Sunday, July 23, 2006


A-League Anticipation, Part 3

And now to last season’s minor premiers, the tough, determined team formed in the image of their abrasive manager.

Adelaide United

From the fans’ point of view, Adelaide United’s pre-season has been dominated by one anxious question: “Will we get him back?”

The “him” in question being, of course, Shengqing Qu, the Chinese striker who made such a substantial contribution to Adelaide’s success last season.

Sadly, without Qu, Adelaide’s frontline hardly looks a fearsome proposition. At the moment, only an ageing Carl Veart and the unproven Dez Giraldi occupy the nominal “striker” slots in the squad. Fernando Rech, for all his quality, is more of a schemer than a striker, although his partnership with Qu last term was often a joy to behold.

To make matters worse, Rech and Giraldi are currently struggling with injuries, prompting Adelaide to obtain the temporary services of two AIS youngsters, Bruce Djite and Nathan Burns. Of the latter I know little, but I have seen something of Djite this season in the NSW state league (he was drafted into the Marconi side to replace the injured Jay Lucas), and he looked some way off A-League standard.

Qu offered skill, guile and considerable finishing ability, and he was surely the most impressive foreign player in the league, especially considering the initial scepticism surrounding him: a Chinese player?

He proved all the doubters wrong, and, it would seem, the club is even now pulling out all the stops in an effort to bring him back down south. From a neutral perspective, one can only wish them the best of luck. Qu was a true credit to the league last season.

Adelaide United led something of a charmed life last year, with few key players forced into lengthy absences through injury. This year, things are already a little different; the unfortunate Lucas Pantelis will be out for the entire season. Recently the club has been engaged in efforts to sign the former Celtic winger Bobby Petta, a mercurial talent; certainly, if he can show some of his old class, he will be a more than adequate replacement for Pantelis.

If Petta proves unavailable, what then? The versatile Richie Alagich may be asked to fill the right midfield slot again, with Robert Cornthwaite stepping in at right-back; in any event, Adelaide’s options out wide, like the Mariners’, are somewhat limited.

United’s key player last season, if not Qu, was probably Angelo Costanzo. Equally at home in central defence and central midfield, he provided the defensive solidity in the middle of the park which allowed the likes of Aloisi, Dodd and Veart to push upfield on a regular basis.

He will no doubt be influential once again, but an injury in central defence might compel John Kosmina to bring Costanzo into the back four, leaving the midfield without an anchorman. Those who witnessed Costanzo’s dominant performance in the major semi-final second leg last season, in which he thoroughly eclipsed Dwight Yorke in the centre, would surely agree that Costanzo belongs in midfield, other things being equal.

So far, Adelaide can be quietly pleased with their pre-season results; another 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory - the fourth such result in less than a year - was followed by a draw with a depleted but still respectable Mariners side in Orange. Travis Dodd is in crisp form, by all accounts, and the defence is proving as hard to breach as they were at the beginning of last season.

Qu or no Qu, Adelaide will surely be very, very competitive in 2006/07.

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