Klimkova true to her word
Grace Field and Sally Rojahn are likely to make their debuts for Canberra United on Saturday. Photo: Melissa Adams
Canberra United coach Jitka Klimkova has put honouring her word ahead of her team's unbeaten W-League streak to ensure she keeps a promise with Matildas coach Tom Sermanni.
United's hopes of stretching its unbeaten run to 17 games was dealt a blow on Friday when Klimkova ruled Sally Shipard out of the away clash with Melbourne Victory.
It means a severely depleted side will be forced to defend the streak that started 22 months ago.
Most W-League teams will be forced to field understrength teams this weekend as Sermanni's Matildas left Australia on Friday to play in a three-game qualifying tournament for the East Asian Cup.
But Sermanni struck a deal with Klimkova to leave Canberra's players out of his national squad so they could travel with the W-League champions to Japan for the world club championships next week.
The condition was that Shipard and Michelle Heyman would not be selected to play against Melbourne while all other W-League teams were missing their Australian representatives.
Shipard is recovering from a knee injury and has had limited game time this season.
At the start of the week, United had hoped to convince Sermanni and Melbourne to allow Shipard to play because her knee problems meant it was unlikely she would have been able to join the Matildas.
Melbourne warmed to the idea. But Klimkova spoke to Sermanni on Thursday and decided not to break her promise. United is without regular starters Shipard, Heyman, skipper Ellie Brush, Ashleigh Sykes, McKenzie Arnold and Hayley Raso.
In their absence, United's fringe players have been promoted and Grace Field, Sally Rojahn and Catherine Brown have been given the chance to ensure Canberra's streak continues.
Field, Rojahn and Brown have only had a handful of games between them.
Field was in the squad two years ago, but put soccer on the back-burner last season to finish school.
The 18-year-old admits it's daunting being thrust into a winning streak without the safety net of the team's experienced stars.
But the unknown rookies are determined to ensure they're not part of Canberra's first loss in almost two years.
''There are some young guns in a young team, but Jitka has told us she thinks we can do it and that helps,'' Field said.
''We've got the speed up front and I definitely reckon we can do it.
''It makes it a lot harder and we feel like we almost have to win, we don't want to be the first game Canberra has lost, but Jitka hasn't put any pressure on.
''I still have a lot of work to do and I'm not expecting big things, I just need to advance my game. I feel I've gone downhill a bit [after a year off], but I'm glad to be involved again.''
Captain Brush is suspended after picking up two yellow cards in United's game against Western Sydney last weekend.
Shipard is the vice-captain, but with both missing, Caitlin Munoz will take over the leadership reins.
Shipard has played just one game this season. Her knee was swollen again on Friday and the star midfielder is frustrated by her limited ability to help the team. But being ruled out because of Matildas duties could be a blessing as it gives her joints an extra week to recover.
''I'm so frustrated, I just want to get out there with the girls and have a bit of fun,'' Shipard said. ''There's only so much fun you can have when you're training on your own and doing rehab … it's not what we play for. My knee felt a bit clicky at training and then it blew up like a balloon … my body just doesn't seem to be responding to the increase in [training] load, so I have to figure out what my threshold is.''