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Feb 9, 2011

A-League Team of the Regular Season

With Soccernet A-League Tops and Flops having been on hiatus for a few weeks with the Asian Cup taking our attention, suddenly we find ourselves on the verge of the Australian finals. From next week we will provide special previews and features, so now is the perfect time to look back on the stand-out performers from all 11 teams with our A-League Team of the Season.

Selections were made on the basis that these players could play together in a real team - not two left backs, three playmakers, etc. A 4-3-3 formation will be used.

Goalkeeper: Glen Moss (Gold Coast United)

Gold Coast's season has been built on their defensive security and Moss' reliability between the posts has been a key aspect of that. Moss has been offered good protection from his defence, so he hasn't been a match-winner in the way Eugene Galekovic has been for Adelaide in recent seasons, but he has been largely mistake-free in between the odd wonder-save. He has also had to contend with rotation in the centre back positions ahead of him that his rivals for this honour have not.

Right Back: Ivan Franjic (Brisbane Roar)

The A-League's own Dani Alves, Franjic has turned football's most functional position into one of the most influential in his team. Franjic has been defensively sound but his role going forward has made him a stand-out. Brisbane's superb football has allowed him to overlap at will and he has made the most of his freedom by contributing to the goals and assists columns. His wonder-strike against the Mariners is a contender for goal of the season.

Centre Back: Patrick Zwaanswijk (Central Coast Mariners)

Upon hearing that Graham Arnold had brought in a Dutch 35-year-old who looks like a 25-year-old to marshal his defence, few knew what to expect. But Zwaanswijk has turned out to be the league's premier defender and one of the imports of the season. He does indeed possess the physical qualities of a much younger player but it's the experience of over a decade in the Dutch top flight that has made him the lynchpin of one of the league's tightest defences. His reading of the game and decision-making ensures he often cuts out danger before it materialises.

Centre Back: Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Newcastle Jets)

Playing for his third A-League club, 'Hyphen' seems to have finally found an environment to bring out his best. His combination with Ljubo Milicevic helped keep the Jets in finals contention much longer than their team's ineffective strike-force - the league's worst on paper - warranted. No striker has got the better of Topor-Stanley this season and he seems to have gone to another level in having the confidence to organise his defence and use the ball effectively out of the back.

Left Back: Josh Rose (Central Coast Mariners)

Much like Franjic on the other side of this fantasy back four, Rose's best work has been in the front third of the pitch. He possesses that low centre of gravity that all great dribblers need to go past players. Once in attacking positions, he has been particularly effective with a hatful of assists and goals to his name. He has held his own defensively and is a clear choice for this slot.

Defensive Midfield: Erik Paartalu (Brisbane Roar)

There has been such a wealth of fine anchormen in the A-League this season it would be unfair not to recognise the position, even if it means leaving out another attacking star from this line-up. Paartalu has been the pick of the bunch in his key role as the pivot point of the near-unstoppable Roar machine. Special mentions must go to Rostyn Griffiths and Kasey Wehrman as the other leading contenders in a long list of impressive holding players.

Central Midfield: Marcos Flores (Adelaide United)

The A-League's most watchable player has been a revelation this term. The timing of his signing late last season worked out perfectly as he settled into his new surroundings and hit the ground running this season. The Argentine playmaker has lit up the competition with his mesmerising trickery and imaginative goals. But it is his pinpoint passing - he offers perfectly weighted balls into his team-mates' paths like gifts - that has allowed his fellow attackers to thrive and made Adelaide one of the most dangerous units.

Central Midfield: Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar)

In total contrast to Flores, McKay has been the epitome of efficiency in his breakout season. The midfield metronome is the modern footballer; built low to the ground, good technically, extremely mobile, fit, determined and tactically aware. Ange Postecoglou's passing game at Suncorp Stadium has suited McKay perfectly, leading to his quick ascension from handy A-League player to first-choice Socceroo at the Asian Cup. In addition to his eye-catching individual development, he has replaced Craig Moore as captain and led the league's best team to a record-breaking unbeaten streak.

Right Wing: Robbie Kruse (Melbourne Victory)

Like McKay, Kruse made a hasty and surprising transition from the domestic scene to the national team on the back of his superb performances. For five years Victory have relied on Archie Thompson's pace and guile up front to spearhead their fantastic successes and Kruse has done a commendable job filling into his injured team-mate's shoes. Kruse has perfected the art of running off his markers to benefit from Carlos Hernandez's defence-splitting passes. His trickery and lethal finishing see him among the leaders on the scoring charts.

Left Wing: Thomas Broich (Brisbane Roar)

The German maestro has been central to the special season Brisbane have enjoyed. Cutting inside onto his right foot has been his trademark, but his ability to then deliver scything passes, pinpoint crosses or wicked shots has made him far from a predictable foe for dumbstruck defenders. He has perhaps quietened down as the season has progressed due to opponents focusing on stopping him, a trend that could explain Brisbane's increased threat down the right in more recent months.

Striker: Sergio van Dijk (Adelaide United)

Purely and simply, the Dutch target man is a class above his A-League peers. Some rivals may possess his touch, other his physical presence, but none combine those traits with a deadly eye for goal to the extent van Dijk does. He can score headers from all angles and drive home free kicks from 30 yards, as he did against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park. Van Dijk will almost certainly be crowned the golden boot for the current season, a deserved accolade.

Coach: Ange Postecoglou (Brisbane Roar)

There's no need to over-think this one. Postecoglou's team is playing the best football seen in the A-League era, while recording the longest unbeaten streak in Australian top flight history. His players form the spine of the above team but Roar don't rely heavily on individuals, it's their team structure that has brought them success. They win whoever is available and even regardless of whether they play well. Much of that is down to the coach's man management and substitutions. He is the clearest selection on this list.

Substitutes: Theoklitos (BR), Hughes (NQF), Thwaite (GCU), Culina (GCU), Hernandez (MV), Leckie (AU), Simon (CCM)

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