The Wellington Phoenix have been working on their one-on-one defending and their shooting efficiency ahead of their second round Liberty A-League match against Western United.
The Phoenix were beaten 4-1 by Melbourne City in their historic opening round match at Sky Stadium and are returning to the venue just six days later to face the competition newcomers.
Head coach Natalie Lawrence says they have addressed a couple of aspects of their game following the round one defeat to City.
“Obviously we can’t deny the fact that there was some technical one-vs-one errors that led to goals,” Lawrence told media on the eve of Saturday’s match. “That’s been a big focus for us.
“We do like to look at stats and use the stats to help frame the week. We got a lot of shots off last weekend so it’s making the shots more efficient, so the chances turn into quality chances.
“They’re two of the main areas we’ve looked at this week.”
Western United are riding high ahead of just their second ever Liberty A-League match, having knocked over defending champions Melbourne Victory 1-0 in round one.
“They’re good,” Lawrence said. “You can tell that a lot of them have come from the same club with the same coaches and then they’ve added quality in like Jess McDonald, like [Chloe] Logarzo and their goalkeeper [Hillary Beall].
“They’re going to be a well-oiled machine. They beat the reigning champions last week so we can’t take them lightly.
“We’ve looked at what strengths they have and their weaknesses and that’s what we’ll try and exploit this weekend.”
Logarzo has played more than 50 times for the Matildas, McDonald and Beall are two of three Americans in Western United’s maiden squad, and their club captain Jaclyn Sawicki is a Philippines international.
McDonald was a member of the USA’s World Cup winning squad in 2019 and scored Western’s maiden goal.
Lawrence is well aware of what the American guest player is capable of.
“We know she’s going to provide a lot of class, she’s going to provide speed [and] she provides experience.
“She’s always going to be somebody that we have to watch out for.
“We’ve looked through videos of her and we know what her strengths are, and we’re going to try and nullify them as much as we can so we can play our game.”
Phoenix captain Lily Alfeld, midfielders Grace Wisnewski and Isabel Gomez and Football Ferns forward Emma Rolston remain side-lined with injuries, but Wellington winger Michaela Robertson is available for selection, after missing the season opener with concussion.
Robertson sustained a head knock in week one of pre-season, but is now symptom free and cleared to play.
“She’s like a whipper snapper and adds energy because of her pace and her personality too,” Lawrence said.
“Having her back in training, having her back for selection and available for selection in Wellington, her home town, is pretty awesome for her to hopefully make her debut this weekend.”
While Robertson has played more than 100 games for Wellington United and has been part of Football Ferns squads, she has yet to play professional football.
As a result she’ll be eased back into the side.
“We’ve got to remember that this will be her first professional game as well.
“Whilst she is pacy, the pace of the game is quicker and you saw that at the weekend. Some of our players making their debuts it took them a little while to get into the game as it was their first game at that level. It’ll be similar for Mickey.
“We’ll push her through as much as we can [but] not push her too much so she goes backwards.”
The second round Liberty A-League match between the Wellington Phoenix and Western United is scheduled to kick-off at Sky Stadium tomorrow in Wellington at 3:00pm (1:00pm AEDT) and will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 1 in New Zealand and Paramount+ and 10 Play in Australia.
Children’s tickets are again free, with adult tickets starting from just $22.
Gates open at 2:30pm tomorrow.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Saskia VOSPER, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 9. Ava PRITCHARD, 10. Alyssa WHINHAM, 11. Betsy HASSETT, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Paige SATCHELL, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 15. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 17. Claudia CICCO, 18. Te Reremoana WALKER, 19. Charlotte LANCASTER, 20. Milly CLEGG, 21. Michaela FOSTER, 22. Georgia CANDY (gk).
Unavailable: 1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (c) (injured), 6. Isabel GOMEZ (injured), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (injured), 16. Emma ROLSTON (injured).
Western United squad: 1. Alyssa DALL’OSTE (gk), 2. Stacey PAPADOPOULOS, 4. Jaclyn SAWICKI (c), 6. Chloe LOGARZO, 7. Francesca IERMANO, 8. Jessica McDONALD, 9. Hannah KEANE, 10. Kahli JOHNSON, 11. Emma ROBERS, 14. Natasha DAKIC, 15. Adriana TARANTO, 16. Melissa TARANTO, 18. Aleksandra SINCLAIR, 19. Tyla Jay VLAJNIC, 20. Sydney CUMMINGS, 21. Hillary BEALL (gk), 22. Alana CERNE, 24. Julia SARDO.
Unavailable: 3. Silver Bell MORRIS (illness), 12. Harriet WITHERS (injured).