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Americans shine in Week 1 of Australian W-League

Jasmyne Spencer (center) scored twice in Sydney FC's season-opening win. (Getty Images)

Jasmyne Spencer (center) scored twice in Sydney FC’s season-opening win. (Getty Images)

Jasmyne Spencer scored twice to lead Sydney FC to a 2-0 home victory over Adelaide United during the first weekend of Australia’s W-League Season. Australia’s national women’s league started earlier this year than in recent years in order to finish the season—the league’s seventh—before Christmas, ahead of the 16-team men’s Asian Cup, which starts in January 2015 throughout the country.

Spencer, on loan from Western New York, where she scored three goals with the Flash, scored her brace within a half-hour spell. Sydney FC also has American Samantha Johnson from Chicago Red Stars.

Some significant departures for Sydney include: English international forward Jodie Taylor, the W-League’s leading scorer last season and who finished tied for third in scoring in NWSL with Washington Spirit this summer, and Australian attackers Samantha Kerr (Western New York) and Caitlin Foord (Sky Blue FC), who both joined Perth.

Adelaide United won more games (3) and achieved more points (13) in 2013-14 than they ever had in five previous league seasons, and are still striving for their first-ever playoff spot. Former Australian international goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri and Norwegian international forward Lisa-Marie Woods are all back along with new signing Katrine Pedersen from Norway’s Stabaek. She has over 200 caps for Denmark. Katie Holtham of Notts County joins Adelaide and won a USL W-League title in 2010 with the Buffalo Flash.

The biggest upset of the round was Newcastle United’s 1-0 home win over reigning champions Melbourne Victory on Angela Salem’s (Western New York Flash) goal in the 47th minute. The Jets’ victory gave them 3 points, more than they had all last season (1 tie and 11 losses in 12 games). The Jets brought in three Americans—two of whom had played with them before, in 2012/13 — Salem and Tori Huster (Washington Spirit/Western Sydney Wanderers) along with Katherine Reynolds (Western New York Flash). Australian international goal scorer Emily Van Egmond (whose father coached the Jets in the men’s A-League for years) was just released by the Chicago Red Stars last week.

Current champion Melbourne Victory returns impressive Australian winger Stephanie Catley after her successful NWSL season with Portland Thorns FC. The Victory also brought in American defenders Elli Reed and Lauren Barnes (who was a late addition last season for the Victory) both from Seattle, as well as Washington Spirit and U.S. international midfielder Christine Nairn. Australian international forward Lisa De Vanna (most recently of the Washington Spirit) also returns for her second season with the side. The Victory lost influential Welsh and Seattle Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock, who joined German club 1. FFC Frankfurt on loan for the offseason.

Canberra United defeated Western Sydney Wanderers 4-1 behind a brace from Australian international and all-time W-League leading scorer Michelle Heyman, who now has 44 career goals. Americans Lori Lindsey (Washington), Stephanie Ochs (Houston) and Kendall Fletcher (Seattle) return to the side along with Spirit goalkeeper Chantel Jones, who played for Perth Glory last season. Jones will replace Australian international goalie Lydia Williams, who injured her knee with the Flash this summer.

The Western Sydney Wanderers have struggled to match the success of the men’s side, which made the Grand Final in each of their first two years and have an amazing fan base. In an attempt to make the W-League playoffs for the first time, the Wanderers have brought in Keelin Winters from Seattle. American forward Shawna Gordon, who won a USL W-League title last summer with the L.A. Blues, is now in Sweden with Umea and will not return.

Perth Glory had an excellent 2-1 home victory over 2013-14 runner-up Brisbane Roar. Australian international forward and Swedish league veteran Kate Gill had both Glory goals. Perth looks to return to the playoffs for only the second time in seven seasons, having qualified in 2012/13. Two NWSL veterans who transferred from Sydney FC should help that effort greatly: Caitlin Foord (Sky Blue FC) and Sam Kerr (Western New York Flash, where she scored 9 goals in 2014). Former Canadian U-20 national team captain Shelina Zadorsky (ex-University of Michigan) joins from the USL’s W-League Ottawa Fury. Glory midfielder Collette McCallum played in the U.S. with Sky Blue FC in WPS and the Pali Blues in the USL W-League.

The Roar were without Portland Thorn goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, who was with Germany for World Cup qualifiers. Angerer played with the Roar last season. FC Kansas City’s Katrina Gorry is also with Brisbane. Three Roar players spent their off-season in Japan: Tameka Butt and Elise Kellond-Knight with Iga FC Kunoichi while Roar captain Claire Polkinghorne was with Japanese power INAC Kobe Leonessa. The Roar are expected to again make the four-team playoff this season.

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