This week, we present part 2 of our annual preview for the Westfield W-League 2019/20 regular season—the league's twelfth campaign. This week we examine the 5 teams which did not make the playoffs last season.
Westfield W-League 2020/21 Regular Season Preview
Melbourne City(6-1-5—19 points—tied for Third)
Returnees from the Melbourne City side which just narrowly missed the playoffs last season—after winning three consecutive league Grand Finals in their first three seasons—include Australian international Kyah Simon (who was a final cut for France last summer), starting Matilda goalkeeper in France Lydia Williams, and veteran goalkeeper, former Matilda and City assistant coach Melissa Barbieri for head coach Rado Vidosic's second season. Steph Catley (Reign FC) is also back, after missing half of the 2018/19 season through injury.
Another signing with national team experience is Emily van Egmond (who has played for Orlando Pride the past two seasons after time with the Chicago Red Stars in 2014 and Seattle Reign in 2013 in the NWSL). Van Egmond (26) has spent most of her career with the Jets since the first year of the league in 2008/09 when she was 15 and played with them the last two seasons. She has also played with Canberra United and Western Sydney Wanderers and in Denmark and Germany as well as in the States. Van Egmond recently ended her season with the Orlando Pride of the NWSL early and returned to Australia for ankle surgery; her left ankle was damaged during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup. She played eight matches this season for Orlando, who finished bottom of the league.
Ellie Carpenter (19) was the winner of the Westfield W-League NAB Young Footballer of the Year Award last season with Canberra and had 1 assist in 16 games in Portland's backline this past season. She has 35 caps with the Matildas and debuted in the W-League as a 15-year-old with the Western Sydney Wanderers.
One huge signing on the international front is Scottish international forward Claire Emslie, who scored her country's first ever Women's World Cup finals goal against England this past summer in France, who comes on loan from Orlando Pride. The Pride captured the wooden spoon and had a horrid season, but she was a vibrant attacking option after the World Cup. She went to college in Florida and played for Hibernian at home, and for English Super League sides Bristol City and Manchester City. A native of Edinburgh, she scored eight goals to help Man City to the FA Women's League Cup and Women's FA Cup titles last season.
Japanese international and 2011 Women's World Cup winner Yukari Kinga, who played for Arsenal in 2014, returns for her third season with Melbourne City. Another returnee is NWSL defensive star and American U-23 international Lauren Barnes, who is back for her fourth season with the club and sixth season in the W-League, having played initially with Melbourne Victory for two campaigns.
The fact that City did not have Welsh international midfielder Jess Fishlock last season was a significant factor in their fifth place finish; she won a UEFA Women's Champions League title in Lyon in France instead of playing a fourth season in Melbourne and then returned to Reign FC in the NWSL this past summer and, after only a few games, was sidelined, now recuperating from a torn ACL.
Aivi Luik, who was with the Matildas in this summer's World Cup and was a key part of all three City's title wins, returned to Norway with Avaldsnes IL, after playing with Spanish club Levante in 2018-19—she had played 21 games with 3 goals for Valerenga in 2017. She told this reporter this summer in France that she wanted to leave Levante for more playing time with another club in Europe. Avaldsnes General Manager Staveland Nygaard said at the time they announced that her contract had been finalized, "The fact that we are now getting an established and experienced midfielder who also got a place in the World Cup squad for Australia, we are very pleased." Luik played 10 games this fall with Avaldsnes, who are currently in fifth place on 34 points with 1 game remaining.
One important local signing is former Adelaide United skipper Emma Checker (23). Checker has been capped by Australia at the full level 3 times and played for Adelaide City in the State League level; Checker signed a one year deal for City. She played 78 games in the W-League in 8 seasons with Adelaide, Canberra and Melbourne Victory. In 2017, Checker joined Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels in South Korea.
Seventeen-year-old Sofia Sakalis, a Young Matildas international, has returned and signed a two-year contract. Sakalis made eight appearances and scored 12 goals for the Junior Matildas (Australia's U-17s) before earning a further two caps for the Young Matildas (Australia's U-20s). Sakalis made three appearances in 2018/19 with City.
American Hailie Mace played 2 games for the club, avoiding the NWSL and having to play for Sky Blue FC who drafted her, before going to Sweden and playing 15 matches with goals for 2019 Champions Rosengard. At press time, it was unclear if Mace was returning to Australia.
Adelaide United(5-3-4--18 points—Sixth)
Adelaide United brought in two high-profile teenagers for 2019/20 in Mary (16) and Ciara (18) Fowler. Mary was named to Ante Milicic's Matildas squad in France—after being pursued by the Republic of Ireland—and has four caps but did not play in the tournament in France. This is the first W-League side for either Fowler, as both played for Bankstown City in the NPL NSW Women's competition last season (the state level competition). Red's Head Coach Ivan Karlovic said about the pair, "To secure the signings of these two very promising, young footballers is fantastic for our team and Adelaide United as a club, and we're very excited to be welcoming them to the Reds….It will be a new experience for Mary and Ciara playing in a different state, but I'm confident this adventure will help them continue to develop both on and off the park."
Adelaide United's 25-year-old midfielder Kahlia Hogg (who played in the States at Florida State University in 2012-2013 and the University of Colorado in 2014-2016 as well as with the W-League Pali Blues in 2012) is back after playing in only two games for United last season due to knee issues. She played state league soccer in the offseason in the New South Wales state league (NPL NSW), scoring four goals in 21 matches for Illawarra Stingrays. Hogg previously represented Canberra United and Western Sydney Wanderers.
Sarah Willacy, Laura Johns, Dylan Holmes and Charlotte Grant have also re-signed with Adelaide.Goalkeeper Sarah Willacy (24) spent the off-season with West Adelaide in the Women's National Premier League and is returning for her fifth season with the South Australian W-League club. Laura Johns (25) played 11 matches in 2018/19 from left-back and was consistent in her play. Dylan Holmes (22) returns after a successful season with WNPL treble-winners Adelaide City; she played all 12 matches for the Reds last season. Charlotte Grant (18), featured in 11 matches in her debut season with Adelaide after joining from the FFSA NTC squad; she has five caps with the Young Matildas and was included in the squad for a recent training camp aheadAFC U-19 Women's Championship in Thailand.
Emily Condon is only 21 but is still a veteran at the club, starting in the 2013/14 season and is Adelaide's longest-serving player. Condon has scored seven goals in 53 appearances and has been capped once at the senior level by the Matildas. Defender Georgia Campagnale is back for her sixth season and has played in 49 league games, all with the Reds.
Chelsea Dawber (19) is entering her third season and the club hopes that she replicates her prolific form in South Australia's Women's NPL. She scored 33 goals with Adelaide City across both the WNPL regular season and the playoff finals series, helping the Black and Whites clinch a historic treble.
Amber Brooks, who plays with the Houston Dash in the NWSL and previously lined up with Bayern Munich and was capped once by the U.S. at the full level in 2013, was named the Reds Player of the Year in her first season in the W-League—she added three assists from her center back position and will return for the 2019/20 season. It was another import from the U.S. that finished with the Golden Boot, with Veronika Latsko (injured for most of the season with the Dash) finishing with nine goals as the team's top scorer. Latsko will return to the W-League but not with the Reds, rather joining champions Sydney FC for 2019/20.
One new American signing is forward Mallory Weber (25), who played last season with the Utah Royals. Weber played collegiately at Penn State and then for parts of four seasons for the Portland Thorns before being released from the team early in the 2019 season; she was picked up by the Royals and played 18 games for the Salt Lake City-based club.
Another returnee with U.S. college experience is Isabel Hodgson, who will start her fifth season in the league, all with Adelaide. Hodgson (23) played at East Tennessee State and had one goal in seven matches last season. She previously played for the Reds for three seasons between 2013/14 and 2015/2016 and has 22 appearances in total for United, with one goal.
One interesting new signing is former University of North Carolina and U.S. U-23 international defender Julia Ashley.Ashley (22) played this past season in the Swedish Damallsvenskan with Linkopings, despite being selected sixth overall at the 2019 NWSL college draft by Sky Blue FC and that she is a native of the state of New Jersey. Linkopings, champions in 2009, 2016 and 2017 and with a traditionally strong fan base, finished fifth on 36 points in a very strong 2019 Swedish league seasonShe played in only one league game and was released mid-season. This W-League campaign could be crucial to determining where she plays in 2020.
Former Red Alex Chidiac will remain in Spain after inking a new contract with La Liga Feminina champions Atletico Madrid last summer in a two year deal. She was in the running for a spot with the Matildas in France, but was a somewhat surprising omission. Atletico won their third straight league title last season and Chidiac contributed 3 goals in 19 appearances. The club is in the Quarterfinals of the UEFA Women's Champions League, knocking Manchester City out of the tournament recently in the Round of 16.
Adelaide United had such a strong campaign last season—they are still aiming for their first W-League playoff spot and game ever—but signing some other capable imports is key to a push for the postseason.
Newcastle Jets—(5-1-6—16 points—Seventh)
Newcastle Jets dropped from a playoff spot in 2017/18 (only their second ever) to a disappointing seventh in 2018/19. Head coach Craig Deans believed in his core group by signing 16 off of last season's roster, including 2019 WWC Matilda Gema Simon and Larissa Crummer, who missed the France trip as she was coming back from a leg fracture late in the W-League season.
Cassidy Davis and Hannah Brewer bring with them more than 170 games of Westfield W-League experience, while Tara Andrews (who played in the old W-League with the Colorado Pride in the States) and Jenna Kingsley are also back. After scoring for the first time in the Westfield W-League last season, both Teigan Collister and Pana Petratos will be looking to score more in 2019/20.
Nicki Flannery and Annabel Martin headline the new faces in at Newcastle, the pair bringing with them considerable experience in the Westfield W-League and on the international stage, with both playing for Australia U-20 sides. The twenty-year-old Flannery had 5 goals in 36 games for Canberra United across 4 W-League seasons. Martin, also 20, played four seasons with Melbourne Victory, totaling 39 appearances. In 2016, Martin also claimed Victory's Player of the Year award as a 17-year-old.
A new local addition is forward Lauren Allen from New Lambton. She scored an incredible 33 goals in 24 appearances for the WPL premiership/championship-winning side in 2019 and will be hoping to replicate that form on the top tier Westfield W-League stage.
Emily van Egmond will not be returning to Newcastle Jets for this Westfield W-League season, instead joining Melbourne City (see above). Young Australian forward Cortnee Vine will not be returning for 2019/20—she led the club in scoring last year with 4 goals.
Newcastle also will not be bringing back their American quartet of Arin Gilliland-Wright (Chicago Red Stars), goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom of the Portland Thorns (who was selected as the club's Player of the Year in 2018/19), Katie Stengel (Utah Royals), and Taylor Smith (who tore an ACL late last season in Australia and missed the 2019 NWSL season with Reign FC in Tacoma). Stengel was a late signing for the 2019/20 season for Canberra United.
Nicole Simonsen (22) arrives from Western Sydney Wanderers as a goalkeeper, where she played 6 matches last season, and will compete for the starting spot with incumbent Claire Coelho. Simonsen played for NPL NSW club Manly United in the 2019 W-League off-season, playing in all 22 regular season fixtures. Simonsen said: "I've been training with the side since pre-season started and I'm delighted to have been given an opportunity here in Newcastle."
Deans explained his general squad building strategy this year, "Our focus this season will be on Australian players, particularly local talent, and while not retaining the services of these girls [four imports] is disappointing, we're looking forward to the coming season. We saw at the back end of last year how much our youngsters stood up and delivered for us, and it's that kind of enthusiasm and determination we'll be looking for again this season. Combined with a number of senior heads in our side, we're confident we'll field a competitive side this year and cause a lot of headaches for teams."
This is a risk for Deans to bring back so many younger players from a seventh place side but the W-League is all about developing youth players and if his side jells and avoids the injury problems of last season, his strategy could come good for the club which has only made the postseason twice in eleven seasons.
Canberra United (3-3-6--13 points—Eighth)
Canberra signed Norwegian international Elise Thorsnes (31), who played for the club two seasons ago and scored 6 goals in 9 games; Thorsnes also played for the Utah Royals in 2018. She has scored 10 goals this season for Champions-elect Lillestrom in Norway with 1 game left in the season, tied for sixth in the league in scoring. Thorsnes has over 100 caps for Norway and has played in three Women's World Cups, including 2011, 2015 and 2019.
Katie Stengel (Utah Royals) is back for her fourth consecutive season in the W-League but after one year with the Wanderers and two with the Jets—where she scored 10 goals in 2017/18—she is joining the Greens of Canberra. She scored only 2 goals and 1 assist, frequently as a sub, in 24 games in the NWSL this season and it would be a boost to Canberra's playoff hopes to see a prolific Stengel in front of the net.
A first-time American import is 24-year-old forward Simone Charlie, who appeared in 11 matches as a rookie for the Portland Thorns this season. She had 25 goals and 18 assists in 76 games at the University of Vanderbilt (Tennessee) and has experience with the U.S. U-23 national team.
Defender Nikola Orgill (26) will be a co-captain this season after a strong first season in Canberra; she lined up for the Newcastle Jets and Western Sydney Wanderers for one season each. Orgill combines her playing career with her career as a lawyer. Canberra head coach Heather Garriock said, "Nikola will be balancing her day job as a young lawyer as well as committing to Canberra United. This highlights that it's possible to be an elite athlete as well as have a career, so she's a great role model. Nikola brought us consistency and stability last season, and she will play a critical role in the leadership of Canberra United this season."
Defender Karly Roestbakken (18), who was a surprise selection for the Matildas WWC side in France, returns for her fourth season at the club.Just 12 months ago she was part of the Canberra United Academy program. Since then she has gone on to have a strong Westfield W-League season, captained the Westfield Young Matildas and went to France with the Matildas. Roestbakken was brought on as a late substitute in the crucial comeback win against Brazil (3-2) at the World Cup in France, before starting in the final group match against Jamaica. Roestbakken said, "To not only get my [Matildas] debut, but to get it at a World Cup was just unreal. Being in that environment made me mature a little bit, even though I was only in there for a short period of time. I was able to get that sense of professionalism and what it takes to play at the highest level of women's football. I definitely think I can take what I learnt there and bring it back to the Westfield W-League." Garriock, a former Matilda herself, said that transition through the pathway programs makes Roestbakken a role model for the younger players in the Canberra United setup, "It's fantastic news that Karly has agreed to re-sign with Canberra United for the upcoming Westfield W-League season. I mentioned to our CUA girls this season, that this time last year, Karly was sitting in the same dressing rooms in the NPLW wearing the CUA shirt, now she is wearing a Matildas shirt. She's an excellent role model for all aspiring female football players."
The club brought back Shamiran Khamis in goal for her second season; previously she played for Sydney FC and Western Sydney for six years. Khamis (24) was named the clubs Player's Player at the end of the season. Khamis explained upon committing to the club: "I'm really looking forward to returning to Canberra for another season. The club, my teammates and the community all made it a really enjoyable season last year, so it was an easy decision to come back. The club gave me an opportunity last year and have again this year so of course I want to build on that. We want to be successful this season so my mentality and work ethic to be better every day won't change." As a backup Annalee Grove comes over from Brisbane Roar, where the 18-year-old made a debut backing up Matilda goalkeeper McKenzie Arnold. She was in Ante Milicic's recent Matilda training camp earlier this month.
Sham Khamis will get to play this season with her sister Leena (33), who has played in 103 W-League games and will be playing in her 12th season. She played in 2018/19 with Western Sydney. Khamis is seventh in the Westfield W-League's all-time goal scorer charts with 40 goals and has 25 national team caps, including at the 2011 Women's World Cup.
Local player and central defender Jessie Rasschaert, who was voted as Capital Football NPLW Player of the Year in 2019 for treble winners Belconnen United, has signed a one year contract with Canberra United. Belconnen conceded just four goals in all competitions, while scoring over 100. The 32-year-old mother of one now has her sights set on her maiden Westfield W-League campaign. Rasschaert said: "I've always dreamed of playing in the Westfield W-League, but just never thought it would happen, especially after having a baby less than two years ago. I'm really excited for this season, to be given the opportunity to play at a professional level still feels a bit surreal. The girls are amazing and have been really welcoming and there is a lot of talent in the team so I'm excited to see what we can do together this year." Garriock said of Rasschaert, "Juggling being a mother, a full-time physio and a professional footballer, Jessie is an exceptional role model. Her athleticism and tenacity in attack and defense will add so much value to our squad.
Defender Patricia Charalambous (25) signed with Canberra, after playing two seasons with Perth Glory in the 2017/17 and 2017-18 season, with 12 appearances in total. In 2013 she played for Apollon in Cyprus and played in the European Champions League. She explained, "It was a no brainer when Heather called and asked me to play for Canberra United this season. Canberra have always been at the top of the Westfield W-League, they play great football, they fight until the final whistle and I wanted to be a part of that history."
Three imports from last season who will not be returning, including forward Rhoda Mulaudzi, a South African Women's World Cup player in France, who had 4 goals in 12 games with Canberra United last winter in the Australian W-League but is now with Apollon of Cyprus. Her national team colleague Refiloe Jane, who had two goals in ten games for the Greens last winter, is now with AC Milan in Italy. Chilean WWC team member in France Maria Rojas was playing this fall in the UEFA Women's Champions League with Slavia Prague of the Czech Republic. Also, American Paige Nielsen left the club early last season but rebounded in a solid defensive role for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, playing 21 of their 24 games.
Former Canberra United star and 57-times capped Westfield Matilda Caitlin Munoz has retired from the game in September and her last ever touch of the ball was to score a 118th-minute winner for Belconnen United in the NPL ACTW Grand Final. She played in the 2007 WWC in China and has undergone five knee reconstructions throughout her career. Last year, she was not retained by Canberra United, the club she joined as a foundation player in 2008/09 and led to two Westfield W-League Championships and two Premierships. The 36-year-old contributed a lot to the women's game in Australia and the Westfield Matildas during her long senior career. She said, "You look at the players who came before us who had it a whole lot tougher. I remember stories about the players having to pay for their trips—it made me realize how lucky I was. That sticks with me, and it's great now that the girls are able to be fully professional athletes. That's what everyone dreams for. I wish I was 10 years younger because that might have been me."We wish all the best of luck to Munoz in her future and we hope she stays involved with the game.
Garriock's side has been out of the playoffs the last two seasons, after making the playoffs eight of the nine previous seasons, with 1 Grand Final win and 2 second place finishes. The side needs to rejoin the elite this season and one or two more seasoned imports besides Thorsnes will help the club, replacing the trio of World Cup team members from last season who are now playing in Europe.
Western Sydney Wanderers (1-1-10—4 points—Ninth)
Western Sydney Wanderers are no longer in the Westfield W-League "to make up the numbers," according to new coach Dean Heffernan (38). The Wanderers, who earned only 4 points last season—breaking their previous low mark of 6 points in 2014—replaced former Sydney FC head coach Dan Barrett after only one campaign in charge, in 2018/19. The new manager played nine times for the Wanderers in the Hyundai A-League. His assistant is inaugural Wanderers men's captain Michael Beauchamp and both had national team careers, with Beauchamp on the 2006 and 2010 men's World Cup sides. Another new assistant is Matildas striker Catherine Cannuli, who played 22 times for the Red and Black and scored 8 times. For the start of his tenure, it appeared that Heffernan would look to bring in a new crop of internationals replacing at least some of last year's imports (Americans Lo'eau LaBonta and Sydney Miramontez from the Utah Royals, Ghanaian international Elizabeth Addo—who had an unproductive season and now is in China—and Dutch defender Maruschka Waldus, who is now with Valerenga IF of Norway). Heffernan recently said: "I am very hopeful we will have some exciting news regarding a few signings from overseas...they are very good players and will add not just to the Wanderers, but to the competition as a whole. We have been working hard for a good three to four months now and it seems it is now starting to heat up a bit. The phone calls and contacts we made earlier on are starting to come back to us. It's getting close to the season so the players are very well aware of getting their futures sorted."
Two new signings for 2019/20 include one Matilda and one American, both of whom played for the Washington Spirit in the NWSL this summer. Matilda World Cup 2019 defender Amy Harrison has moved across town from Champions Sydney FC and will be a key component for the Wanderers—she won a W-League Young Player of the Year award with the Sky Blues in 2014. Sam Stabb was a rookie defender for the Spirit this season after playing collegiately at Clemson University. She played every minute of all 24 matches for the strong Spirit side in 2019, adding a goal and an assist. She has played with the U.S. at the U-23 level.
Three other imports come from the 2018 and 2019 champion North Carolina Courage. U.S. national team forward Lynn Williams, American forward Kristen Hamilton (who received a first cap recently against Portugal) and Republic of Ireland international Denise O'Sullivan should drive an attacking approach with WSW, with Williams second in the league in scoring last season with 12 goals, while Hamilton tied for third with 9. Williams and Hamilton will be playing in the W-League for the first time. O'Sullivan will play in a limited role as a guest player this season, around commitments to her national team's European Championship Qualification run, which she did last year for Canberra United.
The Wanderers have signed goalkeeper Jada Whyman again for the 2019/20 season. She has spent time with the Westfield Matildas and first joined the Wanderers in October 2015.Whyman is frequently present at community events and is a nationally known role model and mentor for Indigenous footballers in her local community and regional areas.Last season, she was voted the Club's Members' Westfield W-League Player of the Year
Courtney Nevin (17) made her Wanderers debut in the 2018/19 Westfield W-League season. Nevin, though still in high school, played nine times (recording one assist) for Western Sydney Wanderers in 2018/19. Nevin was recently called into Australia's October national team camp—the first with the 2020 Olympic Games in mind.
Another young talent returns in Susan Phonsongkham (18), who played for Sydney Olympic in the NPL NWS in the off-season, winning the Golden Boot with 20 goals. She will be playing for her third season with Wanderers. Born in Thailand, she is a U-20 Australian international.
Another strong pickup for 2019/20 was Young Matildas midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross. She first joined Melbourne Victory as a 16-year old in 2017/18, playing in all 12 games and scoring twice. She won the Premier Plate last season with the Victory and was playing in the AFC U-19 Women's Championship earlier this month, where they qualified for the next FIFA U-20 WWC tournament.
Alex Huynh, an inaugural player for the club, returns to the Wanderers after spending a number of years overseas in college in the U.S. with Colorado Buffaloes. Her most recent stint was in the NPL Women's Queensland competition with Souths United, where she featured in 20 matches. Huynh a defender who last played for the club in 2017/18, explained, "I was part of the original squad when the club became a club and it was honestly such a great experience." Alix Roberts also returns to the club after a stint overseas in Denmark with AAB; she also last played with WSW in 2017/18.
The Wanderers have been busy off the field with finalizing their new purpose built stadium—Bankwest Stadium—and a Centre of Football in Blacktown, which includes three elite training pitches housing the club's Hyundai A-League, Westfield W-League teams and academy teams. It also features team locker and physiotherapy rooms, a state-of-the-art gym, offices and media center. Once completed, the Centre of Football will be one of the biggest club sport facilities in Australia, with a new academy facility, community offices and six more pitches still to be built at the 11-hectare development.
The Centre of Football will also play a massive role in the broader Blacktown community through community programs, which include but are not limited to:
Male and female elite pathway development
Female participation with a focus on body image; mental health; obesity and healthy eating
Programs for seniors and the elderly
Migration settlement, activity and inclusion programs across Western Sydney
Indigenous community engagement and participation activity and pathway opportunity
All-abilities football participation and activity
The Wanderers club will be able to host international teams and youth tournaments, primarily using the club's football network across the Asian regional and other key markets.
Their new Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta (capacity 30,000) will be a fantastic setting for the side that has been so strong on the men's side in the A-League, winning the Asian Champions League in their second season (2014) and appearing in 3 A-League Grand Finals (2013, 2014 and 2016). The women's side has struggled in their seven seasons in the W-League—never making the playoffs—with last season's four points a nadir for the club.
The Wanderers also signed a landmark five-year agreement with Intermain for the front of their jersey. Established in 2001, Intermain are one of Australia's leading commercial fitout and construction companies, delivering well designed, functional spaces for a wide range of clients.
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