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Grainey: Women’s soccer international review

Round of 32 action in the UEFA Champions League is at the midway point.

In our initial edition of the Women’s Soccer International Review, we examine the first leg ties of UEFA’s Champions League Round of 32, held on October 9th and 10th, with the return legs this week on October 16th and 17th. A number of Americans are active in the Champions League, including U.S. national team members Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press and Ali Krieger, as well other less-known players such as Furtuna Velaj, Kristen Edmonds and Vikki Alonzo. We also look at Australia, as their eight W-League franchises are in pre-season training ahead of the first games next month. Champions Sydney FC will participate in the second edition of the mobcast Cup International Women’s Club Championship in Japan in November as well.

UEFA’s Champions League Round of 32 First Leg

A number of the 16 first leg matches held interest for followers of American soccer; none more so than the clash between Tyreso FF of Sweden and Paris St. Germain of France, with seven Americans combined on their rosters and a total of eleven players with professional experience in the United States. Tyreso won the first leg at home 2-1 on two goals from U.S. international forward Christen Press, netting one in each half. Sabrina Delannoy had Paris Saint-Germain’s lone goal in the first half. Besides Press, other Americans starting for Tyreso included goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, defenders Meghan Klingenberg and Ali Krieger. Whitney Engen, fresh off winning a FA WSL title in England with Liverpool, did not play nor did former WPS Player of the Year and Spanish international forward Veronica Boquette. Tyreso did start two former teammates with the WNY Flash in WPS: Brazilian international forward Marta and Swedish international midfielder Caroline Seger. For PSG, U.S. international midfielder Tobin Heath — who won the inaugural NWSL title with the Portland Thorns — started the match and forward Lindsey Horan—who won her initial full U.S. national team cap earlier this year–replaced former Chicago Red Stars (WPS) and Swedish international Kosovare Asllani in the 76th minute. This week’s second leg in Paris will be an important step in PSG’s quest to overtake Olympique Lyon as France’s dominant side.

Speaking of Lyon, they easily overcame FC Twente of the Netherlands 4-0 on the road, making their round of 16 qualification likely a mere formality. French internationals Louisa Necib and Laetitia Tonazzi scored along with Japan’s 2011 World Cup winning defender Saki Kumagai and Swedish forward Lotta Schelin. American international midfielder Megan Rapinoe came on in the 58th minute and former Ohio State University forward Lara Dickermann (Switzerland) started the game.

Similarly, German powerhouse Turbine Potsdam won 5-0 away to MTK Hungaria of Hungary. Defender Alex Singer, who played for the Washington Freedom in WPS before stints in Australia and Sweden, played the entire match while Ingrid Wells, who split the NWSL season between the Washington Spirit and Western New York Flash in NWSL, was not called upon.

Malmo of Sweden went on the road to neighboring Norway and defeated LSK Kvinner FK 3-1, with goals by former WPS players Ramona Bachmann (Atlanta Beat in 2010), Therese Sjogran (Sky Blue FC in 2011) and one player who signed for Sky Blue FC in WPS for 2012 but didn’t play due to the league suspending play and then folding–Dutch international forward Manon Melis. Stanford graduate Ali Riley, who won two WPS titles with Gold Pride and the Flash and plays internationally for New Zealand, played all 90 minutes in defense for Malmo. Icelandic international Thora Helgadottir was in goal for Malmo; she played college ball at Duke and last season wintered with Western Sydney Wanderers in Australia.

Apollon Limassol LFC of Cyprus lost its home advantage when it was defeated 2-1 by Austria’s SV Neulengbach, thanks to two goals by their Austrian international forward Nina Burger. Apollon Limassol have been dominate in their league, winning the league and cup double for five years without losing a game. They qualified for the UEFA round of 32 for the fourth year in a row and defeated former champion Umea of Sweden 4-1 in the qualifying round in 2010/11. They loaded up on players with professional experience in the U.S. for this UEFA campaign. Five American professionals started the Neulengbach game for Apollon:

Michelle Betos (Seattle Reign)

Joanna Lohman (Boston Breakers)

Tina DiMartino (formerly with Philadelphia Independence of WPS)

Sinead Farrelly (FC Kansas City)

Nikki Krzysik (due to play with FC Kansas City in 2014 after playing for the San Diego SeaLions 2013 WPSL Championship side in 2013 and before that with Philadelphia and Chicago in WPS)

Another American, Jasmyne Spencer — who played with the Philadelphia Independence in WPS — came off the bench and scored a late goal (88th minute) to give the Cyprus powerhouse a fighting chance when they travel to Austria for the rematch.

Other foreign starters for Apollon were Boston Breakers’ English international Lianne Sanderson, Bulgaria’s Liliana Kostova, Romania’s Andreea Laiu and Greece’s Danai-Eleni Sidira and Kyriaki Kynossidou. Defender and captain Margarita Sofocleous was the lone Cypriot national in the starting lineup.

Sanderson, who won the Champions League with Arsenal in 2006-07, said upon signing on loan with Apollon: “It’s important for me to keep playing as much as I can in the offseason, and when the opportunity came up, it was a no-brainer. Beautiful country, soccer, and Champions League. Having won the Champions League before, this tournament will always hold a special place in my heart. I am very excited for the future and what’s ahead.” Apollon defeated FC Nove Zarnkyof Slovakia, ASA Tel-Aviv FC of Israel and Goliador-SS11 of Moldova in this year’s qualifying tournament to make the round of 32.

The Thór/KA of Iceland versus FK Zorkiy Krasnogorsk of Russia tie featured Americans on both sides. Zorky won 2-1 away but a late goal by Hafrun Olgeirsdottir in the 88th minute—six minutes after she entered the game–gives the Iceland side some hope as they travel east for the second leg. Maria Ruiz–a native of Spain who played for Park University in Missouri, FC Indiana and the Buffalo Flash as well as stints in Spain, the Ukraine and Russia–started the game and set up both goals. American defender Amy Barczuk (Western New York Flash of NWSL) started the game as did Ashley Nick, who spent last summer having the Blues—winning a W-League title with Pali Blues and then finishing the NWSL season with Sky Blue FC. Chante Sandiford (formerly of UCLA) and forward Alyssa Mautz (Chicago Red Stars of NWSL) were on the bench but did not make an appearance.

For Thor, former University of Miami goalkeeper Victoria Alonzo, midfielder Thanai Annis (University of Florida) and Kayla Grimsely (ex-University of South Carolina and a for U.S. U-20 National Team pool player) all started.

Russia’s FC Rossiyanka won 4-2 away to ZKK Spartak Subotica of Serbia. Russian National Team forward Natalia Shlyapina recorded a hat-trick for the Russian side. Former Rutgers and Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues (W-League) midfielder Kristen Edmonds played the entire game. Both of Spartak’s goals were scored by African imports: Jose Nahi of the Ivory Coast and Claudine Meffometou Tcheno of Cameroon.

Birmingham City LFC of England won 3-0 away against PK-35 Vantaa of Finland with former Chicago Red Star forward (WPS) Karen Carney playing all 90 minutes for the northern England side. PK (Pallokerho)-35 Vantaa (the one-time home of American Beverly Goebel-Yanez before she went to INAC Kobe in Japan) has imported talent from around the world for this season:

Rachael Ayegba of Nigeria (goalkeeper), Jennifer Bisset of Australia from Canberra United (midfielder)

Lady Andrade of Colombia and Spanish side Sporting Huelva (midfielder)–who hit Abby Wambach in the eye during an Olympic Games match last summer

Lydia Hastings–an American midfielder who played at the University of Maryland and for Ottawa Fury during the summer of 2012, when they won the W-League

One other American played the first half for the Finnish champion—forward Furtuna Velaj–who played at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. She tried out for the Portland Thorns this spring before joining the Toronto Lady Lynx in the W League. Velaj, an American citizen, grew up in Kosovo and plays internationally for Albania, immigrating with her family when Serbia invaded Kosovo in 1995. Velaj had planned to play in the W-League and then join a European side during the summer transfer window. Velaj was attracted by PK-35’s recent success in the league and cup. Interestingly, her coach in Finland was one-time Sky Blue FC (WPS in 2010) head coach Pauliina Miettinen.

Velaj told The Equalizer that she was looking forward to playing in the Champions League again, which, “has always been a dream of mine.” Playing in a European side helps her prepare for Albania’s 2015 World Cup qualification, which started in September and runs for a year: “This helps a lot because the W-league season was so short back in North America, so playing in Finland is going to keep me in shape and mentally prepared for the upcoming games with Albania. This is exactly what I wanted for my preparation; I wanted to play for a top club in Europe, Champions League games, and good training for the fall and I have found that at PK.” (Velaj played all 90 minutes of Albania’s two World Cup qualifiers last month—a 2-0 loss away to Belgium and a 4-0 home loss to the Netherlands).

Playing in Toronto for the Lady Lynx was a good experience but Canadian national team call-ups for the U-20 and full national team in addition to end of season departures for college preseasons affected the Lady Lynx’s coherency on the field. Velaj explained: “As with many W-League sides, end-of-season college recalls hurt but slowly as the college season came around we started losing all of our starters and by the end we didn’t have the same depth.” The Lynx finished the season in third place in the division with a 5-2-5 W-L-T record before falling to 2012 Champion Ottawa Fury 5-1 in the playoffs.

PK-35 qualified for the round of 32 by beating Parnu JK of Estonia, FC PAOK Thessaloniki of Greece and ZFK Biljanini Izvori of Macedonia; Velaj scored once and added an assist during those three games.

Glasgow received two crucial away goals from Scottish international midfielder Suzanne Lappin for a 2-2 tie away to Standard Liege of Belgium. Midfielder Jessica Fishlock—on loan from Seattle Reign—played the entire match for the Scottish champions.

In another blowout, holders VfL Wolfsburg of Germany destroyed Parnu JK of Estonia 14-0. Lina Magull scored four goals and Marlina Muller added three goals as did second half substitute Conny Pohlers, who played on loan with the Washington Spirit last season–scoring once in 12 matches–and in the WUSA with the Atlanta Beat.

Arsenal won away 7-1 versus WFC SSHVSM Kairat of Kazakhstan with former Boston Breakers defender and English international Alex Scott playing the entire game. Scottish international Kim Little scored two and Rachel Yankey, who won a W-League title with the New Jersey Wildcats, scored one goal.

Other first leg scores included:
UPC Tavagnacco (ITA) 3 v Fortuna Hjørring (DEN) 2
Konak Belediyesi (TUR) 2 v RTP Unia Racibórz (POL) 1
FC Zürich Frauen (SUI) 2 v AC Sparta Praha (CZE) 1
FSK St.Pölten-Spratzern (AUT) 2 v ASD Torres Calcio (ITA) 2
FC Barcelona (ESP) 0 v Brøndby IF (DEN) 0

Ten teams survived the 32-team qualification round of the Champions League earlier this summer, which was divided into 8 groups of four teams—playing one round against the other three teams with one side as host. The group winners and the two second-placed teams with the best records against the teams finishing first and third advanced to the round of 32, including:

Konak Belediyespor–Turkey
FC Spartak Subotica–Serbia
MTK Hungaria FC—Hungary
FC Zurich—Switzerland
RTP Unia Raciborz–Poland
PK 35 Vantaa—Finland
Apollon Limassol LFC—Cyprus
Glasgow City LFC—Scotland
FC Twente—The Netherlands (second place in group)
Parnu JK—Estonia (second place in group)

Going into the second leg ties this week, Konak Belediyespor and FC Zurich were the only teams of the ten qualifiers with a first leg winning advantage, while Glasgow City tied on the road. These teams’ goal is to make it to the round of 16, as they typically are from nations which are less advanced in the development of the women’s game.

For more on the qualifying group standings and results see:

Stephanie Ochs had a disappointing season for the Washington Spirit. She'll spend the next few months playing for Canberra United in the Australian A-League

Australia W-League Update

This month the eight teams in the Australian W-League are preparing for the league’s sixth season which begins during the second week of November. A few North Americans usually join some of the teams—with the November-February season dovetailing perfectly during the offseason for professional and amateur soccer in the U.S. Some interesting signings include Washington Spirit duo: midfielder Lori Lindsey and forward Stephanie Ochs, joining Canberra United. Canberra won the 2011-12 title in an undefeated season but was toppled last season by Sydney.

Lindsey is a former US international with 31 appearances, including the 2011 Women’s World Cup and has played in all three US professional leagues, along with the W-League and WPSL Elite. This is the first time that the University of Virginia grad has ventured abroad. Also joining Canberra is her Spirit teammate Stephanie Ochs who said: “I’m extremely excited to be coming to Australia to join Canberra United. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to play for the club while also experiencing everything Australia has to offer. I cannot wait to get started, especially alongside my teammate Lori [Lindsey] from the Washington Spirit. It will without a doubt be a great experience for both of us.”

This is an important offseason for former San Diego Torero Ochs, who was the first selection in the NWSL Supplemental Draft and started 20 games but had no goals and only two assists for the Spirit. Ochs was not the offensive force the Spirit expected, and they ultimately finished last in scoring in the league with only 15 goals. Ochs has a model to follow: former University of North Carolina forward Jessica McDonald. McDonald was playing in the summer of 2012 with a mid-table Phoenix Del Sol WPSL side before joining Melbourne Victory last winter. After scoring 7 goals in 13 games Down Under, she made the roster at Chicago Red Stars before her midseason trade to the Seattle Reign, where she scored three goals and added one assist in seven games. FC Kansas City midfielder Kristie Mewis played in two games for Canberra late last season, but is not expected to play in the W-League this time.

Brisbane Roar recently signed German international goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, who this summer won her fifth European Championship for Germany to go with two World Cup titles.

Another import who is not new to the Australian league is Jodie Taylor, the English national who played at Oregon State University, the Ottawa Fury, Pali Blues and Boston Renegades in the North American W-League. Taylor scored 12 goals in two seasons with Melbourne Victory (2010-11 and 2011-12). She recently left Goteborg FC in Sweden, walking out on the club despite scoring 10 goals this season. The Swedish media was confused by her departure. She explained that she was not dissatisfied with the club, which is still involved in the title race (currently fourth) but that she has sacrificed her privacy, a relationship and financially to continue her professional career. In an interview in Sweden, she hinted that the source of her dissatisfaction was with trying unsuccessfully to make the English National Team for this summer’s European Finals in Sweden: “I have sacrificed too much to play professional football in Gothenburg. I have not been a part of the national team and was not even close to a Euro spot. It is depressing to sacrifice so much in their life and then not even get a chance to play for England…I have sacrificed my relationship, had a tough time financially and being away from friends. Despite all the sacrifices I have never been a part of the national team…I probably never will.”

During the summer Damallsvenskan break for the Euros, Taylor realized that her life had been just about football and she had sacrificed friends and her own happiness. “I have perfect health; I do not have mental problems or something like that (laughing). I want balance in my life, both on and off the field, and enjoy life to the fullest. Now I have taken a break.”

With the departure of long time (15 years) head coach Hope Powell after England’s first round exit at the 12-team Euros, there may be hope for Taylor and others (including Lianne Sanderson) that Powell reportedly fell out with and would never consider again, regardless of how well they played for their clubs.

Taylor is not returning to the Melbourne Victory but rather will join champions Sydney FC. She will accompany the team to the second Mobcast Cup International Women’s Club Championship, playing against European Champions League holders FC Wolfsburg of Germany, Women’s Copa Libertadores Winners Colo Colo of Chile and the Japanese League champion. The tournament will be staged between November 29th and December 8th.  The addition of the South American champions Colo Colo is new for 2013. Last season Canberra United finished fourth and Olympique Lyon took the mobcast title. The Japanese League and Cup winners—INAC Kobe Leonessa and NTV Beleza respectively—were the other two participants.

Last week at FIFA’s General Meetings, a resolution was passed to investigate launching a FIFA World Club Cup for women. The mobcast tournament is uniquely positioned to step into that role. Under FIFA, no doubt a North American representative—which currently would be NWSL Champion Portland Thorns–would be invited and possibly a side from Africa, though there currently is no continental championship held on the club level within CAF (see Equalizer Soccer story from October 4th).

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Equalizer Soccer.  His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham was released earlier this month.  Get your copy today.


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