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W-League, American WNSL split taking a toll on Sydney FC import

“This is my third season and it’s hard for me to commit to doing this again because you really don’t have any break,” said Huerta, who scored a memorable long-distance screamer in Sydney’s grand final win over Kerr’s Perth Glory.

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“But it’s really hard to turn down the W-League – the money’s good, the minimum [wage] has increased this year and the competition is good.”

Two of Sydney FC’s Matildas stars, Alanna Kennedy and Chloe Logarzo, have spoken recently about their interest in emulating Kerr and taking up a new challenge overseas.

While it sounds as if Huerta may not be back this time next year, she was confident there will always be a steady stream of up-and-coming American players keen to play in Australia – particularly now that the NWSL and W-League are formalising their partnership to help combat the rise of Europe in the women’s game.

“There’s a really good relationship between the two leagues. But why Sam chose Europe is because of the break that she’s going to get and that’s something you don’t get if you play in both leagues,” she said.

“I wish there was a way to figure that out, but you have to be grateful that the leagues are working together and you can play in both. Talking specifically about the Matildas, I think it’s really important – you don’t want to lose them from the W-League.”

Sydney coach Ante Juric said late arrivals like Huerta made it difficult to prepare for the new season, but with 15 players in total retained from their grand final-winning squad, he was confident of a strong start in Sunday’s W-League opener against premiers Melbourne Victory.

Sam Kerr's move to Chelsea could pave the way for others to forge a similar path.

Sam Kerr’s move to Chelsea could pave the way for others to forge a similar path.Credit:Chelsea FC

“We don’t get much time at all – it’s actually quite hard, in terms of gelling a team. That’s why it takes a little while, but I’m happy with where they’re at,” Juric said.

Kennedy (foot) is likely to miss the match, with the defender still carrying an injury she struggled with in Matildas camp last week. Logarzo and Caitlin Foord, however, are fit and looking good, Juric said.

Kennedy’s probable absence could mean another spell in defence for Huerta, who is naturally an attacking player but spent last season with the Sky Blues at right-back in an attempt to appeal to the coaching staff of the US national team, who have capped her seven times.

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Huerta was back in her positional comfort zone with Houston, who finished third-bottom in the NWSL this year, but is prepared for her versatility to be used in whatever way Juric sees fit.

Juric, meanwhile, believes the W-League will be able to cope if more Matildas and other international players prioritise Europe over Australia because of the strength of emerging young talent.

“If these girls can make more money and have a decent career overseas, that’s what they should do,” he said.

“It just gives opportunity for young girls and broadens our player base. Even though I love my Matildas and foreigners, they actually take the spots of our young kids to develop. You have to play them, but if they were away or you lost half of them it gives an opportunity to the excellent young girls coming through.”

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