Liberty A-League season preview: Sydney FC

The agony and ecstasy of football was the theme of last year’s campaign for the Sky Blues, winning the premiership but losing the grand final in the last minute. 

With the bulk of last year’s squad retained, and some Chilean star power added, can they go one better this time around?

Major ins: Paige Satchell, Sarah Hunter, Jessika Nash, Maria Jose Rojas

Major outs: Teresa Polias, Clare Wheeler, Elizabeth Ralston, Allira Toby

Georgia Yeoman-Dale’s Predicted XI

  • Channel 10/Paramount+ football analyst Georgia Yeoman-Dale gives her verdict on the Melbourne City squad.

Strength: “A huge amount of depth, and depth in all positions.” 

Weakness:” I don’t know if you can consider it a weakness – but how can you keep the whole squad happy? When you have 15 or 16 players that could start for any other team, how do you keep everyone happy in a short season? 

“There’s also a chance the Sky Blues will lose some of these players come the Asian Cup in January, with the likes of Jessika Nash, Remy Siemsen, by the time it comes around maybe Cortnee Vine, potentially Jada Whyman and Princess Ibini all pushing to get into that Matildas team. They could potentially lose five of their starters.”

Key player: “Cortnee Vine was looking so good last season before she got injured. She’s a weapon. She’s so fast, she’s mobile, and she can score goals.”

Verdict: “I think it’s good enough to go all the way. They’re neck and neck with Victory. Every time it comes close to the season and you actually write out their starting XI you remember their quality.”

LISTEN: Join Danny Townsend, Daniel Garb, Robbie Cornthwaite and Amy Chapman for a special edition of the Official A-Leagues Podcast. Listen here, or via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify. 

Coach: Ante Juric

Sky Blue coaching record: Played 56, won 35, drawn four, lost 17

Into his fifth year as the Sky Blues’ coach, Juric has already delivered one Premiership and one Championship. But the bitter pill of last year’s grand final loss to Melbourne Victory adds to a similar reverse in 2017-18 – the same year his side came second in the W-League.

So while it means the Sky Blues have largely been there or thereabouts under his tutelage, there’s plenty of motivation for the coming campaign to avoid those feelings of disappointment.

Last year Juric was proud of having an all-Australian squad but couldn’t resist adding the firepower of hugely experienced Chilean international Maria Jose Rojas despite the fact his side were the competition’s second-top scorers last season.

Sydney FC head coach Ante Juric.

Can’t take your eyes off: Maria Jose Rojas

The 34-year-old has had a storied career, playing in Germany, the United States, Japan, Lithuania, Czech Republic and several stints in Australia.

With 11 goals in 44 appearances for the Chilean national team, she brings significant experience to what was a very young Sky Blue attack last season.

She knows the league after previous stints with Adelaide and Canberra plus several in South Australia’s WNPL, though she will miss the opening round thanks to international duty with Chile and consequent isolation requirements.

Rojas still has pace and trickery to offer, to the degree she was taking on a full-strength Brazil side this week in the city of Manaus.

Chilean striker Maria Jose Rojas has signed for Sydney FC.

Reasons: to be cheerful: a proven squad sets out again to right the wrong of losing the grand final to a freak corner kick, under the calm leadership of one of the competition’s most experienced coaches. 

Though the squad is young it has already garnered priceless experience, and its constituent parts know each other very well.

Though the news of Ellie Brush’s second ACL injury was shattering, the signing of Jessika Nash brings one of the country’s most highly rated young centrebacks to the club, a newly fledged Matilda with a willingness to get on the ball and build from the back even at 17.

Similarly Paige Satchwell has Olympic experience with New Zealand, adding more depth at the back, though she too misses round one due to isolation requirements after playing for the Kiwis. 

Defender Jessika Nash has played for the Matildas at 17.

… and reasons to be fearful: There are players in this Sydney FC squad who were still at primary school when Teresa Polias first joined Sydney FC, and the club captain’s decision to take time out of football to have a baby takes the team’s leader out of the equation. Known universally as T, Polias has set the culture and the standards of the team for years. 

With defender Elizabeth Ralston also exiting and signing for Western Sydney Wanderers, it takes two leaders out of what was already a youthful squad, while Clare Wheeler’s move to Europe removes a player whom many judges see as a natural defensive midfielder for the Matildas. 

Of those still at the club, Remy Siemsen and Nash – plus potentially others – could be called up for the Asian Cup in late January, taking them away for several rounds of the Liberty A-League depending on how far Australia progress. 

Fans’ eye view: Michelle Morris

Why we believe: There’s something special about a club like Sydney FC, and it’s not just what’s in their trophy cabinet. I’ve never really felt like I’ve belonged anywhere, never really felt part of something. Since becoming a member and attending matches, I truly feel like I’m finally beginning to feel part of something wonderful, a family if you will.

 Last season I made a commitment to prioritising our women’s team. I can honestly say, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made as a football supporter. This team plays with so much passion and heart, you can feel the energy from the stands. I have to commend The Cove for coming to as many games as they could, and allowing me to be part of this support for our club.

Who we believe: This season Cortnee Vine is back in Sky Blue and Sydney fans couldn’t be happier. After a great season that unfortunately ended early with an injury. Last season she opened the scoring for the Women’s season, against rivals Western Sydney Wanderers. The hashtag VineTime started to become a staple as she kept scoring, and she quickly became a fan favourite. I can’t wait to see more of her this season!

Recently capped Matilda player, Remy Siemsen, marks her fifth season with Sydney FC this year, and I’m sure plenty of fans will be excited to see her back in Sky Blue for another season. With 7 goals last season, and a National Team call up, I’m certain that Sydney fans will be excited to see how she goes, and how many more goals she’ll score. She’s always a fun player to watch, and a player that the fans love.

The magic of matchday is… last season The Cove had turned up to as many games as possible, and it was incredible to be part of that. The importance of active support is something that I personally feel very strongly about. 

Teresa Polias is taking a year out after a decade with Sydney FC.

We are one club and we should aim to support our women as much as we support our men’s team. The Cove made a wonderful tifo display for former captain Teresa Polias, celebrating 150 caps for Sydney FC. It was incredibly fun last season being loud and active for our women’s team and it’s something I hope to continue in the future seasons.

If I could change one thing about my club...not much to be honest. I’ve been asking for a Chilean player for years and now DT [CEO Danny Townsend] won’t have to hear my complaints about that! 


By Tom Smithies and Matt Comito

Adelaide United: Can Chelsie Dawber lead the Reds into the post-season?

Brisbane Roar: Gorry returns – but do departures take their toll?

Canberra United: Tune in to the Heyman and Sykes renaissance

Melbourne City: Another season of obscurity for the heavyweights?

Melbourne Victory: Can the champions go back-to-back?

Newcastle Jets: Do international arrivals boost Newcastle’s chances?

Sydney FC: Does club legend Polias’ absence take its toll on the premiers?

Perth Glory: De Vanna arrives eager bounce Perth back up the table

Wellington Phoenix: can the exuberance of youth help Wellington make a fast start?

Western Sydney Wanderers: Can coach Cannuli inspire a postseason charge?

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