This week, Vince Rugari dissects a Week 1 that seemed to go against plan, and also questions the starry eyed motives of the Central Coast Mariners
By VINCE RUGARI
Lesson of the week: Keeping the ball is far easier said than done.
Since Ange Postecoglou's Brisbane stint opened the A-League's collective eyes to the power of possession, just about every other club is trying to play catch-up.
On Friday, Postecoglou began life at Melbourne Victory and quickly rediscovered hammering a new style of play into a group of men fresh off a season with Mehmet 'What Can You Do?' Durakovic and Jim 'Get Stuck In Lads' Magilton is going to take time.
As expected, the back four is Victory's Achilles heel - press them, and they will give the ball up.
Elsewhere, Newcastle had teething problems with their new baby-faced squad and emphasis on ball retention. With a mangled formation that had three at the back, Craig Goodwin on the left and Emile Heskey up front - honestly, that is all we could figure out - the Jets were made to look more like paper planes. And not good ones, either.
Sydney also found out throwing a few kids and A-League journeymen together in the same team with Alessandro Del Piero is not going to cut it. The Italian stallion needs the right service - and his teammates need to get on his wavelength - quickly.
The most successful sides of the opening round were the ones that dodged battles with stylistic changes over the off-season and stayed true to themselves.
Wellington were Wellington. Smart, attractive football has always been in Melbourne Heart's DNA. Adelaide took their ACL game into the domestic season and somehow, despite the challenges of the trip back from Tashkent, made it stick.
As for the grand final replay, one swallow does not make a summer. Perth have tidied themselves up ever so slightly - the addition of a ball-playing central defender like Michael Thwaite was always going to do that - but they did get lucky in the end. Very, very Glory.
The jury is still out on Brisbane's new boss, Rado Vidosic, who has tweaked the Roar into a more direct and effective beast. Ben Halloran and Nick Fitzgerald are still tender talents but they will soon start taking their chances.
Stars in their eyes
Quick pop quiz - who won the 1999-2000 National Soccer League?
If your answer is Perth Glory, you are wrong - even though they finished four points clear on top of the table that season.
The winner was Wollongong Wolves, because they won the grand final. Remember? 3-3 after extra time, 7-6 on penalties in a classic at Subiaco Oval.
Why am I asking? Because no Glory fan with their head screwed on does not think back to that season and simply forget their grand final heartbreak. They blew the big one, despite top spot.
Which brings us back to present day, where the Central Coast Mariners are trying once again to convince themselves that they are the A-League champions.
Well, they are not. And wearing two stars above the club crest when you have not won a single grand final is kind of embarrassing.
The debate will always rage over whether the premiership or the championship matters more, but Australian football history and folklore is very clear - it is the latter.
Quote of the week
"No one's been told of who's starting yet. We're still going through that process but rest assured, they'll be told before kick-off."
- Tony Popovic
We told you this stuff writes itself once games swing around and coaches are given their routine media soapboxes. Courtesy of Wanderers boss Tony Popovic to The Sydney Morning Herald before Western Sydney Wanderers' debut against the Central Coast Mariners, we now have an early contender for quote of the year.
We will leave it there.
Player of the Week
Of all the Gold Coast United refugees running out for their new clubs for the very first time this round, few would have expected the pick of the bunch to be Dylan Macallister. But the new Melbourne Heart frontman looked in terrific touch in Friday's 2-0 derby win. For a guy written off as a mere target man or a long-ball lightning rod, he was superb. Victory's defence probably helped him look good, but he rode the confidence of his first-half goal and jinked around ominously in the second as if he was Lionel Messi's lanky Australian cousin.
Young Player of the Week
Newcastle might have been dire on the weekend but they have an absolute gem. Craig Goodwin, he of just four A-League games to his name prior to this past weekend, was terrific at left wing-back, effortlessly surging past his man along the touchline on a number of occasions. Given his inexperience and promise, it is now only a matter of weeks until his name is regularly used in the same sentence as 'Socceroos', 'Holger out' and 'young blood'.
ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO MOMENT OF THE WEEK
It is hard to imagine a tougher initiation to the A-League than an away trip to rainy Wellington. But our man Del Piero was still a beacon of brilliance amidst what was a very lacklustre performance from Sydney FC. His new team only ever looked threatening when he had the ball and was afforded an inch of space. When things did not work out, he understandably threw his arms in the air in resigned frustration.
There were no goals, no assists - but he did nutmeg his marker Manny Muscat, which is our ADP Moment of the Week. "It was good moment. I play for win," he told Muscat shortly afterwards, it is believed.