Matildas In The WSL: The Curious Case Of Caitlin Foord

Ahead of this weekend’s big North London derby in the WSL, Impetus’ Jonathan Tay profiles Arsenal’s Australian star Caitlin Foord (22/9/22).

Above: Caitlin Foord on the move against Brighton and Hove Albion last week. Photo: @ArsenalWFC.

Chest flat on the ground, Caitlin Foord looked skyward with arms outstretched, searching for the payoff which never arrived.

With a trademark feint and burst of speed during the second friendly of the recent series against Canada, Foord provoked an errant, stray leg from opposing wingback Marie Levasseur.

And though a resultant penalty was not given, the process to get into that position was certainly encouraging – the short clip below highlights this:

https://www.youtube.com/clip/UgkxJxFUN1l2hRaasHTwTm_fIBubP-2kvEiw

These moments and actions haven’t always been there for Foord; whether due to form or injury, the Arsenal winger has not been able to consistently translate her club displays to her games for her country.

Arguably, this was the 27-year-old’s most salient overall performance for Australia for some time; excluding the 18-0 Asian Cup thrashing of Indonesia, she’s been on a barren run of zero goals and zero assists in green and gold for just over a year. On this night though, we saw the same player who’s been thriving in England.

In her 66 minutes, she racked up the second-most dribbles, won the third-most duels, and completed the most progressive runs on the night for the Matildas. Post-match, Foord commented, “How it looked is how it felt for us as well. We felt like we were dominating, we felt like it felt like us again, and were a bit unlucky not to score more.”

It was business as usual in Arsenal’s opening match in the Women’s Super League, where Foord was the most dangerous outlet for the Gunners in the first half.

Admittedly, they did not meet fierce resistance, with a red card reducing Brighton to 10 players after just seven minutes. But the Australian nevertheless stuck to her brief well; maintaining her side’s width out on the left, grafting away on the last line of defence, and taking on her defenders in one-on-one duels.

It was a productive evening for Foord, continuously testing Brighton’s overmatched Jorja Fox, including a slick play to sit the right-back on the ground before laying on the assist for the first goal in a 4-0 win.

The Australian completed the second-most progressive runs for her side (behind Beth Mead on the right wing), and five of six attempted dribbles, resulting in four chance-creating carries (per Opta).

Above: Foord’s attempted dribbles, all around the 18-yard box. Source: Wyscout

It’s poised to be somewhat of a make-or-break season for Foord, where she faces competition for her starting spot from Katie McCabe, England Euros hero Mead, and new Swedish signing Lina Hurtig. Arsenal expect another title-challenging campaign, and with readily-available depth in the squad, regular provision of impact and output is a requirement.

With the World Cup just around the corner next July, Matildas fans and Foord herself will also be hoping for more of the same at the international level. Reminders won’t be needed that Australia lost both of the Canadian friendlies, continuing a worrying trend in their record against teams in the top 20 world rankings.

Elaborating further after the second of those losses, Foord concluded, “We don’t have that much time together leading into the World Cup, so that’s why these moments, it’s really important to build on that and take that into the next game and learn.”

“It’s disappointing to have these losses, but the bigger picture is what we’re working towards, and it’s easy to forget about that when you don’t get the result you want so we’re just trying to stay positive.”

The winger is hoping that her hard work domestically does eventually lead to more tangible results for Australia as well. “That’s [their domestic clubs] the place we spend most of our time, and although we’re in our club shirt, the picture is leading towards the World Cup,” she summerised.

“We’re going to try to get better there, fitter, and then come back into national team camp and bring our momentum from our clubs. Hopefully, by mid-season, we’ll be flying.”

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