After six challenging seasons it looks like the Western Sydney Wanderers finally have a team that can genuinely compete in the Westfield W-League.
One round is hardly sufficient evidence to suggest the team can make the finals and be a title contender, however, last Thursday night’s stirring win over Adelaide United gave Wanderers fans a taste of what this season could have in store for them.
Let’s take a look at the team shall we?
Goalkeeper Abigail Smith was fantastic in goals and looked rock solid. She made three great saves that showed she is athletic as well as a genuine shot stopper. This gave the Wanderers some presence in the last line.
As much as the Red and Black fans love Jada Whyman, Smith looks very reliable and the goalkeeping duties look to be hers for the season.
Down back, Sam Staab and Alex Huynh were strong against the Reds despite the odd shaky moment. Both kept fighting throughout the game and made sure they were in the right place at the right time. This fight is something Wanderers’ fans of years gone by didn’t see coming.
Staab also impressed with her ball distribution, linking up cleanly with the Wanderers midfield.
Teenager Courtney Nevin also performed well at left back, running tirelessly throughout the game, making great tackles and clearing the ball away without hesitation.
Alix Roberts at right back delivered the cross that led to Thursday night’s equalising goal from Kristen Hamilton. Having a defender who can intercept balls, start attacks and set up goals will be vital this year for a team who leaked a lot of goals whilst struggling to hit the back of the net themselves last season.
In the middle of the park, Ella Mastrantonio and Amy Harrison gave the Wanderers centreline some much needed stability. Both veterans, who have played international football, were able to provide the ideal connection from defence to attack. Manager Dean Heffernan will sleep at night a lot better knowing these two are in the team.
Erica Halloway was quiet on Thursday night but last year she showed how much flare she can provide on the wing. With the speedy Cortnee Vine on the left, the Wanderers have plenty of pace and width down the flanks.
The skill and class of teenagers Kyra Cooney-Cross and Vesna Milivojevic came to the fore. The 17-year-old Milivojevic was heavily involved on Thursday night whilst Cooney-Cross was crucial especially at the end when she banged in the winner.
Susan Phongsongkham didn’t have a lot of time to make an impact in the season opener but when she gets the ball she is as dangerous as anyone out there. The Young Matilda will be keen to show what she has to offer after an injury interrupted 2018/19 campaign.
Kristen Hamilton was the Player of the Match against Adelaide and her skill and speed will be a valuable asset going forward. She is able to beat opponents and importantly win balls in the air. Her football intelligence is also something to marvel at.
What is even more exciting for the Wanderers is that boom signing Lynn Williams didn’t even play in Round One. Williams scored 12 goals in the NWSL this year, second behind NWSL Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr. Once she comes in, she and Hamilton will be a mouthwatering duo up front.
Denise O’Sullivan, another North Carolina Courage championship winner along with Hamilton and Williams, will also break into the team at some point. The Irish International is one of the standout holding midfielders in the NWSL. She was voted MVP for the Courage in the last two back to back title winning seasons. Her coach at North Carolina Paul Riley even called her the “biggest gift we got.”
Toss in former Matilda Caitlin Cooper, Liana Danaskos and Tiana Jaber, the Wanderers have plenty of depth.
2019/20 is only one round old, so let’s not get carried away, but gosh it’s a tantalising prospect.
*Round Two sees the Wanderers host Newcastle Jets at 5pm at BankWest Stadium as part of a Hyundai A-League double header.
Written by Janakan Seemampillai, published by Tanner Coad