Westfield W-League Champions Sydney FC return for another campaign with the bulk of their Championship-winning squad intact, bolstered by some fresh faces looking to become stars in Sky Blue.
Sydney FC boss Ante Juric has made careful adjustments to his squad that launched from their third-place finish last season to clinch the Westfield W-League Championship, and as pre-season has shown, they’re more than capable of doing it all again.
Last season: 3RD, Champions
W-League.com.au’s things to watch
Latsko, Foord create league’s most fearsome strike force
In the absence of Sam Kerr, Westfield Matildas striker Caitlin Foord becomes the prime candidate for the Westfield W-League 2019/20 Golden Boot, which makes it seem almost unfair that she partners up with Veronica Latsko, who scored more than half of Adelaide United’s total goals last season (9).
The Champions doubled down in the off-season, capitalising on their strong position by securing the services of Latsko, one of the league’s best finishers, to team up with Foord whose credentials as a top striker are known to everyone Australia-wide.
Ibini steps into the spotlight
Lisa De Vanna is no longer a Sky Blue, which gives 19-year-old Princess Ibini the chance to become a regular starter and a bona fide star in the Sydney FC line-up.
It feels as though Ibini has been part of the Westfield W-League furniture forever, but the Westfield Matildas attacker is only just entering the period of her career where she can turn from a prospect into a household name.
Scoring four goals from eight starts and five substitute appearances last season, Ibini will look to make a spot in Sydney’s attack her own, and Ibini could benefit greatly playing alongside Latsko and Foord to become an X-Factor for the Sky Blues in their Championship defence.
First five fixtures
Melbourne Victory (H)
Adelaide United (a)
Perth Glory (a)
Melbourne City (H)
Newcastle Jets (a)
Key match-ups: Melbourne Victory, Western Sydney Wanderers
The #BigBlue never fails to disappoint, and we’re treated to one right off the bat in the 2019/20 Westfield W-League campaign.
Sydney FC host Melbourne Victory at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium in Round 1, and after failing to beat Victory in their two attempts last season the Champions will be determined to do so at the first time of asking this time around.
Melbourne will hold plenty of resentment towards Sydney after failing to capitalise on their Premiership last season, so there’ll be plenty of fire in this opening round clash.
The Wanderers enjoyed a fantastic off-season recruitment drive and come into the 2019/20 Westfield W-League campaign as firm contenders for the title, and the Sky Blues will be determined to dismiss their Sydney rivals as part of their Championship defence.
Sydney FC will have to wait until Round 6 to get their first crack at the Wanderers, as they head to Bankwest Stadium for the blockbuster Sydney Derby.
Players to watch
American shot-stopper Aubrey Bledsoe returns to Sydney FC on the back of winning the NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year award for her season with Washington Spirit.
Bledsoe made a league-high 86 saves, earned three ‘Save of the Week’ awards and two ‘Player of the Round’ awards throughout her stellar season in goal for Spirit.
It’s been an outstanding year for Bledsoe who won the Westfield W-League Championship with Sydney before returning to America, and she’s shaping up for another commanding season in between the sticks for the Sky Blues.
We can expect more of the same this season from the imperious Kennedy who was a key cog in Sydney’s Championship success last season.
The Westfield Matildas star scored three goals and registered two assists from defence last season, making 64 clearances and 25 blocks across her 13 appearances in Sky Blue.
Kennedy deploys a unique and varied skilLset which allows her to impact the game both offensively and defensively from her position in centre-half, setting her apart as a special defensive asset.
On paper Latsko and Foord look set to become one of the Westfield W-League’s deadliest attacking duos, but translating that onto the pitch will be no easy feat.
Latsko notched nine goals, two assists and made 16 key passes in her showing for the Reds in the 2018/19 campaign, but all will depend on how Latsko adapts to coming from a place where she was the out-and-out focal point to where she is now in Sydney sharing the load with Foord.
Combining the two attacking threats is an exciting prospect for Sky Blues fans, but it will be interesting to see how the two star strikers gel as the season plays out.
Sydney FC boss Ante Juric has managed to retain the majority of his Championship-winning side while strengthening in crucial areas, making his side a contender once again this season.
The arrival of Latsko, Ellie Brush and Mackenzie Hawkesby should go a long way toward mitigating the loss of De Vanna, Danielle Colaprico and Savannah McCaskill, as the likes of Teresa Polias and Chloe Logarzo provide Juric much-needed midfield stability and solidity to steady the ship.
It’s never easy to instil a fresh winning attitude in a Championship side, but Juric can use the youthful energy offered by players like Ibini and Hawkesby to breathe new life into the squad.
The Sky Blues have managed to navigate the off-season without taking many casualties, and keeping that core of Champions together is what gives Juric and his side a great chance of going back-to-back this season.
Sydney FC 2019/20 squad
Alanna Kennedy, Ally Green, Amy Sayer, Angelique Hristodoulou, Aubrey Bledsoe,Caitlin Foord, Chloe Logarzo, Ellie Brush, Elizabeth Ralston, Mackenzie Hawkesby, Natalie Tobin, Princess Ibini, Remy Siemsen, Sofia Huerta, Shadeene Evans, Taylor Ray, Teresa Polias, Trudy Burke, Veronica Latsko
The boss: Ante Juric
Ante Juric has only been in the job for two seasons, but as Head Coach of Sydney FC he’s taken his side to consecutive Grand Final appearances.
He lost the first in the 2017/18 Westfield W-League campaign to Melbourne City, but won 4-2 over Perth Glory in the most recent instalment to come into his third season in charge of the Sky Blues as a reigning Champion.
Juric manages a squad full of stars and has so far proven to be up to the challenge, guiding his side to second and third place finishes in his two seasons at Sydney FC.
What’s perhaps been most impressive in Juric’s off-season performance has been his ability to retain so many of his Championship stars; 15 of the 19 players in Juric’s current squad are returning Champions.
His ability to retain so many key players after a season where many could have felt inclined to depart after achieving the ultimate goal is a testament to his ability to manage a squad and keep the masses happy, and could bode very well for him and his team in the 2019/20 campaign.
Sydney FC will wear their traditional Sky Blue kit this season, which features a thin horizontal stripe of darker blue across the chest, and minor detailing across the shoulders and sleeves which represents the ceramic roof of the Sydney Opera House.
Sydney’s away kit for the 2019/20 Westfield W-League campaign is all-white with blue trim around the collar and sleeves, with the same ceramic detailing running down the kit.