This week we check in on the Westfield W-League season to date and have some new coaching and player announcements for the NWSL 2018 season. Happy Holidays to everyone.
Westfield W-League Season Update
With five games left in the regular season of the Australian W-League, a tight race for the four semifinal spots has emerged among six clubs. If the season ended today, Brisbane would make the playoffs as surprise Premiership Champions (as the regular season champions), having finished seven points out of the playoff reckoning last season.
Joint second place Perth and fourth place Sydney would repeat as playoff contestants from 2016/17 while Canberra United and champions Melbourne City—who both made the playoffs last season—are on the outside looking in.
If they can maintain a top four position until the end of the season, currently joint second Newcastle Jets would make the playoffs for the first time since their sole appearance in year one of the league in 2008/09. We review the season so far in order of the current table placement.
Brisbane Roar(5-0-2—15 points—First)
The Roar has snuck in under the radar a bit, with three straight 1-0 wins mid-season, including road wins at Canberra and Western Sydney Wanderers. Twenty-three year old Australian forward Allira Toby is their leading scorer with three—more than the two she scored in 22 games in two previous seasons with Brisbane and Adelaide—followed by Katrina Gorry (Vegalta Sendai) with two.
Portland Thorns Australian international winger Haley Raso and U.S. international defender Carson Pickett have been strong pickups. Hong Kong international forward Wai Ki Cheung has not scored this season but has received regular playing time. With 9 goals as a team, the Roar's offense is ahead only of the bottom three sides Melbourne Victory (8 goals), Western Sydney Wanderers (7 goals) and Adelaide United (7 goals).
Their defense however leads the league with only 8 team goals surrendered, four of which were shutouts, and is the primary reason for their table-topping performances this season.
Perth Glory (4-1-2—13 points—Joint Second)
It took Sam Kerr 7 games and a hat trick in a 3-3 away draw at Newcastle Jets on December 16 to capture the league scoring lead (8 goals) away from teammate and Orlando Pride American loanee Rachel Hill, who was a rookie last season after playing at the University of Connecticut.
She had only 3 goals in 15 matches in Orlando but exploded with a hat trick against Brisbane in Week 2 and has 7 so far in the W-League. Kerr could take the league scoring title as she did with Sky Blue in NWSL this season but Hill has been a revelation.
Other imports from NWSL have made solid contributions including Amanda Frisbie in defense (Boston Breakers) and midfielders Nicole Stanton and Costa Rican international Raquel Rodriguez (both Sky Blue FC). Perth is aiming for its third Grand Final in the past four years and a chance to win its first league title to go with its Premiership crown (regular season title) in 2014.
Newcastle Jets—(4-1-2—13 points—Joint Second)
The Jets have come close to the playoffs the past three years—finishing fifth or sixth after a nightmarish 2013/14 when they had one point in 12 games—but this season they have done well offensively with the second highest goal total in the league (15) behind Perth (18). American imports Katie Stengel (Boston Breakers and ex-Bayern Munich and Western Sydney Wanderers last season) and Arin Gilliland (Chicago Red Stars) each has 5 goals and Portland Thorns backstop Britt Eckerstrom (ex-U.S. U-17 national team) has been a strong addition in defense. The Jets are a well-balanced side and if they do make the finals—particularly as a host team by finishing first or second—they could shock the form makers and make the 2017/18 Grand Final on February 18.
Sydney FC (4-0-3—12 points—Fourth)
The Sky Blues started off the season with three consecutive defeats before a run of four straight wins turned their season around. American goalkeeper Audrey Bledsoe of the Orlando Pride was an in-season addition while three time Australian World Cup veteran Lisa De Vanna has contributed four goals after a slow start, along with teenager and Australian U-20 international Remy Siemsen (18), who scored 6 goals last season and has 3 so far in 2017/18. Long time Sydney FC midfielder Kylie Ledbrooke also has 3 goals, 2 from the penalty spot. U.S. international defender Emily Sonnet from Portland has played well in her first season in Australia.
Melbourne City(3-1-3—10 points—Fifth)
Melbourne City is stock full of NWSL loanees from four countries—Seattle Reign loanees Lauren Barnes (U.S.), Rebekah Stott (New Zealand), Lydia Williams, Larissa Crummer (both Australia), Jess Fishlock (Wales) and Orlando Pride loanees Steph Catley (Australia), Alanna Kennedy (Australia) and Ashley Hatch (U.S.).
Australian international Kyah Simon, the ex-Western New York Flash and Boston Breakers forward, is new at City this season, after playing the three previous years with Sydney FC. Fishlock leads the team with 4 goals while Crummer has 3 and Simon has chipped in 2.
All three of their losses have come on the road, to current top four sides Perth, Sydney FC and Brisbane. Dropping two points in Round 6 to last placed Adelaide United when Kyah Simon had a penalty saved by Adelaide backup keeper Sarah Willacy (22 years old) may still be their undoing. Melbourne City has to score more (12) and reduce their goals against (13) in order to be the first team to capture a third W-League title.
Canberra United (3-0-4--9 points—Sixth)
Canberra United's sixth place showing is a puzzler as they have arguable two of the highest profile imports ever in the league in English international import Laura Bassett (1 goal) and Norwegian international Elise Thorsnes, who has none but joined the team after the season started.. Australian international Michelle Heyman, the all-time scoring leader in the league with 61, has 4 goals to lead the side. Canberra is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time ever.
Melbourne Victory(2-1-3—7 points—Joint Seventh)
Melbourne Victory looks to have missed the playoffs again for the third straight season—their longest run of playoff misses since the league's first two seasons. English international and Boston Breaker forward Natasha Dowie has done well, scoring five goals. With two goals in a 4-0 victory over Adelaide in Week Seven, Dowie became the Victory's all-time goal leader with 16, surpassing Caitlin Friend (ex-Notts County in 2014) who has 14 for the club scoring record. Friend's record came in 46 games over 4 years, while Dowie is only in her third season with the Victory and has played in just 25 games.
Korea Republic international Jeon Ga-Eul, a 23 year-old forward, played briefly with the Western New York Flash a few years ago and is expected to join North Carolina Courage (the new home for the former Buffalo/Rochester New York franchise) for the 2018 season. The original Melbourne W-League side is tied with Brisbane with the fewest goals allowed in the league (8)—their problem is that Dowie has more goals (5) than the rest of the side (3) and she needs a strong partner up front for the team to again make the playoffs.
Western Sydney Wanderers (2-1-4—7 points—Joint Seventh)
Western Sydney Wanderers will miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year. They went with three imports from Europe but need more scoring from them: former Dutch international forward Marlous Piette of the Netherland and Israeli international midfielder Lee Falkon both scored their first goals of the season in Round 8 on December 15. Falkon, who's mother is American, is on the Israeli squad in the midst of UEFA Women's World Cup qualifying. The other Dutch import this season—defender and much travelled Maruschka Waldus, who has played in the Netherlands, the United States, Sweden, Germany and Iceland—has not hit the score sheet in Australia. The other import is American Lo'eau LaBonta (on loan from FC Kansas City/Utah Royals) is the only American on the roster and has one goal.
Adelaide United(1-1-5--4 points—Ninth)
For Adelaide, NWSL loanees Danielle Colaprico, Alyssa Mautz, Katie Naughton (all Chicago Red Stars) and Makenzie Doniak (North Carolina Courage) played the full 90 minutes; Doniak has 5 goals, with Naughton and Mautz scoring one each. Adelaide still has never made the playoffs but after a late run last season fell short; they were optimistic that this would be their breakout season. The Reds have the fewest goals scored in the league with 7—even with Western Sydney. Australian youth international Adrianna Jones, who scored 9 goals last year for Adelaide and 13 for Zhuhai Suoka Guangdong Football Club in China earlier this year, is scoreless so far for Adelaide in 2017/18.
Laura Harvey hires English ex-pat Scott Parkinson as her lead assistant in Utah
Laura Harvey, the head coach of the Utah Royals, the expansion/former FC Kansas City organization, hired Scott Parkinson as assistant coach. A native of Liverpool, Parkinson was the head coach at Rogers State in Oklahoma, compiling a 19-13-6 record over two seasons. Harvey explained: "I have known Scott for a number of years; we met on a coaching license course in the U.S. Since completing the course, we have always kept in touch and I have followed his career closely.
Scott sees the game in a similar way to me, he is knowledgeable about the women's game, and knows what I'm looking for in teams I coach. He is a hard worker who will give everything to make this club the best it can be and I'm excited to have Scott on our staff." Parkinson played collegiate soccer at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and was a First-Team NAIA and NSCAA All-American in 2012, following a third-team selection in 2011. Parkinson served as team captain for Oklahoma City FC during its inaugural season in the Premier Development League in 2013.
Sky Blue FC Signs Brazilian international Thaisa Moreno for 2018 NWSL Season
Sky Blue FC of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) announced this week that the club has signed Brazilian midfielder Thaisa de Moraes Rosa Moreno. New head coach Denise Reddy said: "Thaisa is a distinguished international with outstanding ability on both sides of the ball. Her experience and expertise as a midfield motor will be a huge addition to our roster." Thaisa has made 49 international appearances for Brazil with four goals and played in the 2015 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
Thaisa played collegiately in the U.S. from 2007-2010 at Feather River College in California for two years before finishing at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida. She then returned to Brazil with Foz Cataratas in Foz de Iguassu (the city which borders Argentina and Paraguay) in 2011 before winning the Campeonato Paulista with Ferroviária and the Campeonato Brasileiro de Futebol Feminino with Centro Olímpico in Sao Paulo in 2013. She went to Sweden in January of 2014 to join Tyreso FF of the top-level Damallsvenskan league, joining national teammate and five-time FIFA Women's Player of the Year Marta (now with the Orlando Pride. Also at Tyreso was U.S. 2015 World Cup Champions Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg and Christen Press.
Tyreso fell in the UEFA Champions League Final against VfL Wolfsburg of Germany. Thaisa returned to Ferroviária later that year and spent 2015 with América Mineiro in Minas Gerais and 2016 with São José Esporte Clube in Sao Jose de Campos in Sao Paulo State. Most recently, she spent the 2017 season with Grindavík in Iceland.
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey