Westfield W-League 2018/19 season report card: Adelaide United
With the dust beginning to settle on the elite women’s football season in Australia, it is time to take a deep breath and reflect on the thrills and spills of the 2018/19 Westfield W-League campaign.
Starting today, www.w-league.com.au will be running a series of daily 'report cards' looking back at the highs and lows of the nine clubs who contested the title, starting with Adelaide United.
While it was Ante Juric’s Sydney FC that ended up taking out the Championship, the South Australian club were certainly one of the success stories of the season.
We take a look back at the Reds’ most successful campaign to date, which uncovered some bright stars and built solid foundations for 2019/20.
Record: 5W, 3D, 4L
Top Scorer: Veronica Latsko (9 goals)
Most appearances: Sarah Willacy, Veronica Latsko, Dylan Holmes, Michelle Heyman, Emily Condon, Emma Checker, Amber Brooks - 12 games
Fans of the Westfield W-League should by now realise that you can never write off any team, particularly early on.
The pressure was on head coach Ivan Karlović to rebuild Adelaide and make some steady progress in his second season at the helm.
He started with a statement of intent, grinding out a 0-0 draw against eventual-Premiers Melbourne Victory in a game that his side were unfortunate not to win.
Consecutive wins against Brisbane Roar (1-0) and Canberra United (2-0) would follow, shooting the Reds to the summit on seven points and still unbeaten.
With Adelaide earning a 1-1 draw away at Melbourne City, followed by a 2-2 draw against powerful Perth Glory, it was becoming increasingly evident that Karlović had well and truly steered put the Reds' ship on a positive course.
A 5-2 loss to eventual-Champions Sydney FC failed to curtail Adelaide’s season, and they bounced back with consecutive 3-2 wins against Melbourne Victory and Newcastle Jets.
Yet, just as everyone was talking about Adelaide United’s first ever Westfield W-League Finals Series, calamity struck.
The Reds suffered three losses on the trot against Canberra (1-0), Western Sydney Wanderers (4-1) and the Jets (2-1) to consign themselves to another Finals-less campaign.
While falling short of the Finals, it was a season to remember in many ways for the Reds.
Perhaps most memorable was the 3-2 win over Newcastle Jets, in the Hunter no less.
With the scores locked at 1-1, the Jets had taken the lead in the 85th minute via a Laura Johns own goal and it seemed as though that would be enough to see Craig Deans’ side over the line.
Then, in what typified the thrilling unpredictability of the Westfield W-League, Isabel Hodgson and Veronica Latsko both struck in added-time to give the visitors the lead and seal all three points.
It is hard to look past Veronica Latsko as Adelaide United’s star player of the 2018/19.
Signed from the Houston Dash, Latsko put in one of the greatest debut seasons by smashing home a club-high nine goals and two assists in 12 games.
This was only her second season as a professional footballer, yet you could not tell as Latsko almost single-handedly led the line for the Reds, and added another piece to the puzzle Karlović is slowly piecing together.
Further back, Emily Hodgson built on her promise of recent years to put in a stellar Westfield W-League campaign. The 18-year-old right-back, who starred in Adelaide’s defence, played 11 games and was not subbed off once.
The 2018 WNPL Rising Star and Player of the Year, Charlotte Grant, entered the Westfield W-League with expectations laying heavy on the 17-year-old's shoulders.
Yet, she took it in her stride to make 11 appearances for the Reds - including four starts - and post a tackle success rate of more than 83%.
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Partnering Grant in the defence was Laura Johns.
Despite having featured in the first-team previously in the 2012/13 and 2017/18 seasons, this was the campaign where Johns really made a name for herself and hit her stride.
The 24-year-old made 11 starts for the Reds and was pivotal to their early run of five games without a loss.
If you were to judge Adelaide United solely on their position in the ladder, their campaign could be deemed something of a disappointment.
However, when one considers their history in the Westfield W-League and the stars they uncovered in 2018/19, the past six months should be considered a real success for the Reds.
Karlović must be praised for his recruitment and attacking style of play, which introduced fans to a number of new faces who look like they are here to stay.
If United can build on that promise, expectations of a Finals Series finish in 2019/20 will not be too wide of the mark.