Canberra United A-League Women 2021/22 season preview

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After returning to the finals last year for the first time since 2017, Canberra United are hungrier then ever to go a few steps further this season.

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Last Season…

A-League Women: 4th

Finals: Semi-finals

They’ll win the league because…

Canberra United will be determined to finish the job after last year’s semi-final defeat. After a few lean seasons, 2020/21 was a return to form for the girls in green. A fourth-place finish off the back of stand out performances from the likes of Michelle Heyman led them to their first finals series since 2017, and it can be guaranteed that they weren’t satisfied with a disappointing semi-final loss.

The combination of Heyman, who seems to only be getting better with age, and a coach who has never missed a finals series makes great reading for the Canberra United faithful.

With the addition of players including Chloe Middleton, Hayley Caspers and two youth products in Alexia Karrys-Stahl and Mikayla Vidmar, speed will be a key element in their charge for a title.

Combine this with the signing of two players with NWSL experience in Chelsee Washington and Ally Haran, and this team has the perfect blend of experience and youth to win the championship.

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They’ll be cellar dwellers because…

There are so many unknowns in this Canberra United squad. After losing over a dozen players from last year’s team that made it to the semi-finals, it is hard to truly know what we are going to get come the first round.

Despite re-signing star striker Heyman, many of United’s key players from their last campaign have moved on to other clubs.

Whilst replacements like Margot Robinne and Allira Toby have experience in either the A-League Women or other top-flight leagues around the world, many of their other signings are relatively inexperienced.

This includes three players who are yet to make their A-League Women debut, whilst a few others who only have a handful of top flight appearances.

With all of these changes it may be tough for Canberra United to hit the park running come the beginning of the season.

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Talk around the water cooler… look smart in front of your colleagues with this valuable piece of information!

Canberra United’s coach Vicki Linton has never missed a finals series in her career as a head coach of an A-League Women team. She made it in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons for Melbourne Victory, and 2020/21 for Canberra United. She has, however, never made a grand final, falling in the semi-finals on all three occasions.

The off-season brought…

A lot of player turnover. Whilst key players from last year’s finals run including Heyman have stayed in the nation’s capital, there are a lot of fresh faces in major positions for Canberra United.

Experienced players like Allira Toby and Margot Robinne have been brought in, whilst former academy players including Karrys-Stahl and Vidmar have received a contract with the first team.

However, as a result, there have been many players who have left the squad. These include young gun Jessica Nash and New Zealand international Paige Satchell who have both traded green for sky blue this season.

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Key Player

Michelle Heyman.

Whilst there are many players who will play a key role in Canberra’s bid for back-to-back finals appearances, it is hard to go past Heyman. The ex-Matilda striker returned to the A-League Women competition last year, showing everyone why she is one of the best to ever grace the league.

Despite only just coming out of retirement, there was no sign of rust last season, scoring 10 goals in just 12 matches. This included becoming the highest goal scorer in A-League Women history, as well as being awarded the Julie Dolan Medal.

With United’s squad containing so many new players for the upcoming season, Heyman’s goals will be crucial if they want to have another title charge.

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One to Watch

Emma Ilijoski.

Coming into last season many people around the league may not have known much about Ilijoski. By the end of the season, she was one of the brightest young stars in the league.

After making her debut in round five she went on to start every proceeding match, accumulating 900 minutes of first-team football. The defender has also been keeping active over the off-season, playing for Sydney Uni FC in the NPLW NSW before it was suspended due to Covid.

If her talent was not already clear, she also took part in a Matildas talent identification camp late last year. Coming into this season it is highly likely that Ilijoski will be starting, and despite her young age will be a key member of the squad coming into this season.

Ins: Allira Toby, Margot Robinne, Holly Caspers, Chloe Middleton, Beth Mason-Jones, Alexia Karrys-Stahl, Mikayla Vidmar, Ally Haran, Chelsee Washington

Outs: Sally James, Chantel Jones, Kendall Fletcher, Isabella Foletta, Clare Hunt, Jessica Nash, Jessie Rasschaert, Ashlie Crofts, Bianca Galic, Rachael Goldstein, Sasha Grove, Nickoletta Flannery, Demi Koulizakis, Paige Satchell

Full Squad List 

Head Coach: Vicki Linton

Goalkeepers: Keeley Richards, Bethany Mason-Jones

Defenders: Ally Haran, Emma Ilijoski, Lauren Keir, Mikayla Vidmar

Midfielders: Laura Hughes, Alexia Karrys-Stahl, Grace Maher, Chloe Middleton, Chelsee Washington, Margot Robinne

Forwards: Michelle Heyman, Hayley Taylor Young, Allira Toby, Holly Caspers

Feature photo credit: Canberra United

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William Makepeace
Current Intern covering Canberra United. Sports Media student at University of Canberra who lives and breathes Football

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