A-League Season Review: Macarthur FC

Macarthur made it all the way to a semi-final in its first A-League campaign. (Picture: @mfcbulls/Twitter)

Finishing Position: 6th (39 points, 11 wins, six draws, nine losses)

The highs

In its first ever season, undoubtedly the high point for Macarthur FC was not just qualifying for finals, but claiming a 2-0 victory over the Central Coast Mariners away from home.

The elimination final was tightly locked for the full 90 minutes, going to extra time as both sides failed to find the back of their respective nets. Keeper Adam Federici was a pillar in front of goals, stopping every shot that came his way.

Charles M’Mombwa scored just his second A-League goal in the 95th minute, while Michael Ruhs kicked the sealer in the 120th.

What was even more inspirational was that the Bulls did it all a man down, James Meredith sent off in the 75th minute and leaving just 10 men on the pitch.

It was the club’s first win over the Mariners, losing all three of their meetings during the regular season.

Another high point came in February and March, when Macarthur played all five other finalists across a month-long gauntlet for the new kids on the block.

While it would lose the final two to Sydney and Central Coast, the club could hold its head up high after defeating Sydney 1-0, Brisbane 2-0, and running amok over Adelaide 4-0.

Matt Derbyshire scored himself a team-lifting hat trick, finishing off the trio of goals with a slick header that stunned keeper James Delianov.

It was a run that truly put Macarthur on the map as a serious finals threat.

The lows

With a finals spot on the line in April, Macarthur began to struggle defensively, particularly early in games.

In a three-game period, the back three gave up seven goals to the Brisbane Roar, Adelaide United and the lowly Newcastle Jets, unable to deal with strong offensive threats including Tommy Juric and Ben Halloran.

The Bulls would fight back against the Jets, scoring two goals of their own to equalise and draw the game. No doubt coach Ante Milicic would have wanted the full three points against the bottom of the table side.

Macarthur’s defensive line, despite being quite experienced, struggled for a lot of the season. It would give up the second most goals of any finals team.

Milicic would experiment with a back five against the Reds, ultimately ending in a 3-1 failure.

MORE A-LEAGUE SEASON REVIEWS

Adelaide United: A-League Season Review

Brisbane Roar: A-League Season Review

Central Coast Mariners: A-League Season Review

MVP

Matt Derbyshire is the best goalscorer in the league not named Jamie Maclaren, and is without a doubt Macarthur’s MVP.

The veteran Englishman kicked 14 goals across 27 appearances at his scoring best. Bulls fan already knew what he could do in front of the net, previously scoring 62 goals over 113 appearances at Cyprus club Omonia.

An aggression machine, Derbyshire had 28 shots on targets for the season. He wasn’t a one trick pony, finding his fellow strikers close to goals with five assists and 15 key passes.

Alongside fellow veteran Loic Puyo, Derbyshire has been a valuable asset for the young Bulls forwards in 2021.

Captain Mark Milligan would be equally as close, ever reliable through the defensive and midfield lines. He led the league for passes, constantly counted on to creatively deliver the ball at 89.6%.

He was often relied on as the last line of defence, with 102 clearances, 21 blocks and 34 interceptions for the season.

While Milligan would have loved to finish his career with a second A-League premiership, the long-time Socceroo went out in style.

Breakout player

After biding his time in Melbourne City’s NPL side, young midfielder Denis Genreau enjoyed his best year yet.

Genreau had made just 11 appearances at senior level at Melbourne City previously between 2016 and 2020, finally finding his niche with the Bulls.

He would start in 22 of his 23 appearances, and while he was subbed off nine times, Genreau was able to demonstrate his versatility.

Some weeks, he was a highly offensive midfielder. He scored two of his own goals, putting 12 shots on target while also making 25 key passes and two assists.

In others, he was employed on the defensive line. Genreau won 29 tackles at a 50% success rate, also making 25 clearances and 35 interceptions.

That versatility of his earned him a spot with the Socceroos, debuting and starting against Chinese Taipei. Genreau was trusted with creating play through the midfield, having the most touches and passes on the team and creating two chances.

Charles M’Mombwa‘s two goals showed how dangerous he can be in striking distance, showcasing his potential.

Final word

Though Milligan is the only announced departure so far, the captain leaves a large void in the side.

He’s one of the most experienced Australian players there is, earning 80 caps with the Socceroos. More importantly, he’s the heart and soul of the team.

While Macarthur has the experience to fill the leadership gap, quite a number are internationals who may seek to return elsewhere for 2022.

Adam Federici and James Meredith will have to pick up the slack in the back line, while new leaders must emerge through the middle.

If the talent coach Ante Milicic already has believes in the future of the group, Macarthur can make another deep finals run in 2022.

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About Alex Catalano 310 Articles
Alex is a studying journalist from Melbourne with an obsession for all things Aussie rules, and a commitment to providing equal coverage and recognition to women's sport. A sport all-rounder, Alex reports on Aussie rules, football, basketball, netball, cricket and esports.

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