Reds looking to kick on after finals berth insists Sharples

Kayla Sharples

Kayla Sharples believes Adelaide United’s form is peaking at the right time when it hosts ladder leaders Sydney FC for the final match of the regular season at Coopers Stadium on Sunday.

Fiona Worts’ sublime hat-trick in the Reds’ 3-0 win over Melbourne Victory secured the club’s inaugural finals appearance last weekend.

Adelaide has now won three games in a row and six of its previous seven.

Sharples said the emotion at full-time was a combination of jubilation and relief, knowing they remained in control of their destiny.

“I think after the final whistle we were just so excited,” Sharples said in an interview with AUFC Media.

“Of course, there’s a little bit of relief because I know last year the girls in the team were waiting on final results from other games and it wasn’t really up to them.

“So for us this year going into the end of season and having one more game but locking in that finals with a game left that’s really good to have and you have that little sigh of relief.”

But after achieving its finals objective, the American defender said the team is determined for more success and insists they have the potential and belief to go all the way.

“I think that we’re very hungry,” she said.

“Again, we’re not content with where we are. I think with every single practice and with every single game we’re getting better.

“We’re connecting a little bit more and I think that we still haven’t even hit out peak which is sometimes interesting and hard to say.

“There’s still time and I think again when we’re playing our best, there’s no limit that we can reach and I think that we can make it all the way to the last game.

“And I think we definitely have that hunger and that talent to win a championship for the first time.”

The 24-year-old is anticipating a tough contest against arguably the benchmark of the competition and felt facing the Sky Blues just before the playoffs will give a fairly accurate indication of where the squad is at.

“Personally, I’m happy that we’re playing them last,” Sharples admitted.

“Again we’re hitting our stride, so it’s probably the best time for us to play them.

“They’re a great team, well coached and have a lot of talent and so I think we’re going to match up well against them.

“We’ve had so far a good week of practice, and we’re still grinding out those details.

“But I think it’s going to be a great game going into finals, we already have that clinched, so there is a bit of relief there.

“But at the end of the day, we want to win and want to get more goals, so we’re really in our true form heading into finals.

“So I think a lot of us are going in with the mindset of, we have to win this game still, we’re still trying to play our best and be hungry.”

The centre-back has been a mainstay since completing her quarantine this season in what is her debut campaign in the Liberty A-League, and has enjoyed her time in Adelaide.

On loan from Chicago Red Stars, Sharples has played the full 90 minutes in 10 consecutive matches, scoring one goal.

She has also developed a resolute partnership alongside Matilda McNamara in central defence and the rest of the back-four.

A moniker has even been created dubbed, ‘MaKayla Hodgson’, which cleverly incorporates elements of each player’s names in the regular defensive line.

“I think in the beginning I was just trying to find my way coming off of two weeks of quarantine was rough, getting my footing,” she explained.

“But every single game I think I’m getting better as well and I think I have been consistent too and if I can bring that part of my game, having that consistency in the back line, that leadership in the backline as well, I think that just helps our team and propels them forward.

“I’ve loved working with the girls, Matilda (McNamara), Izzy (Isabel Hodgson), Em (Emily Hodgson), we have this running joke that we’re called ‘MaKayla Hodgson’, and we’re just relentless in the back.

“We just will put our bodies on the line, we’ll do whatever it takes to prevent the ball from getting to the back of the net.

“So forging those relationships and that connection has been crucial in our success honestly.

“I’m loving where we’re going and I think as a team too, we’re hitting that form so I’m really excited for this weekend and moving on to the finals.”