Leticia Mckenna has finals experience. She has played in some famous wins and has partnered Sam Kerr, Tameka Yallop and Katrina Gorry in attack and midfield. Now in her second season at Melbourne City, she is ready to play a crucial but newer role for her club, and she is still only 20 years old.
Mckenna burst onto the A-League Womens scene in the 2018/19 season with Perth Glory. The prodigious playmaker was vital in the classic “Sam Kerr” semi final, setting up the Matildas captain for the sealer in the 107th minute and announcing herself with a stunning strike at age 16.
Since then, she has evolved into a versatile midfielder who still retains an attacking threat. After the 2020/21 season with Brisbane Roar, McKenna moved to Melbourne City.
Injury hampered her first season in Victoria, but she has been vital for Dario Vidosic’s side as they finished third on the ladder.
“I’ve really enjoyed this season,” McKenna said to Kick360.
“From the start to where we are now, we’ve just grown as a team, and we’re looking forward to finals this weekend.”
City will face Melbourne Victory in the first semi-final. They have been one of the league’s most consistent and watchable sides this season, but injuries have forced reshuffles throughout the campaign. McKenna has scored twice in 2022/23 and brought up one assist, but an injury to Leah Davidson has seen her move into an unfamiliar role.
McKenna has had to adapt to a holding midfield position. Although it is new to her, it is something that she has embraced.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing six so far this season.
“I’m known as a bit more of an attacking player, due to injury we’ve had to move around a bit.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, learning and growing into a new position and adding it to my game. It’s been really positive for me.
“The biggest challenge is just adjusting to it, looking for different cues (in a game,) new movements compared to my role as a 10, but it’s been really good.
“Dario is awesome with helping me in video analysis and becoming confident when I’m stepping into that position.
“When I was at Roar, I had a lot of great people to looks up to with Mini and Tameka Yallop in the midfield.
“For us Leah Davidson was doing so well in there. I take a lot of inspiration from the girls in the UK leagues. Kiera Walsh is at Barcelona and she’s one of the best sixes if not the best at the moment.”
The positional change has taken some adjustment, but McKenna’s passing range and close control make her well suited to being City’s midfield pivot. Both on and off the field, she has never been shy to step out of her comfort zone.
Since leaving home in Western Australia at 18, she has grown from exciting prospect, into a consistent top-level midfielder. Her promise and form has also been rewarded by Football Australia. McKenna, along with her younger sister Tijan have been selected to continue in the Future Matildas program.
“I’m very happy that I left when I did, I honestly loved my time at Perth and playing in front of my friends and family.
“For me, I think I’ve grown a lot as a person and developed more than I think I would have if I stayed.
“It’s been an amazing journey so far, learning all these different playing styles with different coaches, and stepping outside of my comfort zone has been really valuable for me.
“I’m very fortunate to be selected in the Future Matildas program. I’ve really enjoyed it over the last two years. I think it’s a great steppingstone to hopefully bigger things.
“The program is very professional. It is a privilege to be there, they provide us with everything to be a top athlete.”
The program also includes her younger sister, Perth Glory’s Tijan. The pair have not shared a field since their WA NPLW days and did not cross paths in the last meeting between City and Glory. It is something that Leticia McKenna hopes will change soon. If all goes to plan, it could be for Australia.
“I think it’ll be really nice for us to be on the same team at some point.
I think that would be really cool. When we played NPL together we really enjoyed it. So far, we haven’t been able to get minutes against each other.
“Something we both thrive off is going against each other, because obviously we want to come off better.
“Hopefully in the future we can link up which would be really fun and make our families very proud.
Mckenna credits her new coach Dario Vidosic with her form this season and is quick to mention his help in adjusting to a new position.
“We obviously didn’t know that Rado (Vidosic) was joining the men’s side, but when Dario stepped into the role nothing changed.
“Dario was with us last year and we’re very confident and happy for him to step into that role. He’s also grown into it this year. It’s been great and everybody has been really happy with it.
“He does a lot of work for us on and off the field. Credit to him for helping us get to where we are now. “
The current City coach was a former Socceroo midfielder in his playing days, like McKenna he was a playmaker who’s versatility saw him used in other roles. His experience as a player, and midfielder has helped him communicate with the team.
“Even at training when he’s demonstrating drills, you can tell why he’s so good.
“The way he works with us in analysis, you can tell he’s played at the top level and he’s a top coach.”
The upcoming semifinal is more than just a knockout game, it is a local derby. City have been dominant over most sides this season but have not yet overcome Victory.
That record will mean little when hostilities resume on Saturday. It is a match that McKenna and her teammates are ready for.
“Every final brings a new challenge, and I’m very lucky to have played in a few semi’s and been amongst squads in finals.
“I think this weekend if going to be very big for us, it’s another Melbourne derby. Whoever can bring the most grit and wants it more will come out best on Saturday.
“We’re very confident, we’re just going to focus on ourselves and what we’ve produced all season. we’re not too worried about previous results. We’re really excited for this one.”
Melbourne City host Melbourne Victory at Casey Fields on Saturday afternoon.