Westfield W-League 2018/19 report card: Sydney FC
When the final whistle blew to signal the end of the Westfield W-League 2017/18 season it was Sydney FC who were left devastated, beaten 2-0 by Melbourne City in the Grand Final.
Ante Juric’s side were determined to go one better in 2018/19 and embarked on a recruiting spree that brought the likes of international stars Alanna Kennedy and Sofia Huerta to the Harbour City in the off-season.
We take a look at how the season unfolded for the Sky Blues...
Record: 6W, 1D, 5L
Top scorer: Caitlin Foord (10 goals)
Most appearances: Caitlin Foord, Sofia Huerta, Chloe Logarzo, Savannah McCaskill, Teresa Polias – 14 games (including Finals Series)
First up for Sydney was an intriguing Derby away to Western Sydney Wanderers, a side that had also recruited well.
It proved to be one-way traffic, however, as a double from Caitlin Foord and a strike from Chloe Logarzo set-up a dominant 3-0 win for Sydney FC.
Despite being quick out of the blocks, the Sky Blues would then lose their next three games, putting their tilt at redemption into serious jeopardy almost before it had begun.
They were comfortably beaten 3-1 in the Grand Final re-match at AAMI Park before going down 3-2 in a pulsating encounter with Melbourne Victory at Kogarah. they followed that with a 2-0 to Canberra United in the nation's capital.
A response was most definitely needed, and they got it in the best possible fashion.
Hosting Brisbane Roar at Seymour Shaw, Sydney ran in five goals to one, tearing the Queensland side’s defence apart with some slick, flowing football.
The theme continued when Adelaide United came to town four days later, with Sydney putting on another attacking masterclass to win 5-2 as their match at Cromer Park was twice delayed for thunderstorms.
They were brought back down to earth with a 2-1 loss away to Perth Glory, but a 3-1 win over Newcastle Jets, a second 3-0 victory of the season in the Sydney Derby and a hugely impressive 3-1 triumph away to the Roar solidified their spot in the top four.
Any chance of the Sky Blues making a remarkable bid for the Premiers Plate was ended with a 2-2 draw at eventual Premiers Victory, swiftly followed by a 2-0 loss at home to City.
Those results meant they would make the long trip north to Brisbane to again lock horns with the Roar in the semi-finals.
With Grand Final hosting rights on the line after Perth’s shock win over Victory, Sydney never looked fazed as they jumped to a 2-0 lead and despite Yuki Nagasato giving the Roar some hope late on, they held on to earn their shot at redemption.
Unlike 12 months earlier, Sydney's aim was true, and a brilliant performance on the biggest day of all saw the Sky Blues run out 4-2 winners over the Glory to be crowned Champions.
They may not have started in the best fashion, but Ante Juric's side timed their Championship run to perfection.
There is only one match that can take this accolade and that was the last of the season.
Facing a Glory side boasting the devastating attacking duo of Sam Kerr and Rachel Hill, the evidence suggested that this was always likely to be a shoot-out and the Sky Blues started accordingly.
Huerta got the scoring underway after just six minutes with a simply stunning strike, before Perth hit back through a Kerr penalty.
From there the hosts began to take control and a Savannah McCaskill double either side of half-time put them in the driver’s seat.
Alyssa Mautz got one back for Glory after 68 minutes, but just two minutes later Sydney had restored their two-goal lead through Westfield Matilda Chloe Logarzo to edge a brilliant game worthy of a Grand Final.
Where to start?
Foord finished runner-up to Glory's Kerr in the Westfield W-League scoring charts with 10 to her name, and her presence on the wing allowed the likes of McCaskill and Huerta to inflict maximum damage.
Alanna Kennedy was immense in the back four, providing leadership and experience beyond her 24 years.
The Westfield Matildas defender also chimed in up front, producing two sublime free-kicks you would not normally associate with a centre-back.
Savannah McCaskill was to many observers an unknown prospect when she arrived on loan from the appropriately named NWSL side Sky Blue FC .
Fast-forward a few months and McCaskill ended the season as arguably the Westfield W-League’s in-form player.
The USA international took a while to get going, but steadily started to increase her goal output to finish the year with five to her name.
Back in Round 7 there was something of a changing of the guard when 19-year old Princess Ibini replaced Westfield Matildas legend Lisa De Vanna.
Ibini immediately provided an assist and would continue to be a menace out on the wing for the Sky Blues, scoring four goals.
Not much remains to be said of Sydney’s season, a campaign that yielded their first Championship since 2012/13.
If anything can be learned from their slow start and eventual glory it is that what matters most is that you play your best football when it really counts.