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Home test for Verbeek's new United

Manton St Tales

With a new mentor and game style, Adelaide United will give its supporters a close look tonight at the Reds’ new era. The next step, writes Spiro Karanikos-Mimis, will be finalising recruitment for the season-proper.

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How good is it to finally be able to say that it’s game day?

Adelaide United plays its first official home fixture tonight. It’s an FFA Cup quarter-final against the Newcastle Jets and we have a chance to see the Reds up close in a competitive fixture.

This will be a good test for Gertjan Verbeek’s team, who are still fine-tuning their game plan under the Dutch mentor.

Verbeek and the players have spoken openly about playing a more attacking style of football and while this should be aesthetically pleasing for the fans, it will take the players some time to adjust.

When Josep Gombau implemented the system he liked to play back in 2013/14, it took a while for the players to adapt. So I expect that there could be some blips on the journey.

I was a strong believer in ‘tiki-taka’ football but I have come to the realisation that our game can be played many ways and. in the end, it’s about what suits your team best.

Adelaide may find this style perfect for them.

Brisbane Roar under Postecoglou was an excellent, free-flowing football team and proof that this style can be successful.

But so was Graham Arnold’s Sydney FC, who were much more pragmatic in their approach, and it’s hard not to argue that they were just as successful as the Roar team most people say was the best of the A-League era.

So, tonight, it will be interesting to see how Adelaide is coming to terms with their new system and style.

At his press conference yesterday, Verbeek spoke about how Adelaide has progressed well in training but he was frustrated at the lack of friendly games over the last fortnight that would have helped calibrate his tactics.

He explained that SA clubs had rejected the opportunity to play as their season had ended and they were “on holiday”; those that were still training were focussed on finals.

Verbeek is very quickly discovering the uniqueness of soccer in Australia.

Adelaide does have some selection dilemmas ahead of tonight’s fixture.

Verbeek confirmed that Michael Maria, Carlo Armiento and untried youngster Kusini Yengi are unavailable.

This opens up the left-wing position and logic says that Nikola Mileusnic would get the start.

He is right-footed so he could play as an inside-forward and potentially rotate with Ben Halloran on the right side.

Another option could be playing Ryan Strain at left-back and moving Ryan Kitto to left-wing.

But the ‘out-of-the-box’ call could be to give George Blackwood the nod at left-wing. Blackwood has performed well in that position and it suits him to cut inside and play on his natural right-foot.

Blackwood is unfairly maligned.

I’m a big fan and I think he will end up being a great striker for the Reds but we need to allow him time to get it right – it’s easy to forget he’s still only 22 – so a start tonight may be good for his confidence.

Verbeek was coy on who would play as Adelaide’s striker, saying he was “99 per cent sure” he knew what he would do but wanted to assess yesterday’s training before making his final decision.

The Dutchman is an experienced media performer and it is hard to get a read on his intentions.

He may persist with Al Hassan Toure or he may give a starting debut to new signing Kristian Opseth – who is likely to get some game time either way.

The other decision is whether Nathan Konstandopoulos will reclaim his spot in the midfield ahead of Vince Lia.

United should consider recruiting James Troisi. Photo: EPA/Sergei Chirikov

Verbeek also spoke yesterday about finalising the recruitment for the upcoming season.

Adelaide will probably look to sign three or four more players, in order to ensure they have the depth they want, especially with so many of their younger players attracting interest from the Olyroos.

Qingdao Red Lions – Adelaide’s sister club – have avoided relegation in China’s League Two North, so it shouldn’t be too much longer before a player arrives from there.

Right-winger Chen Lian was their top scorer this year (eight from 16 matches) but he’s 32, so I’m not sure he will be the one. Plus Adelaide has a lot of depth on the wings with Halloran, Miluesnic, Maria, Kitto, Pacifique and Armiento all vying for places.

My guess is that it will be one of:

So this leaves two or three Australians that Adelaide will need to recruit.

I would like to see Adelaide offer a contract to twice-capped Socceroo James Meredith. The left-back was released by Millwall in the European summer. He had been trialling with Portsmouth in England’s League One but was not signed.

Recruiting Meredith would be a tough on Adelaide’s current left-back Ryan Kitto, who has been playing well in that role since being put there in the back-end of last season.

But it’s not every day a player of Meredith’s calibre is available and left-backs don’t grow on trees.

The other player United should be pursuing is James Troisi.

Troisi, 31, and his partner recently welcomed their first child and a home-coming for the SA born star could suit him and his young family. He usually attracts a top salary in the A-League but if common ground is found, he would be worth it.

Some other Australians looking for a new club include Mile Jedinak, Chris Herd, Nathan Burns and Kwabena Appiah-Kubi but I would be surprised if any of them end up playing for Adelaide.

The A-League transfer window doesn’t close until October 15, meaning that Adelaide could potentially purchase or loan someone from overseas.

Oli Bozanic could be one that is enticed back to Australia.

His contract expires at the end of this season, so the 30-year-old central midfielder would be keen on playing as much as he can to ensure a new deal either in Scotland, where he is currently starved of opportunity with Hearts, or elsewhere.

Oli was born in New South Wale but is a pseudo-South Australian.

His father Vic was born and raised in Adelaide and played for West Adelaide when they won their only NSL premiership in 1978. Vic moved to APIA Leichhardt in 1984.

Alternatively, Adelaide may simply have been waiting for the local NPL season to finish up before finalising its squad.

There are some excellent footballers playing in the NPL here in SA.

Adelaide Comets’ Allan Welsh is one who could easily step back into the A-League fold. He is the reigning NPL player-of-the-year, captained Comets to the NPL Grand Final and can play in midfield or defence.

Adelaide does need more options in defence and Dan Mullen could just be the one who gets the call. He’s still only 29 and has excelled for Campbelltown City this season.

Then there’s Alex Mullen who seems ready for another shot at A-league level after his one-year stint at Sydney in 2015-16.

And Marc Marino did his chances no harm by scoring a classy hat-trick in Saturday NPL Grand Final – though Adelaide has already said publicly that they’re not looking for another striker.

It’s going to be an interesting month before the regular season kicks off on October 11.

Until then, we have tonight’s quarter-final (and then hopefully a semi-final) to enjoy.

Spiro Karanikos-Mimis is InDaily’s soccer columnist.

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