By Tim Grainey
This week we review the fourth Australia W-League season the wrapped up last month with a new champion. We also present the U.S. National Team roster for the Algarve Cup while reviewing the latest signings abroad by WPS veterans.
Flight Abroad For WPS Veterans, Including Marta
A number of WPS veterans have found clubs abroad over the past few weeks, after the stunning news that WPS had suspended operation for 2012 late last month. By country in alphabetic order, the signings are:
Goalkeeper Jill Loyden, who played with magicJack, Chicago Red Stars and St. Louis Athletica in WPS, signed with Fortuna Hjorring, where she will play with WPS forward Tiffany Weimer (ex-FC Gold Pride and Boston Breakers) and midfielder Lydia Vandenbergh (ex-magicJack, Chicago Red Stars and St. Louis Athletica)
Popular forward Eniola Aluko (Sky Blue FC, Atlanta Beat and St. Louis Athletica) signed with Birmingham City of the English FA WSL. The league itself was seen as a success by the sponsoring Football Association and the original eight teams have been offered continued league status for 2013 (originally teams were accepted for 2011 and 2012 only). The FA is also drawing up plans for 2014-2017, including a possible second division. The stability of these clubs is a huge positive in a country where funding, field usage and other obstacles have left clubs in severe financial difficulties and even in bankruptcy over the past few decades.
The eight league sides of the FA WSL are:
Birmingham City LFC
Bristol Academy WFC
Doncaster Rovers Belles
Forward Ella Masar (ex-magicJack and Chicago Red Stars) is now with Paris St. Germain along with forward Allie Long (ex-Sky Blue FC and Washington Freedom).
Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher went back to Potsdam where she had played brilliantly since last fall but left to join Boston Breakers, but won’t accompany them into the WPSL Elite. Brett Maron (former magicJack and Atlanta Beat backup) was recently signed by Potsdam but then released when Naeher was reacquired.
Forward Mami Yamaguchi, who played for Atlanta Beat and at Florida State University as well as in Sweden with Umea and Hammarby IF, went to Yunogo Bells in Japan where 2011 World Cup winning midfielder Aya Miyama plays. Miyama played for two years with Los Angeles Sol, St. Louis Athletica and Atlanta Beat.
Avaldsness of Norway picked up two Iceland internationals, Holfridur Magnusdottir who played with the Independence in 2010 and 2011, and Kristin Yr Bjarnadottir, a forward and top goal scorer in Iceland for Valur.
Yael Averbuch (midfielder), who played with Western New York Flash last season after two years with Sky Blue FC, has joined Rossiyanka, where former Chicago Red Star forward Cristiane of Brazil plays. Lori Chalupny (midfielder) was to join Averbuch (ex-Atlanta Beat and St. Louis Athletica) but reportedly could not acquire a visa in time and will play in WPSL Elite for the Red Stars. Rossiyanka leads the league at the three-quarter stage of the Russian season by 7 points over Energiva Voronezh.
There has been a lot of activity with Damallsvenskan clubs, but no move was bigger than Tyreso’s signing of Brazilian star Marta, who was the lynchpin of WPS. The world star was on a reported salary in WPS of $500,000 a year and played with three different sides—LA Sol, FC Gold Pride and Western New York Flash--making three league finals and winning two titles. Other bidders included Rossiyanka of Russia and Frankfurt of Germany. Marta’s agent was looking for $1,000,000 a year but her two year contract is for less than that, around $700,000 a year. Marta’s signing is good for the league and she certainly feels comfortable in the country after many years with Umea, but Tyreso’s spending—also bringing on WPS 2011 MVP Veronica Boquete, formerly of Philadelphia Independence, and Caroline Seger (ex-Flash and Independence)--causes one to wonder about the overall stability of the league since reigning champion Malmo is in severe financial difficulties and may not continue.
Other moves to Sweden include 2011 WPS Rookie of The Year Christen Press to Kopparbergs/Gothenberg, joining former Georgetown midfielder/defender Ingrid Wells.
Linkoping FC picked up two WPS international forwards, Dutch international Manon Melis from Sky Blue FC, where she was set to play this season. Since 2007 Melis had 84 goals in 104 Damallsvenskan matches, winning the golden boot for top scorer in Sweden in 2008, 2010 and 2011 and led Malmo to titles in 2010 and 2011. Melis will play up top with Australian international and former magicJack/Washington Freedom dynamo Lisa DeVanna.
Jitex picked up Canadian international forward Christina Julien. The 23-year-old has played with Ottawa Fury of the W-League.
Canberra United Wins First Australian Title
Canberra United won its first Australian Westfield W-League title earlier last month, defeating reigning champion Brisbane Roar 3-2 at home. Canberra United is unique among the seven W-League sides, in that it is the only franchise not affiliated in some way with a men’s A-League franchise, as the Australian Capital city has never had an A-League franchise. The Roar defeated Canberra in the first edition of the national women’s league in 2008-09 and the Brisbane side went on to win the title again last season, defeating Sydney United. Sydney had defeated Brisbane in 2009-10 in the Grand Final. Thus Brisbane has appeared in every W-League Grand Final and won twice. In the conclusion to the 2011-12 campaign, Canberra was led by two goals by Michelle Heyman and a solo by Ashleigh Sykes. American Taryn Hemmings, who started 10 of 16 Boston Breakers games in which she appeared in 2011, played for Canberra as did former WPS Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper Lydia Williams. The Grand Final drew a solid crowed of 2,512 to Canberra’s McKellar Stadium. First year head coach and former Czech international player Jitka Klimkova, who led Canberra to an undefeated season, announced that she will return next season.
Canberra’s Heyman led the league with 15 goals followed by the Roar’s Emily Gielnik with nine, with former Oregon State and Ottawa Fury Jodie Taylor (England) third with eight goals for Melbourne Victory. Taryn Hemmings finished the year tied for sixth with five goals while former MagicJack and Washington Freedom Australian international forward Lisa DeVanna also had five tallies. DeVanna recently signed with a Swedish side for 2012 (see below).
In the semifinals, Brisbane met Sydney in a repeat of the last two league Grand Finals. A 1-1 tie had to be decided on penalty kicks, which the Roar won 4-3 before 1,648 at home in Queensland. In the other semifinal, Heyman scored the lone goal as Canberra defeated fourth place Melbourne Victory at MacKellar in front of 1,785.
Sundhage Names Squad for Algarve Cup
On February 17th, U.S. National Team Head Coach Pia Sundhage selected 23 players for the team that will compete in this year’s Algarve Cup in Portugal, beginning later this week. Four players who were not with the team that won the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament last month will head to Portugal: goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris (who saved the crucial penalty to give her Western New York Flash side the WPS title last summer), and defenders Stephanie Cox, Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg. Five other players were cut from a training camp this month: goalkeeper Jill Loyden and midfielders Yael Averbuch, Kristie Mewis, Christine Nairn and Keelin Winters.
U.S. Women’s National Team Algarve Cup Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Nicole Barnhart, Ashlyn Harris, Hope Solo
DEFENDERS (9): Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox, Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn
MIDFIELDERS (7): Shannon Boxx, Tobin Heath, Lori Lindsey, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe, Amy Rodriguez
FORWARDS (4): Lauren Cheney, Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach
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