Monday, 20 May 2019

Sydney FC Season In Review - 2018/19

Across the board for Sydney FC, the 2018/19 season was one of definite success. With championships in the W-League and A-League, this will go down as a memorable year in record books.

Almost heaven, Jubilee Stadium...


W-LEAGUE


Let's start off with some coverage of the championship winning Sydney FC W-League side, captained by Teresa Polias.

The opening 4-5 weeks of the season were not ideal in the slightest. Bar an opening round 3-0 thumping of rivals Wanderers, there was little consistency from the side and just weren't cohesive as a team. A mixture of players not quite being at full fitness, interruptions with international breaks, and just not enough time to prepare.

A big 5-1 win over Brisbane Roar put the side back on track for the season, and from there things just started to click. Princess Ibini's impact off the bench soon became the X-Factor of the starting XI, with the 19 year old scoring 4 goals and assisting 3 goals. Around this time also saw Amy Harrison's full recovery from her anterior cruciate ligament injury from last year, which is always great to see players come back from - especially considering how well she played last year before copping the injury.

Caitlin Foord and Savannah McCaskill's partnership really blossomed after January, allowing for a great finals run-in. Matildas forward Caitlin Foord's confidence was high by the end of the season, scoring 10 goals and putting in some of her best performances for Sydney. Foord also bagged the most assists of any Sky Blue player, with 5.

At times Sydney honestly played some of the best football I'd seen in the W-League season even if their early season form cost them too much to win them the Premier's Plate. The finals series was a different story however, and it was a joy to see centurion captain Teresa Polias finally lifting the W-League trophy as captain. Arguably the most important player in the team and most definitely the heart of the club.

Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe picked up the Goalkeeper of the Season award at the Dolan Warren Awards night, and definitely a deserved win. With a decent amount of chopping and changing of her two central defenders, she did a fantastic job throughout the season and saved many points. Thankfully for Sydney, she's still got another year left at the club on loan from Washington Spirit.

Something worth noting too is how high quality all the W-League finals matches were. All three games in the finals campaign were top spectacles and produced football that the A-League can only dream of for finals football. The future remains bright for the women, with the leadership of Teresa Polias and management of Ante Juric a dream combo.

I'll be looking forward to the World Cup kicking off in just over 2 weeks time, especially with 5 Sydney players selected in the Australian squad.


Player of the Season: Teresa Polias
Best Performance: Sydney FC 4-2 Perth Glory
Best Goal: Savannah McCaskill header vs Perth Glory





A-LEAGUE


The A-League season has been a proper weird ride. Prior to the season I didn't really have many expectations other than probably finishing top four. The losses of Adrian Mierzejewski, Bobo, Jordy Buijs, Luke Wilkshire, and Matt Simon can't be understated. That's five big players who were so impressive in their times at the club. Then there's the matter of Corica's debut season.

Replacing Graham Arnold is always going to be a tough act to follow, even without needing to replace the spine of the team. But somehow, Corica did a fantastic job in the end. The signing of Adam le Fondre a particular highlight, with the Englishman scoring 23 goals across three different competitions. 

Return of right-back Rhyan Grant felt as though it were a new signing, with the Energizer Bunny acting as if he never picked up an ACL injury just 12 months prior. Grant was just exciting to watch, every time he went for a bolting run down the wing you felt like something would happen. Having a player like him around is great for the team. 

Andrew Redmayne more or less made himself a cult hero during the season, with the keeper saving 4 out of 5 penalties faced in the season, and saving 2 penalties in the 2019 Grand Final penalty shootout to help Sydney lift the toilet seat. Seeing how he's developed in just over 2 years has been immensely satisfying. His confidence is sky high and right now it's hard to find a keeper more reliable if you need a penalty saved. His humble attitude towards his own success says a lot about the team culture around him too, this isn't a side that takes success for granted or drops their heads. He, much like the team throughout 2018/19, kept improving. 

Retiring club captain Alex Brosque proved just as influential as in previous years, with the skipper turning back the clock and putting in an outstanding final year. 11 goals in 3 competitions for a 35 year old who was not expected to play a huge role in the team at the beginning of the year is incredibly impressive. The club will not just miss his leadership, goals, skill, and consistency, but having that sort of anchor to carry us through tough times. There is no doubt in my mind Brosque will remain the Sky Blues greatest ever captain, and greatest ever player. Enjoy retirement Brosquey.

The 6-1 demolition of Melbourne Victory in the semi-finals was the sort of "wevenge" we'd all wanted after last year's heartbreak. Despite the Grand Final itself being a bit of a drab match, we'll always have 6-1. One of those performances that will live in memory, and a thwacking so good it got Muscat sacked from Victory. You love to see it.

Corica's first season as head coach should be seen as a huge success. Bimbi showed he is more than capable enough to take this team forward, and I'm very much looking forward to how he approaches next season. 

Player of the Season: Andrew Redmayne
Best Performance: Sydney FC 6-1 Melbourne Victory
Best Goal: Alex Brosque vs Melbourne Victory



Thanks for reading this season review. I plan on writing a larger piece about the Grand Final itself once I've had a bit of time to work on a few other projects, but it's safe to say Perth was a great host city for the A-League Final. It was brilliant catching up with so many other Sydney supporters over the weekend - this club has such a great family feel to it and I can't quite capture how great it feels to be in The Cove on nights like that.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me this season by way of sharing my articles, donating on ko-fi, and by interacting with me on twitter. The off-season will be long and will suck, but we've got some happier memories to keep us going through the long winter this season.

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin, and ASOTH on @asothdotcom.



Friday, 17 May 2019

A General Ramble: 2019 Grand Final

Sunday sees Perth Glory host Sydney FC in the 2019 A-League Grand Final at Optus Stadium - Perth's first chance of being Australian Champions in 15 years - their last success being in the 28th and final National Soccer League season 2003/04 where they triumphed 1-0 away from home against Parramatta Power thanks to a golden goal from Nick Mrdja (remember him?).



2018/19 has been a jubilant year for Perth. Winning the Premier's Plate at a canter and playing some great football along the way with some exciting players, plus qualifying for just their second final in the A-League era. It's not hard to see how much this has meant to their long-suffering supporters, who for 5 years put up with varying degrees of quality under Kenny Lowe. This season has seen some sellout home games, and now a likely full house on Sunday at Optus Stadium.

Before such a big game, it felt only right to talk to a Glory supporter and get their perspective on the season that's been, and the decider ahead. Thank you to fansite The Glory Post for helping out with this - check them out on Instagram and Twitter.


PART 1: ASOTH asks, The Glory Post answers...


ASOTH: Who has been Perth’s most underrated player in this stunning season they’ve been having?

TGP: I would say Juande. A lot of people underestimate the role he has played in the midfield this season, forming a great partnership with Kilkenny. The fact that he won the 'Player's Player of the Year' at our awards night shows the respect that his teammates have for him and how important he has been to our success.


ASOTH: Most memorable moment during the 27 rounds?

TGP:  For me it was when we lifted the Premiers Plate against the Jets. Yes, we had a few incredible comebacks and the game itself wasn't the greatest, but to see the joy of the players, staff and especially the fans who had been long-starved of success was a very special moment.



ASOTH: Best performance of the season and why?


TGP: I feel like our best performance was the first half of our Round 12 game against you guys. 3-0 up at the break. That was the best we'd played for a while and to do it against a club that we've struggled against in recent times, plus the team who was most likely to challenge us for the plate was extra impressive.


ASOTH: How is the city of Perth reacting to this season and the upcoming final?

TGP: Perth has actually been really pumped. It has definitely exposed the bandwagon mentality this state has though. An average home attendance of something around 10,000 and now you've got 60,000 people who will claim they've been behind the Glory the whole time rocking up to the Grand Final. The newspaper has us regularly on the back page with a liftout today I think. While it's great to see all the support now, I often think to myself 'Where were you when we weren't doing so well and during this season?!' If these casual supporters can wear their Glory merch or anything purple (not Freo) and join in with the chants that should be great.


ASOTH: Heading into Sunday, how are you feeling? Predictions?

TGP:  I’m quite confident. If the crowd can create a great atmosphere and the players play like they have all season, then I feel like we should get over the line 3-2.


PART 2: The Glory Post asks, ASOTH answers...


TGP: How have you found Steve Corica as head coach compared to Arnold?

ASOTH: As far as managerial transitions go, it's been mostly smooth. There are some obvious differences between the two like their demeanour in the media but "Bimbi" has been more than good enough. Corica understands what made the team work under Arnold and altering it slightly to fit the players he has. There's been some frustration from supporters over how predictable he can be as a manager but finishing second in a debut season I think reflects how he's gotten the team to work.

TGP:  Who has improved the most this season and why?

ASOTH: For me, it's probably Andrew Redmayne. He's never quite near the top of people's "best keepers in the league" list but has proved invaluable throughout this season. When he joined the club he was in a poor rut of form at Wanderers, but worked very hard after Danny Vukovic left to fill that gap in the team. Last year there was a fair few hairy moments with him due to what I'd say is probably poor communication, to this year being far more commanding and really working on his weak spots like plucking crosses out of the air.


TGP: Which player in the squad do you feel deserves to lift the trophy the most and why?

ASOTH: Despite a lot of the fanfare being around this being Alex Brosque's last A-League game and what a great send-out a trophy could potentially be - it really has to be Aaron Calver for me. Calver made his debut at age 16 and never quite got into the first team consistently but whenever called upon did a solid-to-good job. This season saw him get the most appearances he's ever had in a single season, and I think that's his just desserts considering how much waiting he's often done between drinks. Him hitting this recent good run of form I think really shows what he's capable of when given consistent minutes - hell he's even been scoring goals!



TGP: What has been the vibe between the Sydney fans this week?

ASOTH: There's been a pretty optimistic feel amongst a large section of supporters, with a lot of people still riding the high from the big 6-1 win over Victory. Whilst I see it as misplaced optimism personally, I think it's actually going to be a decent match in comparison to previous years' finals.


TGP: What are your predictions for Sunday? Are you confident?

ASOTH: I'm more confident about this final than I was for our last away Grand Final in 2015, but I'm just hopeful that the lads turn up and play to a decent standard. I can't see us replicating last week's performance and I think Glory are a far better side than Victory so it should be tight. Predicting a 2-1 Glory win.


Thank you to The Glory Post for helping out with this piece, highly recommend checking them out.

- - - -

Regardless of the result on Sunday, I've been more than happy with how this season has turned out after the losses of Buhagiar and Warland to long-term injuries.

Corica deserves a lot of credit for how he's gotten this team to second place ahead of rivals Melbourne Victory and for solid recruitment, youth development, and generally good results. I'll probably be writing up a full season in review for both the A-League and W-League seasons after this weekend, as well as working on a few other things.

Follow me on twitter at @jamie_dunkin, and follow ASOTH at @asothdotcom.