15/04/2024

Are the Reds destined for finals after being just a kick away last campaign? (Picture: Adelaide United)

After an impressive first season under Adrian Stenta, 2021/22 looms as an important one with Adelaide United poised to push for a finals spot.

Adelaide United came within a single kick of the ball from making the finals for the first time in its history, finishing in fifth position, equal on points with Canberra United but behind on goal difference by just one. This year, the Reds will be looking to make their finals debut under Adrian Stenta.

Last season: Fifth (22 points, seven wins, one draw and four losses)

Biggest in:

United have strengthened in the off-season, bringing a number of players into the squad, but high player turnover in the other direction has made this more of a necessity than a luxury.

Stenta and company have recruited well, though, increasing their midfield depth with the signing of Japanese midfielder, Nanako Sasaki.

WNPL fans will know just how extensive Sasaki’s skillset is, having watched her make the WNPL Team of the Season for the past three seasons in a row, twice with Adelaide City and last season with Adelaide Comets.

Adrian Stenta has praised her technical ability in the lead up to the 2021/22 A-League Women season and is of the belief that although she has never played at this level before, her quality will allow for a seamless transition.

Joining her in United’s midfield will be fellow Japanese player, Reona Omiya. The holding midfielder has spent time in the Victorian NPL and will look to add a sense of stability to the middle of the park for the Reds.

More A-League Women Season Previews:

2021/22 A-League Women Season Preview: Newcastle Jets fueling up for better-placed season

2021/22 A-League Women Season Preview: Western Sydney building up a new Wanderland

2021/22 A-League Women Season Preview: Wellington Phoenix are the new kids in the comp

Biggest out:

The departure of Chilean international, Maria Rojas, has stolen the headlines in the off-season and Reds fans will certainly be sad to see her go.

Rojas has made the move across to the Eastern side of the country and will suit up for Sydney FC in the coming season, taking with her a wealth of flair and experience.

Perhaps, though, the biggest loss for United comes in the form of Maruschka Waldus, with the central defender making the move to Dutch powerhouse, PSV.

While Waldus may not possess the flair of Rojas or the ability to wow the crowd like the Chilean, what she did bring to the United defence in her maiden season in Australia was stability.

She took home United’s Player of the Year award in the club’s best season to date, certainly nothing to sneer at. She even added goals to the side, scoring twice in her 11 appearances.

Waldus had the rare ability to be both a staunch defender and a ball-playing centre half, something the Reds will no doubt miss in 2021/22.

What to expect:

Adrian Stenta masterminded a fantastic season from the Reds last time out, finishing in fifth position and a whisker away from the finals.

This year, there is no doubt that the Reds will be shooting for the stars and aiming to claim that elusive first finals appearance since the inception of the league.

They have the squad to get there, with some key additions in midfield making up for the loss of former captain Dylan Holmes midway through the last campaign.

The Reds played an attractive brand of football in 2020/21 and with Stenta at the helm again, this is not likely to change. The Hodgson sisters will fill the fullback positions and look to press forward as much as possible.

Much of the success of United will hinge on the continued development of Chelsie Dawber.

The young forward turned into a genuine star of the competition last season, netting five times, including two in a crucial 4-2 win over Brisbane towards the end of the campaign.

She will be required to hit those heights again, alongside Fiona Worts in the Adelaide attack, with new signing Natasha Brough offering another option in a front three.

The loss of Waldus is hard to cover but Ella Tonkin performed well last season and will likely partner McNamara in the centre of defence.

Perhaps United’s greatest asset alongside their general ability is their cohesiveness and willingness to work for each other.

The board and coaching staff have facilitated a warm, positive environment which lead to great improvement last time out. Reds fans will be hoping for a similar effect in 2021/22.

Predicted XI

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