After a difficult few months, Matildas winger Hayley Raso is fully fit and excited to be home to face the USA in Sydney this Saturday.
Following a series of electric performances at the Tokyo Olympics and making an impact at Everton last season, Raso signed with Manchester City in the FAWSL for 2021/22.
Although she began the season strongly with an assist on debut, a shoulder injury has kept her sidelined for club and country.
Now back to her scintillating best, Raso is in Australia and ready to take on the current world champions.
“It feels amazing,” Raso told media on Wednesday
“I’m pretty jetlagged I will say, but it’s great to be back on home soil. I’ve missed a few camps because of injury so to be back amongst the girls. I’m really looking forward to the game.”
The timing for Australia could not be better. Raso’s pace, skill, and commitment make her a manager’s dream and an opponent’s nightmare.
She can play either as a striker, winger or if needed, she can deputise at right back.
Matildas manager Tony Gustavsson has been challenged in finding the balance of keeping Ellie Carpenter back or letting her bomb forward. With Raso in the squad, Australia has that attacking talent on the right even with Carpenter in central defence.
Her ability in the final third is what will most terrify the USWNT. Raso made an instant impact for City last week with a brace and an assist after coming off the bench.
“It’s been tough,” she said of the difficult start to life at City
“I feel like we’ve had a few half results. I’ve missed a number of games because of my shoulder injury.
“Going into a new team and being injured is always hard, but the girls have always rallied around me. We finished just before the international break with a good win so hopefully that gets the ball rolling for us now.”
City currently sits in seventh place and more than 10 points off league leaders Arsenal. However, Raso is not ready to call the race just yet.
“We’ve had some tough results and come off the back of a few losses but there’s still so much of the season to go.
“We’re gelling now and we’re starting to get a number of players who’ve been injured back so hopefully, it’s all upward from here.”
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Raso shares a locker room with some of the biggest names in women’s football. The talent that she is surrounded with is benefitting one of Australia’s best weapons.
“The standard and quality of training each day is at such a high level and that’s only going to help me,” she said.
“I feel honored to be playing with such a talented group of girls. For me, it’s just about continuing to develop and bringing what I can to the team.”
Playing in the high profile, high stakes WSL brings new challenges. Raso has previously starred for Portland in the USA and for Brisbane Roar at home.
Although both leagues are highly competitive, the WSL has the additional pressure of relegation battles and Champions League qualification.
This new reality has not changed Raso’s outlook on the game.
“I guess I don’t really feel the pressure in that sense,” she said.
“We know there is always pressure in games like that in fighting for Champions League spots [or] fighting relegation, but I think you kind of have to leave that pressure behind and just focus on playing.”
Raso’s recent shoulder injury is minor compared to what she has overcome before. On her way to over 50 international caps, she has recovered from a broken back and numerous soft tissues concerns.
She remains philosophical about her time on the sidelines. It is a reality of the job, especially for a player who plays at blistering speed.
“I obviously went through my pretty serious back injury but everything else that’s come since then they’re all just minor injuries and I think that happens to every athlete when you’re playing professional sport,” Raso said.
Now, after missing the last three Matildas matches, she is injury-free and ready to roll up the famous sleeves.
“It’s back to 100% now. I’m still just in the gym making sure my shoulder and the muscles around it are strong.
“Otherwise I’d say yeah I’m 100% and it’s not really stopping me at all.”
There are few better sights in football than an unstoppable Raso in full flight. Despite the USA sending a relatively inexperienced side, Australia will not be underestimating them.
“We’ve got a pretty good rivalry going… it’s always a tough game. We’ve beaten them a few times they’ve also beat us a few times.
“I think it’s going to be a really great game and I know that all the girls are going to be up for it and we can’t wait.”
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