Welcome back to the fifth edition of Kick360’s ‘Breakthrough Stars’ series as the analysis continues on analysing each club’s youth stars to see which player has the chance to establish themselves in the senior squad ahead of the upcoming season.
In a transfer market ultimately dictated in response to COVID foreign transfers have been limited. As such, many clubs have begun to look at their own prospects from their respective academies to try and fill the shoes of departees or increase competition for places.
It’s a difficult road to break through but these youngsters hope to become fan favourites after a breakthrough season.
This week: Melbourne City
It was a superb season for Melbourne City, winning both the premiership and championship to end their drought for A-league silverware. This dominance was replicated in the statistics by City, finishing with the most goals for at 57 and fourth in goals against with 49.
It was undoubtedly brilliant for a City side firing on all cylinders, outperforming their Expected Goals by seven.
The added boost from new signing Manuel Pucciarelli can be expected to add to this standard as City aim to retain their crown.
The biggest dilemma City have to face in the upcoming season is the diversity of goalscorers. City were helped largely by the goal scoring prowess of Jamie Maclaren, netting the golden boot with 25 goals from an expected 22.
However, this dependency on Maclaren for goals is highlighted within the squad as the next highest goalscorer is Metcalfe with five goals, 20 less than Maclaren. Below Metcalfe comes an array of scorers chipping in with the few goals.
This lack of variety in consistent goal-scorers should pose a worry for City should Maclaren befall an injury or effectively shut out in a poor game.
This was exemplified last season as of the 11 games City didn’t win, Maclaren scored in just three, showing a prolificacy in front of goal from others in the squad when Maclaren was off the pace.
In order to repeat their success next season, City must find goalscorers across their squad to ease the dependency on Maclaren and complement his attacking prowess.
This weeks breakout Star: Max Caputo
16-year-old striker Max Caputo made his debut last season in the Melbourne derby at the age of just 15; making him the 12th youngest debutant in the league.
Coming on for just 13 minutes including stoppages Caputo was restricted in attacking chances, instead completing five passes in his debut cameo.
A versatile attacker, Caputo came through the Melbourne City academy at the age of 12 from local side Essendon Royals. Prior to last season, Caputo had never played in a men’s competition. However, he made a seamless transition, scoring 12 goals in 13 matches for the City NPL side.
City have facilitated growth for Caputo to adjust to mens football, complementing his natural growth spurts with extra gym and training sessions. A highly rated prospect, especially following a four goal haul against Ballarat City, sets up for Caputo to seamlessly step into the A-league squad.
This step-up won’t be too much for the youngster, having already been training twice a week with the A-league squad as well as the NPL side for the duration of last season. However, it’s not just the technical side of his game that sets Caputo apart from his peers.
Caputo has already demonstrated the mental understanding of the game, pinpointing from his brief cameo the differences from NPL to A-League on how he has to adjust his game.
An attitude to self-improve and identify areas to work on individually is pivotal to success in the professional game.
Coming off the back of his debut, Caputo stated how he had to adjust to focus on his first touch to address a lack of time afforded a number nine in the A-league, whereas he was used to being able to turn within the NPL.
If a youngster is already capable of acknowledging and adjusting his game in a match situation this well already, the prospect of a Caputo learning from the striking ability and experience of Socceroo Jamie Maclaren, and subsequently a link-up, is a terrifying prospect for the rest of the league.
Can Caputo help City retain their crown?
City will mainly struggle to supplement goals from across the pitch to draw focus away from the ever-dangerous Jamie Maclaren. New signing Manuel Pucciarelli will aid with this effort however, depth is always key for a title charge.
Caputo is a proven goalscorer in every level up to A-league to date, not breaking his stride despite playing years ahead of his age group. With a starlet like Max Caputo, his A-league goalscoring breakthrough seems a matter of when not if.
Harbouring ambitions of representing his country, Caputo is solely focused on getting more minutes for City which are likely in the forthcoming season after a few attacking departures. With minutes comes confidence which for an attacker like Caputo matters immensely.
The added benefit of experienced players Maclaren, Pucciarelli, Leckie, and Nabbout will undoubtedly assist Caputo’s development into a lethal finisher for the league. As such what was already a fairly dominant Melbourne City side can expect to see a range of firepower this season, bolstered by the increased presence of Max Caputo.