Rivals united: Kennedy and Pickett to build Orlando fortress

There was much more than pride on the line the last time Alanna Kennedy and Carson Pickett shared a football pitch together, but soon the Westfield W-League duo will be playing for it.

That's because Sydney FC star Kennedy and Brisbane Roar's American import Pickett are both donning the purple of National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) outfit Orlando Pride in 2019.

Two imposing defensive figures, Kennedy and Pickett enjoyed some key head-to-head battles during the Westfield W-League 2018/19 campaign, playing their part in some titanic contests between Sydney and Brisbane.

But that's all in the past. Now the duo's united goal is to help the Pride to NWSL success.

NWSL EXPLAINER: Everything you need to know about the upcoming 2019 season
NWSL BIBLE: Your complete guide to Westfield W-League players in the 2019 NWSL

Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Westfield W-League foes, NWSL friends

Names: Alanna Kennedy and Carson Pickett

Westfield W-League clubs: Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar

NWSL club: Orlando Pride

Alanna Kennedy
Westfield Matildas star Alanna Kennedy playing for Orlando Pride

Weren’t they just rivals playing in a Westfield W-League semi-final?

Yes, after two intense hit-outs in the regular season, the Roar welcomed Sydney north to face off in a do-or-die semi-final in February.

It was a tough affair at Dolphin Stadium with each player doing their best to guide their side through to the Grand Final, but Kennedy's Sydney prevailed 2-1 on the night.

So, what’s changed?

Instead of being at opposite ends of the pitch, Kennedy and Pickett will be within talking distance of each other. Whether it’s part of a back four or back three, the two will need to work together seamlessly if the Pride are to reach the playoffs.

What happened when Kennedy and Pickett locked horns?

Quite a lot, actually. The Sky Blues and Roar met three times during the Westfield W-League season. Kennedy claimed bragging rights back in Round 6 when Sydney thumped the Roar 5-1 at Seymour Shaw.

Revenge was on the mind for the Queenslanders when Ante Juric's side headed north but they were again left disappointed as the visitors emerged triumphant with a 3-1 victory. A clear statement of intent from a Sydney side that had started the year with only one win in four games.

Kennedy looks for a pass against the Roar back in Round 6.
Kennedy looks for a pass against the Roar back in Round 6

Wow, so Sydney were far superior to the Roar in the regular season?

Head-to-head? Yes. Overall? No. For all their dominance over their interstate rivals, Sydney still ended up below Roar on the Westfield W-League ladder, albeit by a mere point. Still, in what had been a tight race for the top four, Brisbane took confidence from their second-placed finish as they prepared to meet the Sky Blues once again.

So what happened in the semi-final?

With the Roar hosting this knockout fixture they would have been hoping it was a case of third time lucky.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for Brisbane. This time they fell 2-1, missing out on the Grand Final in consecutive seasons.

Kennedy had a big say on the final result, pulling off a magical assist for Sofia Huerta's effort, Sydney's second and ultimately decisive goal.

Sydney FC booked their Grand Final ticket with their third win of the season over Brisbane

How did she go in the big dance?

It was a dream day for Kennedy as the Sky Blues overcame Perth Glory 4-2 in a thrilling Grand Final at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium. It was Kennedy’s second straight Championship after she triumphed with Melbourne City, ironically against Sydney, the year previous.

How did Pickett fare in her campaign?

In what was her second season on-loan to the Roar, Pickett performed with aplomb. The defender started like a house on fire, netting a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Perth Glory in Round 1, and scoring a clever free kick against Western Sydney Wanderers in a 1-0 win in Round 2.

Carson Pickett's free-kick against the Wanderers in Round 2

So Pickett’s an American native and Kennedy a foreigner, how does their history stateside compare?

Both are relatively young players but each have proven pedigree in America's top tier.

Pickett came through the Florida State University system before making her NWSL debut for Seattle Reign in 2016. She spent two years with the Washington club before making the move to Orlando in 2018.

Like defensive teammate Pickett, Kennedy made her NWSL debut in 2016, for Western New York Flash. The Australian then moved to the Pride, where she has found the net an impressive seven times in just two seasons.

Pickett is yet to register a goal in her homeland so will be eager to get up that right-hand side and possibly get an assist from her Aussie teammate.


Both players had title ambitions in the Westfield W-League. How are the Pride tracking?

After making the playoffs in 2017, Orlando slumped to a disappointing seventh-placed finish last year.

They waved farewell to inaugural head coach and current New Zealand boss Tom Sermanni in the off-season and brought in Englishman Marc Skinner.

They’ll boast a strong squad with Melbourne Victory's Premiership-winning defender Dani Weatherholt, Newcastle Jets captain Emily van Egmond, Brisbane hot-shot Chioma Ubogagu and Perth Glory live-wire Rachel Hill representing a strong Westfield W-League contingent.

Thrown in Brazilian icon Marta and prolific American striker Alex Morgan, and Orlando are well poised to make a strong bid for silverware in 2019.

Morgan
USA international Alex Morgan