Top Imports of the Westfield W-League Season: Britt Eckerstrom
Newcastle Jets’ failure to reach the Westfield W-League top four was certainly not through any lack of distinction from Britt Eckerstrom.
In fact, had it not been for Newcastle’s inspirational American shot-stopper, the seventh-placed Jets may have missed the finals by a margin far greater than three points.
Eckerstrom has, without any shadow of a doubt, been a clear standout for Craig Deans’ side, and the points she has preserved to prevent Newcastle’s season from sliding away have been numerous.
Unfortunately for the valiant 25-year-old, the Hunter Valley outfit were unable to build upon the foundations the ever-reliable goalkeeper provided.
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At times, the on-loan Portland Thorns keeper was the only thing keeping Newcastle from crashing out of the finals race.
With the Jets attack and midfield struggling to combine with the consistency of the previous campaign, Eckerstrom was frequently the side’s safety net.
But it was a role the American savoured.
Eckerstrom dependably mustered crucial saves when it mattered and often from big-name players.
This was highlighted in arguably the finest goalkeeping performance of the season when she repelled free-scoring Perth Glory in December’s 2-2 draw.
A Sam Kerr-led Glory unleashed a total of 25 attempts on goal but Eckerstrom’s heroics gave the Westfield Matildas star a rare night of frustration in front of goal.
The Maryland keeper’s performance snapped a run of two successive defeats and at the time resembled a result that could inspire Newcastle to realise their full potential.
Similarly, Eckerstrom’s showing in a 3-1 defeat against Sydney FC in January also presents a strong contender for goalkeeping performance of the season.
The eventual Champions fired 29 shots which drew an incredible 11 saves from the keeper, and none better than a remarkable double-save from compatriot Savannah McCaskill.
It is unsurprising that Eckerstrom finished the season having made more saves (51) than any other goalkeeper in the competition.
What she and Newcastle fans will lament is the lapses in focus that occurred too frequently in front of her for the Jets to mount a serious claim for Westfield W-League silverware.
The Jets conceded 21 goals in 12 games – only one more than fourth-placed Perth – but in one of the closest seasons of all time, Newcastle were found guilty of overstepping their margin for error.
However, Newcastle will undoubtedly be stronger for the minutes afforded to several talented young products that emerged in a frustrating campaign.
It means that Deans’ Jets should be targeting greater heights next season, but any squad assembled for a genuine shot at silverware must include the American, who has surely done her hopes of a United States national team call up no harm at all.