Surely no player has enjoyed an introduction to the Westfield W-League like Vanessa DiBernardo, but then again Perth Glory’s new American midfielder comes with rare pedigree.
The new Glory signing scored with a sweet strike just eight minutes into her debut at Brisbane Roar last Sunday, only to outdo that effort with a remarkable long-range lobbed shot on the turn late in the game. It is a goal that is likely to feature heavily on any Westfield W-League highlights reel for a long time to come.
DiBernardo has yet to make her full debut with the USA national team though she has been called into camp under former Stars and Stripes and Westfield Matildas coach Tom Sermanni. Should that special day come DiBernardo would be the first US player to have a father who also represented the country at senior level. DiBernardo’s dad Angelo featured at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and also turned out for the famed New York Cosmos.
Vanessa, meanwhile, was a key member of the USA team which won the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan. There her captain was Julie Johnston, while her centre midfield partner was Morgan Brian who DiBernardo lists as a “really good friend”, with the two having featured heavily as the States won the 2015 World Cup in Canada a few months ago.
“It was great to see them play at the World Cup and succeed,” says DiBernardo about Brian and Johnston. “When you have played with players for a long time, it is exciting to see them play at a high level and reach that level. It is inspirational to watch them.”
Equally inspirational was DiBernardo’s debut last weekend. “That was something I have definitely never done before,” says DiBernardo with a laugh about her long-range goal. “The ball was bouncing and I just volleyed it toward the goal and hoped for the best,” she says with more than a little modesty.
“I’m still trying to get to the next level in terms of being dangerous from that position (as a goalscoring midfielder). It is a process for me, but I’m starting to figure it out a little bit more.
“It was relief and excitement,” DiBernardo says of her early first goal. “Just being able to help the team in any way was nice. I’m a possession orientated kind of player, so hopefully I can help keep the ball. Also help in attack, which might be more difficult for us after losing Sam (Kerr)”
A native of Naperville, outside Chicago, DiBernardo finished a degree in Sports Management last year, making this her first opportunity to play overseas, with Australia the preferred destination.
“I talked with (former Sydney FC defender) Sam Johnson and others and they told me good things. They advised me to come here and I did.”
And, aside from the Queensland heat, what were DiBernardo’s first impressions of the Westfield W-League?
“I was surprised how physical it was, it was a very physical game. Every league is different. But some of the girls were like ‘that wasn’t bad’, and I was like ‘ok’!
“But it is a good level here, and the games are good for us players so I’m sure it will be a great experience.”