Western United faces another tricky test in the Liberty A-League Women, travelling to face Wellington Phoenix on Sunday afternoon.
Liberty A-League Women Round 4
Wellington Phoenix vs Western United
Sunday, 12 November
Kick-off: 2:00pm AEDT (4:00pm local time)
Jerry Collins Stadium, Porirua
Broadcast: The match will be broadcast live and free on 10Play, and on Paramount+
Mark Torcaso will welcome Jaclyn Sawicki and Tyla Jay Vlajnic back into the fold after they both missed last week’s draw with Melbourne City.
Coming off recent international commitments, the pair were not ready to play but have come through a full week of training and should be in line to return.
Hillary Beall is named in the extended squad once again and will fight Alyssa Dall’Oste for the starting position in goal, while there will be plenty of competition in attack with the likes of Kahli Johnson, Keiwa Hieda, Avaani Prakash and Kiara De Domizio vying for places.
Western United squad: 1. Alyssa DALL’OSTE (gk), 2. Stacey PAPADOPOULOS, 4. Jaclyn SAWICKI, 6. Chloe LOGARZO, 7. Kiara DE DOMIZIO, 9. Hannah KEANE, 10. Kahli JOHNSON, 11. Emma ROBERS, 12. Lucy RICHARDS, 13. Avaani PRAKASH, 14. Natasha DAKIC, 15. Adriana TARANTO, 16. Melissa TARANTO, 18. Grace MAHER, 19. Tyla Jay VLAJNIC, 20. Keiwa HIEDA, 21. Hillary BEALL (gk), 22. Alana CERNE, 24. Julia SARDO, 26. Natalie PICAK (gk)
Last time out
Western United played out a dramatic 2-2 draw against Melbourne City in Round 3 last week, ending a match level in the Liberty A-League Women for the first time ever.
Hannah Keane gave United the lead before Johnson scored a brilliant equaliser after Melbourne City had wrestled back the lead, and there was late drama as the Green and Black ultimately had to settle for a point.
Wellington Phoenix have been one of the biggest success stories in the early weeks of the new Liberty A-League Women season, looming as one of the most difficult sides to play in the competition.
After five wins in 32 matches and two straight bottom-of-the-league finishes, Wellington have strengthened the squad and brought in Paul Temple as head coach with an instant impact.
A narrow Round 1 defeat to Melbourne City did nothing to deter the side with strong wins against Western Sydney and Brisbane Roar in the following weeks, the first time the club had secured consecutive victories in the Liberty A-League.
The Phoenix are an entirely different proposition and, on home soil, will give Western United an extremely difficult challenge to overcome in search of three points.
Key Matchup: Alana Cerne vs Mariana Speckmaier
Western United is yet to keep a clean sheet in the Liberty A-League, and Alana Cerne will be desperate to hope that changes this weekend as the Green and Black chases an important win.
One of United’s best players and one of the best young players across the entire competition last season, Cerne has continued that run of form by playing every minutes over the opening three rounds this season.
The Australian Under-23 remains a vital part of Western United’s defence and is already striking up a partnership with new signing Grace Maher, but that partnership will be tested by Wellington’s Mariana Speckmaier.
The American-born Venezuela international scored in both of Wellington’s wins and boasts experience in Russia, Iceland and the United States.
With both of her goals coming from headers from set pieces, Speckmaier has shown her prolific prowess in and around the penalty area and she will be hoping to have an impact for her side once again.
Cerne, alongside Maher and the rest of the defence, will be keen to shut Speckmaier out and hold onto a clean sheet, giving the forwards the chance to find the back of the net and win the game.
Player to Watch: Hannah Keane
Fresh from scoring her first goal of the campaign last week, Hannah Keane will be one to watch as she looks to continue gathering speed in the Liberty A-League.
United’s No.9 will have fond memories of last year’s trip to Wellington which saw her score her first two goals for the Club in one of many dominant displays.
Playing in a slightly wider role so far this season, Keane is still a significant threat to opposition defences and has shown her ability to arrive in the box in goal-scoring positions.
The American will be looking to carry on her goal scoring form and put in a repeat performance against Wellington this weekend.
Words from Mark Torcaso
On the improvements to make from the last away trip against Perth Glory in Round 1
“We’ll get up there a little bit earlier to acclimatise ourselves a bit better with the time. That’s one thing that we’ll improve on what we did against Perth.
“The girls are a little more in shape for travel compared to Round 1, so having two or three games under our belt now going into an interstate game now will put us in a good position.”
On the competition for places and depth of talent in the squad
“Definitely, the squad depth for us this year is different, not saying it’s better than last year but it’s different.
“There’s a lot of explosive, creative players – Avaani (Prakash), Lucy Richards came on last week and was excellent as well. To have that flexibility of not being able to start Kahli Johnson and starting someone else – and someone else does their job and then Kahli comes on and does her job – that’s the flexibility we want in our team.