Welcome to the first instalment of Kick360’s brand new series as we take a look through each A-league club’s sides to see which youngsters may be set to get their break in professional football in this upcoming season.
It’s colloquially known as a difficult task to make the step up from academy to first team yet nothing quite sets fans alight like a homegrown player cementing themselves in the side.
These players generally showcase passion for the badge that is electrifying and exhilarating.
This week begins with a look at Adelaide United.
It was a mixed bag last season for the Reds, finishing 5th on the ladder in regular season and falling to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Sydney FC in the semi final. The Reds struggled for consistency throughout the season and can perhaps count themselves lucky to have finished in a finals spot given their expected league position when factoring in xG and xGA (Expected Goals Against) placed them in 8th come season end as per Infogol.
Part of this dwelling came from a leaky defence conceding the 5th most in the league at 41 from an expected 36. This disappointing showing in defence preceded an exodus at the end of season leaving at the time of writing just a total of six defenders.
Breakout Star: Alexander Popović
Standing at just over 6-foot, 18-year old Alex Popović has been listed as an addition to Adelaide’s A-League squad for the upcoming season on a scholarship contract.
A strong defender with experience with the Joeys and the Reds NPL side Popović can likely expect to be handed a debut this season.
Being promoted alongside teammate Jonny Yull, Popović has a chance of integrating himself into the side in part due to the lack of depth in defence.
Factoring in for an ageing defence in Jakobsen and López alongside the four red cards handed out last year, it is not outside the realms of possibility to see Popovic step onto the pitch sooner rather than later.
So can Popović assist?
With the benefit of youthful legs, Popović injects that crucial bit more pace into the backline. In a squad which often saw some big score lines against them in the form of 5-3 loss to Perth Glory, the 4-0 loss to Macarthur FC and the 4-1 loss to Melbourne City, Popović would hope to stabilise the Reds backline and offer a bit more protection against the league’s faster attackers and players fresh off the bench.
The benefit Popovic offers will likely aid Adelaide’s tired squad immensely after 21 goals were conceded in the final half an hour of games and 11 in the final 15 minutes.
Developing his game alongside experienced heads will surely placate the nerves we often see in youngsters and Adelaide fans can surely expect his game to develop alongside the ball-playing of George Timotheou, Michael Jakobsen and a calm Nick Ansell.
Popović is highly rated and performed consistently in the youth sides with a cool head and solid defensive instincts that will only improve with time in the senior setup.
Adelaide last season largely disappointed in the defensive third and should they fail to bolster their stocks, the debut of Alex Popović seems an inevitability. With an experienced backline this season could be the one to launch his career and should he do so, likely cement his position in future seasons and allow the elder squad-members the chance to rest.