Canberra United A-League Women 2022/23 season preview

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After last season’s inconsistencies, Canberra United will be looking to make their return to the finals series with a host of new talent.

Last season…

A-League Women: 7th

Finals: N/A

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They’ll win the league because…

Canberra United will be determined to put last season behind them and make their return to finals football. The 2021/22 season was marked by inconsistencies, they had the most draws of any team with seven and ended up only winning two matches.

With the team headlined by Michelle Heyman, and joined by new head coach Njegosh Popovich, you can expect they won’t have a repeat of last season.

A lot has been done to prepare the team off the field too, with past players Grace Gill, Caitlin Munoz, Nicole Begg, and Ashleigh Sykes taking on a mentorship role within the coaching group.

Three new international signings promise to add strength and experience to their attack line and set CU up to be a high scoring team. Backed by a group of young, local talent, this team has a great mix of players to win the championship.

They’ll be cellar dwellers because…

The success of this team relies on the potential that the new bunch of players can combine together on game day. How quickly the team takes to settle in will determine their success this season.

The internationals are yet to experience the style of play in the ALW, and could also need a few matches to find their feet.

Persistent injuries also have the potential to interfere with the squad. Ellie Brush is currently healing from injury, Nickoletta Flannery is making her return after an ACL tear and goalkeeper Keeley Richards missed out on the end of last season with a knee injury.

Popovich hasn’t been seen in a head coach role for a number of years and has a big task ahead in pulling the new bunch of players together.

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

History shows that it is almost guaranteed that Heyman is going to score in the opening match.

During the captain’s career, she has scored 14 times during a season opener for CU, making her the highest opening match goal scorer compared to any of her teammates.

On six occasions Heyman has been the first to score a goal and open up the scoring for Canberra in a season.

She is currently the leading goal scorer in the A-League Women and is hoping to reach 100 career goals during this season.

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The off-season brought

A fresh start.

After a disappointing season, CU have welcomed a lot of changes but have managed to assemble a squad with a good mix of familiar faces and experienced talent.

Grace Maher, Keeley Richards and Heyman all return as key players and bring stability with them.

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Also joining from last season is local young guns Emma Ilijoski, Laura Hughes and Hayley Taylor-Young whose skills promise to keep growing into the new season.

Experience has been brought in through the international signings of Wu Chengshu, Kennedy Faulknor and Vesna Milivojević. The knowledgeable trio have the potential to slip straight in with the core returning structure.

Key player

Wu Chengshu.

The international talent has flown in from the Jiangsu Suning Ladies FC in China, and with 12 caps for the Chinese national team, she is set to add speed in the midfield and be integral to setting up scoring opportunities for CU.

Chengshu was part of the squad that took out the 2022 AFC Asian Cup and scored during the semi-final against Japan.

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Her ability to read the game and desire to score goals suits the style of play CU is gearing up for this season. You can expect her combination with Michelle Heyman will create many goal-scoring opportunities for CU.

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One to watch

Nickoletta Flannery.

The 23-year-old is making her return to Canberra United and the ALW after sitting out last season with an ACL tear. In May 2021 she was participating in a Matildas identification training camp when she suffered the injury.

She was sidelined for almost a year before coming back to play in the NPLW for APIA Leichhardt FC. Flannery played some big minutes during the season, scoring six goals and featuring in the starting line-up for 14 of her 17 appearances.

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Since debuting for CU in the 2015/16 season, she has earned 49 caps for CU and scored nine goals during her time at the club.

Her pace and finishing power will be an important part of leading CU to victory.

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Ins: Keely Segavcic (Northbridge Bulls), Ellie Brush (Sydney FC), Grace Taranto (Adelaide United), Holly Murray (South Melbourne FC), Kennedy Faulknor (UCLA Bruins, USA), Madison McComasky (Macarthur Rams), Vesna Milivojević (ZFK Spartak Subotica, Serbia), Emily Roach (Heidelberg United), Wu Chengshu (Jiangsu Suning Ladies FC, China PR), Sofia Christopherson (Canberra United Academy), Nickoletta Flannery (APIA Leichhardt), Ellen Gett (Brisbane Roar), Grace Jale (Wellington Phoenix).

Outs: Cristina Esposito, Beth Mason-Jones, Ally Haran, Lauren Keir, Mikayla Vidmar, Karly Roestbakken (guest), Margot Robinne, Alexia Karrys-Stahl, Chelsee Washington, Allira Toby, Ashleigh Sykes, Holly Caspers.

Full squad list

Head coach: Njegosh Popovich

Goalkeepers: Keeley Richards, Chloe Lincoln, Keely Segavcic

Defenders: Ellie Brush, Emma Ilijoski, Madison McComasky, Grace Taranto, Holly Murray, Kennedy Faulknor, Ellen Gett

Midfielders: Wu Chengshu, Sasha Grove, Laura Hughes, Grace Maher, Chloe Middleton, Vesna Milivojevic, Emily Roach, Hayley Taylor-Young, Nickoletta Flannery

Forwards: Sofia Christopherson, Michelle Heyman, Grace Jale

Feature photo credit: Canberra United

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Grace Buckmaster
Grace Buckmaster
Sports Media student at the University of Canberra. Covering Canberra United for the 2022/23 season. Women's sport enthusiast.

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