Fiona Worts celebrating with Paige Hayward and Emily Condon. (Image: Fiona Worts/Instagram)

A change of position and an abundance of attacking talent in a well coached team has Fiona Worts firing on all cylinders for the Reds on their quest for a maiden A-League Women finals appearance.

A change of position and an abundance of attacking talent in a well coached team has Fiona Worts firing on all cylinders for the Reds on their quest for a maiden A-League Women finals appearance.

When Worts first signed for Adelaide United, not much fanfare followed. Instead, most of the attention was on the signing of Chilean Maria Jose (Cote) Rojas.

The Reds had a strong 2020/21 campaign, but eventually fell short of that elusive fourth spot in heart-breaking fashion, finishing on equal points with Canberra United but with one less goal on the goal difference count.

Rojas had a mixed season for the Reds, leading the line from the start in all 12 games. Her holdup play got the rest of the team involved but she only contributed one goal and one assist, with Chelsie Dawber, Mallory Webber and Dylan Holmes doing the heavy lifting scoring wise.

The most glaring part of Cote’s 2020/21 season was her lack of a killer touch when most required, missing six big chances for the Reds. All of which could have made all the difference in the pointy end of a season that ended by the slightest of margins.

Meanwhile, Worts had a solid first season for the club, starting six of her nine games, scoring twice, and assisting a further three goals. Most of the season, Worts plied her trade on the left wing.

Playing on the left wing for a plucky Reds side and occasionally coming off the bench to help close out games meant that Worts had a heavy defensive load, often coming up against full back-winger combinations.

It also meant that the ball did not always come her way, with Rojas being the spearhead of the attack.

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Fiona Worts’ heatmap for A-League Women Season 2020/21. (Image: SofaScore)

In a Rojas-less 2021/22 Reds side, much has been made of United’s impressive midfield trio of Emily Condon, Nano Sasaki and Dylan Holmes, while the deadly Chelsie Dawber never fails to make a headline.

Although they have all been impressive, it has been Worts who has quietly made her presence felt on the A-League Women competition, and has shown she is an invaluable asset for Adrian Stenta’s side.

With Rojas exiting United and signing with Sydney FC, Worts was quietly entrusted with the centre forward role, which she has made her own.

As can be seen when comparing Worts’ heatmaps, being able to play up front has meant that she has been able to get involved more heavily and centrally in United’s attacking play, while less is expected of her defensively.

This has allowed Worts to receive the ball further up the pitch and flourish in her attacking role.

She has the freedom to roam and with front three partnersDawber and Paige Hayward solidifying their front three roles, exchanging positions for periods of the game is a feature of Adrian Stenta’s 2021/22 Reds side.

Not being limited to one side of the field has been crucial in the evolution of Worts’ game.

Fiona Worts’ heatmap for A-League Women season 2021/22. (Image: SofaScore)

Fresh off scoring twice against Newcastle, it is obvious that season 2021/22 has been the perfect storm for Worts, who has announced herself as one of the best attacking players in the A-League Women competition, and certainly one of the most important for her side.

Worts has currently played nine games (same as last season), but this time she has started all of them in the number nine role vacated by Rojas. She has eclipsed the Chilean’s contributions, scoring four goals and assisting another three.

When you dig a bit deeper, it is clear that Worts is an even more important player for the Reds than her goal and assist contributions suggest.

Worts has been central to the majority of United’s positive play, leading the way for key passes per game, meaning passes that directly lead to shots on target.

She also currently leads the A-League Women as a whole in that statistic, averaging 3.2 key passes per game, and eclipsing some of the stars of the League such as Rhianna Pollicina (2.9), Mackenzie Hawkesby (2.4), Cortnee Vine (2.2) and Holly McNamara (1.8).

It is clear that Worts’ teammates and coaches are starting to recognise her skill and ability as a creative outlet, leaning even more heavily on her to create this past month.

She has been batting above her own average this last month, with six key passes against Newcastle, five against the Wanderers and seven, an A League Women record, against the Phoenix.

What do these three games have in common? Adelaide United has picked up all the points available, out-processing their opponents and heavily working opposition defences and goalkeepers in the process.

As the chase for the finals heats up, Adelaide United will keep relying on Worts to create.

Opposition sides have surely taken notice and will be hoping closing down Worts will mean shutting down United’s attacking threats.

Worts is a lot more than a goals and assist type of player, and if United are to continue asserting themselves as a finals fancy, she should be central to United’s game, supported by her talented teammates.

She has proven that she can bring the best out of her fellow forwards and midfielders, placing them in positions to strike United to success.

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