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Westfield W-League Review: Semifinals recap and year-end awards

Photo Courtesy FFA

This week we review the two semifinals results and present our Westfield W-League end-of-season awards. Who was the top player and who makes our Best XI? Keep reading to find out.

Sydney FC 1 Melbourne Victory 0

Sydney FC used an early goal from Veronica Latsko (Houston Dash) and defended resolutely to defeat Melbourne Victory 1-0 on March 14 to advance to its seventh Grand Final in the league’s 12-year history. Latsko’s goal came in the 14th minute from a cross from the wing by defender Ally Green, who helped to stymie Melbourne’s New Zealand international midfielder Annalie Longo all game.

Latsko now has three goals on the season and the Houston Dash should be pleased with her progress back from a torn ACL which cost her most of the 2019 National Women’s Soccer League season. The defending champions, who also finished in third last season, reversed a 3-1 loss to the same side two weeks ago, also in Melbourne, that gave the Victory second place in the final league table and hosting rights for the semifinal. Two weeks ago, as part of an A-League doubleheader, over 3,300 saw the match; the semifinal attracted only 704 due to concerns about the COVID-19 virus increasing throughout the country.

Melbourne’s passing was not crisp all game, but they were the more attacking side, particularly in the second half, in a match played under windy conditions at times. Melbourne Victory had a 15-9 advantage in shots, but Sydney’s defense was outstanding, with 34 clearances to Melbourne’s eight.

Our Top 3 players of the game were:

Ally Green, Sydney FC — The 21-year-old former Australian U-20 international defender was a rock at the back for Sydney and sent in the cross for Latsko’s winning goal. The American forward gave all credit to Green after the game when she said, “Ally Green put it on a platter for me. Literally all I had to do was toe-poke it in.” Green led both teams with 91 touches and led Sydney in passes with 45, while contributing four crosses and winning 16 of 28 duels.

Sofia Huerta, Sydney FC — The OL Reign player for 2020 had 11 crosses (the most for both teams) and three shots on the night; she was always in the mix for Sydney, particularly battling in midfield and won three fouls.

Angie Beard, Melbourne Victory — The 22-year-old former Australian youth international wing-back was the best Victory player for the second game in a row, leading her side with 88 touches. She was a force in gaining possession and starting the Victory attack to score a tying goal. Beard is in her sixth season in the league; the first three were spent at Brisbane Roar.

Melbourne City 5, Western Sydney Wanderers 1

Melbourne City continued their unbeaten run and qualified for their fourth Grand Final in their five seasons in the league with an emphatic 5-1 thumping of the Western Sydney Wanderers on March 15. Kyah Simon scored a brace, with additional goals coming from New Zealand international midfielder Rebekah Stott, Scottish international forward Claire Emslie (Orlando Pride loanee) and an own goal from Wanderers back Courtney Nevin.

Cortnee Vine gave the Wanderers some early hope of overturning their 3-0 halftime deficit when she scored when surprisingly left alone in the box in the 51st minute, but 5 minutes later, Simon showed some creative dribbling skills to score her second and City’s fourth goal to secure the win. City dominated in possession (64% to 36%), shots (21 to 6) and crosses (28 to 5).

Wanderers finished the season with one win out of their final five games, scoring six goals and allowing 17 in that stretch. The end of season finish, without North Carolina Courage loanees Lynn Williams and Denise O’Sullivan, still does not take away from the tremendous season that the Wanderers had, making the playoffs for the first time and setting team records for wins (seven), points (22), goals for (24), unbeaten string (six games), wins in a row (three) and league table position (fourth).

Rookie head coach Dean Heffernan and assistant Catherine Cannuli — a former national team player, longtime W-League former player including time at the Wanderers and championship-winning coach in the New South Wales state women’s soccer league — have a strong base to continue Wanderers’ success in the future; they have shown other sides a template for changing on-the field fortunes in the short W-League season.

Our Top 3 players of the game were:

Kyah Simon, Melbourne City — Matildas forward Kyah Simon used the W-League season to re-stake her claim to an Olympic Games team spot, helping the team to qualify last week after missing the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Her two goals gave her six for the season and she demonstrated her penalty-box dribbling skills to throw off a defender and score her team’s fourth goal in the 56th minute.

Steph Catley, Melbourne City — The Matildas wing back tallied two assists, contributed 10 crosses (most for either side) and 73 passes (second only to teammate Lauren Barnes (OL Reign).
Yukari Kinga, Melbourne City — The veteran Japanese international midfielder was so calm in midfield supporting the powerful City attack; she was a constant influence with telling passes in her quiet, unassuming yet effective manner.

The winner of next week’s Grand Final will be the first side to capture four Grand Final titles.

Note: The Football Federation Australia announced on March 16 that the W-League Grand Final — with the date and time still to be determined but either on Saturday, March 21, or Sunday March 22 — will be played behind closed doors (along with the rest of the men’s A-League games this season) because of the COVID-19 virus infection risk.

Our 2019/20 Regular Season Player of the Year Awards

Player of the Year: Emily Van Egmond — Melbourne City

Australia midfielder Emily Van Egmond (Orlando Pride) was a tremendous new signing for 2019/20 for Melbourne City from the Newcastle Jets; she was one of the squad’s leaders all season, finishing with six goals while also being a devastating scoring force for the Matildas during their third stage of the AFC Olympic Games Qualifying tournament. She was fourth in the league in total passes with 728, behind teammates Lauren Barnes (840), Rebekah Stott (763) and Emma Checker (745).

Note: Lynn Williams of the Western Sydney Wanderers might have taken the award if she had stayed the full season rather than returning to the United States for national team duty. In five games, Williams had three goals and four assists and was a big part of their record setting year, along with her North Carolina Courage teammates Kristen Hamilton and Denise O’Sullivan.

Goal of the Year: Tessa Tamplin — Newcastle Jets

Nineteen-year-old Australian youth international wing back Tessa Tamplin scored the goal of the season in Newcastle Jet’s 4-2 home loss to the Perth Glory on January 23. Tamplin, in her second season with the Jets, scored her second W-League goal of her career and sole goal of the 2019/20 season in the 75th minute with a stunning high curler into the top corner of the net from along the right touchline — a good 40 yards from goal — to pull her side to within two goals of the Glory. There was entertainment value in the reaction, too. Tamplin appeared to be sending a cross into the box and was disappointed with her effort and looked away in disgust, but the ball sneaked into the net above Morgan Aquino in the Perth goal.

Import of the Year: Kristen Hamilton — Western Sydney Wanderers

It’s not a stretch to say that the Wanderers’ historic first playoff spot in eight years would not have happened without Hamilton’s seven goals and inspired play all season. She scored two goals in the first 30 minutes of their 3-2 win at Perth in Round 14, guaranteeing their semifinal slot. She won the league Golden Boot, having played only 11 games to Natasha Dowie’s (Victory) and Remy Siemsen’s (Sydney FC) 12, and edging American Morgan Andrews (Perth) who appeared in 11, by playing fewer minutes.

Young Player of the Year: Kyra Cooney-Cross — Western Sydney Wanderers

Midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross, who just turned 18 at the end of the season, scored four goals — a few were breathtaking to watch — in her first season with the Wanderers (after two seasons with Melbourne Victory) and has an incredible ability to pepper goalkeepers with dangerous shots from long distance. This season, the youth international announced herself as a definite Matildas possibility and is being talked about by clubs in Europe.

Coach of the Year: Dean Heffernan — Western Sydney Wanderers

Dean Heffernan inherited an awful mess at the Wanderers and turned it into gold with a new vision for imports and trusted young Australian talent like Kyra Cooney-Cross (see above) and Amy Harrison (ex-Washington Spirit). Heffernan, a longtime professional player in Australia with a short spell in Germany, China and with the national team (two caps), was the clear Coach of the Year choice for most reporters in his first season of coaching any side, after retiring from A-League side Central Coast Mariners in 2018.

W-League 2019/20 Best Eleven — First Team (3-3-4)

Goalkeeper: Casey Dumont — Melbourne Victory

Dumont, in her 10th season in the league, had four shutouts and saved three penalties and made a string of highlight reel saves during the season for a club that started the season slowly, including a long trip to Korea Republic for the first Asian Club Championships; Victory’s second place finish was in large part due to her poise in the net.

Defender: Ellie Carpenter — Melbourne City

The Portland Thorns loanee moved from Canberra United in the offseason and was devastating on the wing with her crosses — totaling 53 for fifth best in the league — while also being a key part of the best defense in the W-League which surrendered only four goals all season. Carpenter chipped in a brace in a 4-0 away win over the Wanderers in their penultimate match of the season.

Ellie Carpenter (Photo Courtesy FFA)

Defender: Rebekah Stott — Melbourne City

The New Zealand international and ex-Sky Blue FC and Seattle Reign defender was key in transition for the best defense (four goals allowed) and top offense (27 scored) in the league. Stott was stellar with her passing, with 763 in 10 games, second only to teammate Lauren Barnes.

Defender: Sam Stabb — Western Sydney Wanderers

American import Sam Stabb, on loan from the Washington Spirit, was extremely impactful to the Wanderers run to the playoffs in her first full year as a professional, leading the side with 704 passes for fifth best in the league.

Midfielder: Aivi Luik — Melbourne City

The former University of Reno and FC Indiana defender/midfielder gets better with age (turning 35 this week) and in the past year has cemented her spot in the Matildas and is hoping to win her fourth Grand Final with City and fifth overall.

Midfielder: Emily Van Egmond — Melbourne City

See above for our player of the year.

Midfielder: Tameka Yallop — Brisbane Roar

An Australian international, Tameka Yallop finished with three goals (surpassing 50 in her W-League career) and finished third in the league in shots with 33 in 10 games.

Forward: Milica Mijatovic — Melbourne City

The Serbian international came from Norway and burst on the scene with City, finishing with five goals on the season.

Forward: Hayley Raso — Brisbane Roar

Australia forward Hayley Raso left two-thirds of the way into the season to join Everton in England but made a huge impact while at the Roar. Raso had four goals in 2019/20 and was a lightning rod for the offense with her speed and canny play; it is not a coincidence that the Roar didn’t make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons without her.

Hayley Raso (Photo Courtesy FFA)

Forward: Kristen Hamilton — Western Sydney Wanderers

See above for our best import of the year.

Forward: Mallory Weber — Adelaide United

American import Mallory Weber (Utah Royals) demonstrated her importance when she scored twice in the first half to help stake Adelaide United to a resounding 3-0 lead over the Western Sydney Wanderers on Jan. 25, a game which the side narrowly held on to win. Weber finished with four goals (33% of the team’s 12 goals) and eighth in the league on shots with 29.

W-League 2018/19 Best Eleven—Second Team (3-3-4)

Goalkeeper: Lydia Williams — Melbourne City

Four goals allowed in 12 matches for a Goals Against Average of 0.33 pretty much says it all about the year the former Reign FC and Matilda starting goalkeeper Lydia Williams had.

Defender: Lauren Barnes — Melbourne City

Veteran OL Reign defender Lauren Barnes was instrumental in City’s undefeated season and best defense in the league; she led the league with 840 passes, 77 more than teammate Rebekah Stott, who was second.

Defender: Jenna McCormick — Melbourne Victory

Jenna McCormick joined the Victory this season from Brisbane Roar and decided to put her Australian football career on hold, having won two Premiership titles in 2017 and 2019 for the AFLW Adelaide Crows, in order to pursue soccer fully. She appeared with the Matildas against Chile for the first time late last season and has a solid chance of making the Olympic Games Finals side, having been a squad member through the last two stages of qualification. She helped the Victory’s backline to allow only 14 goals all season for third best in the league, while adding three assists.

Defender: Steph Catley — Melbourne City

The OL Reign loanee and Matilda international was superb all season for City, leading the league in chances created (27) and crosses (91).

Midfielder: Kyra Cooney-Cross — Western Sydney Wanderers

See above for our young player of the year.

Midfielder: Morgan Andrews — Perth Glory

Morgan Andrews, the OL Reign loanee, finished tied for the league lead in scoring with seven goals, scoring five during a late season trio of consecutive wins for the Glory, providing some momentum entering next year, after struggling to start the season after the loss of Matilda forward and Western Australian native Sam Kerr to Chelsea of the FA WSL.

Morgan Andrews (Photo Courtesy FFA)

Midfielder: Yukari Kinga — Melbourne City

The 2011 Japanese international Women’s World Cup winner was sublime with her passing for City, finishing eighth in the league in passes with 651 while adding 1 goal.

Forward: Natasha Dowie — Melbourne Victory

The English international led the Victory with seven goals and finished joint with three other players for the league lead. She scored five goals in Melbourne’s final six regular season games — five of which were wins — in helping her team to a late push for the playoffs. She led the league in shots with 48 and the Victory has made their second consecutive playoff berth in her fifth season with the side.

Forward: Lynn Williams — Western Sydney Wanderers

See above for our runner-up for player of the year.

Forward: Simone Charley — Canberra United

The Portland Thorns loanee, in her first year as a professional, was a revelation in attack with her pace and vision and led Canberra with five goals in 11 games. Charley was a real plus in a year in which Canberra United struggled at the end of the season. Canberra was in a playoff position at the halfway point before crashing down the table the rest of the season, handicapped by a four-loss skid, when they had zero goals while allowing 15 goals. Three-year head coach Heather Garriock, who played in the WPS with the Chicago Red Stars, ultimately lost her job for not guiding her side to the playoffs during her tenure.

Matildas qualify for the Tokyo Olympics

During the international break, Australia’s women’s national team qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (still scheduled to be played this summer but depending on the COVID-19 virus, the dates could be moved into next year) 7-1 on aggregate. They won their home leg in Newcastle 5-0 on March 6 with Sam Kerr (Chelsea) scoring a brace and then won the return leg in Vietnam 2-1 on March 11, with Kerr and Raso each scoring.

Just after kickoff of the second leg, which was played in a closed stadium

without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the match was delayed due to a power failure for the lights, which took 20 minutes to fix. Huynh Nhu (28) scored for Vietnam, the first time they have ever scored against the Matildas, who have made their fourth Olympics after 2000 as host (2004 and 2016). Huynh Nhu plays with HCM City, who she has won the Vietnam National Women’s Football Championship in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019.


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