As the AFL Grand Final nears in Melbourne and the NRL Grand Final nears in Sydney, final preparations are underway for the 2013-14 Hyundai A-League season. Defending champions Central Coast Mariners top the View from Avalon’s Preseason Power Rankings, with the Western Sydney Wanderers a close second.
Let’s take a first look at the 2013-14 Hyundai A-League season here on FanSided’s home for Melbourne Victory coverage, the View from Avalon.
1. Central Coast Mariners
Last season, Graham Arnold’s Central Coast Mariners finished 16-6-5 (54 points) and won the 2013 Hyundai A-League Grand Final with a 2-0 victory over Western Sydney. Forward Daniel McBreen returns to the team after scoring 19 goals in all competitions last year and will the main player to watch.
Other notable players to watch include midfielder Michael McGlinchey (seven goals), forward Mitchell Duke (eight goals) and forward Mile Sterjovski.
2. Western Sydney Wanderers
So close, yet so far. After getting shut out by the Central Coast Mariners, Tony Popovic’s Western Sydney Wanderers are on a road to redemption this year.
One of those players that will look to spearhead another solid season is forward Mark Bridge, who led the team in goals last year with 11. Midfielder Shinji Ono had eight goals last season and will need to hit double figures this year to push the Wanderers over the top.
Other players to keep an eye out for include forward Labinot Haliti, midfielder Youssour Hersi and defender Iacopo La Rocca.
3. Melbourne Victory
Ange Postcoglou’s Melbourne Victory lacked the finishing touch to get close to the top two teams in the league last year and must improve in the little things to stand a chance at winning anything this season. Qualifying for the next AFC Champions League Qualifying Playoffs is a start.
Forward Archie Thompson, defender Adrian Leijer and midfielder Mark Milligan headline the Victory, who also feature some young up-and-comers in forward Andrew Nabout, midfielder James Jeggo and forward Connor Pain.
4. Brisbane Roar
Mike Mulvey’s Brisbane Roar were able to make it to the A-League Finals Series but otherwise didn’t do too much to help their case last season.
Besart Berisha scored 14 goals last year for the Roar and will be the primary focal point this season for Brisbane, as will midfielder Matt McKay. Midfielder Thomas Broich had a quiet season last year and will need to wake up this year to resurrect the Roar’s championship hopes.
5. Adelaide United
Adelaide United is one of two teams that made a coaching change in the offseason. Josep Gombau, formerly of Hong Kong powerhouse Kitchee, is now at the helm and is incorporating a Latin feel to the team.
Notable internationals for Adelaide include Marcelo Carrusca and Jeronimo Neumann from Argentina, Fabio Ferreira from Portugal, Isaias Sanches and Sergio Cirio from Spain and Brazilian swingman Cassio. Jeronimo had seven goals last season for the Reds and will be the player to watch for Adelaide.
6. Perth Glory
Alistair Edwards’s Perth Glory showed the A-League that they are no slouches either, and they are out to shock the nation this season. Forward Ndumba Makeche scored nine goals last year for the Glory and is back for another go this season.
Other notable players for Perth to watch out for include midfielder Adrian Zahra (five goals), defender Brandon O’Neill (four goals) and forward Ryo Nagai (three goals).
7. Sydney FC
The Alessandro Del Piero Project flopped considerably for Frank Farina’s Sydney FC last year, and the Sky Blues will look to turn the tide around this season. Del Piero ended the 2012-13 campaign with 14 goals and should get a similar amount this season for Sydney.
Other key players from Sydney to watch include midfielder Yairo Yau (six goals), midfielder Brett Emerton and defender Sebastian Ryall.
8. Newcastle Jets
In a similar case to Sydney, Gary van Egmond’s Newcastle Jets took a gamble by signing Emile Heskey and that gamble failed. Still, Heskey got eight goals out of the season, so it’s not that bad, he can’t do it alone.
Heskey will need contributions from midfielder Ruben Zadkovich, midfielder Craig Goodwin and forward Michael Bridges to give Newcastle an opportunity to return to Finals football this year.
9. Melbourne Heart
Melbourne just can’t get rid of Harry Kewell. After injuries plagued him at Melbourne Victory, Kewell is getting a second chance from John Aloisi’s Melbourne Heart. A lot of new faces are on this team, including defender Aziz Behich, goalkeeper Tando Velaphi and defender Patrick Kisnorbo.
Forwards David Williams and Golgol Mebrahtu are back for Heart. Each of them scored only four goals last season and need to be on their game this year so that they don’t get transferred out at the end of the season.
10. Wellington Phoenix
So long Ricki Herbert, hello…Ernie Merrick? The former Melbourne Victory boss is taking his track record across the Tasman to Westpac Stadium, in the hopes of reviving New Zealand’s chances of winning an A-League title. Carlos Hernandez knows what it takes to be a winner in the A-League, and he a player to watch out for on the Nix.
However, the one player that everybody needs to keep an eye on is Jeremy Brockie. Last season, Brockie scored 16 goals on a Phoenix side devoid of defense. Expect Brockie to deliver similar numbers this season, but with a much improved defense.