Melbourne City A-League Women coach Rado Vidosic will face a selection dilemma ahead of the mid-season impact of Matildas call-ups.
Looking ahead to the game against Adelaide, some big changes need to be made in the absence of Winonah Heatley and Holly McNamara. The defender and forward have been named in the extended squad for the AFC Women’s Asia Cup.
Both players have enjoyed excellent seasons so far, McNamara in particular an assist machine. She’s formed a deadly one-two punch up front with Golden Boot leader Hannah Wilkinson.
While it is a big problem, now that it has happened, the coach has accepted that it is an issue that will be naturally addressed over the coming weeks.
“I’m so proud they made the national team selection. I would be very disappointed if they are the two that have to fly back from Dubai,” Vidosic told media on Thursday.
“I hope that they stay and have [a] fantastic Asian Cup and they help the team to win the Asian Cup.”
Continuing on to talk about exactly who will be the replacements, Vidosic couldn’t speak to a direct like-for-like.
“Regarding their replacement it’s very hard, because we haven’t got a player of the profile of those two players.
“They bring something that not many other players bring to the team. But the players who are going to replace them will bring some other qualities.”
Upcoming opponent Adelaide United is the only team currently inside the top four that has not been impacted by a call-up to the Matildas squad.
Sydney FC have lost Remy Siemsen and Cortnee Vine, while Melbourne Victory have lost Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin. When asked about how this might change the title race, Vidosic did not mince his words.
“As a coach, you wish that every player can play,” he said.
“As a coach, you hope that this is the last season where we are going to lose six, seven, eight players to Matildas and we’re going to have to play through their absentees.
“We haven’t got a big squad. We’ve got a smaller squad than men’s teams, so obviously it is a little bit uneven. It is what it is. It is the situation we are living in.
“How will that affect? God only knows. We have to wait and see. There’s another FIFA window mid-February and we are going to lose Matildas and New Zealand internationals. We’re going to lose maybe four or five players later in the season. Again, how will that affect us, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
The timing of the international window has been one that has sparked much debate. The A-League Women season will be continuing play throughout this time.
Various solutions have been suggested, including increasing the length of the competition for a full home and away season, or pausing during international windows. Vidosic offered up a third option.
“I think first of all, the most important thing is that we go full time professional,” he said.
“These girls, they deserve to be professional football players. They deserve [the] same as A-League Men, to have [a] 12-month program. If we have 12-month programs, we have no problems. We can play, we can stop whenever we want.”
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With Sally James getting closer to a return, there might be a goalkeeping debate at City as to who is the number one keeper with Melissa Barbieri playing all bar a few minutes as she was substituted late against Wellington.
There is not one this week however, as Vidosic was very firm and certain in his answer as to who starts against Adelaide.
“Melissa starts against the Reds, of course,” he confirmed.
“Sally is probably about one more week away from putting her hand up. She had some issues with COVID and she hasn’t really recovered as quickly as we hoped.”
Barbieri won’t be losing the starting job straight away when James is able to make return, however.
“We need to see how Sally goes first of all with her thumb and all that stuff. We need to see how she is, and we’re going to slowly introduce her, so she’s going to start on the bench and then we’ll see what happens after that.
“Sally is an important part of our future, and so is Bubs [Barbieri], so both of them, we would love to keep for many years to come.”
As far as the game itself against Adelaide, despite the home field advantage Adelaide has, Vidosic is happy for the game to be at Coopers Stadium as opposed to an NPL field.
“I think the home ground advantage is when they play on the NPL field,” he said.
“The grass is not that good. It’s like [a] suburban field and I think coming and playing at the big stadium is going to even it out for both teams.
You can’t hide on that pitch. If your first touch is not good, you can’t blame anything else than just your first touch. I think it’s going [to come down to] who is technically better and who is tactically better.”
The idea of double headers is an interesting one. Some people love them, and some people hate them.
Vidosic understands that they have their place in the current landscape and thinks they can be important for the development of players.
“I’m not saying that we have to play every game (as a double header),” he said.
“If we go 22 rounds, and three or four weeks for playoffs, there will be possibilities to play at smaller stadiums. Don’t forget now that we are playing free-to-air TV which we haven’t done in the past, so that is fantastic.
“That is the right step forward. I think a balance of both would be even better.
“For clubs to play a lone game at a big stadium, it would cost too much money so when those two are played one after the other, it’s a little more affordable for the clubs. Probably that’s why that’s the reason for that.
“For players, I think it’s probably better because playing at the stadiums prepares them for potentially Champions League, it prepares young players for the Matildas, it prepares everyone for that next step in their football careers.
“Our supporters need to be prepared to come a little bit earlier also [for double headers].”
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