This week we update some news on the Australian national team's start towards building a team for the 2019 Women's World Cup in France, summarize the Westfield W-League Grand Final last week between host Perth Glory and Melbourne City, discuss some significant NWSL player movement and three new franchises entering the semiprofessional UWS league.
Matildas bring 25 to Camp ahead of next month's Algarve Cup
Matildas head coach Alen Stajcic has called up a 25 player squad for two camps this month, with a view to adding more depth in his squad as he aims to qualify and compete in the 2019 Women's World Cup in France. He called in three uncapped teenagers who had strong seasons in the just completed Westfield W-League campaign: Canberra United midfielder and Young Matildas captain Grace Maher, 15 year old Melbourne City FC midfielder Jacynta Galabadaarachchi and Western Sydney Wanderers FC goalkeeper Jada Mathyssen-Whyman.
Stajcic explained: “We are now heading into a new four year cycle. The last cycle ended after the Rio Olympics so this is the beginning of a new cycle up until after the Tokyo Games, so we're looking at what kind of team we can take to qualify for the major tournaments, starting with the Asian Cup next year. It's about having a squad that can peak in these tournaments."
Stajcic will take 18 players to Portugal next month to compete in the Algarve Cup, along with two foreign-based stars: Elise Kellond-Knight—a two time WWC player and former Brisbane Roar midfielder who is now with Turbine Potsdam of Germany—and midfielder Emily van Egmond--also a two time WWC veteran who is with Wolfsburg of Germany after time with Frankfurt as well as time in NWSL and with Canberra United, Newcastle Jets and the Western Sydney Wanderers at home. The Matildas will participate in the Algarve Cup from March 1 through 8 against Sweden, Netherlands and China.
Matildas squad for February 15-17 training camp
Teigen Allen — Melbourne City FC
Mackenzie Arnold (GK) — Brisbane Roar FC
Ellie Carpenter — Western Sydney Wanderers FC
Steph Catley — Melbourne City FC
Emma Checker — Canberra United
Alex Chidiac — Adelaide United
Caitlin Cooper — Western Sydney Wanderers FC
Lisa De Vanna — Canberra United
Casey Dumont (GK) — Western Sydney Wanderers FC
Caitlin Foord — Sydney FC
Jacynta Galabadaarachchi — Melbourne City FC
Emily Gielnik — Brisbane Roar FC
Katrina Gorry — Brisbane Roar FC
Amy Harrison — Sydney FC
Michelle Heyman — Canberra United
Alanna Kennedy — Sydney FC
Sam Kerr — Perth Glory
Chloe Logarzo — Newcastle Jets
Grace Maher — Canberra United
Jada Mathyssen-Whyman (GK) — Western Sydney Wanderers FC
Clare Polkinghorne — Brisbane Roar FC
Hayley Raso — Canberra United
Gema Simon — Newcastle Jets
Kyah Simon — Sydney FC
Lydia Williams (GK) — Melbourne City FC
Melbourne City defends its Westfield W-League Championship with a 2-0 win in Perth
Melbourne City used goals from two of their Seattle Reign loanees to defeat host Perth Glory 2-0 on Sunday, February 12th to win the Westfield W-League Grand Final for the second time in their two years in the league. Wales international and head coach Jess Fishlock scored just before the half, slotting a ball just inside the post from near the penalty spot, and then Bev Yanez sealed the match in the 76th minute with a long range shot from the left wing that slid in under the bar but over Glory goalkeeper Gabrille Dal Busco. Fishlock finished the year with 8 goals while Yanez had 2. City was the first side to ever defend a W-League title and is tied with Brisbane Roar, Canberra United, and Sydney FC with two Grand Final wins each (Melbourne Victory won once in 2013/14). Perth Glory drew a record Grand Final crowd of 4,591 to nib Stadium, besting the previous high of 4,544 set in Brisbane during the league's first season in 2008/09. Perth lost their second Grand Final—both at home—in three seasons and is now tied with Sydney FC with two Grand final losses—one behind Brisbane Roar's three (Canberra United and Melbourne Victory have each lost one title match).
Melbourne City was only the second team to finish fourth in the regular season and win the Grand Final, after Sydney FC in 2012/13. City overcame a six game winless streak after winning four straight to open the season, but secured a playoff berth with two wins to close out the regular season. Perth tied for first in points in 2016/17 with 23, losing the Premiership crown on goal difference to Canberra; a substantial improvement over their 11 points and eighth place finish last season.
Carl Lloyd joins Manchester City and other WSL transfers
U.S. international forward Carli Lloyd is heading to Manchester City for the 2017 Super League season and Spring UEFA Champions League Cup matches. The two time FIFA player of the year and scorer of a hat trick in the 2015 Women's World Cup final for the U.S. had indicated in 2015 that she might be interested in playing in England. The lack of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement has essentially left National team players free to explore other options, though once a new agreement is in place, they would be expected to be allocated to their 2016 teams. Lloyd has been with the tremendously disappointing Houston Dash for two seasons—who may not ever make the playoffs as long as they stay with Randy Waldrum as coach. At this point, Lloyd plans on returning to the Dash once the spring schedule is completed by City, though one expects that she may have options (and perhaps pressure) to stay longer. She joins national teammates Crystal Dunn (Chelsea) and Heather O'Reilly (Arsenal) as other transfers to the Super League for 2017, though they both signed permanent agreements. Lloyd told City TV: “I'm always looking for different challenges. I always want to continue to get better and look for ways where I am going to be able to push my game. Coming here and being part of City is going to do that. It's definitely an unbelievable opportunity to be able to compete in the Spring Series, the FA Cup and most importantly, the Champions League." Manchester City won the FA Women's Super League in 2016, two years after it entered the top flight of English women's soccer.
Goalkeeper Michelle Betos is moving to Valerenga in Norway's Toppserien after four years in NWSL--a year in Seattle as back up to Hope Solo and then the last three years in Portland, where she was backup to former German World Cup star Nadine Angerer and then former U.S. youth international Adrianna Franch. In 2016 she was Mark Parson's (former Chelsea assistant coach) first choice in goal and started 14 games, posting a 1.14 GAA average in 14 games with 4 clean sheets as the Thorns won the NWSL Shield as regular season champions. She was outstanding in last fall's 4-3 pulsating semifinal defeat at home to eventual champion Western New York Flash (now the North Carolina Courage). She will be long remembered for scoring in stoppage time in 2015 when Portland, down a player and a goal, scored to tie the match from a corner against FC Kansas City.
U.S. international defender Whitney Engen has left the Boston Breakers and could be another US National Team member headed for Europe. Engen has a 2015 Women's World Cup Winners Medal (though she was the only field player to not see action) and has always been seen as a “nearly women" in terms of for the national team level—essentially a backup. She played in England for Boston's head coach Matt Beard at Liverpool in 2013 and with Tyreso in Sweden and could return to the FA WSL or Sweden or head to Germany or France. The 29 year old played the last three seasons in NWSL with Houston, Western New York and Boston, always on a non-playoff team. Engen is a very competent defender who should find a productive home with some side, again most likely in Europe.
Three new teams join USD including one in Canada
Three more UWS franchises were announced this week: Indy Premier Soccer club is the seventh team in the new Midwest Conference and will play at Trinity Sports Park in Noblesville, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis.
The first new expansion franchise in the Eastern Conference is the Syracuse Developmental Academy (SDA). The team has been playing previously in the WPSL as the SDA Lady Knights. SDA is a member of the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy and offers programs for boys and girls from ages 4 to 19 years old. SDA was established in 2004 and its overall vision is to have programs to develop players for all levels from recreational/travel, premier soccer, amateur young adult level through professional teams. Brooke Barbuto, who played at Stony Brook University and then professionally with the Buffalo Flash in the USL W-League (winning a league title in 2010) then in Iceland with Haukar and Finland with GBK and Nice Futis, where she had 26 goals, 10 assists and was the team MVP.
A new franchise has also joined the Western Conference as Calgary Foothills Women's FC has joined for 2017. They have been exploring entering a women's team for some years and their men's USL PDL team were the division and conference champions in 2016. The UWS entry into Canada is significant for the league and could motivate other franchises to join, including some former USL W-League teams such as the Laval Cometes, Ottawa Fury, Quebec City Amaral and Toronto Lynx. Moving into Canada is an inspired move for the UWS as soccer is the most popular youth sport in the country—a few years ago surpassing even hockey--and women contribute well over a third of all soccer players, according to recent FIFA figures.
Tim Grainey is a contributor for Tribalfootball. His latest book is Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey