Patient Dawber ready to bide time

In-form Adelaide United forward, Chelsie Dawber, knows well that it’s all about timing.

Not only in the way she coolly dispatches penalties or one-on-one chances with relative ease, but in the way one approaches the opportunities that life and football offer.

For Dawber, a move to the United States to play for the Chicago Red Stars following an outstanding 2021/22 campaign with her beloved Adelaide United, was one of those perfect times to progress a career destined for lofty heights.

It was, and still is, an invaluable opportunity for a player virtually at the pinnacle of her game, but the two-year Chicago deal did not come without a challenging start to this next chapter.

Dawber had contracted Covid just before she made the move and then landed straight into training, where she quickly sustained an injury – an unfortunate run of events which left her behind the eight ball from the get-go.

She then went to the Philippines with an Under 23 Australia side for the 2022 AFF Women’s Championships in Manilla but was struck with food poisoning which kept her locked in her hotel room for four days.

Dawber was only able to play just two out of the seven games with the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ on the horizon.

It summed up a rather difficult 2022, bookended by a loan move back to Adelaide at the close of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season.

“Moving to the States was my first experience overseas and it allowed me to see things in a different light in terms of how international clubs are run and the range of players over there,” Dawber reflected.

“It’s been a really cool experience to be a part of so far and it has helped me grow as a person and as a player, yet tough at times being away from home in a new environment.

“The biggest challenge for me on the field was learning to bide my time again because even though I had played professionally in Australia for the three or four years leading into it, I was seen as a rookie again and my playing chances were limited.

“It was an adjustment initially, but I’ve learned to bide my time and I’m determined to play as many minutes as possible in my second season with the club, starting right here with United.”

It’s these moments of adversity that arise when you can’t predict them, but previous experience can help the qualified speech pathologist carve out the fortitude needed for a successful career in the game.

Despite a run of bad luck in 2022, the most untimely and unpredictable hurdle in her life to date was a serious injury that kept her out of the game for two years when she was 16, following a freak indoor soccer incident in which her head hit a wall after it was struck by the ball.

She was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome but was able to eventually make a return to the sport she loves.

But it is all behind the 23-year-old and the key to building back to her absolute best is regular game time and performances, which she has rediscovered in her original red shirt that is of United distinction.

“Playing 90 minutes is very important for not only my soccer development, but my mental health,” Dawber explained.

“I want to play soccer because I like it, and if I’m not playing well and often, I’m probably not going to enjoy it as much.

“So I’m always working whenever and wherever I am to play as many minutes as possible, and still I think I made the most out of my first year in Chicago, with more to come.”

There is time, also, for United to go on a run and put the current winless streak behind them, starting with Melbourne Victory at home on Saturday.

“Despite our recent performances and in the draw against Brisbane last Sunday, we have been playing our best in patches and we really need to be doing that for the full 90 minutes.

“I think we need to be more clinical in front of goal and getting on the scoresheet early will go a long way for us this weekend.”

Dawber’s penalties have been taken calmly and clinically this season, with two from two from the spot in what is only another string to her bow.

She is well on her way to the 10 goals in 15 games and an additional three assists that caught the eye of the Red Stars last season.

In a career that now features over 50 games played for United, the young forward will continue to do everything in her power to lift her team to its maiden Championship before returning to Chicago to give it another red-hot crack.

It’s about time.