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  • 05 May
    WHOS WHO AND WHATS NEW IN THE W-LEAGUEADELAIDE UNITEDCoach: Hussein SkenderovicLast season: 5thThe Lady Reds are still chasing finals football and have signed leagues first Brazilian player to help. Defender Monica Hickmann Alves brings big-game nous to an outfit thats undergone yet another rebuild. Young Matildas Alex Chidiac, Emily Condon and Grace Abbey headline a youthful squad boosted by expert campaigner Racheal Quigley. Skenderovic has also signed American trio Danny Colaprico, Sofia Huerta, and Katie Naughton.BRISBANE ROARCoach: Mel AndreattaLast season: 4th, semi-finalistsIf Brisbane model this season on any match it should be the semi-final, when they became the only side to hold Melbourne City scoreless in regulation time before falling on penalties. Despite a contractual dispute, stalwarts Clare Polkinghorne, Tameka Butt, Katrina Gorry and Angela Beard have re-signed, while new faces include Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold, Danish defender Nina Frausing-Pedersen and US midfielder Maddy Evans.CANBERRA UNITEDCoach: Rae DowerLast season: 2nd, semi-finalistsAmerican recruits Jasmyne Spencer and Celeste Boureille bring plenty of punch to an attack already boasting Matildas striker Michelle Heyman and Julie Dolan Medal winner Ashleigh Sykes. Defence, meanwhile, is a work in progress as Emma Checker continues her recovery from an ACL tear, though Japan World Cup-winner Yukari Kinga will add experience. Expect to see Heyman try her hand in attacking midfield behind Spencer.MELBOURNE CITYCoach: Joe MontemurroLast season: Premiers and championsLast seasons runaway winners have targets on their backs as rivals clamber to catch up with the leagues newest and richest club. The loss of mercurial Matildas co-captain Lisa De Vanna and Scottish gun Kim Little takes the shine off Citys front third. But Welsh midfielder Jess Fishlocks retention is a coup, as is snaring Erika Tymrak on loan from Kansas City and poaching Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams from Canberra United.MELBOURNE VICTORYCoach: Jeff HopkinsLast season: 9thAfter a shocking season with just seven points from 12 games, Victory are rather hoping that former Brisbane title-winning coach Hopkins can inject a winning mentality back into the squad. English striker Natasha Dowie is on board, as are goalkeeper Bianca Henninger and fellow American, defender Samantha Johnson. The rebuild is evident but dont expect any finals action this time.NEWCASTLE JETSCoach: Craig DeansLast season: 6thAfter finishing just three points outside the finals but with the least number of goals, the Jets priority has understandably been hiring a gun striker. They reckon theyve hit the jackpot with American Jen Hoy, who replaces Tara Andrews and has pace to burn. In another promising sign for the Hunter-based club, Deans has proven he can hold onto big players by retaining Chloe Logarzo after her breakout year with the Matildas.PERTH GLORYCoach: Bobby DespotovskiLast season: 8thSam Kerr has finally recovered from her long-term foot injury and is itching to get started alongside American Vanessa DiBernardo, who was honoured for scoring last seasons goal of the year. Expect Glory to hit the back of the net more often. Defence has been the weak link though Mexican international Arianna Romero will help solve that problem with assistance from midfield recruit Alyssa Mautz.SYDNEY FCCoach: Daniel BarrettLast season: 3rd, grand finalistsPledging to spend the whole salary cap, Sydney are on the verge of unveiling a South American import. Not that the teams local expertise is lacking. The Sky Blues boast the least-changed squad along with the addition of added experience in Servet Uzunlar and Georgia Yeoman-Dale. Augusts heartbreaking Rio Olympics exit has Matildas Kyah Simon, Caitlin Foord and Alanna Kennedy hungry to hunt down Melbourne City.WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERSCoach: Richard ByrneLast season: 7thThe Wanderers are banking on a new coach to achieve new things - like making finals for the first time. If Byrne, the clubs third mentor in five seasons, can successfully mesh a solid roster it could just happen. Captain Caitlin Cooper, goalkeeper Casey Dumont and Matilda Ellie Carpenter are the local stars while club-hopper Kendall Fletcher headlines an American quartet also including Paige Nielsen, Alex Arlitt and striker Katie Stengel. Cheap Ecco Shoes . -- Ryan Getzlaf grabbed the three pucks wrapped in tape and held them up to his chest in the Anaheim Ducks dressing room for a celebration nine seasons in the making. Ecco Shoes Wholesale .35 million, one-year contract that avoided salary arbitration. Plouffe batted .254 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs in 477 at-bats last season, his second as a regular in the lineup. http://www.cheapecco.us/ . The nimble-footed quarterback got his wish, dashing through the snow and a weary defence all the way into the NCAA record book. Discount Ecco Shoes Online . Belfort (24-10) needed just 77 seconds to down Henderson in the headlining bout of Saturdays "UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson" event at Goiania Arena in Goiania, Brazil. The fight served as a rematch of the pairs 2006 meeting, which Henderson won by decision. Cheap Ecco Shoes Sale . The Dane followed up his first European Tour title last weekend with eight birdies and just a single dropped shot on Thursday for a one-stroke advantage over South Africas Allan Versfeld and Portugals Ricardo Santos. CHICAGO -- Kris Bryant is learning. Adjusting. Patching holes more quickly than major league teams can find his weaknesses.And thats the scary part right now for opponents of the Chicago Cubs. While the MVP talk for the sweet-swinging slugger grows in intensity, Bryant appears to be -- gasp -- getting better every day.I think thats the big separator, is the ability to use the mental game to your advantage, he said, and determine the necessary adjustments you need to be a better player. And thats just who I am. I dont want to be average or mediocre. I want to continue to strive to be the best I can be and nothing is ever going to be good enough for me.Yup, thats right. Bryant is batting .302 with 36 homers and a major league-best 112 runs scored, and he wants more. He has made at least five starts at four different positions, committing just 12 errors along the way, and he thinks he is only getting started.Bryants stirring second half -- he bashed 10 homers on his way to NL player of the month for August -- has thrust the third baseman into the discussion for NL MVP, along with teammate Anthony Rizzo, Los Angeles shortstop Corey Seager and Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy. He could become just the sixth player to win rookie of the year and MVP in one or consecutive seasons, but the Las Vegas native isnt too interested in the horse race for MVP.To even be mentioned in that category is unbelievable, he said. Its very humbling and honestly, it just keeps me more determined to just go out there and do better and contribute in any way I can.The Cubs got Bryant with the second pick in the 2013 draft, with Mark Appel going No. 1 overall to Houston. While Appel was traded to Philadelphia in December and is still in search of his major league debut, Bryant rocketed through the minors and hit .275 with 26 homers and 99 RBI while helping Chicago to the NL championship series last year.It was a smashing debut by almost every measure, but what came next was even more impressive. Bryant led the NL with 199 strikeouts last year, so he worked on his swing even more. He has moved all over thee field this year on defense and looked comfortable in every spot, providing valuable versatility for the major league-leading Cubs.ddddddddddddAsked about Bryants improvement from his rookie season, manager Joe Maddon pointed to several areas.Consistently shorter swing. More contact, Maddon said. Hes had smaller windows of chasing pitches out of the strike zone compared to last year where he did it more often. More recently, hes been using the outfield gap, which is really impressive. So offensively, thats what Im seeing. Defensively, just better feet on the infield. Hes got really good feet now on the infield.The big test for the 24-year-old Bryant is still to come. He closed last season with a 3-for-23 slide, and then struggled in the playoffs. He batted .214 with five strikeouts as the Cubs were swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS.In some ways, Bryants experience in the postseason was a launching point for his stellar sophomore year.Certainly, the playoff experience last year helped in terms of you know thats probably as high as my nerves will be, said Bryant, who homered in the All-Star Game against White Sox ace Chris Sale. This year I just feel a lot more calmer at the plate.The last player to go directly from rookie of the year to MVP was Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who accomplished the feat when he was voted AL MVP in 2008. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein was the general manager in Boston when the Red Sox selected Pedroia in the second round of the 2004 draft, and he is enjoying his front-row seat for Bryants accelerated career path.Hes helping us win in so many different ways, Epstein said. Obviously coming up big of late, which is great to see. So he deserves all the accolades that are coming his way and that may eventually come his way. But I think hed probably be the first one to tell you that he wants the team awards, he wants the team recognition.---Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap ' ' '