Covering key absences the next major challenge for Melbourne City

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Melbourne City were dominant as they strolled to a 4-0 win over Wellington Phoenix on Sunday afternoon, but they are about to be without a couple of crucial players.

All seems to be going well for Rado Vidosic’s side in the A-League Women.

Their win over Wellington was their third straight, scoring 12 goals across those three games.

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As a result, they currently occupy second place on the ladder, with only Sydney FC ahead of them.

However, their upcoming games have just become a whole lot more challenging due to the losses of Winona Heatley and Holly McNamara to the Matildas squad for the Asian Cup.

Both players are only provisional members of the tournament squad at this point, meaning they may only miss about a week.

However, if they were to be selected in the final squad, that could mean several weeks without some key figures at both ends of the pitch for Melbourne City

McNamara has taken the ALW by storm this season, causing havoc for defenders with her blistering pace and energy.

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Heatley has received less attention, but she has been a pivotal figure in City’s defence. Heatley has demonstrated her capacity to carry the ball up the pitch to enable transitions from defence, an essential role within the back-three formation preferred by Vidosic.

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Both players could miss a handful of City games beyond next week’s trip to Adelaide should they be selected in the final Matildas squad, leaving Vidosic relying on his squad depth, especially young players.

Fortunately for City fans, that squad depth was on display in Sunday afternoon’s victory.

Chelsea Blissett started her first game in ALW for 784 days. The talented defender is working her way back to full fitness from her injury troubles and will provide valuable cover if Heatley departs for an extended period.

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Vidosic expressed pride in Blissett’s return and emphasised that she was always going to be getting game time when she was fit.

“It’s very tough to be injured for a whole year,” he said.

“She’s been fantastic. Now we just need to see how she’s going to recover throughout the week.”

Meanwhile, teenagers Isabella Accardo and Caitlin Karic also featured. Both are very young and therefore will likely be unable to carry too much responsibility, but nonetheless they are valuable players for Vidosic to have at his disposal.

“We’ve got a few young girls that we managed to give a bit of game time,” Vidosic said.

“But are they ready for big away trips and to play full games? I’m not sure. We’ll see how they go in training this week.”

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City’s coach acknowledged that it would be difficult losing key players, but nonetheless shared the excitement of his players to be given an opportunity at international level.

“It’s going to be a bit of a disruption,” he said.

“But great effort from both of them. We just wish them good luck and hopefully they’ll make the final squad.”

How effectively City manage the departures of McNamara and Heatley, especially if it’s for more than a couple of games, will be interesting to observe.

Nonetheless, City continue to give opportunities to young players, and to see that reflected already in the Matildas squad is vindication of City’s contribution to women’s football in Australia.

Feature Image Credit: Melbourne City FC

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Oscar Rutherford
Sports tragic studying Law/Arts at Monash University. Second-best paid Oscar working in football who has been to China.

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