By Tim Grainey
Sky Blue Play in Japan
Sky Blue FC, charter members of WPS and the league’s first champions in 2009, went to Japan last week and--despite not having a league to play in for 2012—performed competitively against INAC Kobe Leonessa before falling 2-1, before over 7,000 fans in Kagoshima on March 20th. Forward Casey Nogueira gave the New Jersey-based side the lead on a half-volley just before halftime. Defender Yukari Kinga tied the game for the Japanese League champions early in the second half and then striker Megumi Takase scored the game winner in the 86th minute. Former FC Gold Pride 2010 league champion backup goalkeeper Brittany Cameron played in goal for Sky Blue. Sky Blue had one more game scheduled later in the week, in Okinawa, which we will report on to readers next week.
Defender Ifoma Dieke, a Scottish international who played in both WPS (Chicago/Boston) and WUSA (Atlanta), has signed with Vittsjo in Sweden’s Damallsvenskan. Kendall Fletcher, a defender who played this past winter in Australia with Melbourne Victory after stints with Sky Blue FC and St. Louis Athletica, also signed with Vittsjo. Forward Danesha Adams (ex-Chicago Red Stars and Philadelphia Independence) has also reportedly signed with Vittsjo. New Zealand’s Ali Riley, who won a WPS title the last two seasons with FC Gold Pride and then Western New York Flash, has joined reigning Swedish champions Ldb Malmo until she leaves to train for the Olympics this summer. Riley recently trialed with FCR Duisburg in Germany’s Frauen Bundesliga. Midfielder Becky Edwards, who also won a title last year with the Flash, joined Kristianstads DFF along with Iceland’s Katrun Omarsdottir, who played at the University of California and won the WPSL title last season with Orange County Waves.
The successful launch of England’s semipro league last year, the FA WSL, has attracted the attention of European internationals, including Spain’s Laura Del Rio, who has joined Bristol Academy’s side. Del Rio played with Philadelphia Independence last season. English internationals Kelly Smith and Alex Scott have joined Arsenal and will boost their UEFA Champions League hopes this season (see below).
Omolyn Davis of Jamaica, who played with magicJack, George Mason University and FC Indiana of the WPSL, is headed further east, signing with Energiya Voronezh of Russia.
WPSL Elite teams have been active in signing players as well, including three Australian internationals. Kyah Simon and Tameka Butt have decided to stay with Boston Breakers in their first WPSL season. Immediately after WPS announced that it was suspending operations in 2012, their Australian-based agent threatened legal recourse against the Breakers and WPS, as Simon and Butt had passed on opportunities with European clubs to come to the U.S. Their signing appears to eliminate another troublesome legal hurdle for WPS to overcome as it attempts to return for 2013.
Western New York Flash signed a third Australian, Emily Van Egmond, an 18 year old who scored in last summer Women’s World Cup. She will join WPS veterans Nikki Marshall (Boston/magicJack), Angela Salem (Atlanta Beat) and Beverly Goebel, the latter who was a holdover from last year’s Flash side.
Chicago Red Stars signed former U.S. National Team midfielder Lori Chalupny (formerly of Atlanta Beat and St. Louis Athletica) and U.S. National Youth Teams midfielder Jen Buzkowski (ex-Philadelphia Independence and Sky Blue FC). New England Mutiny has signed Ciara McCormack, who plays internationally for the Republic of Ireland and has played in the W-League with Vancouver and Ottawa as well as in Denmark and Norway. The Red Stars also picked up Lauren Fowlkes, a former NCAA Division I Champion at Notre Dame and who was on the roster of Philadelphia Independence last season but saw no action.
New York Fury replaces Aztec MA in the WPSL Elite for 2012
Aztec MA, one of the first six sides announced for the new WPSL Elite League last month, will not compete at the higher level this year but will drop down to play in the amateur WPSL again in 2012. To keep the new semiprofessional league at eight franchises, the New York Fury announced that they would step up from WPSL and play in the Elite League. The Aztec plan to play in WPSL Elite in 2013.
The New York Fury will be coached by Paul Riley, their former coach who led the Philadelphia Independence to the WPS Championship Games in his two seasons in charge. Riley, also a veteran of the WPSL, won two WPSL titles with the Fury in 2006 and 2009. Tina DiMartino, who played with the Independence, will play with the Fury along with WPS All Star Defender Brittany Taylor (Sky Blue FC). The eight members of the WPSL Elite League for this season are: ASA Chesapeake Charge, Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, FC Indiana, New England Mutiny, New York Fury, Philadelphia Fever and Western New York Flash.
UEFA Champions League Semifinals Set
The semifinalist in this year’s UEFA Champions League were determined last week. England’s Arsenal defeated Goteborg of Sweden 3-2 on aggregate in a quarterfinal tie, despite the London side losing the second leg away (1-0). Arsenal’s 3-1 advantage from the home leg a few weeks ago held up despite the narrow loss.
Frankfurt overcame Swedish champions Malmo’s 1-0 advantage from the first leg with a 3-0 win in Germany, though their tying goal didn’t come until the 66th minute from longtime German international Kristen Garefrekes off a feed from fellow international Fatmire Bajramaj. The match looked to be headed towards overtime until substitute Silvana Chojnowski scored the winner in the last minute on a cross from fellow substitute Ana Maria Crnogorcevic—a Swiss international--and then Garefrekes added her second in injury time. Frankfurt is aiming for their fourth UEFA title and Munich will host the final next month.
Defending UEFA Champion Olympique Lyon advanced to the semifinals 8-0 on aggregate over Brondby of Denmark, after recording 4-0 wins in both legs. Former WPS star Camille Abily scored in the second leg as did speedy forwards Elodie Thomis and Eugenie Le Sommer (two); the latter leads all Champions League scorers this season with eight. Two top stars at last summers’ Women’s World Cup—Swedish forward Lotta Schelin and French midfielder Louisa Necib--played only in the second half for the powerful French side that played with the confidence that they would qualify with any performance short of an abject disaster.
1 FFC Potsdam Turbine also cruised into the last four with a 3-0 win over FC Rossiyanka of Russia, to take the tie 5-0 on aggregate. Japan’s World Cup winning forward Yuki Nagasato scored once in each half for the reigning German champions. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who played a pivotal role when her Flash team won the 2011 WPS title last summer--saving the final penalty kick after a 1-1 tie in overtime with Philadelphia--recorded the shutout. Americans Kia McNeil, Yael Averbuch and Leigh Ann Robinson played for Rossinanka as did Brazilian forward Cristiane, who played two years with Chicago Red Stars in WPS.
Frankfurt will play Arsenal in one semifinal this month. Lyon plays Potsdam, in a repeat of the last two Champions League finals, in the other tie. Lyon won last year while Potsdam won in 2010.
Tim Grainey is a regular contributor to Soccer365. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham was released earlier this month. Get your copy today.
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