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Cornthwaite’s Corner: Opening rounds recap

Robbie Cornthwaite is back with Cornthwaite's Corner after the opening six rounds of the A-League Men's season.
2022/23 tickets on sale.

What a cracking way to wrap-up the first six rounds of the season – a derby demolition in the Original Rivalry.

Adelaide head into the World Cup break third on the ladder and, after a slow start with no wins in the opening three rounds, you’d say the side has done extremely well to sit behind Melbourne City and Western Sydney Wanderers.

Starting with three straight road trips and four of the first six away from home overall, you always knew it would be a difficult start for the boys. And if you look at each game individually, the gap to the top could have been smaller.

The performance against Wellington Phoenix way back in Round 1 was encouraging. The team battered the Nix and were well on top for most of the match. Things became more difficult once Wellington were reduced to ten men, but you can’t help but think if the Reds were burying their chances then the way they are now, there’s no doubt they would have claimed all three points.

For me, the match against Macarthur was the most disappointing of the season so far. The team looked flat and lacked the intensity required to compete at the top of the A-League Men’s ladder. Did they have enough opportunities to walk away with a result? Sure, but it wasn’t the type of performance you could hang your hat on. After one point from the opening two games, there were things to be concerned about, but not enough to suggest Adelaide wouldn’t be one of the teams to beat this year.

The draw with Sydney FC in Round 3 felt like a missed opportunity but, more importantly, a massive step in the right direction. The team was hard done by with the sending off of Hiroshi Ibusuki and we don’t know what would have happened if Adelaide had all eleven players on the park, but the players didn’t go hiding and fought hard to come away with something. That game felt like a bit of a turning point or a line in the sand. Since then, they’ve won three on the bounce.

Just a quick word on Ibusuki… Let’s be honest, he is one of the best centre forwards the Club has had in a long time. If he chooses to stick around for a few more seasons, he could leave the club as not just a fan favourite but one of the best forwards in the Club’s history. It’s not just his goal scoring but his hold-up play and his humility. He plays like he really cares and wants only the best for his team. He’s an incredible asset for Carl Veart.

Hiroshi Ibusuki is cementing his status as one of the best forwards to play for Adelaide United, says Robbie Cornthwaite.

The win over Perth Glory was a non-negotiable and the performance didn’t matter much at all. Every now and again, games come around that you have to win, regardless of how. If United hadn’t taken maximum points against the Glory, it would have halted any momentum gained from the Sydney effort.

Momentum is important in football. It breeds confidence and, when players have their tails up and their chins held high, they play on instinct and don’t think about what they are doing – they play better. They are present in the moment, something Craig Goodwin spoke about post-Victory. This is when players are at their absolute best. Like Maverick says in Top Gun: “Don’t think, just do”.

The positivity continued with a valuable three points over Western United as well, who were at rock bottom at the time. Last year’s Champions have been a shell of the team they were last season, and you need to prey on a club that is there for the taking. Yes, Western had more than enough opportunities to cause Adelaide trouble, and I don’t think Veart would have been pleased with the effort of his side defensively, but it was the first time the floodgates opened. It was an end-to-end, free-flowing, high-scoring contest. Sometimes, as a player, when the game falls into that pattern, no matter how good you are, it’s hard to stop. In the end, it was a great result on the road.

And to then cap off the first six rounds with a 3-0 drubbing of Victory is just what the doctor ordered. You wouldn’t want to be in Melbourne right now, going into a three-week break after a heavy defeat and no game in the near future is the worst for a player. You will be pissed off and feeling that result for a lot longer than you usually would.

Adelaide United roared to victory at Coopers Stadium in Round 6.
Adelaide United players celebrate Craig Goodwin’s goal against Melbourne Victory in the Original Rivalry at Coopers Stadium in Round 6.

I still think there are a lot of areas for Adelaide to improve, though. Victory was certainly one of their better defensive efforts, and they limited the enemy to very few clear-cut chances. Joe Gauci has stood tall whenever he’s been required, but you don’t want him getting too much action every week.

Last season, Adelaide only had six points up to this stage and are currently five points better off this time around, hopefully taking some pressure off chasing results at the back end of the season. You have to take points when they are there for the taking, which, to a large degree, they have.

Veart can afford to give his boys an extra day or two off now and let them enjoy their start to the season. I think everyone at the Club and who follows the team should be pleased with where things are. I think they can still tighten things up at the back, and once the combinations become more settled, that will naturally happen. A few injured boys will get some more rehab and get closer to a return. The creativity of Bernardo will help a lot when he returns.

Enjoy the break, Reds fans; hopefully it doesn’t stall the momentum built over the past three weeks.

And, of course, good luck to Goodwin at the World Cup in Qatar! Not only has he done incredibly well to get himself fit, but probably the best shape of his career. I know he’s keen to make an impact on the world stage and who’d back against him? All of South Australia and the rest of the country are behind you. Go get ’em!

Enjoy the last game before the 2022 World Cup. Go Socceroos!

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Only at Coopers – Adelaide United memberships on-sale now.