Ben Gilby and Jonathan Tay combine to report on three club media events ahead of this weekend’s action (3/2/23).
SYDNEY FC v MELBOURNE CITY:
The word ‘confident’ was used repeatedly by Sydney FC attacker Madison Haley as she spoke to the media today ahead of her team’s huge game at home to Melbourne City writes Ben Gilby.
The American striker, who has scored six times this season believes her team are more than capable of earning back-to-back wins against Melbourne-based opposition, saying: “We’re feeling confident. Having a big win over Melbourne Victory helps to go into another big, big game.
“We’re confident in what we do, and when we wear this badge, we know a lot of expectation is there, but we’re ready to take on that pressure. We have big goals this season, and this is just one step.”
With City four points ahead of Sydney FC in second, having played two additional matches, Haley predicts a close battle against Dario Vidosic’s side, who will offer a different type of puzzle to solve.
“I don’t think much separates us. In terms of quality, it will be a very entertaining match. We can adapt how we play. I think City play a 3-5-2 (formation). We haven’t encountered a team who play like that this season, (but) we won’t change who we are. We see them above us in the table, and we want to be on top and have everyone looking at us. We’ll do everything we can to win for Sydney.”
Haley also highlighted a number of her Sydney FC teammates who she feels are unlucky to miss out in the latest Matildas squad announcement. The media were left with the impression that the American would have selected a very different squad had she been in Tony Gusatvsson’s shoes.
“Most definitely Princess Ibini (should be in the squad) – she scored a hat trick in our last game (against Melbourne Victory). Mackenzie Hawkesby is such a workhorse in the midfield and does so much even when it might not be represented on the stats sheet. Nat Tobin, Charlie Mclean, I could keep going…!”
Sydney FC will need all of those players to be at international standard to lower Melbourne City’s colours tomorrow – but they are more than capable of performing at such a level. It’s going to be quite a battle.
As Melbourne City and head coach Dario Vidosic head north to take on Sydney FC away from home, they need no reminders of the importance of the match this weekend, writes Jonathan Tay.
“It’s a big game in the context of the season, second versus third,” Vidosic said. “Two teams in good form, and the first time we meet this season, so we’re really looking forward to it; the girls can’t wait to get to Sydney.
“Everyone is feeling good, looking good, really ready to go, it should be a great game at the new stadium, another challenge ahead.”
Sydney once again look to be title contenders this season, and were comprehensive 6-3 winners over Melbourne Victory in the last match. Their threat is something Vidosic is very much aware of.
“In transition, they’re one of the best teams; the firepower they have up front and the speed. They’ve got people that can score goals, create, and they’re dangerous,” the City coach explained.
“We know their threat; they’ve got Cortnee Vine, [Princess] Ibini, Madison Haley, then [Mackenzie] Hawkesby, [Sarah] Hunter from the middle, so there’s a lot of quality in that team.
“They’ve been towards the top of the table, and we had our challenges with them last year, some great games; that epic semi-final where last minute we concede an equaliser and then the second red card. There’s a bit of history for the girls that were here. But a new season, new challenge, and everyone’s really looking forward to it.”
For their own part, City will look to stick to the principles that have led to their success thus far this season. Whilst cognizant of the strength of Sydney FC, Vidosic believes in his side’s game plan.
“We know what we need to do, and how we can hurt them,” the 35-year-old continued. “It’s important where we want the ball: to stop transitional teams, you need to play in their defensive third or our attacking third, that’s where I want to play football. Then we pin them in, if they’re reluctant to come back, then we overload them in that half, we’ve got the numbers, and I back our attacking talent. We [can] push centre backs forward, our sixes forward.
“Possession in the final third, the longer we keep it there then we take away any sort of transition; that’s something that we’ve worked on where we get our control set. And then obviously how many chances can we create, how threatening are we.
“Also on the defensive side; people probably think we’re an ultra-attacking team, but I take defence very very seriously, so it’s been very pleasing that we’ve had many clean sheets, close to the best defence in the league.
“There’s a purpose to everything, we sort of defend on the front foot with the ball; when we have the ball, then we nullify that transition [threat]. But with the quality that oppositions have, it’s hard to keep that quiet for 90 minutes, so we work on how we adjust if that does happen. If we execute the plan, then we give ourselves a great chance to get the maximum points.”
With another upcoming international break, the City head coach was asked about his club’s agenda for their players. Whilst none of his side were called into the Australian Cup of Nations squad, Hannah Wilkinson and Katie Bowen, will both join up with the New Zealand Football Ferns, and three of his squad will be with the Young Matildas.
We’ll have a few days off after the Western United game, just to let them recover a bit before we go into that final phase of the season. But it gives us a chance to work on a few things, work with individuals, and continue their development,” Vidosic summarised.
“We’ve got a friendly lined up against the Young Matildas as well in that time, so some good stuff to happen, and a chance to load them back up and just to de-load them before we head back into the games.”
Vidosic was also excited to provide an update on the return of Holly McNamara, with the City squad as a whole eagerly anticipating her return after the international break. The 20-year-old is close to full fitness and has her sights set on breaking back into the senior Matildas squad before the home Women’s World Cup in July.
“She’ll see minutes in that friendly game and we’ll have some kind of internal game. She’s been green-lighted to take part in those games. Minutes-wise we’ll see when we get closer, but the good news is that she can start full contact and she looks really good,” Vidosic commented.
“It’s not just exciting for us, but for the whole league, because she is one of those that brings people into the stadium and gets you off your seat. It’s not just me asking the question, I think the ladies in the team are asking, “when can we unleash Holly?”.
“She’s working hard and she’s itching to get back. She wants to put her name up for World Cup selection, and the way she’s looking I think she’s going to really make people take notice. But again, we need to look after her, she’s had a long time off with the ACL and we’ll take on all the medical advice and see how she is. She can’t wait to get out there, she’s got that fire inside of her and it’s beautiful to see.”
by Ben Gilby
Western United goalkeeper Hillary Beall emphasised the fact that her team intent to go “full-throttle” over the next seven days to cement their position as league leaders going into the international break.
“This next week will be tough – three games in one week isn’t ideal. It won’t just take 16 (players), but the whole squad (to come through strongly). We have the international break coming up, and it’s full throttle going into that, so we can then have two weeks off to get sorted.”
Tomorrow’s match against Perth Glory takes place at the 8,000-capacity Morshead Park Stadium in Ballarat – the first of two matches for Western United at the venue in four days. It’s a stadium that Beall has fond memories of when it hosted the club’s pre-season friendly with Melbourne Victory. “It’s a great stadium..and it is a really great pitch,” the American said.
Reflecting on how she reviews the club’s superb campaign so far just past the halfway point, the 24-year-old said: “This team is great…with a new team, you don’t know what to expect. I’ve been asked to step up in ways I never expected. I’ve had to carry myself a bit differently and be more confident. We have phenomenal players all around and, more importantly, even better people.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s opponents Perth Glory, Beall said: “They have a great work rate. Everybody is within fighting distance, (and we) know we have a target on our back being top of the table.”
Western United head coach Mark Torcaso has revealed that his squad has overcome the impact of having to play in searing heat against Canberra United last weekend, and hopes authorities will act in the future to avoid a repeat.
Several of his players suffered heat stroke as a result of the temperatures, with Torcaso saying: “The first 12, 24 hours (after the match) shook them up a bit. The girls that fell ill were the ones that were on the bench. They are ready to go and up for selection.
“No one has reached out (from the APL). It’s been pretty obvious that it’s been a problem. Hopefully, the right channels do the best things by the players and staff…I hope the people make the right choices going forward.”
The Western United boss outlined how the conditions impacted how he set his team up to play, and the plan was carried out even better than he dared to hope for. “We wanted to have a good performance first half, knowing at the back end of the game we might run out of legs. The plan was to hit them hard from the start. I didn’t expect we would expose them that much, but we did.”
Torcaso also has sympathy for tomorrow’s opponents Perth Glory, who go into the match having an enforced break of three weeks since their last match after Sydney FC were unable to find a pitch for the fixture between the two sides a fortnight back before the Western Australians had the bye last week.
“Fixturing has been an issue for them. I think they are a good side. They are well organised, but results haven’t been going their way. When we played them before we pinched a result from them with 10 minutes to go. They have lost players through injury and suspension…(but) they have good depth and will be a challenge for us. We want to go out as aggressive as we can.”
He also provided an update on Chloe Logarzo, who is suffering from a foot injury as she continues her comeback from a long-term knee problem.
“If we really wanted to, we could push scenarios with her, but we want her to be ready for the World Cup. She’s having injections to look after the foot. She is a top-quality player and she will bounce back. The international window coming up and her not going into camp is a good opportunity for her…her knee is holding up well.”
With Logarzo’s loan deal from Kansas City Current expiring shortly, Torcaso revealed that he is positive of being able to extend it through to the end of the A-League Women season.
“I think we’re almost there – we’re just working through some final things. It’s going to benefit her, and hopefully, Kansas will support that. This is a sensitive one for me. I want to make sure Chloe is 100% prepared for the World Cup. I want her on the pitch, but we have to look after her and make sure she is right for the long term.”