Adelaide United finished bottom of the ladder last season, but that doesn’t tell the full story of how they actually performed.
The Reds were unlucky throughout the year, struggling with inconsistency, lack of goals as well as conceding in crucial moments, sometimes right at the end of the match. But, their style of play and structure was on point for the majority of the season, which they can build on for 2018/19.
Adelaide played well and beat some of the top sides in the W-League, including Round 3 where a Kerr-less Perth Glory visited Marden Sports Complex. The result going Adelaide’s way in a massive 3-1 victory. Brisbane and Newcastle then scraped by with wins in Rounds 4 and 5.
Adelaide then came away with a memorable 1-1 draw with Melbourne City. The Reds then suffered losses from Round 7-10 but beat the Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium. The side showed some life towards the end of the season and ended on a high with a revenge win over Victory.
The team will be looking to avoid another repeat of last season as winners of the wooden spoon, and instead build their case to have a shot at their first ever finals series.
There has been a multitude of changes within the squad. With the departure of Matildas Alex Chidiac (Atletico Madrid) and Eliza Campbell (Perth Glory), along with Jenna McCormick, Adriana Jones and United’s core group of internationals in Danielle Colaprico and Katie Naughton, there are some big boots to be filled.
In one of the most notable and exciting coups of this season, the Reds have managed to snap up the league’s all-time highest goal-scorer Michelle Heyman. The veteran brings with her firepower in the front third and a wealth of experience to the young team
Coach Ivan Karlović lauded the arrival of the new United striker, who will be key to the side’s campaign this season.
“We believe Michelle will add a lot to our playing group. She’ll obviously bring a huge amount of quality on the field but is also extremely valuable off the field for our younger players.”
Icelandic internationals Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir and Fanndís Friðriksdóttir will also be the steady hands to steer the team. Integral players of the national team, Jónsdóttir is known for her workhorse attitude in the middle of the park, while Friðriksdóttir’s attacking prowess will be called into action to combine with Heyman up top.
Joining them are Houston Dash’s Amber Brooks and Veronica Latsko. Brooks will provide stability in defence alongside captain Emma Checker, and Latsko will be tee up with Laura Johns and Emily Condon to control the midfield.
Meanwhile, Karlović has the luxury of deploying versatile and experienced ex-Wanderers player Kahlia Hogg in midfield or back line, further strengthening the Adelaide squad.
Local WNPL star Dylan Holmes and Rising Star and Player of the Year recipient Charlotte Grant (recently been called up to the Young Matildas squad for their AFC U19 Championships qualifiers) have also been rewarded places on the team after a standout 2018 season with Adelaide City and FFSA NTC respectively.
Unlike season 9, Adelaide struggled to score goals in the 2017/18 season - with just 15 netted which made them the equal second lowest scoring team. Karlović has sought to mitigate this situation with his new signings in Heyman and Friðriksdóttir to support the younger squad members.
There is also strengthened depth amongst this season’s team thanks to the addition of new personnel, with a number of versatile players that could be set up in different positions.
W-League seasons are hard to predict and full of surprises, therefore it will be crucial for the Reds to gel together and integrate international experience with local talent within the first few rounds to get closer to their goal of an inaugural finals series appearance.
At United’s core remains one of the league’s youngest team, and this was evident throughout last season. While they came quite close in most of their matches, the lack of experience to rise-up in crucial moments and the finesse to finish off games made them victims to multiple last-minute goals.
This is something that Karlović will be looking to improve in the upcoming season.
“With a young group, you’re going to get some mistakes and fluctuation in performance. The key for us is to use these experiences to continue to evolve to be more resilient.”
“If we can improve on our quality in the right areas at critical moments, we believe that we can stand a chance against any sort this season.”
Grace Abbey (Defence)
The defender was named Player of the Match in Adelaide City’s Grand Final win and was named in the WNPL Team of the Year.
Due to a strong campaign with City, Adelaide will look forward to having Abbey as an asset on the squad and will be confident that her form will lead into the W-League season. Abbey involuntarily had an interrupted season last year, so when fit, she is a force to be reckoned with.
Emily Condon (Midfield)
Recently capped Matilda, Condon featured in all 12 games for the Reds last year and managed to put a goal to her name.
Although young, Condon is a quality player who has proven herself in the WNPL and W-League and has the potential to continue to improve. Condon will be one of the players for the Reds who will rise to occasions and take her game to the next level.
Michelle Heyman (Forward)
One of the W-League’s most prestigious names will don the Red this season, and it is the hero that Adelaide will need up front. With 20 goals for Australia and as the all-time leading goal-scorer in the W-League, Heyman will add the vital qualities of leadership and experience to the side, and a wealth of talent that is second to none.
She will be there to score the goals and finish off the hard work that goes into Adelaide’s build-ups.
ONE TO WATCH
Dylan Holmes (Midfield)
Dylan Holmes is a highly regarded footballer in South Australia's Women’s National Premier League and her call-up to Adelaide’s squad should come as no surprise. Holmes was one of the stand-out players in the WNPL and was recognised by her local club, Adelaide City, after being awarded the club’s Player’s Player and MVP titles.
The midfielder scored seven goals this season and played a vital role in securing Adelaide City’s back-to-back Championship wins in 2017 and 2018, as well as the State League Cup.
Holmes shows her intelligence on the pitch, reading the game well, to boss the middle of the park. She has the ability to both bring the ball forward for her teammates and contribute herself by getting her name on the scoresheet. Previously at Adelaide United in 2014, Holmes can bring her newly-acquired experience and attributes to the W-League side this year and show how much she has developed.
Grace ABBEY, Amber BROOKS, Georgia CAMPAGNALE, Emma CHECKER (c), Emily CONDON, Chelsie DAWBER, Fanndís FRIÐRIKSDÓTTIR, Charlotte GRANT, Michelle HEYMAN, Emily HODGSON, Kahlia HOGG, Dylan HOLMES, Laura JOHNS, Gunnhildúr JÓNSDÓTTIR, Veronica LATSKO, Sarah WILLACY (GK)
*Two more to be announced to make minimum squad numbers