The Liverpool FC Women’s team completed their first season in the FA Women’s Championship by finishing a disappointing third place. Last week we took a look at some of the major story lines from the tumultuous season, as well as some of the standout performers from the year. This week, we will review the goalkeepers and defensive units, as well as look ahead to next season.
All together, the goalkeepers and defenders were solid. Liverpool were tied for the least goals allowed in the league, conceding just 15 goals in 20 matches. They didn’t give up more than two goals in a game all season.
Rachael Laws joined Liverpool over the summer from Reading after former number one keeper Anke Preuß left the team. Laws stepped into the starting spot and was a rock all season long. She was very good in 1v1 situations, and was aggressive dealing with crosses and corners.
While Laws was the goalkeeper for the present, Rylee Foster looks to be a talent for the very near future. The back up keeper, only 22 years of age, grew up as a Liverpool fan, and has “You’ll Never Walk Alone” tattooed on her bicep. The Canadian got to show her stuff in cup matches, and then took the starting gloves for a couple games at the end of the season. Forster was very impressive with her shot stopping, and even saved a penalty and the follow up (taking a knee to the head for her efforts) to preserve a win against Sheffield United.
Looking ahead to next year, it seems likely that both keepers return. It’s unclear how much longer Rachael Laws has on her contract, but most players seem to be on two year contracts for the most part. Rylee Foster signed a new long term contract in March, and will be around for a while. The big question is if Foster will be able to beat out Laws for the top spot between the posts.
Liverpool’s defensive unit proved to be a consistent strength for the Reds despite limited depth and changes to personnel. Niamh Fahey was the anchor of the defense, serving as the team captain in place of Sophie Bradley-Auckland, who opted to sit the season out to help with her families home care facility amid the covid pandemic (respect). The 33 year old Fahey displayed a no-nonsense style, allowing only one of the ball or the player to get by her, but not both. She also chipped in with three goals for the season.
Leighanne Robe started the season alongside Fahey in the center of defense, but was eventually overtaken by new signing Meikayla Moore. Robe also spent some time playing as a fullback, and stepped back into a center back role when Fahey was deployed as a holding midfielder the last games of the season.
Moore, for her part, initially saw playing time in a holding midfield role after Jade Bailey went down. She eventually took over the starting center back role during the winter, and never relinquished her grip on the position. Moore scored two goals to help contribute on the offensive end.
Taylor Hinds, another new signing during the summer, locked down the left outside back position, proving to be a great two-way player. She was calm under pressure all year long, and was smooth on the ball.
On the other flank, Becky Jane and Razza Roberts split time early on. Roberts eventually became the regular right back as Becky Jane was deployed higher up the field to great effect by Amber Whiteley. Roberts had a great grittiness to her game, always happy to get stuck into a tackle, or run through a player to get to the ball. Razza provided several assists later in the season as well, showing she was no slouch on the attacking end.
The only other player to register minutes in the defense was youngster Lucy Parry. She became the youngest ever player to step in the field for the Liverpool Women at just 16 years and 150 days.
If this unit can stay together and add some depth, they should again provide a formidable backbone to the team as they hope for a promotion push next season. They managed to avoid any major injuries this season, but there is very little margin for error.
Razza Roberts just signed a new deal, and will definitely be around for next season. It still hasn’t been announced whether Sophie Bradley-Auckland will return, but she would be a welcome addition in the center of defense. The biggest question marks in my mind Leighanne Robe and Taylor Hinds.
Robe signed a new deal last summer, but lost her regular starting spot. Still, with a new manager coming in, it would seem like all spots are up for grabs.
As for Taylor Hinds, she proved to be a stellar signing last summer. She impressed enough that she may be on the wish list for some WSL clubs. She is still young at just 22 years old, and has room to grow her game to new levels.
No matter what happens with outgoing players, Liverpool definitely need more depth in the defense. They had quite a few games where they couldn’t fill out their bench, that included having young Lucy Parry on the bench.
How did you feel the goalkeepers and defense performed last season? Do you think the units will stay together, or will there be another exodus this season?