In the early hours of Saturday morning, three members of the Orlando Pride will take the field for the Grand Final of the Westfield W-League, Australia’s top-flight for women’s professional soccer. Saturday’s game will be played behind closed doors to further reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure through the Australian football community.
The matchup will see reigning W-League Champions Sydney FC and Pride defender Alanna Kennedy travel to take on this year’s Premiership winners in Melbourne City FC, whose roster boasts Orlando Pride midfielder Emily van Egmond and forward Claire Emslie, in a contest that will serve as a rematch of the 2018 Grand Final. The winner of Saturday’s final will become the first W-League club to win the title four times.
How to Watch
The match will take place on Saturday, March 21 at 12:30 a.m. ET with fans in North America able to tune in on ESPN+ at the link here.
How They Got Here
Following an unbeaten regular season that saw Melbourne City crowned W-League Premiers, the hosts of Saturday’s early morning match return to the Grand Final for the fourth time in five years following a 5-1 victory over Western Sydney in last weekend’s Semifinal. Through 13 contests this season, City have scored 32 goals while conceding only five, namely scoring 19 goals through its remaining six matches while letting in just one.
Leading the charge have been Matildas namesakes Kyah Simon and Orlando Pride midfielder Emily van Egmond, both with six goals scored on the season, followed by Pride forward Claire Emslie with five of her own. Contributing on both ends of the pitch have been OL Reign defender Steph Catley, formerly of the Pride, and Portland Thorns defender Ellie Carpenter, who sit tied for the league lead in assists this season with four apiece while contributing to City’s stalwart of a backline that registered eight clean sheets through the campaign.
For Melbourne this year, van Egmond has started every match, totaling 24 chances created for her club, trailing only Catley and Carpenter on the year. Saturday will mark van Egmond’s first appearance in a Grand Final through nearly a decade of W-League play.
In her first season in the W-League, Emslie made an immediate impact for City, adding three assists to her five goals scored on the season through 11 appearances. Emslie has found her form as of late, scoring four times through her last three matches for City and will look to continue that in Saturday’s final.
Sydney returns to their third-consecutive Grand Final on Saturday, looking to win back-to-back W-League titles for the first time in its history after defeating Perth Glory 4-2 to take last year’s crown. For the second time in two weeks, the Sky Blues will head on the road after defeating the Melbourne Victory in last weekend’s Semifinal by way of a 1-0 win.
The Sky Blues are led at the front by Remy Siemsen, scoring seven goals this season to tie for the league’s Golden Boot. On the other end of the pitch, the backline has been a force throughout the campaign led by Pride defender Alanna Kennedy, who helped the Sky Blues to eight clean sheets to tie Saturday’s opposition for the league lead. Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, a former member of the Pride, finished second in saves this season with 54, trailing only Newcastle’s Claire Coelho.
Kennedy has appeared in nine matches for Sydney this season with eight starts, registering a tackle success rate of 82.4% with 36 clearances, eight blocks and 20 interceptions at the back. Saturday will see Kennedy look to secure her fourth W-League Championship title through nearly a decade of play in Australia’s top-flight and her third in as many years.