he chipped in with four goals and four assists from 26 appearances. To cap a fine season, Goodwin signed a contract with Dutch Eredivisie club Sparta Rotterdam and has also been called into the Caltex Socceroos squad for the upcoming friendly with England.
Breakout player: Bruce Kamau
The speedy winger started the season as a fringe first team player but by the end was one of the Reds’ most important on their charge to the title. What stood out about the 21-year-old was his composure in the big games for a kid who only had a handful of games under his belt before this season.
From his 18 games he had three assists and also chipped in with three goals, two of them crucial ones including the opener in the grand final as well as a last-gasp winner against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park.
Goal of the year: Isaias
The Spanish midfielder forged a reputation as a set-piece specialist during the season and fittingly saved his best strike for the biggest match of the season. After Kamau won a free-kick right on the edge of box, Isaias curled the ball over the wall and perfectly into the top left corner of the net, with Wanderers keeper Andrew Redmayne rooted to the spot.
It was a world-class strike and one worthy of helping decide an epic grand final.
Highlight: Grand Final glory
You can’t go past the scenes at Adelaide Oval as the Reds swept to their first championship in their third decider. More than 50,000 fans packed into the iconic venue and Gui Amor’s side didn’t disappoint, surging to a dominant 3-1 win just three weeks after also lifting the Premiership.
The Reds took control of the grand final midway through the first half with goals to Kamau and Isaias before the Wanderers pulled on back after the break. But Adelaide wouldn’t be denied as super sub Pablo Sanchez put the result to bed with a third at the death to spark amazing scenes in the City of Churches.
Lowlight: Horror start
The knives were out in Adelaide a couple of months into the new season with the side winless in their first eight games and propping up the rest of the competition. New coach Gui Amor was under pressure to keep his job and the mood around the City was downbeat. The side managed just seven goals from the opening eight matches and conceded a whopping 17, with little to suggest they could salvage anything from the campaign.
What they need:
There was no better team defensively than the Reds during their title-winning season but it’s the forward areas where Amor must strengthen. Key attacking players Goodwin, Kamau and Sanchez have moved on so reinforcements are certainly needed to support the likes of Djite, Cirio and Carrusca.
The Reds will have the AFC Champions League to contend with towards the end of next season so increasing squad depth will be pivotal to deal with both competitions.
Acquisitions for next season:
Losses for next season:
Pablo Sanchez, Craig Goodwin, Bruce Kamau, Eli Babalj
Outlook for 2016/17:
The party is probably still raging in Adelaide following their memorable campaign. Given their incredible run – in which they’ve lost just one of their last 21 matches – the Reds will start next season as deserved title favourites, especially if they keep the bulk of their squad together. Amor’s challenge will be maintaining the hunger within his side who have now scaled the mountain after so many years of disappointment. Adelaide will now be the hunted next season and the key will be matching the desire of their rivals. Do that and there’s every chance the Reds can go back-to-back.