By Tim Grainey
This week, The Grainey Report, reviews the U.S.-Germany Fan Tribute Tour matches in Chicago and Hartford, presents some news on a four team international club competition being held in Japan next month that may be an initial step towards a club world championship and closes with a previews of Australia’s W-League which began play last weekend.
In the first game of a two-match series between the number one ranked U.S. Women’s National Team and number two Germany (in the latest FIFA global ratings of women’s national teams) held on Saturday August 20 at Toyota Park in suburban Chicago, the match ended in a 1-1 deadlock. Both goals came within the first 14 minutes, with Abby Wambach, scoring in the second minute on a sharp cross goal pass from Alex Morgan. The goal was Wambach’s 147th of her career, leaving her 11 behind former teammate Mia Hamm for FIFA’s all-time lead in international goals scored. Anja Mittag tied up the match with a sharp angle high blast past Hope Solo, after being fed a defense-cutting pass by Simone Laudehr in the fourteenth minute. Though there was no more scoring, both teams had chances, with Germany taking more shots (12 to 7) for the U.S. in a very open game. On a chilly afternoon in the Windy City, the game attracted a sell-out crowd of 19,522 to the home stadium of the MLS’ Chicago Fire.
Three days later in Hartford, the U.S. and Germany again ended tied, this time 2-2. The U.S. scored through Abby Wambach (45th minute) and Tobin Heath (68th minute) but Germany countered with a brace from second-half substitute Dzenifer Marozsan (48th and 85th minutes). Another strong crowd of 18,870 attended the game in the rain. The next two stops on the Fan Tribute Tour are November 28th in Portland and December 1st in Phoenix, with both games against the Republic of Ireland.
Japan’s Football Association has announced that a four team international cup competition will be held in Saitama City next month, with the hope that it will turn into a full-fledged FIFA Club World Cup. Unfortunately this year there will be no North American representation. The four clubs include the two time reigning UEFA champions Olympique Lyon, 2011-12 Australian W-League Champions Canberra United, and two Japanese sides: the winners of the 2012 Plenus Nadeshiko League champions, expected to be INAC Kobe Leonessa for the second season running, and Japanese Cup winners NTV Beleza. The JFA obviously wanted to keep the event small and manageable, with three of the four participants coming from Asia. Though there is no North American representation, certainly if the event continues, a natural assumption is that a national champion from North America would be invited along with the Women’s Copa Libertadores champions from South America. Such a global tournament endorsed by FIFA may spur CAF and Oceania to develop their own women’s club championships. The JFA’s event will award prize money: $60,000 for first place, $30,000 for second and $10,000 for third. Though the tournament involves only four sides, it’s another important step demonstrating JFA’s commitment to the women’s game. There is precedence as well: for 25 years before the FIFA World Club Championship fully launched (1980-2004), the European and South American club champions played a one-off game in Japan (Tokyo and Yokohama) for the Intercontinental Cup, after years of the two-leg contest turning into actual battles on their field and in the stand rather than soccer contests.
The only question mark for the tournament is how many of Lyon’s international players will fly to Japan, as the French National Team play Germany four days later, so some or potentially all of their French internationals could be missing in Japan, including goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi, defenders Corine Franco, Laura Georges and Wendie Renard, midfielders Sonia Bompastor, Camille Abily (both ex-WPS), Elisa Bussaglia and Louisa Necib and forwards Elodie Thomis and Eugenie Le Sommer. Lyon is deep enough to survive some call-ups, but for credibility’s sake it is important that they take as strong a team as they can. They are representing UEFA and the Japanese sides are just finishing their seasons and will be primed to do well at home.
Australia’s W-League began its fifth season this month with eight teams, adding the Western Sydney Wanderers as an expansion franchise, which also is a debutant in the men’s A-League. This is good news as earlier this year there was serious concerns about the W-League’s future, as Perth Glory and Newcastle Jets were most at risk of folding. Australian Women’s National Team head coach Tom Sermanni told Soccer 365, during their National Team tour of the U.S. last month, that he was excited about the W-League’s new season: “That’s a much better number for us (from seven teams for two seasons after Central Coast Mariners folded at the end of year two). Better competition. The odd number is a nightmare because teams miss a week and all that. We had just 10 games [last year]. Now 12 [games]; we’re chipping away at making it bigger. It’s been particularly valuable for the development of the young players. They all play in it. It’s been an unbelievable valuable competition for us.”
Sermanni put the value of a national league in perspective when talking about the recent demise of WPS: “I’m a great believer that national leagues are very important. If you don’t have them where do you see the other players? You’ve got your group of players and you can only bring so many into camp. Where do you go out and look at them and see them play against the Shannon Boxxs’ and Christie Rampones’. I think a national league is a really critical part of the process to get into the national team.”
A number of the Australians are active with overseas clubs and Sermanni still sees that as a positive. The timing of the A-League (October-January) generally is during the offseason for many international leagues (U.S., England’s FA WSL, Russia, Iceland), so they can play in both. Sermanni explained: “We had 14 players overseas this year. The overseas bit is important and it doesn’t clash with the W-League season so it fits in pretty well. It’s just not the football overseas. It’s the whole living away from home, having to fend for yourself, a tougher environment; they appreciate how we take care of them when they get back. There are a whole lot of benefits from playing overseas. We’ll keep doing that except for World Cup and qualifying years. You want them on home base so you can work with them more often.”
Adelaide United—Always the also ran in the W-League, they have won only three games in four years. Their solitary win last year against Perth Glory snapped a 34 game winless and 18 game losing streak that stretched back to their inaugural year. They will probably not make the playoffs this season (top four regular season finishers) but they do have a good core of New Zealand internationals: defender Abby Erceg, midfielder Holly Patterson and forward Sarah McLaughlin, with the latter two joining from Claudelands Rovers in Hamilton, New Zealand. Their second year head coach Dave Edmondson is a former New Zealand youth international coach. Another Kiwi international, defender Anna Green, will not be returning as she is now playing for Leipzig in Germany. Young Australian midfielder Katherine Ebbs, who played for the Reds for two seasons, is now playing at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Dayton Beach, Florida, which is a member of the Sun Conference. American forward Ashleigh Gunning, who played at Coastal Carolina University, the Charlotte Lady Eagles and magicJack for a short time in WPS, also will not be playing for the Reds this season, as she is now with Arna-Bjornar of Norway.
Brisbane Roar—The Queensland/Brisbane Roar won titles in 2008-09 and 2010-11 under head coach Jeff Hopkins, who was promoted recently to an assistant coaching position with the two-time reigning men’s A-League champion Roar. The new coach is Belinda Wilson, an Australian coach who has worked as a FIFA and Asian Football Confederation instructor and also coached in Norway. Midfield international Katrina Gorry has moved from Melbourne, fresh from winning the USL’s W-League title this summer with Ottawa Fury in dramatic fashion on penalty kicks. Australian forward Hannah Beard, who played in the WSL’s W-League the past two seasons with the L.A. Strikers and Santa Clarita Blue Heat, is also a new addition. Returnees to the always competitive Roar include current Australian internationals Clare Polkinghorne, Lana Harch (both forwards) and Tameka Butt (a midfielder who played with Boston Breakers in WPSL Elite last summer).
Canberra United—Canberra won the title last season for the first time after finishing the regular season undefeated, with seven victories and three ties in ten games. They won both playoff games to take their first title. They also lost the championship game in the league’s first year and are unique as they are the only club not tied to an A-League side, as there is no men’s team in the Capital city. Michelle Heyman, top scorer last season and the league’s all-time leader in goals with 26, will head up the offense. German international defender Ariane Hingst moves across from Newcastle and, with 174 caps and two World Cups and four UEFA Championship titles, will be an experienced leader for the side. Former Chicago Red Star (WPS) goalkeeper Lydia Williams is out for the season with a knee injury. Kahlia Hogg, who played for three years in defense and midfield, is a freshman at Florida State University and will not play this season for Canberra.
Melbourne Victory--The Victory will miss a few notables this season; English striker and former Oregon State and Ottawa Fury forward Jodie Taylor is playing at home with Birmingham City while midfielder American Kendall Fletcher is playing with Vittsjo in Sweden. Seventeen year old goalkeeper Brianna Davey, who won her first caps on Australia’s recent tour of the U.S., will be in defense along with American Danielle Johnson, who played at the University of Mississippi and Sky Blue FC in WPS. Gulcan Koca, an Australian who plays for Turkey, returns in defense for her fourth season with the Victory. Melbourne finished fourth the last two seasons and made the playoffs but fell in the semifinals.
Newcastle Jets--Australian international goalkeeper and team leader Melissa Barbieri will miss the season on maternity leave. Midfielder Emily van Egmond spent the summer winning the WPSL Elite title with the Western New York Flash and brings two American teammates back Down Under with her: midfielder Angela Salem and defender Tori Huster. Ex-Baylor University American midfielder Tiffany Boshers will also play for the Jets. Boshers played at Baylor along with current Jet forward Kate Hensman.
Perth Glory—Another side never to make the playoffs, Perth may well break through this season with a quartet of experienced Australian internationals: midfielder Collette McCallum (who recently played for Lincoln Ladies in England’s FA WSL), Aivi Luik (ex-Brisbane Roar, FC Indiana and University of Nevada-Reno) and Lisa DeVanna and Kate Gill (who both played in Sweden, while DeVanna had solid seasons in WPS). Chelsea and English international goalkeeper Carly Telford is a new import. Another strong addition in the back is former Canadian International Sasha Andrews, who played at the University of Nebraska, Vancouver Whitecaps and Pali Blues. Non-returnees include Australian Tanya Oxtoby and England’s Kate Holtham (ex-Buffalo Flash), who are now with Doncaster Belles. Oxtoby is also coaching with Nottingham Ladies in England’s third tier.
Sydney FC—A perennial contender and league champion in 2009-10, the Sky Blue will be an attacking force with Australian international Kyah Simon up top. Simon finished tied for second in goals in the WPSL Elite last summer with 12 for Boston Breakers (with the New York Flash’s American rookie Laura Heyboer), and behind the Flash’s Spanish international forward Adriana, who had 14. Simon will lead the front line along with fellow international Samantha Kerr, who joins from Perth Glory. A trio of New Zealanders have crossed the Tasman Sea—forward Emma Kete (ex-Perth), defender Hannah Bromley (Herforder SV/Germany and ex-Central Connecticut University) and midfielder Annalie Longo (Three Kings United in Auckland). Australian international Ellyse Perry left Canberra as they wanted her to drop her cricket career, in which she also plays for Australia’s National Team. This month she helped her country win the World Twenty Cricket Final against England in Sri Lanka. She plays club cricket for New South Wales Breakers but Sydney FC Coach Alen Stajcic has no problem with Perry continuing to play international and club cricket: “There might be one or two games that she’ll miss, but apart from that she’ll be available for all the games and most of the training sessions.”
Western Sydney Wanderers—The new side from Parramatta will be coached by Steve Roche, who was in charge of the Central Coast Mariners women’s side which folded after season two. Recently retired Australian international forward Sarah Walsh will captain the side, and is joined by midfielder Servet Uzunlar, who had a superb season with Pali Blues in the North American W-League this past summer. This team should not be written off; they have talent and experience and could make the playoffs at their first attempt.
In first round action on Saturday October 20, Adelaide Reds are tied for the lead at top of the table after defeating newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers 4-3, with New Zealand’s Sarah McLaughlin scoring a hat-trick. Australian international Servet Uzunlar had two goals for the Wanderers. Also on Saturday, Canberra and Brisbane finished in a goalless deadlock in the Capital city. On Sunday, Perth Glory defeated Melbourne Victory 2-0, with goals by Australian international Kate Gill and Marianna Tabian to top the table along with Adelaide. Sydney and Newcastle shared the points after a 3-3 tie. Former Western New York Flash players Emily Van Egmond and Tori Huster scored for Newcastle. Sam Kerr led Sydney’s fightback with two second half goals.
Note: American midfield star Megan Rapinoe is expected to guest for one of the Sydney sides at some point this season—she played two matches for Sydney FC last season around her national team commitments.
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.
Chelsea won the Europa League on Wednesday. The Blues defeated Benfica 2-1 on injury time goal from Ivanovic.
Ajax has released their away soccer jersey for the 2013/14 season. Get in the Gear.
The push for more color on their cleats, adidas has added the infrared colorway to the adiZero f50 Line.
adidas has added some color to the Predator line with this new colorway. Released on May 17. Be the first to own a pair.
The Liverpool 2013/14 soccer jersey is available for pre-order. The Reds are eager to compete for silver next season.
The new PUMA evoSPEED 1.2 FG. A great new soccer cleat with classic look and first time for PUMA to be on the cleat.
The adidas Nitrocharge is the most talked about new cleat in years. It was released on May 15 and will take your pitch by storm.
One of the top soccer cleats for control the Nike CTR360 will not let you down on the field in tight spaces.
Borussia Dortmund hears Wembley Calling and are headed to London for the Champions League final.
The Juventus jersey for the 2013/14 was released earlier this week. Be the first to wear the colors of the Old Lady.