Thursday, August 09, 2007
A-League Anticipation, Part 1
First, the champions:
The biggest question for last season's all-conquering bunch is whether they can adapt to the loss of their superb playmaker Fred. After the Brazilian had played such an influential part in their 2006/07 success, it was always unlikely that they could hold on to him, even if Melbournites were perhaps hoping for a more glamorous destination than DC United.
Carlos Hernandez, the Costa Rican international, is the man Ernie Merrick hopes will plug the gap. Despite some minor concerns over his fitness, he seems to be settling in well; he scored a good-looking long-range goal against Perth Glory a couple of weeks ago.
The youthful Kaz Patafta, on loan from Benfica, is an intriguing newcomer to the competition, who will presumably play second fiddle to Hernandez in the attacking midfield department.
The two other major losses for the Melbourne club have been Adrian Leijer and Kristian Sarkies. The former was perhaps the most promising defender in the competition; strong, good in the air and positionally intelligent, he made an excellent partner for the experienced Roddy Vargas for much of 2006/07. Sarkies made a useful understudy to Fred, but did not see a great deal of game time last season; perhaps his move to Adelaide will allow us to get a better idea of his potential.
The arrival of Ljubo Milicevic appears to offset the loss of Leijer and then some, but I'm not so sure. Already the big defender's arrival seems to have led to a clash of egos with Kevin Muscat, and he has always looked a bit ponderous in the green and gold.
Several of the other success stories from last season are still around; the smooth front pairing of Danny Allsopp and Archie Thompson, the inventive Adrian Caceres, the robust Grant Brebner and the much improved Michael Theoklitos. Some depth has been added in the wide defensive areas with the acquisition of Joseph Keenan and Matthew Kemp.
Pre-season results have not been encouraging, and Merrick has not taken them lightly, but when it comes down to business, Melbourne Victory should start as one of the league favourites this time around.
I would like to see Piorkowski make a step up this year. Broxham could also turn into an influential player. I wonder if in losing Fred and gaining Hernandez we've traded creativity for goal-scoring...