Above: Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins talking to the media on Friday. Photo: Melbourne Victory.
Ahead of Saturday’s game between Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park, Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins and the Wanderers pair of Malia Steinmetz and new signing Ella Abdul Massih (11/2/22).
Melbourne Victory head coach Jeff Hopkins revealed that his team used the COVID enforced break to their program to reset and refocus ahead of the run-in for Finals.
He also reflected on how his team had made improvements in recent games after a disappointing spell that saw 11 goals conceded in three games.
“Looking back, we needed to focus on defensive positioning to deal with direct play. The goals we copped were down to that. Having time away due to COVID meant that we could deal with that. Even this morning (Friday), we had a big review about it. We’re defending differently now and better.
“Normally when you look back you can see one game that really shapes your season. Last year it was the 6-0 loss up in Brisbane and this year it was probably the loss at home to Brisbane which followed another heavy defeat. It made us highlight a few things to work on. The players have responded really well.”
As well as focusing on righting some wrongs defensively, Hopkins is happy that the situation has allowed him to have virtually a fully fit squad.
“We’ve had a few games in a short period of time and a lot of players coming back into the squad, so we’ve been pretty lucky with fitness and more players to choose from. Everyone’s pulled up well from the games. Apart from Melina (Ayres), everyone is available this week.”
Melbourne Victory’s head coach then touched on the qualities that recent signing Brooke Hendrix has brought to the group.
“It feels like she’s been here all the time. She’s a good character, very reliable. She has a good relationship with ‘Bungey’ (Claudia Bunge) already. She reads the game well and is a good player.”
Focusing specifically on Western Sydney Wanderers, Hopkins said: “We’ve watched them a few times. They play with a high press and are aggressive. If we get complacent playing out, they will catch us and hurt us. We have a fair bit of respect for them. It took a penalty to beat them up there.
“We’re confident going into it. We’re focused on imposing our game on them. We are paying them respect, but tomorrow’s about us and how we play. If we do that, I think we’ll win.”
The match with Wanderers is the beginning of a run of three straight home matches in a total of four home games in their last five fixtures – something which puts Victory in a good spot to qualify for Finals.
“Knowing we can play at home is a big incentive for us. We’re really looking forward to it and it is a bonus,” Hopkins said.
Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Malia Steinmetz was this week named in the New Zealand national squad for the upcoming SheBelieves Cup in the United States.
Steinmetz has featured in six matches in the Wanderers midfield this season and is one of six players in the A-League Women’s set to represent the Football Ferns in the Cup.
“I was picked for the squad a few years ago when I was younger, so it’s taken a while to get back and it’s great to have made it. It’s promising, but it’s a hard effort up to the World Cup. the Wanderers midfielder said.
Steinmetz sees her growth at the Wanderers as a key reason for her international call-up. “It’s because of the team around me and the work we’re doing here. It’s such a high intensity. I want to work on pass completion and getting more on the ball now.”
Wanderers former Perth Glory midfielder appreciates the growth in her as a player since she came to what was then the W-League last season. “I’m so glad I made the move. It’s a good league. You can see that with the players and now with the fact that Wellington Phoenix have come in.
“Part of going overseas to play is growing the game. You want to play professionally and not have to work another job too. It makes it harder to play every game.”
Steinmetz noted that one of her Wanderers team-mates Bryleeh Henry is a Matilda and recognized that the potential of the two meeting on the international scene would not go unnoticed.
“Oh, yeah, if that happened, there would be a lot said and a lot done, but she’s a good mate. There would definitely be a rivalry!”
The Football Ferns will play against USA, Czech Republic, and Iceland, in the round-robin tournament from 18th-24th February 2022.
Western Sydney Wanderers announced the signing of rising star, 15-year-old Ella Abdul Massih for the remainder of the season.
The St Clair local has been rising through the ranks of the National Premier League Women’s competition with Southern Districts and has been part of junior National Team squad lists over the last five years.
The youngster has spent the last season and a half as a train-on with the Wanderers A-League Women side and has now been promoted, following the news that defender Clare Hunt has been ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury.
Hunt played an instrumental role in the Wanderers backline this season, earning plaudits for her performances in the heart of defence.
Abdul Massih said she was eager to repay the faith for the opportunity to sign with the Red & Black.
“I used to go out and support the Wanderers, back when they had Caitlin Cooper player – and she’s still here, which is amazing to look back on and see pictures with her from 2015,” said Abdul Massih.
“I just want to say a big thank you to Catherine (head coach Catherine Cannuli) and Serg (Sergio Malfara) for their faith in me that I can step up to this.
“I hope that I can prove to them that I deserve to be here.
“The girls have been absolutely amazing. There’s not another squad I’d want to make a debut or be part of, so I’m grateful for that.”