15 wins from 22 matches and the highest scoring team by a whopping 13 goals. Safe to say, it was a strong season for City’s senior NPL squad.
While the John Maisano coached outfit may’ve fallen just short of a Championship to pair with its automatic promotion to NPL2, it’s still a season the team and all involved will look back on very proudly.
We reflect on all of the key storylines from the 2022 season that was.
The kids are alright
City’s Academy continues to be one of the best production lines of talent in Australian football, further evidenced by the quality youth on display throughout the NPL3 season.
With an average age of under 18 (17.8 to be exact), City’s squad were competing against older and more experienced players week in, week out. Although City punched above its weight all season long, it was never an issue or used an excuse.
Click here to sign up as a City Member for 2022/23, or give our friendly Membership team a call on 1300 255 432.
It was a roller coaster start to the season with a draw, win, then loss all coming in the team’s first three fixtures before Maisano’s squad fully clicked into gear.
From there, City dropped just two points from its next nine fixtures with plenty of one-sided affairs amongst the positive results.
You shall not pass
City’s defence was a hallmark of its success throughout the season. Allowing an average of a goal a game (second best in the competition), City ensured no opposition attackers were ever in for an easy afternoon.
City pressing intensity was first class throughout the season, with many goals scored from forcing turnovers high up the pitch thanks to its suffocating press.
Deeper in defence, City’s back four was rarely beaten. Captain Harry Politidis and Dom Folino had the full-back positions locked down all season and also provided plenty to the team going forward.
Jordan Dellidis was a rock in central defence, starting all but three games, while Kerrin Stokes performed strongly when in the line-up.
Oh so close to Championship glory
The Championship race heated up in the second half of the season, with Preston putting the pressure on.
Following a Derby loss in Round 13, City went on another strong run and would drop points just once in its next six fixtures to set up a top-of-the-table Round 20 showdown against Preston.
Unfortunately for City, an 82nd minute goal to the visitors was the difference as despite some good opportunities, the boys couldn’t find a way past a Preston defence which conceded just 13 goals for the season.
A Preston slip-up wouldn’t come in the final two matches of the season but although City may’ve just missed out on silverware, Maisano’s young squad will take their well-deserved place in NPL2 in 2023.
Who’s stock rose?
A silky left footer comfortable playing anywhere in midfield, Durakovic appeared in all but one fixture and was impressive throughout t he season.
His passing range and ability are a couple of his key attributes, showcased in his 10 assists – double any other City player this season. He was also able to add four goals himself, proving a potent goal-threat when shooting from range.
Having been part of City’s Academy since he was just 12 years old, Durakovic is certainly a player that fans are set to hear plenty of in years to come.
Goalkeeper James Nieuwenhuizen had a breakout campaign in between the sticks, taking the starting opportunity with both hands. Still just 18 years of age, Nieuwenhuizen seemed to pull off athletic saves on a weekly basis, highlighting why he is one of the brightest young goalkeepers in the country.
He managed to keep six clean sheets in 19 appearances, also providing plenty of leadership to the defence in front of him.
His strong form was rewarded earlier this month when he spent a week in Canberra at the AIS after being selected in the Young Socceroos Talent ID Camp squad.
Appearing in all but one fixture, Sebastian Esposito was an unexpected standout this season.
Rising from City’s U18 squad, Esposito couldn’t have done more to show he belongs at the level, holding down a starting spot in defence for majority of the season.
He also showed he can provide a threat from set-pieces, finding the back of the net twice.
Like most of City’s NPL seniors, Espoito has been completing pre-season duties with the first team in recent weeks. He’s clearly been doing something to impress the coaching staff too, named amongst the substitutes in the recent Australia Cup clash against Wellington.
Who’s pushing for first team minutes?
Now 19-years-old, Luke Oresti is another who has taken his game to a new level.
Mostly used as a midfielder prior to this season, Oresti found himself spending more time as a winger in a role that he has found plenty of success.
He’d finish the season third in both goals scored (seven) and assists (three) for City, showing little fear when running at defenders despite almost always being one of the smaller players on the pitch.
Oresti has twice appeared in the Cup for City’s senior team but with a number of departure both in midfield and wide areas over the off-season, an A-League Men’s debut for Oresti appears to be more of a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’.
Arion Sulemani/Max Caputo
We’re cheating a little with this one but it appears to be a two-horse race when it comes to picking who City’s back-up striker will be behind Jamie Maclaren in 2022/23.
Due to a combination of injury and AFC Champions League commitments, Maisano rarely had the luxury of having both Max Caputo and Arion Sulemani available at the same time.
It’s a pity as the duo were dangerous every time they stepped foot on the pitch, combining for 19 total goals – Sulemani contributing slightly more but also making a couple of extra appearances.
Late season hamstring struggles mean Sulemani will begin the A-League Men’s season from further back in terms of fitness, likely giving Caputo first crack to add to his three senior appearances.
That being said, if Sulemani can continue on the upwards trajectory he showed throughout the NPL season which led him to win his first senior contract, expect to see him involved at senior level at some point this season.
BY THE NUMBERS
Goal Difference: +35
12 Arion SULEMANI
9 Max CAPUTO
5 Moonib ADUS
4 Lucas BYRNS, Emin DURAKOVIC
3 Jordi VALADON, Harry POLITIDIS
2 Sebastian ESPOSITO, Raphael BORGES RODRIGUES, Matthew GRIMALDI, Dom FOLINO
10 Emin DURAKOVIC
5 Harry POLITIDIS
3 Luke ORESTI, Lucas BYRNS, Dom FOLINO, Jordi VALADON
2 Sebastian ESPOSITO, Max CAPUTO
1 Moonib ADUS, Arion SULEMANI, Matthew GRIMALDI, Kasra KARAMAD
Biggest Win: 5-0; R11 v Springvale, R15 v Ballarat
Biggest Loss: 0-2; R13 v Melbourne Victory