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W-League regular season ends with Brisbane on top, Melbourne City gets in playoffs

Hayley Raso and the Brisbane Roar won the Premiership and have the top seed in the W-League playoffs.. (photo courtesy Brisbane Roar)

Brisbane Roar clinched the Premiership and Melbourne City FC nailed down the final playoff spot on the final weekend of regular season play in the Australian W-League.

Newcastle Jets 0 Melbourne City FC 3

Melbourne City FC clinched a playoff spot on February 3 with a 3-0 defeat of Newcastle Jets in front of 3,000 fans in Newcastle, with the game staged as the opener for an A-League men’s game. English international forward Jodie Taylor (Seattle Reign for 2018) opened the scoring for City in the 29th minute followed four minutes later by a goal by Aivi Luik (ex-University of Reno). Taylor and Luik both scored their first goals of the year. Japanese international midfielder and 2011 Women’s World Cup winner Yukari Kinga sealed the match for Melbourne just after halftime, with her second tally of the season. With the win, the sides are tied for third on 20 points and both have a goal difference of +5, but Newcastle scored 26 goals—tied with Sydney FC for tops in the league—to City’s 20. City will thus be the fourth seed and will play Premiership Plate winners Brisbane Roar next weekend.

For the Jets’ NWSL loanee contingent, goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom (Portland Thorns), midfielder Tori Huster (Washington Spirit), Katie Stengel (selected this week by the Utah Royals in the Boston Breakers dispersal draft) and defender Arin Gilliland (Chicago Red Stars) played the entire match. For City’s NWSL loanees, Lauren Barnes, Lydia Williams, Steph Catley—traded this week by Orlando to Seattle—and Jess Fishlock, (all Seattle Reign) and Alanna Kennedy (Orlando Pride) and Rebekah Stott (Sky Blue FC for 2018)  all played the entire match. Kyah Simon, who formerly played for the Boston Breakers in the NWSL with the Houston Dash selecting her rights in the dispersal draft this week, also played the entire match. Jodie Taylor subbed out after the 81st minute for defender Tyla Jay Vlajnic while Ashley Hatch (traded by North Carolina Courage to Washington Spirit this week) came on with a half hour left for veteran Rhali Dobson.

Sydney FC 4 Western Sydney Wanderers 1

Sydney FC won its second derby of the season with a 4-1 defeat of the Western Sydney Wanderers, after defeating their suburban rivals 3-1 on December 17. Sydney used first half goals from Australian internationals Chloe Logarzo (her third goal of the season), Caitlin Foord (second goal) and Caitlin Cooper (first of the year). Teenager and U-20 youth international Remy Siemsen scored her fourth goal of the season early in the second half, with Western Sydney’s loan goal coming late from Dutch import defender Maruschka Waldus (ex-University of Alabama who played 8 minutes in one game for Sky Blue FC in 2015), her first of the season. Sydney will host Newcastle in an all-New South Wales semifinal next weekend.

Sydney’s American goalkeeper Audrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit for 2018) and Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns) both played the entire match, as did former NWSL players Caitlin Foord (who’s NWSL rights were recently acquired by Portland) and Lisa De Vanna. American Lo’eau LaBonta (on loan from the Utah Royals) played the entire match for Western Sydney while former Houston Dash defender Ellie Brush subbed in at half-time for Israeli international forward Lee Falkon.

The Equalizer caught up with Falkon a few days before the match. Falkon joined Western Sydney this season after playing in Germany and Denmark. Though born in Israel, Falkon (25) has American citizenship as her mother is an American from Philadelphia and said: “One of my goals is to go to the U.S. [to play in NWSL] if not this year, then in the future.” She has enjoyed her time in Australia but found a much different style of play from Germany, where it is “more disciplined, with ball obsession, more compact defending and building the game slowly. You’re not going forward as fast as you can as in Australia, which is much more physical, much more running and more box-to-box play.”

Brisbane Roar 4 Canberra United 1

Brisbane Roar clinched the 2017/18 Premiership title with an emphatic 4-1 victory over Canberra United before a crowd of 4,178, witnessing the Premiership Plate presentation before an A-League match. Canberra was eliminated from the playoff race the day before with Melbourne City’s 3-0 win over Newcastle. The Roar’s goals came from Portland Thorns loanee and Matilda Hayley Raso (her fourth of the season), Emily Gelnik (her second of the season) and two second half goals from Abbey Lloyd, her first goals ever in two seasons in the league. Norwegian international Elise Thorsnes scored her sixth goal of the season for Canberra. Brisbane returns to the playoffs after missing the semifinals last season, while Canberra will be on the sidelines for only the second time in their history.

For Brisbane, NWSL loanees Carson Pickett (Orlando Pride), Celeste Boureille (Portland Thorns) and Raso all played 90 minutes. For Canberra, goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer and defender Toni Pressley (both Orlando Pride) played the entire match.

Adelaide United 2 Melbourne Victory 1

Adelaide United put a positive ending stamp on their 2017/18 season with a 2-1 defeat of Melbourne Victory, their second win in their last three games, before 719 home fans on February 2. Makenzy Doniak (North Carolina Courage) scored her seventh goal of the season, five more than the club’s second highest scorer, Katie Naughton (Chicago Red Stars, who had two. Jenna McCormick (who played in Norway and Iceland the last two seasons as well as with the Adelaide Crows in the Australian Football League) added her first goal of the year around the hour mark to cancel out a first half Melbourne equalizer from early substitute Kyra Cooney-Cross, which was her second of the year.

For Adelaide, NWSL loanees Alyssa Mautz, Danielle Colaprico, Naughton (all Red Stars) and Doniak all played the entire match. For Melbourne Victory, Kristen McNabb (Seattle Reign) and Christina Gibbons (Sky Blue FC) all played 90 minutes. English international Natasha Dowie (who is now a free agent as she was not selected by any NWSL club in the Breakers dispersal draft) started but subbed out in the 26th minute for Cooney-Cross.

The final 2017/18 regular season standings are as follows: Brisbane Roar won the premiership title with 28 points, Sydney FC is second with 25, Newcastle Jets and Melbourne City finished tied for third with 20 points. Out of the playoffs are Canberra United in fifth on 16 points, while Perth ended in sixth on 14 points. Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney are tied for seventh on 11 points and Adelaide ends in ninth place with 10 points.

Perth Glory had the bye this week.

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Equalizer Soccer.  His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham.  Get your copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

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