In reflection, 2014-15 was a tough season for Adelaide United, and it ended in a disappointing way, with a 4-1 thumping at the hands of Sydney FC.
The loss was the first time all season Adelaide lost by three goals or conceded four goals.
However, there is no time to lament wasted chances or what could have been; United must learn from their mistakes and build towards 2015-16.
Taking positives from the season, it turned into one of Adelaide’s most successful ever as the Reds continued to improve under Coach Josep Gomabu.
They won 14 games, their most ever in a 27 game season. Likewise their 47 goal return and the 32 goals conceded were bests in a 27 game season. Their eventual third place finish (thanks to Perth) was their best in four seasons, with a strong start making up for some inconsistent periods.
Much of Adelaide’s success was built on a talented attack which could combine strength, speed and creativity. Unfortunately the finishing often let them down as too many chances went begging at crucial moments.
In front of goal it was the Spaniards who came out on top, with Sergio Cirio leading the Reds in all competitions with 13 goals, while Pablo Sanchez found the back of the net eight times in the A-League.
Awer Mabil continued to improve in front of goal and his pace and creativity will surely develop even more to turn him into one of Australia’s best exciting prospects.
Elsewhere, A-League Goalkeeper of the Year, Eugene Galekovic, continued to lead by example as he stood firm in goal, and his understudy, Paul Izzo, proved his worth whenever he had the chance.
New recruit Jimmy Jeggo won named Young Footballer of the year as he became a crucial member of the squad, as did Craig Goodwin and Dylan McGowan.
Defence was often inconsistent, especially when Nigel Boogaard or Osama Malik was absent; the two centre backs clearly helping dictate play. Tarek Elrich was a standout, not just because of his brilliant solo goal;because he never gave up and even fought his way through good form into the Socceroos squad.
With the focus on next season, Coach Josep Gombau should look to strengthen the squad, not only for a successful A-League season but also Adelaide’s FFA Cup title defence and a return to Asian Champions League (via the Play-off stage).
Gombau has already confirmed he will look for a new player in defence, midfield and attack, but the bulk of the Adelaide United squad should stay together, which is a good thing.
Adelaide's core group can learn from what failed this season, such as finishing, being caught out in defence or giving up the ball too easily, and hopefully improve next season knowing they understand the team style.
The loss of Boogaard to Newcastle Jets means another centre back will come to the club, but the lack of starting defenders available could see 21 year-old Jordan Elsey finally break into the first team regularly.
Other local products such as Mark Ochieng or Bruce Kamau should be taking the next step, as Mabil has done, while at the other end 27 year-old Cameron Watson could be on the out after limited chances.
Miguel Palanca is another who could go, with his brief stay in Adelaide almost up and his position uncertain after some hot-and-cold performances. His visa spot may be a burden for him also, as an Asian Champions League campaign could see him become surplus in ACL squads, while an Asian player may prove more useful.
For now, the focus is already onto the Villareal match at the end of May, and then the month-and-a-half break before Liverpool graces Adelaide Oval. After that the FFA Cup kicks off, giving the club a shorter turnaround than seasons’ past, but giving fans a reason to get excited much sooner.
This last season was a success, and where Adelaide failed there will now be a desire to go one better and constantly improve no matter the competition or opposition.