Melbourne City suffered their first-ever defeat against Adelaide United in the W-League last night, going down 2-1 thanks to a brace from Dylan Holmes.
Despite a late consolation goal from Emma Checker in stoppage time, the City girls were forced to come away from the interstate trip without a point to show for their efforts.
Here’s what we learned from the disappointing outing:
It’s all well and good to be putting five or six past teams when you’ve got the entire Matildas starting XI playing under you, but Rado Vidosic needs to figure out how he’s going to instill some attacking fluency into his side for the remainder of the 2020/21 season.
There seems to be no clear plan to isolate/provide service to any of the forwards in attacking situations, nor any other discernible route to goal.
One of the contributing factors to this must surely be some of the selection decisions, with the likes of only-recognised-central-striker Harriet Withers playing on the wing, Chinatsu Kira playing as a false nine and Alex Chidiac playing as a deeper-lying midfielder.
Though Withers has been excellent on the wings, the lack of a physical presence leading the line means there’s no real target for wingers or midfielders to accommodate their service for, leading to frustrating breakdowns in transition.
With just two goals from open play after five fixtures, Vidosic needs to go back to the drawing board and identify offensive solutions before the team return against Brisbane Roar on January 30.
Recruitment successes: Chinatsu Kira and Harriet Withers
In a season where City’s recruitment has already been criticised in countless columns only five rounds in, credit must be given where it’s due, and that’s for the recruitment of shining lights Chinatsu Kira and Harriet Withers.
Kira looked as though she was trying to do EVERYTHING for City last night, but her admirable intentions weren’t sustainable for 90 minutes and by the end of the night she looked exhausted. The Japanese import brings a wealth of composure and technique to a midfield that is sorely lacking those qualities in comparison to previous seasons, and surely leads City’s Player of the Season award in our books.
Withers, on the other hand, is more of a refreshing surprise whose success at W-League level outlines a future blueprint for City now that the majority of top-quality Australians are headed overseas. Acquired from the NPLW Queensland competition, Withers has demonstrated an impressive work rate that enables her dangerous pace to be utilised at any stage of the game to great effect. Previously a striker, Withers has exceeded expectations playing on the wings and looks like our most-likely route to goal.
Reflection on our own coverage and the Finals race
Fans of City’s W-League side have only ever known success – with exception of that one season where we missed the Finals and finished fifth. Following yet another incredible season in 2019/20 where all types of records were smashed and the City girls strolled to another title, it makes it difficult to re-adjust our expectations of the current W-League crop, leading to some pretty pessimistic coverage, on reflection.
Whilst it holds true that City have still recruited quite a strong squad with four Matildas and three quality internationals, fans – ourselves included – need to be able to accept that losing will be a regular part of supporting the W-League side from now on.
That’s why we’re not ruling ourselves out of Finals just yet – despite writing pre-Adelaide that it was three points or bust.
Our next game against Brisbane Roar might truly be the one that makes or breaks the season, but following this we’ve got ties in which City would be heavily fancied against Perth and Newcastle, who currently occupy the foot of the table.
With Noor Eckhoff likely to be ready for the Brisbane game and Jenna McCormick returning from a head injury, it’ll be full steam ahead at training in the coming weeks as City prepare to show what they’re capable of.