This week we look at the NWSL franchise that was wound up, leaving the league with 9 franchises for the 2018 season. We also review the U.S.-Denmark friendly match, a NWSL trade involving the rights to Crystal Dunn and summarize the CONCACAF U-20 World Cup Qualifiers.
Boston Breakers Shut Down Operations in the NWSL
The Boston Breakers, who have played in every year of professional soccer in the U.S. dating back to the launch of the WUSA in 2001, has folded this week, leaving the NWSL with 9 clubs for 2018. The Breakers played three seasons in the WUSA (2001-2003), three in WPS (2009-2011) as well as in the semiprofessional WPSL-Elite in 2012 and four seasons in the NWSL from 2013-17. Matt Beard left Liverpool in late 2015 to coach the team over the past two seasons, but the club struggled and finished in last place in 2016 and tied for last in 2017 with the Washington Spirit.
Despite having English international striker Natasha Dowie scoring 10 goals and 2 assists in 30 games across those two seasons—she is currently playing with Melbourne Victory in the W-League—and rookie and U.S. international midfielder Rose Lavelle last season (though she missed she only played 10 games because of injury through injury) the defense struggled, surrendering 35 goals in 24 games. The nine remaining teams will hold a draft of the Breakers' rostered players this week—including their 2018 college draft selections— with those not selected immediately granted free-agency, allowing them to sign for a club in the States or abroad.
FC Kansas City also folded after the 2017 season, but the roster was transferred to the expansion Utah Royals (Salt Lake City). Boston has struggled for years with attendance and revenues (averaging 2,896 fans a game—third worst in the league—in 2017 down from 3,570—fourth worst in the league—in 2016; ordinarily for the league to lose two teams over the off-season would clearly be a worrying sign for the future of the league.
However, these moves could actually help to strengthen the league and is not a sign that the entire league is in danger of folding. Both clubs were seen as holding back the standard of the league. The NWSL's great strength and attraction to international players abroad is the parity of the league; unlike in other leagues around the world that have between one and four title challengers, with the rest clearly adrift in quality, spending and competitiveness. Continuing with Boston and FC Kansas City would further damage the image of parity in the league.
The league now has five sides run by professional men's franchise (Houston, North Carolina, Orlando, Portland and Utah) and these clubs typically have better facilities, more staff to devote for the women's side and increased financial resources than the traditional "women only club" teams only such as Chicago, Seattle, Sky Blue FC. The Washington Spirit, though not aligned with a men's club, draws typically in the 3,500 fans a range and has a solid organisation, stadium and fan base that allows them to be seen more like the clubs aligned with men's teams, than Sky Blue or Chicago, though Chicago has averaged about 3,000 per game since moving full-time into the MLS' Chicago Fire's Toyota Park. This season will be important for consolidation of the league, to increase attendances league wide above 2017's average of 5,083 and attract future expansion franchise interest in the U.S. and possibly Canada.
U.S. defeats Denmark 5-1 in San Diego Friendly
The U.S. Women's National Team opened their 2018 season with a dominant 5-1 victory over 2017 European Championship runners-up Denmark in front of 17,526 fans in San Diego. The U.S. fell behind thanks to a Nadia Nadim (Manchester City and ex-Portland Thorns and Sky Blue FC) header from Katrine Veje's (Montpellier in France) corner kick. Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan (from a Mallory Pugh assist after she collected an errant throw from Danish goalkeeper Stina Petersen of Kolding Q in Denmark) and Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars) scored first half goals to give the U.S. the advantage at the break. Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit) scored twice in the second half, collecting more bad passes by Denmark while Chelsea's Crystal Dunn scored a late goal to give the U.S. a 5-1 final verdict in front of 17,526 in San Diego. Tierna Davidson (Stanford) and Savannah McCaskill (the second overall draft choice in the 2018 draft by the now defunct Boston Breakers and formerly at the University of South Carolina) won their first full national team caps, with Davidson earning an assist on Ertz's goal.
- U.S. Women's National Team Match Report -
Match: U.S. Women's National Team vs. Denmark
Date: Jan. 21, 2018
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: SDCCU Stadium; San Diego, California
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 3 5
DEN 1 0 1
USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 22-Taylor Smith (16-Emily Sonnett, 54), 14-Abby Dahlkemper (10-Carli Lloyd, 54), 17-Tierna Davidson, 5-Kelley O'Hara; 8-Julie Ertz, 9-Lindsey Horan, 6-Andi Sullivan (26-Savannah McCaskill, 70); 11-Mallory Pugh (12-Lynn Williams, 70), 13-Alex Morgan (capt.) (23-Christen Press, 70), 15-Megan Rapinoe (19-Crystal Dunn, 70)
Substitutes not used: 24-Ashlyn Harris
Head coach: Jill Ellis
DEN: 1-Stina Lykke Petersen; 8-Theresa Nielsen, 12-Stine Larsen, 3-Janni Arnth, 11-Katrine Veje; 13-Sofie Junge Pedersen (14-Nicoline Sørensen, 75), 4-Maja Kildemoes (6-Nanna Christiansen, 46), 15-Frederikke Thøgersen (18-Mie Leth Jans, 84), 7-Sanne Troelsgaard; 10-Pernille Harder, 9-Nadia Nadim
Substitutes not used: 22-Line Johansen, 17-Signe Bruun, 19-Cecilie Sandvej, 20-Stine Ballisager Pedersen, 21-Sarah Dyrehauge, 23-Caroline Moeller
Head coach: Lars Søndergaard
Stats Summary: USA / DEN
Shots: 19 / 6
Shots on Goal: 8 / 1
Saves: 0 / 3
Corner Kicks: 9 / 3
Fouls: 7 / 12
Offside: 2 / 1
Crystal Dunn looks to move from Chelsea to the North Carolina Courage after a trade for her rights, while Taylor Smith and Ashley Hatch go to the Washington Spirit
The North Carolina Courage has acquired the rights to U.S. Women's National Team forward Crystal Dunn this week from the Washington Spirit along with an international roster spot in exchange for fellow U.S. internationals Taylor Smith and Ashley Hatch. Liverpool-raised Courage head coach Paul Riley said: "Bringing Crystal back to NC has always been a goal of the franchise, and it's incredible to see it come to fruition, She is an outstanding player with bags of speed, desire and game changing ability. It's a massive year ahead for Crystal, and we hope we can be a big part of her continued development both in the NWSL and on the international stage. She is eager to get started, meet her new team and add to our young, talented squad." Riley coached Dunn as a youth player in New York. Dunn is currently playing in England with Chelsea and has 3 goals in 11 appearances. She has 22 goals for the national team in 57 appearances and led the NWSL in scoring in 2015 with 15 goals and 3 assists in 20 games
Smith led a Courage defense which limited opponents to less than a goal per game, and earned her first seven international camps with the U.S. during 2017 after playing at UCLA and with the U.S. at U-17, U-20 and U-23 level. Smith won the 2015 College Cup with UCLA and then the 2016 NWSL title with the Western New York Flash. Ashley Hatch, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NWSL Draft, led all rookies with seven goals scored, including three game-winners, over the course of 24 appearances. She is currently playing in Australia's W-League with Melbourne City.
CONCACAF U-20 Women's World Cup Qualifiers—Mexico, U.S. and Haiti advance to France this summer.
History was made on January 28, 2018 as Haiti became the first Caribbean Football Union team to qualify for the U-20 Women's World Cup by defeating Canada 1-0 in the third place match to capture the last qualifying berth for CONCACAF. Sherly Jeudy of Haitian club side Anacaona Leogane scored in the 18th minute after a brilliant pass from Montpellier of France forward Nerila Mondesir from near midfield. Haiti played a very strong tactical match, always having defenders to stymie the Canadians' attacks, while still springing multiple attacking chances of their own with long services out of defense and midfield. Canada had expected to roll over the Haitians and one player had even boasted that they would still make France after they fell on penalties to Mexico in the semifinals, particularly since they had defeated them 4-0 in their last group match on January 22, with a hat trick by Shana Flynn within the first 18 minutes. There was a sense of justice in Haiti defeating the Canadians after that group defeat. Under a year ago at the U-17 CONCACAF Finals for the 2017 World Cup in Jordan, the Haitians defeated Canada in a group round match before falling in the third place game 4-2, with Mondesir scoring two late goals for Haiti. Canada advanced with 9 points in Group A, with Haiti second on 6 points, while Costa Rica with 3 points and hosts Trinidad and Tobago with 0 points both going home early.
In the second match for the CONCACAF title on January 28, Mexico defeated the U.S. 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 tie after 120 minutes of play. Both teams advanced out of Group B, with the Americans defeating Mexico 2-1 in their last group match, while Nicaragua and Jamaica finished with 1 point. In the semifinals, the U.S. defeated Haiti 3-0 on penalties after a 1-1 tie in 90 minutes. The U.S. took the lead over Haiti with a Jaelin Howell (who will attend college at Florida State University) goal with 15 minutes remaining only to see Mondesir score late in injury time on a sublime through ball by Melchie Dumonay (ASF Croix des B of Haiti); Mondesir actually kneed the ball over U.S. goalkeeper Amanda McGlynn (Virginia Tech University). Besides Mondesir who plays in France's top women's league, the only other foreign-based player for Haiti is Danielle Etienne, who lives and plays in New York. The other semifinal also went to penalties with Mexico winning 4-3 after a 1-1 tie in which Canada had to fight back late to tie the match against the very skilled, technical play of their opponents.
Next week we will look at the CONMEBOL qualifiers from their 10 team qualifying tournament for the 2018 U-20 World Cup and continue to profile teams ahead of this important tournament this summer in France.
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey