Castelen v Goodwin: Grand Final’s key battle?


Romeo Castelen’s head-to-head battle with Craig Goodwin looms as the vital contest in Sunday’s Hyundai A-League Grand Final between Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers.

Right winger Castelen was the dominant figure for Western Sydney in their pulsating 5-4 semi-final triumph over Brisbane Roar. 

Two days earlier, Adelaide’s left side of Goodwin and Sergio Cirio overran Melbourne City right-back Paulo Retre in the Reds’ 4-1 win last week.

Goodwin has played the last five matches at left-back after spending much of the season further forward, and the 24-year-old has worked well with Cirio ahead of him.

But Adelaide coach Guillermo Amor faces an interesting dilemma ahead of the season finale at the Adelaide Oval.

Can Amor afford to give Goodwin an attacking licence against Castelen?

The Dutch winger was just about unstoppable against Brisbane, scoring three goals and taking double the amount of shots (8) than every other player at Pirtek Stadium.

Castelen’s attacking focus does come at a cost, however, as Wanderers right-back Scott Neville sometimes finds himself isolated when his team-mate fails to track back.

Will either Amor or Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic look to tweak their tactics to combat the opposition’s strength, or will they engage in a game of chicken?


When faced with a dangerous winger, many coaches – particularly in the attack-focused A-League – will attempt to force the specified player back by attacking the same side of the pitch.

By getting some early joy going the other way, the tactic is supposed to worry the winger – or his coach – enough that he is compelled to play more defensively.

Castelen has arguably been the Wanderers’ most direct attacking weapon this season.

The 32-year-old leads Western Sydney for shots on target (27), shots off target (37) and dribbles attempted (108), and if he could improve his conversion rate, Castelen might be mentioned more often in discussions about the A-League’s best player.

Popovic is unlikely to rein the Dutchman in at the Adelaide Oval, so Amor may want the hosts to attack the Wanderers’ right side early to overload Neville.

Against City, the Goodwin-Cirio combination gave Retre a torrid time at right-back.

Cirio often pushed inside to find space, allowing Goodwin to overlap.

Goodwin has completed more crosses (106) than any other Adelaide player this season, while he also leads the Reds for assists (4).

Reds winger Craig Goodwin celebrates a goal with his Adelaide United teammates.


Both Castelen and Cirio like to drift into the centre of the pitch to find space and outnumber the opposition in midfield, as highlighted during their respective clubs’ semi-final wins.

Cirio’s average position, according to Opta, was around the centre circle, and the Spaniard notably surged through the middle on two occasions in the first half last week.

In the 15th minute, Cirio dribbled forward before teeing up Marcelo Carrusca, who spooned his shot over the bar, while nine minutes later he left City’s Osama Malik in his wake to release Bruce Djite but the centre-forward couldn’t beat Thomas Sorensen at the near post.

Castelen’s preferred position is to set up in the right channel, just inside the opposition left-back.

He will often swap with Western Sydney’s attacking midfielder Mitch Nichols to drop into a classic number 10 position.

This movement can leave the left-back unsure of who he is supposed to be marking.

Cirio may not have as much success in the midfield against the Wanderers with Popovic deploying two holding midfielders in Andreu and Dimas compared to City’s sole screener Malik.

Meanwhile, Amor should be looking for a team effort from Goodwin and midfield trio Isaias, Carrusca and Stefan Mauk to keep Castelen under wraps.

Wanderers players celebrate one of Romeo Castelen's three goals against the Roar.


Looking back at the most recent meeting between Western Sydney and Adelaide, Castelen can be expected to be heavily involved in Sunday’s grand final.

On March 19 at Wanderland, Adelaide held the home side to a scoreless draw with Goodwin replacing the injured Tarek Elrich at left-back.

The Western Sydney right winger took six shots, hit four crosses and attempted five dribbling runs, with Goodwin forced into more tackles (4) than any other member of the visiting back four.

Castelen has finished the season strongly with six goals in Western Sydney’s past eight matches and Adelaide will need to find a way to reduce his impact if they are to lift the ‘Toilet Seat’ for the first time on Sunday.

But with the Reds having only conceded three goals in five matches since Goodwin started playing in defence, Amor will back his well-drilled side to keep it tight at the Adelaide Oval.

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