Melbourne City FC created history in Australia last night, becoming the first team in W-League history to win back-to-back championships. In front of a record crowd of 4,591, it was City’s four Seattle Reign players who made the difference in the team’s 2-0 Grand Final win over Perth Glory.
After struggling early in the season, Melbourne City — under player-coach Jess Fishlock — found the momentum it needed and contained a Perth Glory side that scored five goals in its semifinal match.
It was a match-up between a possession-driven City side and a direct, counter-attacking Perth team that was built around the speed of captain Sam Kerr. While Perth produced the more dangerous chances in the first half, City held its own — dominating possession 58 percent to 42 percent and getting 8 shots off.
Just before the halftime break, Seattle Reign’s Bev Yanez got the ball on the left wing. She sent a pass to FC Kansas City midfielder Erika Tymrak at the top of the 18, who gave it right back to Yanez as she rushed into the box. Her ball on the ground found Fishlock, who was making a run from deep in the midfield. A sliding Fishlock got just enough on it, and the ball rolled into the goal.
After the break, Melbourne City came out aggressive — moving the ball around smoothly, and using the wings effectively after Perth Glory clogged up the middle of the field in the first half.
Perth Glory started to press after the first 10 minutes, however, and it looked like they might get an equalizer in the 59th minute. Kerr got a ball over the top and was through to goal, but a perfectly timed Lauren Barnes tackle poked the ball out for a corner.
That wasn’t the first time Barnes stopped Kerr in the match. She was constantly there to back up her teammates, and provided a calming veteran presence along the backline. Barnes’ tackle was key in helping shift momentum back to Melbourne City, and it paid off about 10 minutes later.
In the 72nd minute, Yanez — who saw a lot more of the ball in the second half — received a pass on the left wing. It looked like she was putting a cross into the box, but the ball ended up traveling toward goal, and Perth goalkeeper Gabby Dal Busco failed to push it away. Yanez put Melbourne up 2-0, and they never looked back.
Rebekah Stott, who will head to Reign FC this season, looked solid at right back. Not only did she stifle a number of Glory attacks, she offered a lot in the attack. A cross to Fishlock in the first half nearly resulted in a goal, and Stott appeared calm and confident on the ball — making a solid case to be the starting right back for Seattle this season.
Fishlock, meanwhile, was everywhere this match. On a hot and humid day, the Welsh midfielder seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. She dictated the play throughout the game, and nearly got a second goal late in the match. It is important to note that she did all this after City went 120 minutes in their semifinal match.
Fishlock’s relentless performance -- in both attack and defense — got her named player of the match, an award given to Kim Little a year ago.
Take a moment to absorb what Fishlock accomplished this season for Melbourne City. She took over as head coach during the team’s six-match winless run, helped her squad turn the season around and sneak into the playoffs, scored the game winner in the semifinal, and was named player of the match in the Grand Final.
If Fishlock can translate this play into the NWSL season, there’s no reason to think she can’t lead Seattle Reign FC to a trophy of their own.