Youth in focus: Chloe Lincoln and Samuel Silvera
It's almost time for another exciting round of football in both the A-League Women and Men. Front Page Football looks again to some of the A-Leagues' emerging talents, introducing the wider Australian football community to their game.
Given Canberra United's form this season, which has been inconsistent, their fans could be forgiven for feeling frustrated, as their side sits two points off the top four on the A-League Women's table. But, with a game in hand and wins in their last two matches, the two-time champions and three-time premiers are starting to pick up the pace and challenge the more favourably placed sides in the competition. With star striker and all-time top scorer in the A-League Women Michelle Heyman building on her incredible record, Canberra fans can be optimistic about the rest of the season. When teams start having success, goalkeepers are often overlooked and underappreciated, especially those breaking through at a young age. This lack of appreciation is especially evident in sides bolstered by a blistering attack. However, Chloe Lincoln's promise has caught the eye of casual and dedicated fans of the A-League Women. Some have gone as far as to suggest that she is a future international star, and at only 18, she has a lot to look forward to in her career.
Lincoln is one of Australia's most promising young female goalkeepers. (The Canberra Times)
Lincoln has enjoyed a difficult start to her more prominent role in the Canberra set-up since breaking through in the 2021/22 season. Whilst she is currently conceding 1.1 goals per game and has only kept one clean sheet thus far, there aren't too many other negatives in Lincoln's game. She is a dominant presence in the box in defensive scenarios. Lincoln has cat-like reflexes when facing some of the best strikers in the league. It's seen her break into conversations surrounding the future stars of both the A-League Women and Matildas. Already enduring a difficult start to her international career, Lincoln failed to make an appearance as the Young Matildas crashed out of the U20 FIFA World Cup in the group stages in Costa Rica. Melbourne City's Sally James was preferred as the starting keeper. However, this pecking order may soon flip as Lincoln shows glimpses of the ball control and distribution required to become a world-class goalkeeper in the modern game.
So far this campaign, Lincoln is averaging a commendable 4.1 saves per match for Canberra United as they begin to close the gap on the top four teams in the competition. Her distribution from the defensive third is also admirable, completing 72% of her passes and averaging 41.1 touches per match. Lincoln's physical dominance has also been evident, winning 80% of her duels with opposing attackers. This statistic is more impressive when considering her aerial prowess, as Lincoln has won 100% of her aerial duels, forcing opposing teams to find more inventive ways of scoring against Canberra. Lincoln's determination and dedication to her professional career, which has been easy to recognise since she made her debut in 2021, has put her in conversations for the upcoming FIFA World Cup squad. The Canberra Times' Melanie Dinjaski has reported that "she (Lincoln) is hungry to make the jump to the Matildas squad." This accomplishment may be wishful thinking from the young starlet. More experienced goalkeepers such as Teagan Micah, Lydia Williams, and Jada Whyman are seemingly preferred heading into the final international window before the tournament. But I believe it won't be long until we see Lincoln called up as a fully capped international.
Lincoln in action for Canberra United in February 2022. (Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
The Central Coast Mariners are defying expectations this season, sitting second in the A-League Men behind Melbourne City. The losses of Kye Rowles and Lewis Miller to Scottish Premiership clubs Hearts and Hibernian were expected to derail the success of Nick Montgomery's team. However, miraculously, the Mariners have emerged as one of the few clubs ready to challenge the Citizens for the premiership, as they target a top-four position and a home final. Montgomery's style of play, which relies on quick movement and intricate passing sequences, has effectively brought consistent success to The Yellow & Navy. But it would be hard to ignore the contribution of youth products to one of the financially weaker franchises in Australian professional football. The Mariners have uncovered some of Australia's brightest talents in recent years, with the Kuol brothers, Alou and Garang, and Rowles and Miller, as mentioned above, all earning moves to Europe after breakout seasons with the club. However, one prospect that has returned from a short stint in Portugal, taking the Central Coast to another level, is talented 22-year-old Samuel Silvera. His blistering pace, intelligent movement on and off the ball, and eye for goal have seen the Mariners often look unplayable this season.
Silvera celebrates scoring the opener for the Mariners against Perth back in October. (KEEPUP)
After a breakout season, ironically with the Mariners, in 2020/21, Silvera signed with Portuguese side Paços de Ferreira. He endured some challenging loan spells in Portugal before being loaned out once more to cross-town rivals, the Newcastle Jets. After his European adventure came to an anticlimactic end, the Mariners were more than happy to re-sign their former youth prospect to give him crucial minutes for his development. It's safe to say that Silvera's effect on the playing group has been superb. Silvera has scored three goals and assisted a further two in only seven starts, averaging 50 minutes per game for the Central Coast. Silvera has gathered more and more admirers due to his willingness to dribble at defenders and take the game on in attacking scenarios. This season, Silvera is averaging 0.8 successive dribbles per 90 at a 39% success rate. His poise and skill on the ball are reminiscent of former teammate Garang Kuol, as the flair and confidence attract fans' eyes and opposing defenders, inadvertently creating space for his teammates. With a pass completion rate of 75%, Silvera can find teammates in good attacking positions. Although he doesn't possess the physical talents of "Garangski", Silvera wins 46% of his 50/50 duels. That may seem low, but this statistic is more impressive because he is only 5'8", much smaller than the average A-League Men defender.
An Olyroo, making two appearances for the Australian U23 side, Silvera has undoubtedly been on the radar for national team selection. He also holds an English passport by being London born. However, international football with Australia might be the only opportunity Silvera has to showcase his talents to the world. This opinion is not dismissive of his obvious talent. Rather it affirms the difficulty some players with foreign passports have in breaking into their national sides. Look at the impact Socceroo minutes have had on the careers of Harry Souttar, Martin Boyle, and Jason Cummings. Silvera may still be far off the Socceroos' radar at the time of writing, but this situation may change. After a frankly miraculous performance at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Australian-based players are receiving more recognition within the international footballing landscape. Should Silvera continue his scintillating form this season, it won't be long until the big European clubs come calling. They could use Silvera's immense technical ability and flair to excite fans and bring success to their club. It could lead to a long and prosperous international career for the winger.
Silvera celebrates scoring the Mariners' third goal back in round five against the Wanderers. (Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
All statistics sourced from SofaScore.
Click here to read our last 'Youth In Focus' on Western Sydney Wanderers' star Sheridan Gallagher and exciting Sydney FC prospect Adrian Segecic.