Ahead of the weekend’s Grand Final, Neil Sherwin picks his best side from the A-League’s standout players this season.
GK – Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United)
There are few better shotstoppers in the A-League than Eugene Galekovic and his heroics were a big reason why Adelaide United made it to the finals. His 2012/13 highlight reel is something that should be shown to aspiring goalkeepers across the country.
DR – Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar)
The marauding full back was again one of the Roar’s standout players. With the ability to defend and attack in equal measure, Franjic has a great engine and chipped in with some excellent goals, in particular against Sydney FC at Suncorp Stadium last month when he curled home a superb right foot effort.
DL – Adama Traore (Melbourne Victory)
Although his season was cut short by injury, Traore showed more than enough to earn a spot in the side. The former Gold Coast United man has been one of the few positives that Ange Postecoglou will take from Victory’s defending this season. Now a naturalised Australian, don’t be surprised to see him in the Socceroos squad in the not too distant future.
DC – Trent Sainsbury (Central Coast Mariners)
Speaking of future Socceroos, Trent Sainsbury is another who did his international chances no harm with some mature performances at the heart of the Mariners defence. Still only 21, he has formed a solid partnership with Patrick Zwaanswijk who, at 38 is old enough to be Sainsbury’s dad.
DC – Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Topor-Stanley enjoyed a real breakout season in terms of consistency; his ability has never been in doubt but a tendency for errors was impossible to ignore. He has cut them out though and enjoyed an excellenet year alongside Michael Beauchamp at the heart of the Wanderers’ back four.
DMC – Mark Milligan (Melbourne Victory)
It’s scary to think how worse an already shaky Melbourne Victory defence would have been without Milligan playing in front of them. The Australian international played a key role on allowing the likes of Marco Rojas and Archie Thompson the freedom to attack at will, and he proved himself to be a threat from set pieces and penalties.
MC – Shinji Ono (Western Sydney Wanderers)
One of the “Three Amigos” to join the A-League as part of the marquee buzz this season, it took Ono a few games to find his feet. However, since the turn of the year in particular, his class has shone through and a delightful chip to seal the Wanderers’ spot in the Grand Final summed up the Japanese international’s ability.
MR – Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast Mariners)
Comfortable on the left or right, McGlinchey has again played a key role in the Mariners reaching the league’s showpiece game. In February, he scored a hattrick as Central Coast downed Victory 6-2 in what was just one of his excellent performances this season.
ML – Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory)
One of the hottest properties in the league, Rojas finally fulfilled the promise he showed when first bursting on to the scene with Wellington a couple of years ago. His pace, trickery and low centre of gravity make him difficult for defenders to handle and he chipped in with 15 goals as Victory bounced back from a terrible 2011/12 to play finals.
AMC – Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney FC)
What can you say about Del Piero’s impact on the A-League? Worth every cent of the big money deal he agreed when joining Sydney FC, the Italian’s impact both on and off the field has been huge. Still capable of scorind wonder goals with either foot, Del Piero finished with 14 goals all up, including four in the 7-1 rout of Wellington.
ST - Daniel McBreen (Central Coast Mariners)
Proof that age is only a number, 35 year old McBreen bagged the competition’s Golden Boot with 17 goals and has been a thorn in the side of every defence this season.
GK – Ante Covic (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Another elder statesman, Covic was an inspired choice between the posts for Western Sydney in their inaugural season having enjoyed an excellent 2011/12 as a Melbourne Victory player. The former Socceroo has kept 11 clean sheets so far and will be looking for another on Sunday.
RB – Jerome Polenz (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Solid if unspectacular, Polenz made the seemless transition from midfielder to full back and formed an important cog in the Wanderers’ defensive machine.
MR – Youssouf Hersi (Western Sydney Wanderers)
The winger will be absent from this weekend’s Grand Final after stupidly getting himself sent off against Brisbane Roar last time out. The Wanderers have yet to win a game when Hersi has been out, a testament to his influence over the course of the season.
ST – Jeremy Brockie (Wellington Phoenix)
It was a bad year for Wellington and they would have been given the wooden spoon long before the last round if it weren’t for the goals of Jeremy Brockie. The Kiwi international netted 16 times in total and scored a few crackers.
ST – Besart Berisha (Brisbane Roar)
While it’s very easy to dslike Berisha for his playacting and general demeanour, it’s impossible to ignore the Albanian’s abilities up front. Roar didn’t have the best of seasons compared to their last two campaigns but Berisha still scored goals for the Queenslanders.