Two Best Teams In A-League Decider
The two best teams in the A-League, the Western Sydney Wanderers and the Central Coast Mariners will meet in the Grand Final on Sunday in an all-New South Wales affair. Those critical of the new “sudden death” finals setup are relieved that the #1 and #2 seeds have made it through to the showpiece event at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.
The Wanderers continued their magical season with a comprehensive 2-0 win over Brisbane Roar. An early goal by Dino Kresinger – just his second of the entire season – and a late, stunning strike by Shinji Ono have the first year club on the verge of history. After finishing on top of the ladder at the end of the home-and-away season, the Wanderers are looking to add a Grand Final win to their legacy.
The Chicago Fire won the MLS Cup in 1998, the team’s first year of existence. The Fire, however, did not finish the regular season in first place.
In the second semifinal, the Mariners got an early goal from Daniel McBreen, the A-League’s top scorer, then snuffed out Melbourne Victory’s high-powered attack for a 1-0 lead and a spot in the Grand Final for the fourth time. The Mariners have never won the big one.
Six Pack From Down Under
1 The A-League awards were held Monday night in Sydney, with a few predictable results and a couple of surprises. Western Sydney’s Tony Popovic was voted coach of the year, while Wanderers’ custodian Ante Covic was goalkeeper of the year. But Alessandro Del Piero finished second in the player of the year voting (the Johnny Warren Medal) to Marco Rojas of Melbourne Victory. Rojas, an exciting young Kiwi talent, doubled the number of votes given to ADP, 908 to 449. Rojas also won young player of the year honours.
2 Liverpool will visit Australia for the first time ever when it plays a friendly against Melbourne Victory on July 24. The game will be played at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground and organisers are expecting a huge crowd. According to reports, more than 70,000 tickets have already been sold, including 33,000 in 33 minutes on the first day of sales. There are still tickets remaining but they’re being held for Melbourne Cricket Club members.
3 Adelaide United players Eugene Galekovic and Cassio will attend future board meetings after complaints that “non football people” were making football-related decisions at the club. Galekovic, who launched a blistering attack on the Adelaide United organisation – which it is fair to say, has been a mess all year – has now stated that everyone is on the same page and is dedicated to moving forward. The Reds are still searching for a head coach after a search committee quit following the board’s appointment of Michael Valkanis as an assistant coach for next season. The search committee did not recommend Valkanis for either the head coach or an assistant's position.
4 As expected, Melbourne Heart has begun its end-of-the-season cleanout by letting a number of veterans go. Captain Fred, vice captain Matt Thompson and inaugural captain Simon Colosimo, along with goalkeeper Clint Bolton have all been released. The move frees up approximately $800,000 which could be used to sign a marquee player for next season. Heart finished next-to-last on the ladder this season.
5 Interestingly, former FFA executive Lyall Gorman has his fingerprints all over the Grand Final. Gorman was the inaugural CEO of the Central Coast Mariners before taking over as A-League boss. When the Western Sydney Wanderers were launched this season, Gorman was made CEO of the new club. Seems as if he’s got the magic touch. Maybe Melbourne Heart or Wellington Phoenix should make him an offer.
6 North Queensland Fury, which was dumped from the A-League in 2011 under somewhat controversial circumstances, has been reborn as the Northern Fury in the NPL Queensland league. The Fury, which counted Robbie Fowler among its players, will play in a light green, dark green and white kit similar to what it wore in the A-League.