15/04/2024

Ben Halloran celebrating a goal for Adelaide United. (Image: Adelaide United)

Ben Halloran's move from Adelaide United to South Korea leaves a big hole in Adelaide's squad, which coach Carl Veart has already looked to fill.

Replacing a player of Ben Halloran’s quality is sure to be a tall order. The absence of Halloran, one of the first names on Carl Veart’s team sheet, will mean the loss of leadership, experience and quality in United’s final third.

On Saturday night, Adelaide United secured its first A-League Men victory in the 2021-2022 season. The relief for United fans did not last long though, with Carl Veart confirming in his post-match press conference that Ben Halloran was unavailable for the match because he is taking up an opportunity in South Korea.

Since moving back to Australia, Halloran has been one of the outstanding players in the league, always providing great service to United’s forwards and being a goal scoring threat himself.

He ends his time at the club with 21 goals, seven of those coming at the expense of Melbourne City, one of the premier sides in the competition.

Halloran’s highlights in his stint at United include winning the Aurelio Vidmar Club Champion Award, being influential in two winning FFA Cup finals (assisting the winner against Sydney FC and scoring the second against Melbourne City), and scoring a 119th minute winner against City in an elimination final in 2018/19.

Along with being a stand out player, Halloran has also developed as a leader in Adelaide.

In the past two seasons, he has been given a leadership role in the squad, often filling in as captain when Michael Jakobsen (former captain) and Stefan Mauk have been unavailable.

Replacing the former Socceroo will not be an easy task, and likely a team effort. Carl Veart is not just looking to replace a winger, he is replacing a leader and a crucial final third contributor.

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Replacing Halloran the leader

This is probably where Adelaide will be least affected, not because of his quality as a leader, but because the club is blessed with an abundance of leadership.

Stefan Mauk is in his second year as the Adelaide United captain and he is improving as a leader every week.

Supporting Mauk, United has two of its former captains as regular starting 11 players in Isaias and Michael Jakobsen. Javi Lopez also has leadership experience at a high level, captaining Espanyol in La Liga.

Adelaide United is well positioned in terms of leadership, which is crucial when introducing young players into the fold as United tends to do regularly.

The club did so again on the weekend with 16-year old, fourth string keeper Steven Hall debuting as a substitute for the injured James Delianov.

Replacing Halloran the winger

Replacing Halloran on the wing is an unenviable task, but one that unbeknownst to everyone began months ago.

Adelaide United started its FFA Cup campaign away to Floreat Athena with a young winger making his debut. Bernardo, son of United legend Cassio, started on the wing in the place of the experienced Halloran.

Bernardo caught the attention of United fans, being the clear stand out in the first half. He also got Athena’s attention, being fouled four times in his debut.

The 17 year old’s FFA Cup campaign continued on the wing against Adelaide Olympic, with Halloran playing as an attacking midfielder instead of his usual spot on the wing.

Bernardo was once again the standout, assisting Jacob Tratt’s winner in a 1-0 win and winning a penalty, which was subsequently missed by Halloran.

In his first A-League Men season, Bernardo has been coming off the bench, causing problems for the opposition, most recently against Western United.

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While United struggled to create opportunities, that all changed when Bernardo was subbed on, having a curling shot saved by Jamie Young within second and being a constant thorn in the side of makeshift left back Nikolai Topor-Stanley.

With Halloran listed as ‘unavailable’ as a result of his imminent move to South Korea, Bernardo started his first A-League Men game against Wellington Phoenix on Saturday and he did not disappoint.

He was was problematic for the Phoenix defenders, who proceeded to foul him him times, one of those a penalty which was duly dispatched by Craig Goodwin.

At only 17 years of age, Bernardo seems to be who Carl Veart will entrust to Halloran’s spot, at least in the short term future. Unless a winger can be acquired in the January window, Bernardo will have an abundance of opportunities in this United side and can potentially make the right side of attack his own.

Replacing Ben Halloran the match winner

The question on many Reds fans minds right now is, ‘where are the goals going to come from?’

As impressive as Bernardo has been, expecting him to influence matches as consistently and at the level of Halloran at this stage of his young career is unfair and unrealistic. United’s team will have to collectively step up in this effort.

The first test in life post-Halloran was a big tick, with United comfortably recording a 4-0 win against a flat Wellington side. It was a familiar story with Craig Goodwin doing most of the damage.

Goodwin’s efforts do not just include two successful penalty conversions but also a massive seven key passes, including an assist, as the talismanic winger got back to his best after an injury interrupted pre-season.

With Halloran departing, Goodwin will have to shoulder a lot of the creative strain if United is to succeed this season.

Mauk also produced his best performance of the season so far, with two key passes and a one big chance created. His trademark aggression and physicality was a big reason United was able to recover the ball quickly and end the game winning the territorial battle with 55 per cent possession.

In Halloran’s absence, Mauk will have to rediscover his goal scoring sense which saw him hit the back of the net seven times last season.

The role of the striker continues to trouble United. With Kusini Yengi having surgery on his quad and Mohamed Toure contracting COVID-19, George Blackwood led the line against the Phoenix and ended up with a goal in a promising display.

Former NPL SA and NPL Victoria star forward Nahuel Bonada is also trialing with the club, and with Veart hinting that he may be offered a contract next week, he could be part of the solution. United have also signed Adelaide City’s Asad Kasumovic after a title winning season at the NPL SA.

With first choice striker Yengi missing the next three to four months and Halloran’s individual brilliance removed, Veart would be wise to field a consistent forward line as continuity will be key in United converting chances and picking up points in the coming months.

What the future holds for Adelaide United

Halloran’s move to a league that can provide him with financial security for years after his career ends is not a new concept. It is the reality of the A-League and to succeed, clubs must accept it.

All A-League Clubs can do is build up players to succeed and always have the next players ready to go. Clubs like United should endeavour to create a young squad with strong experience to compliment and aid in their development.

When a player chooses to chase a sizeable, well-deserved contract overseas, all clubs can do is wish them all the best and ensure they have created a culture were if the player decides to return to the A-League, their former club is their only logical option.

Adelaide United is on its way to working on this model, but losing a player of the stature and experience of Halloran makes it difficult. The culture and character of the club will be challenged as it will be a collective effort to fill his boots.

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