Isuzu UTE A-League season preview: Macarthur FC

Enjoy KEEPUP’s season countdown with our club-by-club previews. Scroll down to the foot of the page to access your club’s article.

After a very creditable first season that led Ante Milicic’s side through to the semifinals, the Bulls have had quite an overhaul – with a significant injection of creative flair in the final third.

Major ins

Ulises Dávila, Daniel De Silva, Tomi Juric, Craig Noone, Tomislav Uskok, Jordon Mutch, Al Hassan Toure

Major outs

Denis Genreau, Matt Derbyshire, Markel Susaeta (retired), Mark Milligan (retired), Beñat Etxebarria (retired), Ivan Franjic, Loic Puyo, Adam Federici (retired)

Head coach: Ante Milicic

Macarthur record: 29 games, 13 wins, five draws, 11 losses.

For a debut coach in the first year of a debut club, Milicic had a successful first season – though the truth is that the Macarthur boss is already vastly experienced, despite technically becoming a club head coach for the first time.

Milicic drew on his time at the Wanderers when Macarthur’s neighbour was being established, refusing to panic when the first three home games went winless, and eventually reaching the semifinals at the first time of asking.

Now the former Socceroo has shown a ruthless side in overhauling his squad after that first season, and recruited strongly.

Macarthur FC coach Ante Milicic reached the semifinals in his first season at the helm.

Can’t take your eyes off: Ulises Davila

There are players who make the crowd begin to rise off its collective seat when the ball comes near, and Davila is undoubtedly in that category. In two seasons at Wellington, the Mexican scored or assisted 31 goals in 50 games, and those stats are compelling enough.

But it’s the qualitative scores that really set Davila apart, the moments of inspiration that unnerve opponents and excite the fans. It’s also the reason Chelsea were persuaded to sign Davila a decade ago on a five-year contract. Craig Noone, Daniel De Silva, Al Hassan Toure and Tomi Juric have also arrived to join Davila in a potent forward line.

Reasons to be cheerful

Milicic’s signings in the front third promise creativity and goals after his attack last season produced the fourth lowest total in the Goals For column on the league table. If Tomi Juric stays fit he promises to replace the prolific exploits of Matt Derbyshire, particularly given the number of opportunities likely to be created by Messrs Davila, De Silva and Noone.

In bringing De Silva in from the Mariners, Milicic is adding yet another player he coached in the Australian youth teams, and could be the coach to coax consistency from the gifted but erratic 24-year-old.

Toure, meanwhile, exploded into action at Adelaide but needs first team football to really kick on – his pace gives Milicic a completely different weapon to Juric’s presence.

Speedy forward Al Hassan Toure has signed for Macarthur from Adelaide United.

While Mark Milligan’s retirement leaves a substantial hole, Jordan Mutch brings EPL experience to the base of midfield and Tomislav Uskok is (another) towering addition to what was already one of the tallest defences in the A-League.

… and reasons to be fearful: 

A swathe of retirements have removed an unimaginable amount of experience from the Macarthur dressing room, and their replacements have necessitated a significant level of turnover in the Bulls’ squad.

Adam Federici was in outstanding form all of last season and his sudden retirement just weeks before the start of this campaign was a surprise from an individual only just named captain. Meanwhile Milligan, former Socceroos captain and huge onfield personality, has also hung up his boots and that leaves others to lead the development of the club’s culture.

Mark Milligan’s retirement leaves a hole to fill in the Macarthur dressing room.

Similarly Derbyshire has gone, transferred back to Cyprus, while the calming Spanish influence of Susaeta  and Benat will be lost to their retirements.

After Milicic navigated the tumult of building a club into its first season so effectively, the significant squad turnover will again require bedding down – and fast.

Fan’s Eye – by Blake Sims

Why we believe: The club represents our area really well and has tried to make a connection – even the fact they played their first game at Ron Dine Oval, which is where we used to have finals when I was a kid playing. You see it in the way the mini’s [grassroot football clubs] come out at half time of games, and in doing deals for children coming to games a little bit cheaper to get them involved.

For me as a kid growing up, being obsessed with soccer, it would have been huge going to see a local team, to play every weekend and have that sense of engagement with the community.

Who we believe: A lot of us love some of the younger guys, Charles M’Mombwa and Michael Ruhs in particular. Charles because he is such a humble bloke – he has the skills when he gets on the pitch, but he is such a hard worker as well. He doesn’t big himself up, he just gets on the field and gets things done.

Michael Ruhs is a local guy, he only finished his HSC last year. He went to school at Thomas Hassell, just around the corner, so he knows what it’s like to be in the community – it feels like a bit of a representation of us.

Michael Ruhs is a Campbelltown local and popular with the fans.

The magic of matchday is… It can be difficult for a young club to get a really good fan atmosphere going, but we’ve done a really good job. I’ve particularly enjoyed the Bullpen, growing in numbers every week. Often we will meet at Leumeah Pub before the game. It’s just good making new friends, catching up with old mates, everyone’s having a good time and then you carry that into the game. 

The atmosphere is improving week on week. With our first home win we had against Adelaide,  4-0 on a rainy day, everyone jumped in the bullpen towards the end of the game to sing for the team. That was beautiful. Even having the mayor jump in there and wave the flag was awesome.

If I could change one thing about my club… Fewer EPL jerseys and more Bulls jerseys at the stadium on matchday. A lot of people are interested in soccer from watching competitions like the premier league, so they turn up at Macarthur games with Manchester United or Liverpool jerseys. You’re thinking to yourself, United or Liverpool aren’t playing today, the Bulls are! Hopefully we’ll see more fans wearing our jerseys as we grow.


By Tom Smithies and Matt Comito

Adelaide United: Can Veart steer them into the decider?

Brisbane Roar: Will the local lads surprise again?

Central Coast Mariners: A renaissance or brief ray of sunshine?

Macarthur FC: Attack looks great, but who replaces the veterans?

Melbourne City: Can anyone stop the champions?

Melbourne Victory: Can Popa resurrect the fallen giant?

Newcastle Jets: Can Papas find success with another overhaul?

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Sydney FC: A familiar feel in Sky Blue – do they have another gear?

Wellington Phoenix: Can the ‘Nix thrive early doors based in Wollongong?

Western Sydney Wanderers: Will Robinson rise to expectations?

Western United: Will more ‘Dia’ magic help United bounce back?