Liberty A-League season preview: Adelaide United

The Reds went within a whisker of a maiden finals appearance last season, edged out of the top four on goal difference alone.

Head coach Adrian Stenta added two more years to his contract after overseeing the most successful season in the club’s history. With the futures of both Stenta and his Reds team intertwined, it’s time to target a post-season push.

Major ins: Shadeene Evans, Natasha Brough, Reona Omiya

Major outs: Maruschka Waldus, Mallory Weber, Dylan Holmes, Maria Jose Rojas

Coach: Adrian Stenta

Reds record: 12 games, seven wins, one draw, four losses

An impressive first season at the helm made it abundantly clear that head coach Stenta is the perfect fit for Adelaide United. After serving as assistant for two seasons, Stenta took the reins for of the 2020/21 campaign and under his watchful gaze the Reds flourished, earning 22 points from 12 games.

Adelaide notched seven wins last season – one more than Canberra United – but with four draws on the board compared with Adelaide’s one, and a goal difference of +5 compared to Adelaide’s +4, the Green Machine nicked the last spot inside the top four from Stenta’s grasp.

Georgia Yeoman-Dale’s Predicted XI

Paramount+/Channel 10 football expert Georgia Yeoman-Dale gives her verdict on the Adelaide United squad.

Strengths: “They’ve got good players across the park, and they did surprise me last season. 

“A big strength is consistency. A lot of these players have been playing together for a long time. As opposed to other teams that have had a bit of an overhaul, a lot of their starting XI would have played together last year.”

Weaknesses: “Young goalkeepers. Annalee Grove got a bit of time last year, but they brought in Sian Fryer-McLaren who had the experience, and she played most of the season for them. She’s now gone, and their second goalkeeper Miranda Templeman is young.” 

Key player: “Emily Condon is creative. She’s able to take the game on and is a strong midfielder, she’s been someone on the fringes for so many years and is now becoming more experienced.”

Verdict: “I think they’ll finish mid-table. They don’t have any standout superstars – but that’s what they’ve always been. They’ve always been a team of hard workers who work together well as a team.”

Can’t take your eyes off: Chelsie Dawber

Adelaide United’s star striker is primed for a big season in Red. 

The 21-year-old has shown her full array of attacking talents in brilliant bursts thus far throughout her flourishing career. Dawber struck five times in eight games through the 2020/21 Liberty A-League campaign to win the club’s Golden Boot award, going on to excel in the domestic top flight for NPL SA outfit Adelaide City FC in the off-season.

Despite playing just 12 games for her NPL side, Dawber scored 16 goals to rack up 23 votes in the Shirley Brown Medal count, awarded to the league’s best player each season. Dawber edged out former Red Maria Rojas to earn the prestigious honour.

Now she returns to the Reds for the 2021/22 Liberty A-League season, and If Dawber can stay on the park a tilt at the league Golden Boot could be on the cards.

Dawber is the star in Adelaide United’s attack.

Reasons to be cheerful: The chance to make history in 2021/22 is one head coach Stenta will inspire his group to attack with vigour as a club-first finals appearance beckons. The Reds were banging down the door last time out and the fans will hope to see that door burst open this season. 

Speaking of the fans – after a league record of 5,159 supporters flocked to Coopers Stadium to watch Adelaide defeat Western Sydney Wanderers last season, the true potential of the Reds’ fanbase was put on display. 

The club and its players will hope to see the majority of those who flocked through the gates on that day to return this season to create an unrivalled atmosphere at Reds home fixtures.

… and reasons to be fearful: After losing former captain Dylan Holmes to Swedish outfit BK Häcken in the latter stages of the 2020/21 season, Stenta faces the tough task of replacing her quality in central midfield and leadership in the playing group.

The off-season departure of Maruschka Waldus leaves the Reds without a key central defender from the campaign prior, whilst Maria Jose Rojas takes her creative spark to Sydney FC for the 2021/22 campaign. There’s gaps in defence, midfield and attack Stenta will need to plug if the Reds stand a chance of competing for a spot in the top four.

Dylan Holmes (left) departed the Reds late in the 2020/21 season.

Fans’ eye – Chloe Lau

Why we believe: It’s my hometown club. Adelaide United is an exciting team to watch, because a lot of them are quite young and up and coming, it’s good to see them transition from the NPL during the off-season onto the bigger stage and see how they adapt to the harder competition. It’s brought me lots of joy, and lots of disappointment at the same time – but that’s football for you! 

It’s a big community, I’ve met quite a few friends going to games, and its a community where I feel like I belong, and I enjoy being a part of the environment.

Who we believe: Chelsie Dawber is a lethal goalscorer, she has fantastic vision, she knows where the goals are. She’s just very exciting to watch.

She’s so quick. Sometimes I think ‘how are you already there? I just saw you on the other side of the field!’. You know that when she’s around the 18-yard box something magical is going to happen, she’s just that kind of player. 

Another player I do want to shout out is Matilda McNamara. I feel like she doesn’t get a lot of credit being a defender,  but I thought she was fantastic last season, and was crucial in the backline. 

The magic of matchday is: Seeing how much the club has grown.

Throughout all the seasons I’ve been following the team I’ve seen how far it has come, how many more people are starting to watch these players.

Last season, when we broke the regular-season attendance record against the Wanderers, it was fantastic to see so many people come out to support the team because it’s usually smaller crowds at Marden Sports Complex. I felt so happy for the players; they deserved it, they deserved to have so many eyes on them, they deserved to be celebrated. It’s good people are starting to discover them, and bring their family and friends out to watch 

If I could change one thing about my club: I’ve been to one or two A-League Men’s games at Coopers Stadium and the atmosphere is usually better, there’s more things going on, but when you rock up to Marden Sports Complex it’s quieter.

I’ve seen improvement, it’s happening, but if there’s anything to improve on further, active support at games, pre-match entertainment and fan activation could make the atmosphere a little bit more interesting, to get the community in and get them up and on their feet. Then during the game there’ll be a little bit more support for the team.

A record crowd flocked to watch the Reds defeat the Wanderers in March, 2021.


By Tom Smithies and Matt Comito

Adelaide United: Can Chelsie Dawber lead the Reds into the post-season?

Brisbane Roar: Gorry returns – but do departures take their toll?

Canberra United: Tune in to the Heyman and Sykes renaissance

Melbourne City: Another season of obscurity for the heavyweights?

Melbourne Victory: Can the champions go back-to-back?

Newcastle Jets: Do international arrivals boost Newcastle’s chances?

Sydney FC: Does club legend Polias’ absence take its toll on the premiers?

Perth Glory: De Vanna arrives eager bounce Perth back up the table

Wellington Phoenix: can the exuberance of youth help Wellington make a fast start?

Western Sydney Wanderers: Can coach Cannuli inspire a postseason charge?