Isaías and the shades of Champions past

From Adelaide United’s inaugural Championship winning squad in 2015/16, two core playing members remain.
2022/23 tickets on sale.

From Adelaide United’s inaugural Championship winning squad in 2015/16, two core playing members remain.

Isaías Sanchez Cortés, and Craig Goodwin.

Both are undeniable Club legends who once went abroad out of their own sheer ability and made the almost inevitable return to the evergreen pastures of Adelaide.

Both can help deliver United its second Championship.

Goodwin has already proved his Finals mettle with a brace that saw off Wellington, yet the steely resolve of Isaías adds further poise needed in the heat of battle when all is on the line.

The silky Spaniard is currently second behind Eugene Galekovic for all-time Club appearances over two separate stints, and he sees similarities in the comradery and the balance that brought his proud home its first Championship.

“I’m not sure if it’s a similar squad in terms of the personnel and attributes exactly, but even last year, we have a really close changeroom and incredible talent coming from the Youth Team,” Isaías explained.

“We have experienced players also which makes it very, very balanced, and a coaching staff that are all unbelievable as well, which is very much what we saw when we won the Championship last time around.

“We have all the ingredients to have a nice and successful year and we know that to win silverware you need to win the special moments.”

One of those particularly special moments was the maestro’s pin-point curling free-kick that effectively took the Grand Final away from Western Sydney Wanderers in May of 2016, earning its place as ‘Goal of the Decade’ as voted by Reds fans.

Alongside him was a 24-year-old wing-back, Craig Goodwin, whose attacking potential has since been fully unlocked.

Isaías can recall a time when a young ‘Goody’ would rock up to training fresh with the tenacity and competitiveness that he still brings to every single game, except nowadays, he’s a regular for the Socceroos.

It reminded the veteran midfielder of a younger version of himself, trying to break into La Liga with Espanyol.

“It’s nice to see Goody doing so well,” he said.

“He wasn’t even in the leadership group and now he has become a true leader not only for Adelaide, but for the national team as we saw in the World Cup.

“He’s a very competitive person and I remember he would always train really hard as a young boy, and he would always want to train with the best players.

“He’s always looking for ways to improve and ways to beat you, for anything, whether that be any kind of silly game or small game, he will find a way to win.

“I’m very, very proud of him and how far he’s come.”

It says a lot about the former captain of the Club, who finds just as much joy in watching his teammates succeed as celebrating with his children on the hallowed Hindmarsh turf after a hard-fought victory.

Isaías and his young family have made a home out of Adelaide, and they wouldn’t have it any other way in this moment.

His kids were born here and he became an Australian citizen in Adelaide at the beginning of 2019, cementing his bond with the city.

Sometimes they will even walk to his father’s games on a match day, as they love soaking in the atmosphere alongside the locals.

When he took his family abroad to play for Al-Wakrah, his wife, Sara, made him promise that they would move back to Adelaide with their two children.

He struggled with the return initially, having to build back up the intensity of the A-League.

In the last few weeks especially, the extra motivation and added nostalgia of yet another potential Grand Final appearance for Isaías has helped him recapture some of his best form.

“This year I’ve been enjoying my football again after struggling a bit at first to re-adapt to the physicality of the A-League after my time in Qatar,” he said.

“It was always in the back of my mind that I would come back to Adelaide one day, and we have a special connection here.”

Even at 36, Isaías is still learning about football from Head Coach, Carl Veart, and his assistants, and will look to remain in the game in some way once his chapter as a player ends.

In a similar path to not only Veart, but his assistant in Mark Milligan, whom Isaías battled many times during the Original Rivalry.

“I loved playing against Millsy and we were always in a fight because he played in the same position as me and I love those kinds of battles,” he reflected.

“I liked him a lot as a player as he was very competitive and controlled many aspects of the game which is how I’ve always tried to play.

“Now that he’s on the coaching staff it’s a pleasure because I enjoy using his knowledge to learn as much as possible.

“I would love to follow on these footsteps for sure.”

While the veteran has most recently been flanked in central midfield by young guns, Louis D’Arrigo and Jay Barnett, a modest Isaías wouldn’t call himself a ‘mentor’ as such, just one so deeply passionate about the game and youth development.

“I think it’s important that I provide my vision of how I see football and I always try to help especially the young players to improve or develop,” he said.

“I like to give my feedback and what they’re doing good or could do better and try to help everyone around me.

“This is how I am.”

The other shades of that 2015/16 triumph also include current goal-scoring centre-back, Ben Warland, who was an emerging youth talent back then, and goalkeeper coach, Galekovic, who was captain on that famous night.

They all continue to drive what Adelaide United has always been about.

Now in 2023, some 10 years after he first joined the Club, Isaías hopes his side can continue the momentum so crucial in a Finals Series, starting with Saturday night’s first leg Semi Final clash against Central Coast Mariners.

United will be looking to reverse a heavy 1-4 defeat to Mariners at Coopers Stadium when the sides met a fortnight ago.

Isaías knows well what big games are all about, having lifted the Australia Cup as Captain in 2018, and scoring a winner’s medal in the inaugural campaign.

“After the game here last time we knew straight away that it wasn’t good enough, we spoke all week about what we can do better,” he said.

“Hopefully we can change the small things and, with an even bigger crowd, reverse the result and make a good start to this Finals Series.

“Playing for this Club has always meant so much to me, so I’ll be doing everything in my power to help us.”

Always a spiritual leader already engrained in Hindmarsh history, Isaías can hone the best of days gone past to bring United its second crown.

The war begins on Saturday night.