Reds bring in well-travelled striker to help in promotion bid

Following the arrival of the experienced former Bayern Munich star from Norwegian outfit Vålerenga, Lauren McCann reviews the new signing’s career so far and what she may offer to the Merseysiders.

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Katie Stengel became Liverpool FC Women‘s second winter window arrival when her transfer was officially announced last Thursday.

The 29-year-old had been pictured training with the Reds last week after they returned to prepare for the dominant 6-0 win over Blackburn following the winter break, before the move was confirmed later in the week.

The American has been reunited with former manager Matt Beard after completing her switch to Merseyside, with the two having worked together at the now defunct Boston Breakers in the NWSL.

The Breakers are one of 11 clubs which Stengel has played for in her career which has spanned nine years and taken her to five different countries, including America, Australia, Germany, Norway, and now England.

The common denominator from her nomadic career so far is goals. Despite not staying more than two seasons with any of the teams she has played for, Stengel has regularly found the net in the various leagues she has played in, right from her first season as a professional in 2014-15 with Bayern Munich.

Her stint in Bavaria will be one she looks back on most fondly in her career to date. She skipped the 2014 NWSL College Draft, joining Los Angles Blues before being picked up by the German giants in June of that year.

Stengel struck up a devastating partnership with current Arsenal goal machine Viviane Miedema, scoring nine goals to help Bayern Munich to claim their first women’s league title since 1976.

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She returned to the States for a spell with Washington Spirit before her jet setting continued as she took a trip down under by joining Western Sydney Wanderers on loan, where she finished top scorer with six goals in her sole season with the club.

Another fruitful loan spell in Australia would follow in 2017 with a move to Newcastle Jets, where she made it to double figures for the first time in her career, netting 10 goals to finish behind Sam Kerr in the golden boot race.

She went back to her homeland in 2018, lining up for Utah Royals and Houston Dash, and finishing as top goal scorer for the former with six strikes in the 2019 season.

The Florida born striker recently tasted success with her last club Vålerenga in October, with the Oslo outfit scooping the Norwegian Women’s Cup, and her switch to the second tier Reds has been viewed as a huge coup for the club in their quest for promotion.

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Stengel’s style can be described as a modern twist on a traditional number nine. She possesses all the attributes associated with an out and out striker given that she is physically strong, has good hold up play, aerial prowess given her height and a killer instinct in the box.

Yet, her former coach Scott Parkinson told The Athletic that she is “unorthodox” as she will be, “Comfortable playing in the Roberto Firmino role” if required, given that she is technically very good.

She will provide a great foil to the pacy Leanne Kiernan, who prefers to make darting runs in behind and finish as opposed to holding the ball up and bringing others into play the way Kirsty Linnett used to for the Reds.

There are two schools of thought with Stengel’s arrival in terms of what it means for the Republic of Ireland striker’s position in the team.

One is that Stengel has been brought in as competition for Kiernan, who will have to continue scoring on a consistent basis to keep her place in the starting eleven with the U20 World Cup winner snapping at her heels for an opportunity.

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Alternatively, and more likely, Stengel has been signed to ease the goal scoring burden on the Irish striker, and to provide adequate cover in case Kiernan suffers a serious injury and is out for a sustained period of time.

It will also allow Beard to give Kiernan a rest with the Reds set to play plenty of games in the coming months given they are still in the FA Cup and League Cup at the time of writing. The manager will want to manage her game time given that she barely featured for the Hammers last year, and will want to ensure she is fit and firing for the big games.

Georgia Walters is already there as back up, but she doesn’t possess the same qualities as Stengel, who for the first few games at least, is likely to be called upon from the bench to make an impact for the Reds as she gets up to speed with the English game.

Long term, she offers Beard more flexibility when it comes to shape. He may, in games in which Liverpool are at home against a side content to defend deep, opt to field his two potent strikers in a 3-5-2 formation, giving his wing backs license to get forward and deliver crosses into the box either in the air or on the ground for Stengel and Kiernan to get on the end of.

She may even occupy the main striker position or the false nine role if Liverpool play a 3-4-3 formation which they currently do, allowing the likes of Rachel Furness and Melissa Lawley to push further up field and make runs beyond the striker and in behind the defence.

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Stengel, according to Parkinson, is also a bubbly character who therefore seems poised to transition seamlessly into the tight knit and supportive squad off the pitch, with many players such as Furness and Missy Bo Kearns taking to social media to express their delight at the signing.

Stengel will be expected to hit the ground running given the hype surrounding her arrival, but that won’t phase the American, who has found the net wherever in the world she has been.

She will be afforded a bit more time to integrate into the squad if Kiernan is able to continue her fine form in front of goal, but Stengel will be under no illusion as to the task at hand, which is to score the goals which take Liverpool to promotion.

If she is able to successfully complete that task, she may well be able to make Liverpool her home away from home and put her worldly travels on hold for the foreseeable future.


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