12 months on: The challenges Adelaide and Sydney FC face a year after 2018/19 opener

Twelve months ago, Sydney FC and Adelaide United were gearing up for the 2018/19 Hyundai A-League opener but both clubs face a significantly different outlook as they lock horns again to kick off the 2019/20 campaign.

The curtain is raised on the new season once again at Coopers Stadium but the balance of power has shifted since that encounter in October 2018.

Scott Galloway’s stunning strike in first-half stoppage time, which went on to win Hyundai A-League Goal of the Month for October, kick-started the campaign with a bang.

Deadly marksman Adam Le Fondre announced his arrival in Sky Blue 12 minutes from time to earn a 1-1 draw only 11 days before meeting again at the same venue to contest the FFA Cup Final 2018.

The clubs may be preparing for another duel on Friday, 11 October to kick-off the Hyundai A-League, but they do so in a very different climate.

Season preview: Adelaide United
Season preview: Sydney FC

All change as Adelaide usher in a new era

The days of Guillermo Amor marching the Reds to a 2015/16 Premiership-Championship double seem a little further away now the Marco Kurz tenure has been brought to an end.

Kurz led Adelaide to back-to-back FFA Cup Finals, lifting the trophy in 2018, but the crescendo of the 2018/19 campaign was clouded by the reality that the German coach would be walking into the sunset at season’s end.

It turned out it was not only Kurz heading for pastures new. Last season’s top goalscorer Craig Goodwin and iconic club captain Isaias also departed. Out went the hero of last season’s opener, Galloway, as well as enigmatic striker Baba Diawara.

Twelve months on, fans hero Bruce Djite is back as Director of Football, Riley McGree and James Troisi are paired up in midfield, new imports Kristian Opseth and Michaël Maria are hailed as difference makers and Dutch chief Gertjan Verbeek is teasing a style of play seen recently at Ajax.

The only shred of consistency amid a summer of upheaval is that Adelaide are back in the FFA Cup Final, where a potential gem has been unearthed en route in 19-year-old upstart Al Hassan Toure.

The reality is nobody knows what to expect when the prodigal son McGree returns, when hometown hero Troisi pulls on a Red jersey for the first time and when new skipper Michael Jakobsen leads Adelaide out on Friday evening. Not even Sydney FC.

James Troisi
James Troisi

More of the same from the Hyundai A-League’s dominant force?

Twelve months ago, it could be argued the boot was on the other foot. 

Graham Arnold had brought back-to-back Premierships and a Championship to the Harbour City playing a relentlessly, dependable brand of football.

Arnold had created a dominant force before he stepped into the Caltex Socceroos role and handed the reins over to his replacement-in-waiting Steve Corica ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.

But transition is never that easy. Many wondered if a first-year head coach without key weapons like Bobo, Adrian Mierzejewski and Jordy Buijs could simply keep the machine cranking out wins. Was Sydney FC’s golden era coming to an end?

Corica may have taken time in guiding Sydney FC back to the promised land but the season still ended with Alex Brosque under a shower of ticker tape holding the Championship high above his head.

Four starters from the Grand Final have departed: Aaron Calver, Brosque, Siem de Jong and Josh Brillante. It can be debated that the quartet of replacements - Ryan McGowan, Kosta Barbarouses, Alex Baumjohann and Luke Brattan - are an upgrade.

Corica has proven his pedigree in year one as a head coach and he provides a level of stability not currently present at most other Hyundai A-League sides.

Twelve months after his managerial debut, it’s hard to argue against Corica and Sydney FC producing more of the same in 2019/20.

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