A season of missed opportunities | (Credit: Getty Images)
Canberra United may have ended their rollercoaster season with a jolting 5-1 defeat at the hands of Brisbane Roar, but there were plenty of highlights for the team from the capital to look back on.
It was evident this season that every team wanted a piece of the champions. A disrupted season peppered with key departures, injuries, a midseason foray to the first world club championship in Japan and resulting catch up games, matches played in record breaking high temperatures, three last gasp losses in injury time, and the postponement of a critical game, all combined to put the team on the back foot.
While the rest of us bemoan the 'short' w-league season, United appeared to run out of steam in the last match in their run to the finals, losing the coveted fourth spot to Sydney FC who went on to win the title.
The stand out match winner for Canberra United this season was Hayley Raso. It's hard to believe she started the season on the bench, earning a starting position following the injury to Ashleigh Sykes. And despite missing some matches due to school commitments, the spark she added in attack took some attention off Heyman, and resulted in some timely goals for the team. Raso finished the season as the equal highest goal scorer with four, and took home the 2XX Supporters' Award and the Rising Star Award from the Canberra United presentation night.
Nicole Sykes came of age this season, turning 21 in December, and playing havoc down the left side of the park. A Matildas' training camp pep talk from Tom Sermanni may have helped drive Sykes' motivation to become a stronger and more attacking full back, and she trained with tenacity under the tutelage of coach Jitka Klimkova. She maintained her slick ferocity in defence, helping to keep the likes of Lisa De Vanna and Sydney FC's Foord and Simon at bay, and she scored her first goal for United against a promising Newcastle Jets outfit. Sykes was a certainty for the Player of the Year and Players' Player Awards at United's end of season function.
A robust Canberra backline was again the launching pad to United's forward raids. Ellie Brush, Caitlin Cooper and import Ari Hingst all shone this year, but it was Caitlin Munoz in her first season clear of knee injury for some years who proved that maturity and strength are a powerful combination in the W-League. A deadball specialist, Munoz hit two beauties from long range, both against the Wanderers, a penalty against Perth Glory in their match at Deakin which was to breathe life into United's campaign, and a cracker in free play in Canberra's first big win of the season against Newcastle United in the second round.
Room for Improvement
While Canberra again looked to play a highly technical possession game, it was their execution under pressure that let them down. Short term US imports Nikki Washington and Kristie 'Kiki' Mewis were the exception, creating time on the ball resulting in five goals from six matches between them.
Post-season, the players have pledged their offseason to gaining strength and fitness. Nic Sykes is keen to get overseas and build on her strong performance, while Michelle Heyman is looking to line up in Capital Football's u/16 men's competition, and train with their men's program.
Looking to season 6, United's CEO Heather Reid's first signing will need to be current coach Jitka Klimkova, with many players waiting on the appointment of Klimkova before commiting to the green team for another season.
One assumes that is a done deal, with Klimkova bound for Europe in coming weeks to scout for international talent who can stay with the team from pre-season to completion.
Captain Ellie Brush told those gathered at the team's presentation night that it wasn't a disappointing season at all. She admitted that it was an up and down season, and while appearing at the first women's World Club Challenge may have had some adverse effects on their season, it was a great achievement and they wouldn't change that for the world.
Home town support continues to be a vital cog in the well oiled Canberra United machine. Heather Reid came good with a dedicated training facility, locked in a strong support team, and provided a slick game day experience for fans who were rewarded with a 5-0 victory against Western Sydney Wanderers in the infamous postponed match.
Canberra United will share season 6 with its fans in the city's 100th birthday year - let's hope it's one hell of a party.