Last week, Adelaide United announced that it had signed Veronica Latsko, a young American, to play in its W-League team.
That of course has nothing to do with the A-League team opening its campaign on Friday night at Hindmarsh against Sydney FC.
But in looking for information about Latsko, I found that she’d won an award at her US club, Houston Dash, for being the team’s “Unsung Hero”.
And if you followed the A-League match on Friday, you probably know where this is going. The Reds’ goalscorer on the night was the unsung signing of the off season: Scott Galloway.
I don’t know how much players read about themselves on social media but it is probably best avoided. Several years ago, a player blocked me on Twitter, I think, because of something mildly critical I wrote about him.
At first I thought that was a bit weak but I’m more sympathetic now. In sport, as in anything else, people with a profile can be subjected to a lot of bile. It can’t be easy for players to turn up for that next training session or game – and be in the right frame of mind to give their all – when there’s so much negativity in their heads. They might want to shut out fair critiques as well as the more hurtful ones.
And Galloway’s signing wasn’t exactly welcomed with fanfare. Already at his fourth A-League club at the age of 23, and after stints with basement-dwellers Central Coast Mariners and Wellington Phoenix, you could have predicted that there would be a few less-than-enthusiastic responses.
I read one comment which grumbled that good local players weren’t considered.
Which is an understandable reaction – many of us want to see local semi-pro players get a crack at an A-League contract.
But Adelaide United’s fans also have high expectations and the club has to go for the best available. Left back isn’t an easy position to fill and a solid 100-game A-League player, who is equally comfortable using either foot, was unattached (and, to be fair to the club, plenty of South Australians have come through its ranks and continue to do so).
Galloway still had to prove himself. He was put on trial before he was signed; there was no guarantee.
On Friday night he showed his worth. The highlight may have been his cracking goal which gave United the lead but, throughout the rest of the match, his contribution was crucial if unspectacular. And if that’s what he provides throughout the season then the faith shown in him will be justified. He’ll also gain a lot of new fans – an unsung hero is still a hero.
Moreover, it’s the reminder that all supporters need sometimes that clubs don’t succeed or fail on paper. It is true that other A-League squads look more impressive, and that few pundits see United as a top three side but, for most of Friday’s game, the Reds didn’t look like a team that had finished the previous season a whopping 25 points behind their opponent.
Importantly, they appear to have great tactical flexibility. The absence of three (!) strikers through injury or international duty meant coach Marco Kurz sent Ben Halloran, normally a winger, to the centre forward position.
Though he wasn’t often much more advanced than German midfielder Mirko Boland, he looked comfortable at number nine.
[Halloran might be another signing who delivers more than fans expect. His stint with the Socceroos is almost forgotten but he played well at the 2014 World Cup having come off the bench in all three of Australia’s matches.]
The players selected on the wings – Craig Goodwin and Ryan Strain – looked like they were frequently tucking in to more central positions. Behind them, Vince Lia joined Isaías in the more defensive midfield areas.
This was a clear plan to stymie Sydney’s playmakers, Siem de Jong and Miloš Ninković, and it almost worked well enough to give the Reds all three points.
I doubt the game plan will be as opposition-conscious against lesser teams, especially when United plays at Hindmarsh.
The identity of the lesser teams, however, may not be as clear cut as it usually is. The Reds’ next match is against a Newcastle side which finished second last season but may struggle to reach those heights in 2018/19.
Somewhat cruelly, the Jets will have to play at Hindmarsh just five days after a game in Wellington (which they lost). Don’t be surprised if United shows more attacking intent.
The results from the A-League’s first round – with two 2-1 wins and three 1-1 draws – might suggest that there could have been a little more excitement after the interminable wait for the season to start.
But it might also suggest that there won’t be much between the teams.
Paul Marcuccitti is InDaily’s soccer columnist.
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