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The Week in Women's Football: W-League preview Part One; Matildas name squad for Chile series;

This week, we present part 1 of our annual preview for the Westfield W-League 2019/20 regular season—the league's twelfth campaign—which begins with Western Sydney hosting Adelaide on November 14 and three more games on Sunday, November 17. Post the Women's World Cup, some high-profile W-League veterans signed with clubs in Europe, including Lisa De Vanna and Emily Gielnik, while Aivi Luik moved from Spain back to Norway, and thus all will miss this W-League season. In addition, Sam Kerr did not return to Perth and has told the Chicago Red Stars that she will not be returning to the NWSL in 2020, though at press time her next club—reportedly in England or Spain—has not been announced. The teams are profiled based on their 2018/19 regular season finish. This week we look at last year's semifinalists as well as some notes on W-League/A-League doubleheaders and expansion possibilities in the future as well as the roster for the two-game Matilda series with Chile this month. Next week we will conclude with the other 5 teams.

Westfield W-League 2020/21 Regular Season Preview

Melbourne Victory (7-3-2—24 points—First)

The original Melbourne side had a very good season in 2018/19, winning the Premiership before falling in an exciting semifinal heartbreaking loss at home to Perth 4-2 in overtime. Jeff Hopkinswas named the Westfield W-League Coach of the Year for the second time, after winning the Grand Final in his initial W-League job with Brisbane Roar in 2008/09, when the league first started.

A high profile new signing for the Victory is defender Jenna McCormick, who had a busy off-season after her first year with Brisbane Roar in 2018/19, winning a second Australia Women's Football League (Aussie Rules) title in three seasons for the Adelaide Crows, as the final attracted over 50,000 fans to Adelaide Oval. She also appeared on the Australian Ninja Warrior television show and has announced that she is taking a year off from footy to concentrate on soccer and try to make the Matildas squad. She was in a national team camp in October and was named to the national team squad for the Chile series just ahead of the start to the new season.

Another new signing for the club is New Zealand international midfielder Annalie Longo on a one year contract. Longo (28) has 120 caps for the Football Ferns and 15 goals, starting with the side in 2006 as a 15-year-old. Her last stint in the W-League was in 2012/13 when her Sydney FC side won the league crown. She has played in one U-17 Women's World Cup, two U-20 Finals and an incredible four full FIFA Women's World Cup Finals, beginning in 2007 in China. Longo said: "I'm really excited to join such a well-established and professional environment. The club and players have made me feel very welcome, and I've been really impressed with the overall standard and the resources Victory have provided. I'm looking forward to the challenge of an elite environment where I can continually learn and improve my game."

Melina Ayers (20) is set for her third season with the Victory and fifth overall in the league, having started with Melbourne City; she played with Seattle Sounders in the WPSL this past summer and helped the Washington State side to the league semifinals for the second year in a row. In 2018 the Sounders won the league title but lost to eventual league champions Pensacola FC 3-2 this year.

Last season's club leading goal scorer (9) and former English international Natasha Dowie has been playing this season with Valerenga of Norway. Valerenga (43 points) is second in the table to Champions Lillestrom (49 points) with one game remaining. Dowie is tied for fourth in the table in scoring with 11 goals along with her club teammate Ajara Nchout of Cameroon (who has played previously in Sweden with Sundavall, briefly with the Western New York Flash in 2015 in the NWSL and in Russia with Rossiyanka and Energiya Voronezh as well as in two Women's World Cups), with both behind former Wolfsburg player Synne Jensen of Roa and Norway and former Seattle Reign, Brisbane Roar (2010/11) and Trinidad and Tobago international striker Kennya Cordner of Sandviken—both with 16 goals—and Guro Reiten of Lillestrom (12), with the Norwegian international moving recently to join Chelsea.

Grace Maher (20) went to play in Iceland in April of this year to join Reykjavík-based side KR (Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur) in the top tier league Úrvalsdeild kvenna. KR has the third most domestic league titles in Iceland (six), but has struggled recently as in the 2018 season they finished four points above the relegation zone in eighth. In 2019, they finished a spot higher in seventh and Maher had 2 goals in 17 matches. Maher spent four seasons at Canberra United and won the championship in 2014 and was the league's Young Player of the Year in 2017/18 before joining Melbourne Victory for the 2018/19 season. The midfielder played eight matches in Victory's Premiership-winning campaign and scored a stunning 94th equalizer in the seminal loss to Perth. Her return to the Victory is a key element to another strong season for the club.

Three other imports who are coming to the Victory for 2019/20 and are playing abroad for the first time include American defender Emily Menges, who comes on loan from the Portland Thorns, where she played with Ellie Carpenter (Melbourne City), Hayley Raso (Brisbane Roar) and Caitlin Foord (Sydney FC). Menges has 124 NWSL appearances and won the 2017 league championship; prior to that she played at Georgetown University and won a WPSL Championship in 2009 with the Long Island Fury. Reign FC's Darian Jenkins scored 4 goals with 1 assist in 17 games this past season. With the Reign, she played with Matildas Steph Catley and Lydia Williams (both with Melbourne City this season). Houston Dash midfielder Haley Hanson is the third new import and played in every regular-season game, with 20 starts. The former University of Nebraska star has been capped once at the full national team level and captained the U-23 side this past summer as they won the Nordic Cup.

The Victory lost Matilda forward Emily Gielnik to German giants Bayern Munich and she will not play in the W-League this winter.

The Victory should coast into another playoff berth after falling short of the post-season for the previous three seasons, but their overall goal is to capture their second ever Grand Final in 2019/20, after they won back in 2013/14.

Brisbane Roar(6-2-4—20 points—Second)

It will be a different look for Brisbane Roar on the bench as head coach Mel Andreatta is now a full-time assistant coach with the Matildas, having assisted Ante Milicic at last summer's Women's World Cup in France. Andreatta is a tough act to follow as in her three seasons in Brisbane, she led the club to two consecutive top two finishes and their third Premiership (regular season title) in 2017/18. The Roar was particularly effective in road matches. Her replacement is Jake Goodship, who has been involved in Brisbane's academy program for years and last season led the Young Roar to a strong NPL Queensland campaign, having won the Foxtel Y-League Championship-winning season the year before.

On the player side, English international forward Chi Ubogagu will not return for a second season, having signed for Real Madrid/C.D. Tacon in Spain at the end of the summer, after leaving the Orlando Pride late in the season by mutual agreement. Defender Jenna McCormick signed with Melbourne Victory (above) after a fantastic season in defense with the Roar.

Matilda midfielder Tameka (Butt) Yallop, who has played the last three seasons with Norwegian Toppserien side Klepp IL—where she scored 14 goals in 2017/18 last season and 10 so far this season—returns to the Roar after spending 2018/19 with Melbourne City. She is one goal short of a half century of Westfield W-League goals, scoring 49 in 108 games, all with the Roar since the inaugural season in 2008/09. Yallop has played in

the last 3 FIFA Women's World Cups. Her Matilda teammate Haley Raso is coming back to the Roar, after scoring 4 goals in 14 matches with the Portland Thorns and spending time in France at the Women's World Cup.

Another former Roar player returning is Elise Kellond-Knight (29), who played last season with Melbourne City but all of her previous 6 W-League seasons were with the Roar, winning two Grand Finals and a Premiership. The three-time Women's World Cup player has over 100 caps with the Matildas and began the 2019 NWSL season with Reign FC before a late season trade to the Washington Spirit. She has also played in Denmark, Japan, Germany and Sweden.

Other Matilda returnees to the Roar include Katrina Gorry (who won a NWSL title with FC Kansas City in 2014 and was with the Utah Royals in 2018) but missed a good portion of the 2018/19 W-League season with an ankle injury. Goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold is also back; she signed after the World Cup with the Chicago Red Stars but did not see action behind American 2019 WWC winning goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. The 25-year-old is picked by many to succeed Lydia Williams as Matilda starting keeper and has previously played abroad in Norway.

American defender Carson Pickett (Orlando Pride) returns for her third season with the Roar; the attacking wingback has 3 goals in 26 games over her two seasons in Australia. Celeste Boureille (Portland Thorns) also returns for her third season with the Roar and has been hugely influential in the midfield for Brisbane.

The Roar's youth development program has been top notch for years and they have some good young talent returning, including their leading scorer for the last two seasons, Allira Toby (5 goals each season). Toby will start her fourth season at the club after one year with Adelaide in 2015/16. Indiah Paige Riley, a U-20 Australian international, scored a memorable goal last season on her 17th birthday and made 10 appearances, winning the club's Breakthrough Player of the Year award. Leah Davidson (18) played her first season with the club in 2018/19 while Hollie Palmer (18) is back for her third season and U-20 international Kaitlyn Torpey (19) is starting her fourth season at the Roar.

Another strong young addition is 22-year-old midfielder Isobal Dalton—who was raised in Brisbane—and who played one game for the Roar in 2014 before going abroad for five seasons. She was born in Barnsley, England but moved to Australia when she was 8. Dalton has appeared for Australia at the U-15, U-16 and U-17 levels and played in the English Women's Super League in 2015 with Bristol City. She played collegiately in the States, her final three seasons with the University of Colorado after one year with Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky, who made the NAIA Championship final in 2015. After college she signed in July of 2019 with Nottingham Forest of the FA Women's National League North (the third tier). Nottingham Forest General Manager Lee Billiard—who worked for years for the Boston Breakers in WPS, WPSL and NWSL including as General Manager and President—said of her leaving to return to Australia, "We are all delighted for Izzy. Anytime a player signs a professional contract it is a special moment, and for Forest Women to have played a small part in her recent development and be able to help with the transition to a professional contract is a positive for the club. We will all miss Izzy, she has been great for us on and off the pitch. No doubt we will remain in contact and follow her progress during the W-League season." Dalton explained how excited she was to rejoin the Roar, "There's no other team I want to play for. When the opportunity came up, it was a no brainer—it is a chance to be at home with players I have already played alongside. When I was coming through the system [as a junior], it was the same faces involved in the club back then—they were my role models and five years later they still are."

Claire Polkinghorne left her Houston Dash NWSL club late in the season to return home for family reasons. She was last season's Roar Player of the Year and won the league top player award—the Julie Dolan award—in 2012/13, when the club won their second of three Premierships (regular season title). She is back for her 12th season on the field at Brisbane and will also join the coaching staff of Jake Goodship.

The Roar has signed American Rylee Baisden, who played at Pepperdine University in California from 2012-2016, finishing with 12 goals and 10 assists in 78 games. She exploded in front of the net this season for State League finalist Moreton Bay with 33 goals in 24 matches in her first season in Australia, She earned a one year contract after a tryout of top NPLW players. Baeden (24) said, "It was quite an exciting time being asked to trial—it was the icing on the cake after a good first season in Australia. I didn't expect I'd get a contract, but I'm honored to be playing for Brisbane Roar this season….I've always wanted to play in the top division and this is ticking boxes on my football career. The club has a great reputation and I can't wait to get started."

Sydney FC (6-1-5—19 points—Tied for Third)

Why change what works? Sydney FC has 15 returnees from head coach Ante Juric's 2018/19 Grand Final winning squad, including Americans Aubrey Bledsoe in goal (her third season in Sydney) from the Washington Spirit and Sofia Huerta (her third season in the W-League and second in Sydney) in midfield from the Houston Dash. Bledsoe was the W-League goalkeeper of the season for 2018/19 and had a brilliant season this summer with the Spirit, playing with two Australians from the 2018/19 title winners—Amy Harrison and Chloe Logarzo—and recently being named the 2019 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year at the season's conclusion and to the U.S. national team for friendlies this month against Sweden and Costa Rica.

A new American signing had a huge impact last season in Australia—Veronica Latsko—

who tied for third in the league in goal scoring with nine goals for Adelaide United (with Sydney FC's Caitlin Foord) as she scored more than half of Adelaide's goal total last season (17). She was injured in early May with an ACL injury in her left knee while with Houston and did not play again in the NWSL so she will be working herself back to fitness.

Westfield Matildas FIFA World Cup stars Caitlin Foord (Portland Thorns), Alanna Kennedy (Orlando Pride), and Logarzo (Washington Spirit in 2019 but her rights were just picked up by the Orlando Pride for the 2020 season through the league waiver system) are all returning along with their captain and record Westfield W-League appearance holder Teresa Polias (she has 11 Matilda caps in the past and won the Sky Blue Ball as the top club player last season), who will enter her 10th season with the club. Two-time Championship winner Elizabeth Ralston will play in her eighth season for the Sky Blues. Princess Ibini, who was in the late running for a forward spot in France with the Matildas, also is back and scored 5 goals last season, behind Foord's club high 9 in the regular season and 10 in 14 matches, including the playoffs.

One new signing is Ellie Brush, who moves crosstown from the Western Sydney Wanderers; Brush also has played with Greater Western Sydney Giants in the Women's Australian Football League since the league started in 2017. Brush also played soccer in Iceland and two years in the States with the Houston Dash (2015-2016 seasons).

Matilda veteran Lisa De Vanna (34) left Sydney FC, for whom she was not playing much by the end of last season, to join Italian power Fiorentina on a one year contract. De Vanna has 150 caps for the Matildas.

Sydney has won three league titles in the W-League, tied with Melbourne City for the lead, and will attempt to go top this season with a second consecutive title. They are still the only side to have never missed the playoffs in the history of the W-League.

Sydney planned to start their 2019/20 season with a preseason friendly in Wagga Wagga—a New South Wales regional city of 54,000 about 300 miles south of Sydney

against Newcastle Jets on November 3rd. Head coach and former men's National Soccer League player Ante Juric said,"It is good to have W-League opposition at that stage in our build-up as it will help us transition into the season proper, while having the expected large crowd will ensure the girls put on a good showing. We know what a fervent area for football Wagga Wagga is and once we complete our squad, I think they will be excited by some of our players on show." It is the first game in a partnership agreed between the Sky Blues, Wagga Wagga City Council and Football Wagga Wagga, which will also see a Hyundai A-League men's pre-season game played at the same venue in September 2020. Sydney won the game 2-1 on a wet day, with new signing Mackenzie Hawkesby (19), who played last season with the Wanderers, scoring a brace.

Perth Glory (5-4-3—19 points—Tied for Third)

The big loss here is Western Australian native Sam Kerr, who recently won her third NWSL Golden Boot in a row but won't try for a third consecutive W-League Golden Boot, despite signing a marquee player agreement with the Australian Football Federation for $300,000 last year; she reportedly is headed to Europe (Chelsea seems to be the favorites at the present time) as the lure of a big contract and potential future UEFA Women's Champions League play finally seemingly has enticed arguably the best player in the world today.

Another departure from last season was 18-year-old forward Jacynta Galabadaarachchi, who moved to English Women's Super League side West Ham United in July. She had two starts and two substitute appearances last season for Perth and was part of Melbourne City's championship winning team in 2016/17, playing five times, before spending a season training in England with Everton, Manchester City and Arsenal. Galabadaarachchi was capped at the under-17 and under-20 international with Australia, and joined former Liverpool and Boston Breakers head coach Matt Beard at the East London club, which finished seventh in the Women's Super League in 2018/19, though they did make it to the Women's FA Cup final where they lost 3-0 to Manchester City. Beard said about his new signing: "She has got enormous potential, at 18-years-old, and I'm very excited by what she offers. Moving to England from Australia at 18 is a big step for her and we want to help her settle in well, and I'm confident she will have a fantastic first season with us." So far this season, she has played in 4 of 5 regular season games for West Ham United, who are currently tied for seventh with Reading on 6 points.

Eliza Campbell had a strong first season with the Glory in 2018/19 and returns; Campbell (24) has a couple of caps for the Matildas and was in the running as a backup for last summer's World Cup side for France. Shannon May also returns andis the club's record appearance holder in the W-League and should break 100 appearances this season—she played with Perth in season 1 of the W-League in 2008/09 and this will be her 11th season in the league.

Long-serving defensive duo Kim Carroll and Sarah Carroll also return, the latter having topped the WA Women's Premier League scoring charts with Northern Redbacks earlier this year. Last season's starting full-backs, Natasha Rigby and Jamie-Lee Gale, are back as well.

Glory Head Coach Bobby Despotovski said: "We are going with a slightly different squad this year. There is a lot of local talent on show and the reason behind that is our determination to give local WA [Western Australia] players an opportunity to play at Westfield W-League level. Obviously they have to be good enough and I believe that this blend of players that we have chosen this year and in particular the young players, are definitely good enough. They need that chance to play and show their talent and that's what we're going to give them. In terms of our target for the season, it is always to finish in the top four and then try and win it from there. We're not going to deviate from that."

Other W-League/Matilda News

Ten Doubleheaders This Season

The W-League will host ten doubleheaders in conjunction with A-League matches in 2019/20. Newcastle Jets and Western Sydney Wanderers will each host three double headers, at McDonald Jones Stadium and the new Bankwest Stadium respectively, while Melbourne Victory will stage two double headers, with Sydney FC and Melbourne City hosting one each. Bankwest Stadium will be the venue for a unique first on December 20 when it will host the first Westfield W-League Sydney Derby at the new stadium, but also the first time 2019/20 expansion side Western United play in Sydney as the Hyundai A-League's two newest clubs go head-to-head. These doubleheaders are important because they introduce more people to the caliber of play of the W-League clubs and have helped boost attendance figures over the past few years.

New Future W-League Clubs as the A-League Expands

Macarthur FC, which will enter the men's A-League for 2020/21, has named current Matildas head coach Ante Milicic as their inaugural coach. Milicic will start his new job after the 2020 Olympic Games Qualifiers/Finals for the Matildas next year. Macarthur FC is based in southwest Sydney and will play at a refurbished Campbelltown Stadium, with its training headquarters to be based at a center of excellence which is being constructed. One hopes that, particularly with Milicic involved, that the side will add a W-League club shortly after their A-League launch.

Western United, a third club in the Melbourne area, has joined the A-League this season. Their director of football, former Australian international Steve Horvat, said that the team will look to form a W-League side in the future. Horvat explained, "No doubt about it. We're actually looking to start a girls' academy next year which I'm super excited about. The Matildas are a wonderful example of what a national sporting team embodies in this country. I see the number of girls playing every weekend and we want to make sure we give equal opportunities to boys and girls throughout our academy. As soon as there's an opportunity to bid for a W-League license, I'm sure we'll be bidding."

Matildas Names a Squad of 21 for the Two Game Series against Chile at Home

Ante Milicic selected 21 players to face Chile in a two game series this month, 18 of whom were on the 2019 Women's World Cup side in France. Three players who have the chance to make their debuts for the Matildas in the series include Jenna McCormick, Emma Checker and goalkeeper Sarah Willacy. Those three are part of the 16 current W-League members in 2019/20. Brisbane Roar have six members on the side: Mackenzie Arnold, Katrina Gorry, Elise Kellond-Knight, Hayley Raso, Clare Polkinghorne andTameka Yallop. Melbourne City has three squad members who are new signings for this season: Ellie Carpenter, Checker and Emily van Egmond, along with Steph Catley, while Champions Sydney FC with Caitlin Foord, Alanna Kennedy and Chloe Logarzo. Four other clubs have one player each: Western Sydney Wanderers'Amy Harrison, Melbourne Victory's McCormick, Karly Roestbakken of Canberra United and Adelaide's Willacy.

The three non-W-League based players on the team are Emily Gielnik (Bayern Munich in Germany), Sam Kerr (most recently of the Chicago Red Stars in the States—see above) and Aivi Luik (Avaldsnes of Norway). Kellond-Knight had to drop out due to a late injury.

The Matildas will play Chile on November 9 at the new Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta—Western Sydney Wanderer's new home—and then at Coopers Stadium in Adelaide on November 12.

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

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