Youth in focus: Joe Gauci
After a forced sabbatical due to the 2022 FIFA Men's World Cup, A-League Men action is back tonight. Curtains are drawn, and every team will be looking to hit the ground running after a three-week absence. With the vision of live sites around Australia for the Socceroos' matches during the tournament, many Australian football fans hope to create similar scenes this weekend. Whilst goals, intensity, and excitement usually bring in fans new and old, youngsters between the sticks are taking significant strides. Adelaide United's proven Olyroos representative Joe Gauci has been touted as the next in line for the Socceroos' number 1 jersey.
Gauci in action for Adelaide United. (Twitter: @scout_aussie)
Adelaide's hot start to season 2022/23 has relied chiefly on goals scored rather than dogged defensive football. Unlike the Western Sydney Wanderers, or Melbourne City, who instead dominate possession on the pitch. Defensively, Adelaide has shown weaknesses, keeping only one clean sheet thus far. However, this statistic shouldn't create doubts about Gauci's presence and promise between the sticks for the Reds. At 22, Gauci is experiencing a rapid rise in the professional game since moving from Melbourne City in 2020. He's gained favour over another promising young keeper in James Delianov for Carl Veart's side. Gauci's form for his club has earned him many admirers. His shot-stopping and passing accuracy led to him being called up for the U23 Asian Cup side that competed in Uzbekistan earlier this year.
Gauci is now becoming a household name in goalkeeping for most A-League Men fans; he almost slipped through the cracks as a youngster. Gauci competed for a spot in Football SA's State Identification Program whilst playing junior football for Cumberland United and was unfortunately passed on by selectors.
"I was pretty devastated, but it’s one of those setbacks that just drove me forward. I put my head down and kept going with the specialised training and with the goal to try out for the state team again the following year," Gauci said in a recent interview on Adelaide United's club website.
Gauci didn't have to wait long for some recognition. He was selected for the SA U14 team the following year and, before long, found himself in a well-funded youth setup at Melbourne City. A born and bred Adelaide boy, Gauci was excited to move back and play for his hometown side in 2020. However, he has not suffered from any complacency amid his recent success.
“There aren’t too many clubs that are willing to trust in young keepers and give them the platform to go and perform, as well as sometimes make mistakes," he added.
Gauci celebrates during Adelaide United's recent win over Melbourne Victory. (Twitter @JoeGauci46)
Mistakes have been few and far between in Gauci's performances this season, and he has emerged as one of the best goalkeepers in the league. Gauci has started every minute of United's campaign this season, being included in SofaScore's Team of the Week on one occasion. Whilst he holds an unflattering 1.3 goals conceded per match, Gauci's shot-stopping ability has been on full display. Gauci averages 3.3 saves per match whilst boasting a 71% shot-stopping rate. Not only is he an intimidating big man with sharp reflexes, but Gauci is also comfortable finding his teammates when Adelaide plays out from defensive scenarios. He has a pass accuracy of 71%, boosted by the passes made in his half, of which 83% have been on target. Defensively, Gauci has won 100% of his duels with opposing attackers.
Gauci's promise is evident to all who have watched Adelaide this season. Veart may need to be prepared to make some defensive adjustments to protect his team's goal more effectively. Then we will see the best of what Gauci offers. He can stop the big chances during play whilst controlling the box, as we know he can. Australia's goalkeeping stocks feel aged and depleted after Socceroos captain Mathew Ryan's mixed World Cup campaign in Qatar. Maybe we will see other keepers get a shot at the top job. Joe Gauci certainly has to be in consideration if and when the national team decides to give young goalkeepers that opportunity.
Statistics sourced from SofaScore.
Click here to read our last Adelaide United-themed 'Youth In Focus' on Emilia Murray.