A-League Women mid-season report card: Canberra United

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Big things were expected this season from a Canberra United side coming off a finals appearance. With their campaign just over a third of the way through, it’s time to see if they have reached those expected heights so far.

Semester Summary

With expectations as high as they were for Canberra United, this season has simply been underwhelming and disappointing so far.

Currently sitting in ninth place after five matches with just two points, it is only newcomers Wellington Phoenix who are keeping them off the bottom of the ladder.

Apart from their miraculous comeback at home to secure a 3-3 draw against Brisbane Roar, this season has so far thrown up very few highlights for Vicki Linton’s team.

Their most recent loss to Adelaide United is actually a great representation of their year to date, filled with glimmers of promise without getting much for it overall.

They were able to have three times the shots, more possession and looked better than their opponents for major segments of the match, however, still ended up losing 3-1.

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Area of Excellence

Young guns.

Whilst the results haven’t quite been there for Canberra this year, the performances of the squad’s youngest players would definitely be pleasing for Linton.

Hayley Taylor-Young has gone from strength to strength in her third season, with the attacker still being just 19. Whilst she has only started two matches, her work as an impact sub has been highly impressive, always adding spark to Canberra’s attack.

Holly Caspers has also been brilliant when used off the bench, with the 21-year-old already scoring her first A-League Women’s goal in stoppage time to collect a point against Brisbane.

Whilst it has not been the smoothest year for Emma Ilijoski, the young defender has again on numerous occasions shown her class and continued development.

Whilst she missed a game as a Covid close contact and has had some issues with changing formations, she continues to impress everyone who watches her play.

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Areas in need of improvement

Goalscoring.

You need to score to win matches, and with only five goals after as many games it makes sense that Canberra are sitting ninth on the ladder.

In all facets of goalscoring they are comfortably lagging behind the teams currently fighting for finals places, especially when looking at conversion rates.

When Canberra has taken a shot this season it has only found the back of the net eight percent of the time. Compared to Sydney FC’s 14%, Melbourne City’s 17% and Victory’s 20%, this simply isn’t high enough to be able to compete with these top teams.

It means that if they wanted to score the same amount of goals as Victory at their current rate, it would take them two-and-a-half times more shots to do it.

Add to this that they have already been held scoreless in two matches, the same amount as the whole of last season, things need to change quickly for Canberra up front.

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Top Student

Keeley Richards.

Whilst there has been a few Canberra United players who have started the year well despite the results, it is hard to go past goalkeeper Richards when talking about standouts.

Apart from a disappointing match against Brisbane which included an own goal, the keeper has been nearly flawless in every other match.

She has so far been voted as Canberra’s player of the match twice, more than anyone else in the team.

When discussing her season you can’t go past her heroic performance against Melbourne City, where she was able to make an amazing nine saves to keep Canberra in the match.

She was also instrumental in Canberra’s first clean sheet of the year against Perth, another game where she was voted the best in green.

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Needs improvement

Michelle Heyman.

This needs to be prefaced with the fact that Heyman has not at all been bad this season, she has still scored two goals in five matches and has looked dangerous on the ball.

She just hasn’t yet been able to make key moments her own this season, as she has struggled to replicate the numerous match-winning performances that we saw from her last year.

It is a testament to just how good Heyman is that even though she hasn’t been at her best, she has still looked like a threat in each of her matches so far.

She has, however, struggled to make and convert chances, having only taken 13 shots with just five of those being on target.

This is partly down to defenders almost completely focusing on her in matches due to her proven abilities, however, it is something that Heyman will have to, and has in the past, overcome.

If Canberra are any chance of getting to the finals this year it must be off the back of Heyman. She has proven that she still has the quality to dominate the league, for Canberra fans let’s hope that she is back to her best soon.

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Grade

D-

Outlook

Things need to change for Canberra United, and they must change fast. Whilst they still have another nine matches to play before finals, it is crucial that they don’t wait until it is too late to start performing.

If they are a chance of making the finals they must start to score more, five goals over the same amount of games will never be good enough if a team is striving to be at the top of the ladder.

The only reason their grade isn’t lower was their spirited performance against Brisbane, which needs to be used as inspiration as to what they can truly achieve as a squad.

This Canberra team has more than enough quality to compete with the best, they need to show it on the park before it is too late.

Feature Image Credit: Mark Metcalfe

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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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