The 2011-12 A-League season brought with it the ultimate heartbreak for Perth Glory fans. The club and the fans must both move on from that disappointment, of course, and part of that process is the knowledge that another season isn't too far away. Perth now know which team they will encounter first during the 2012-13 league season. It's a familiar foe, one that Perth supporters will be very happy to see this October.
Fixtures for the 2012-13 A-League regular season were released by the league on Tuesday. Perth Glory will open the season on October 7 when they host Brisbane Roar at Patersons Stadium. Brisbane defeated Perth 2-1 in the 2012 A-League Grand Final back on April 22, but that victory wasn't without controversy. Besart Berisha was awarded a penalty in the dying moments of the contest, a decision that still doesn't sit well with many Perth supporters. Berisha buried the PK to hand the Roar the 2-1 win and the championship.
Perth and Brisbane will have an opportunity to exchange Christmas gifts later on in the season, as Brisbane will host Perth on December 21. The two sides will meet again on Australia Day 2013 (January 26). That contest will take place at nib Stadium in Perth.
The Glory will alternate home and away games in the first seven weeks of the 2012-13 A-League campaign. That trend continues throughout the season, as Perth will only be away for two consecutive league games twice. The second such instance occurs after the Glory will have two straight home games. In all, Perth will host 14 of their 27 overall league matches, and two of their final three games will be at home.
There will also be a new A-League Finals Series format, one that will include the teams that finish in the top six spots of the league table. Instead of the top two teams in the league receiving a "double-shot" to advance through to the elimination portion of the competition, all matches will now be knockout (extra time and penalties used if necessary). Teams 1 and 2 will receive a bye into the semifinal round, Team 3 will take on Team 6 and Team 4 will play against Team 5. The tournament will then go on as normal.
Maybe it's just the American sports fan in me, but I find the new Finals Series format to be a pleasant change. Any tournament is more dramatic when the teams involved know that they are potentially 90+ minutes away from elimination. I also like the fact that the Finals Series has been shortened. Perhaps Major League Soccer could learn a thing or two from the A-League regarding postseason play.
Merely making it to last spring's Grand Final wasn't enough for Perth, and manager Ian Ferguson is doing all he can to get his players mentally prepared for the upcoming season. Ferguson told Sky News on Tuesday that "there's a lot of expectations and quite rightly so - we're going to be a target this year." Ferguson may be concerned about a Grand Finals hangover, but Perth fans can only look ahead to October 7 with delight and anticipation in their hearts.