Western Sydney Wanderers Westfield W-League season preview: Pivotal moment for the Red and Black

Western Sydney Wanderers have moved heaven and earth to break their Finals Series hoodoo this season.

But after seven attempts, is this finally the year Wanderers crack the Westfield W-League elite? 

Feature image thanks to Western Sydney Wanderers FC

Many believe it could be. Former Wanderers midfielder Linda O'Neill is one of them, and she caught up with w-league.com.au to preview what could be a groundbreaking season ahead for Western Sydney. 

Last season: 9th
O'Neill's predicted position: 4th 

The key question

Can the new-look squad gel quickly?

Seven seasons the Wanderers have tried to crack the Westfield W-League elite, and seven seasons they have failed. But the message coming out of Western Sydney is clear: this time will be different. 

There are boundless reasons for the Red and Black to be optimistic. The club's new training base in Blacktown has been completed, Dean Heffernan heads a new leadership structure, and the playing roster is brimming with quality.

The challenge that Heffernan and assistant coaches Michael Beauchamp and Catherine Cannuli face is getting this overhauled squad to gel as quickly as possible. 

INS AND OUTS: All the Westfield W-League signings 
DON'T MISS IT: How to watch Westfield W-League Round 1

Inside the Wanderers' new Centre of Excellence
Inside the Wanderers' new Centre of Excellence

First five fixtures

Adelaide United (H)
Newcastle Jets (H)
Brisbane Roar (a)
Melbourne Victory (a)
Sydney FC (H)

Westfield W-League 2019/20 Season Draw Thin Banner

Key match-ups: Adelaide United, Sydney FC

If the Wanderers are to realise their top four ambitions, Round 1's season-opener against Adelaide United is of critical importance. 

Neither Adelaide or Western Sydney have ever made the Finals Series, and with the Reds coming so close to achieving that feat last campaign, this match will carry significant ramifications for the rest of the season.

And in terms of spectacle, fans should look no further than Round 6's Sydney Derby against Sydney FC at Bankwest Stadium.

We will have learned a lot about the new-look Wanderers side in the build up to that Friday 20 December clash, and if the Red and Black can post a derby win over their rivals there's no telling just how important that could be for the club's belief.

WATCH: Western Sydney Wanderers 2018/19 Season Highlights

Ways to watch Westfield W-League 

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Players to watch

Amy Harrison 

Westfield Matilda Amy Harrison crossed the Sydney derby divide in the off-season after seven years with the Sky Blues.

It is a sterling acquisition for the Red and Black, who last year lacked the graft and finesse in the middle third which the 23-year-old possesses in spades. 

Lynn Williams 

Only Westfield Matildas star Sam Kerr scored more National Women's Soccer League goals (18) than Lynn Williams (12) during 2019.

The American international striker's pedigree is obvious, and with fellow North Carolina Courage attacker Kristen Hamilton also making the switch to Western Sydney, Heffernan's side should have no shortage of fire power in their quest for a maiden Final Series berth.

WATCH: Lynn Williams enjoyed a sensational 2019 NWSL campaign for North Carolina Courage

The squad 

IN

Jada Whyman Story
Courtney Nevin Story
Susan Phonsongkham Story
Alex Huynh Story 
Alix Roberts Story 
Amy Harrison Story 
Sam Staab Story 
Lynn Williams Story
Kristen Hamilton Story
Denise O'Sullivan Story
Liana Danaskos Story
Erica Halloway Story
Kyra Cooney-Cross Story
Cortnee Vine Story
Vesna Milivojevic Story
Abby Smith Story 

O'Neill's squad verdict

"The club has done amazing in the off-season and there's been some great signings. 

"One of the best things about the Wanderers as a club is their promotion of youth, which is important, but this season they've made some great international signings as well."

S11R2 - Denise O'Sullivan Match Report Image - LA
Experienced Irish international Denise O'Sullivan (centre) player for Canberra United last season

Western Sydney Wanderers squad 2019/20

Jada Whyman, Courtney Nevin, Susan Phonsongkham, Alex Huynh, Alix Roberts, Amy Harrison, Sam Staab, Lynn Williams, Kristen Hamilton, Denise O'Sullivan, Liana Danaskos, Erica Halloway, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Cortnee Vine, Vesna Milivojevic 

*Full squad TBC

The (assistant) coach: Catherine Cannuli

Dean Heffernan is the man at the helm in 2019/20, but O'Neill believes assistant coach and former player Catherine Cannuli's role is just as important in shaping Western Sydney's future.

Cannuli and O'Neill played two seasons in the Red and Black during 2012-2014.

"Growing up, she was one of the girls that you could to for advice," she said.

"Catherine was always there and willing to help you become a better player and better person.

"She's just such a lovely, approachable person and it is a huge advantage for the Wanderers to have her there.

"She can give good advice to the youth at the Wanderers and give them the same insight she gave to me."

Western Sydney Wanderers coaches
Cannuli (right) with Wanderers head coach Dean Heffernan (centre) and assistant Michael Beauchamp (left)

O'Neill's prediction

"The last few seasons the Wanderers have been in a bit of a rut. That can get to the team, but it can also be another drive for the team this season.

"I think they've got the potential to make the top four. With those international signings, with the new coaching staff they should have a great chance."

The kit

Eric Halloway, Western Sydney Wanderers
Wanderers veteran Erica Halloway models the club's 2019/20 kit