The race for Australia’s W-League title came down to the final game with Canberra United take the silverware. The Grainey Report looks at the title run as well as many of the American and NWSL players that spend part of the year playing ‘down under.’
By Tim Grainey
Even though the sixth edition of Australia’s Westfield W-League had determined the playoff semifinalists with a few weeks to go in the regular season, this was one of the most closely scrutinized seasons to date. The race for the Premiership (regular season title) came down to the last game as Canberra United defeated Sydney FC 2-1 to claim their second Premiership, after going undefeated in 2011/12 and winning the Premiership and Grand Final for an Australian double.
In the semifinals, Canberra hosts fourth place Brisbane (piped on goal difference by Melbourne Victory). The Victory travel to the harbor city to play Sydney FC. Brisbane (two), Sydney (two) and Canberra have won all the previous five W-League titles, while Melbourne were Grand Final runner-ups last season, so the gap between the top four and those who missed the playoffs remains sizable.
There also was a lot of focus on the W-League this season because of the number of North Americans who continue to join Australian clubs during their off-season, as well as following the form of internationals—including some Australians—who play in NWSL or will join this season.
None is more awaited in NWSL than German international goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, who dethroned Abby Wambach as FIFA Women’s Player of the Year for 2013. Angerer signed with Portland Thorns, who under new head coach Paul Riley, shipped Canadian international goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc to Chicago to make room for the German. Angerer was in goal when Germany won the European Championships in Sweden last summer.
The two time league champions Brisbane finished tied for third in the regular season with Katrina Gorry, who won a USL W-League title with Ottawa Fury in 2012, scoring 5 goals (tied for 8th in the league). Tameka Butt, who played with the Boston Breakers in the WPSL Elite in 2012, scored 4 times to finish tied for 12th among league scorers.
For Canberra, their 2013-14 Premiership title was a testament to their new Dutch head coach Liesbeth Migchelsen, who joined the team for this season after assisting with the Netherlands U-19 national team. The Washington Spirit’s two loan players did well: Stephanie Ochs scored 6 times to finish tied for 5th in the league while Lori Lindsey scored twice. Ochs was acquired by the expansion Houston Dash last month in a trade, sending Danesha Adams to the Spirit. Kendall Fletcher, a veteran of Australia’s A-League and WPS, scored once for the Capital city club and will join the Seattle Reign for 2014.
For Sydney FC, Jodie Taylor was a tremendous signing, as she led the league in scoring with ten and will be playing with the Washington Spirit this spring. After also scoring ten goals with Gothenburg in Sweden for half a season earlier in 2013 before leaving the club mid-season, Taylor will be a significant upgrade at forward for the Spirit, who scored the fewest league goals (16) in 22 games last season. Taylor is an experienced striker who has played in the U.S., (Oregon State, Boston Renegades and Pali Blues in the W-League), Canada (Ottawa Fury in the W-League), Sweden, England and Australia. Two Australians who played last season in the NWSL did well in hitting the net: Kaitlin Foord (Sky Blue FC) had 5 goals while Sam Kerr (Western New York Flash) had 3.
Melbourne Victory made the playoffs again this season, having lost the Grand Final last season to Sydney FC by a 3-1 score line. Lisa DeVanna (Sky Blue FC) tied for second in the league with 7 goals. During the offseason, there were rumors that DeVanna will not return to NWSL this season but recent reports indicate that she will rejoin the New Jersey-based side. Influential midfielder Jess Fishlock (Wales and Seattle Reign) added two goals in her second season with the Victory. American defender Lauren Barnes joined the Victory with three games left to help the side after injuries and international call-ups in defense.
Among the clubs not making the playoffs in 2013, Perth Glory fell off from last season, when they made the playoffs for the first time since the league started in 2008/09, losing to Melbourne Victory on penalties in the semifinals. Washington Spirit goalkeeper Chantel Jones started all twelve games for the Glory, recording five wins along with two shutouts, while Canadian international forward Christina Julien scored 2 goals.
Adelaide United’s sixth place finish can be considered a success since it was their highest league placing ever; they won more games (3) and achieved more points (13) than they ever had before. Former Australian and English international forward Kristy Moore scored three times while Norwegian international forward Lisa Marie Woods (who played with Boston Breakers last season) scored once. Despite scoring two goals in their last match away against bottom side Newcastle, the Reds allowed a late Newcastle goal for the Jets to salvage the draw and their only standings point of the season; Adelaide would have finished tied for fifth and ahead of Perth on goal difference with a victory in Newcastle.
Western Sydney Wanderers again missed the playoffs in their second season, dropping from 13 points to 9. Former WPS player Heather Garriock scored twice as did Tori Huster, on loan from the Washington Spirit. Australian international Emily Van Egmond, who played briefly for the Seattle Reign, scored once as did American Shawna Gordon, who was on the Boston Breakers practice squad roster last year as an amateur. The loss of Australian international and Boston Breaker forward Kyah Simon, to an ACL tear in a friendly match with the U.S. last October, hurt the suburban Sydney side.
Newcastle Jets went with a lot of young local talent this season, which should bode them well in the future. Jet’s captain Gema Simon, who has played six seasons for the Jets, scored an injury-time equalizer to give the Jets their only tie of the season, to go with 11 losses and no wins) against Adelaide in their final game. Hannah Beard, who played for St. Leo’s University in Florida, scored twice for the Jets.
Postscript: On February 23, third placed Melbourne Victory will host Brisbane Roar in the Grand Final. In the semifinals this past weekend, Brisbane Roar upset Canberra United 2-1 before 1,148 in Canberra. Melbourne qualified with a 3-2 win over Sydney, with American Lauren Barnes scoring the winner from the penalty spot. Seattle Reign teammate Jess Fishlock also scored while the Western New York Flash’s Sam Kerr scored once for Sydney.
Tim Grainey is a regular contributor to Soccer365. He is the author of Beyond Bend it Like Beckham.