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The Week in Women's Football: Champions League Round of 32; USWNT roster released; Portland take home NWSL title;

This week we review the round of 32 ties is the UEFA Women's Champions League and look at the roster for the U.S. Women's National Team to face South Korea in two matches later this month. The Portland Thorns win the 2017 League Final with a 1-0 win over the North Carolina Courage on October 14.


UEFA Women's Champions League Round of 32 Matches

Gintra Universitetas of Lithuania was drawn with FC Zurich of Switzerland in the 2017-18 Women's Champions League Round of 32; both sides made it through last month's Round of 64 (of which 11 of 40 teams made it in total out of 10 groups of 4 teams each), with the Swiss advancing as the best second place finisher in the ten groups. For the first leg on October 4 in Lithuania, the two sides tied 1-1 but Gintra shocked the Swiss by winning 2-1 away on October 11, to take the tie 3-2, with both goals in the away leg coming from their prolific Namibian striker Zenitha Coleman, just back from Southern African regional championship play (COSAFA) at the national team level, with her winning goal coming four minutes from time. Gintra have advanced to the Round of 16 for the second time in 12 appearances in the Champions League, following their maiden trip to the Round of 16 in 2014-15, defeating Sparta Prague on penalties at this same stage before following to Brondby of Denmark (5-2 on aggregate) on that occasion.

BIIK-Kazygurt of Kazakhstan leveraged a 3-0 home leg win over Glasgow City of Scotland on October 4 to cruise into the second leg on October 12, seemingly all booked for its second consecutive Round of 16 appearance in the UEFA Women's Champions League when Nigerian import Chinwendu Ihezuo scored in the 19th minute for a 4-0 aggregate lead but then 22-year-old Abbi Grant scored a hat trickwithin twenty minutes (43rd to 63rd minute) along with Republic of Ireland import, 2016 Player of the Year in the Continental Tyres Women's National League while with Shelbourne Noelle Murray's 59th minute goal to put a fright into Kaloyan Petkov's side. Incredibly Leanne Ross (37-year old veteran who recently retired from the Scottish national side with 133 caps) thumped a post with a late penalty kick that would have given the tie to the Scots, but BIIK's defensive effort in the last few minutes ultimately gave them the round of 16 berth on Ihezuo's early away goal. All credit to the Scots for not folding it in and they finished with 25 total shot attempts to only 5 for BIIK (6-3 for shots on frame).

Another Qualifying Stage winner to advance from the round of 32 shocked most of European women's football followers after a game for the ages as Starjnan of Iceland advanced to the Round of 32 by blasting Rossiyanka 4-0 in Russia in the second leg, after a 1-1 tie in their home leg on October 5, winning the tie on aggregate 5-1. In the second leg, Harpa Thorsteinsdottir had the first two goals on close shots near the goal while Katrin Asbjornsdottir scored the third and Rossiyanka goalkeeper Anastaiya Ananyeva surrendered the fourth when she mishandled a high ball. Jamaican-American Donna Henry was impactful and impressive in the middle of the pitch and the Icelandic side could easily have doubled the score; they were that dominate with multiple chances on goal, finishing with 12 shots overall to 3, with 6 on target to none for Rossiyanka. Former Scottish international goalkeeper Gemma Fay recorded the shutout for Starjnan. This will be the first time that Starjnan has advanced to the Round of 16 in their fourth appearance in the Women's Champions League.

One huge surprise from the Qualifying Stage in late August was ZFK Minsk of Belarus, who advanced to the Round of 32 on goal difference over FC Zurich of Switzerland. Both teams entered the final group game tied on 6 points, but Minsk had a superior goal difference of +13 vs. + 6, which held up after the team's 0-0 draw on August 28. In the Round of 32, Minsk fell at home to Slavia Prague 3-1 in the first leg on October 4 but scored three times on the road in the return leg on October 11 while still falling 4-3. The Czech Republic side advanced to the Round of 16 by 7-4 on aggregate. Local player Katerina Switkova scored a hat trick in the second leg clincher for Slavia.

PAOK of Greece, another Qualifying Stage group winner, lost 5-0 in the first stage at Thessolonikia to the other Czech side in the Round of 32—Sparta Prague—who then won the home leg 3-0 at home to take the tie 8-0 on aggregate. Andrea Staskova of the Czech Republic scored a brace in the second leg while Czechoslovakian international midfielder Irena Martinkova (who once played with her twin sister for Orebro of Sweden) scored a hat trick in the first leg). Prague will see double on their women's sides as both Sparta and Slavia advanced to the next stage, the first time a city has had two teams qualify at this late stage.

Among the other qualifiers from the Round of 64 groups last month, Medyk Konin of Poland fell to Olympique Lyon 5-0 in the first leg on October 4 and then lost in France 9-0 for a 14-0 aggregate defeat. French international Wendie Renard scored a hat trick and Norwegian international Ada Hegerberg scored a brace in the second leg. English international back Lucy Bronze scored once. Medyk has made this stage of the UEFA Women's Club Championship for the fourth consecutive year.

Apollon of Cyprus lost narrowly at home to Swedish champions Linkoping 1-0 in the first leg; Linkoping won the return leg handedly in Sweden 3-0, with a brace from Swedish international Lina Hurtig within 5 minutes midway through the second half. The reigning Swedish champions advanced with a 4-0 aggregate victory.

In Norway, host side Avaldsnes fell 4-0 to rampant Barcelona of Spain in the first leg. The Spanish side definitely wants to improve on their last four finish in the 2016-17 edition of the European Club Championship. Barcelona finished off the Norwegians 2-0 at home on October 11, with goals from Lieke Martens of the Netherlands and Vicki Losada of Spain (who played for Arsenal in 2015 and 2016 after time with the Western New York Flash in 2014 in the NWSL) early in the second half for a 6-0 aggregate victory. English international Toni Duggan, Martens, Brazilian international Andressa Alves and Spanish international forward Mariona Caldentey all scored in the first leg.

The other Norwegian side in the Round of 32 also advanced. LSK Kvinner held Danish champion side Brondby 0-0 in the first leg at home October 4 but LSK shocked the Danes 3-1 in the second leg away to advance to the round of 16. Norwegian international forward Emilie Haavi—just back after a disappointing season with Boston Breakers in the NWSL—scored in the 66th minute to clinch the tie along with early goals from Norwegian forward Marte Berget (8th minute) and German international midfielder Isabelle Bachor (21). Haavi returned to LSK, having played there for four seasons before moving to Boston this past spring.

Women's Champions League debutants Ajax continued their winning ways after their Group triumph in the Qualifying Round by defeating Brescia of Italy 1-0 at home but the Italians reversed the deficit on October 11 at home, advancing 2-1 on aggregate. For Bescia, Polish international midfielder Katarzyna Daleszczyk—who just joined the Italian side from Medik Konin—countered Ajax's first leg goal in the 23th minute to knot the tie on aggregate. Defender Monica Mendes of Portugal scored the winner with 7 minutes left for Brescia.

The second Italian side in the Women's Champions League—defending Italian League champions Fiorentina—defeated Fortuna of Denmark at home 2-1 in the first leg and then a goalless draw in Denmark sent the Purple-jersey side onto the Round of 16. Both Italian sides advanced to the Round of 16.

Wolfsburg of Germany defeated Atletico Madrid 3-0 away on October 4 and then quadrupled their scoring at home in a shocking 12-2 win in the second leg. German international Alexandra Popp scored a hat trick while Dutch international Pernille Harder, Swiss international Lara Dickenmann and Belgium international Tessa Wullaert all scored braces in the second leg.

Chelsea of England had a tough draw versus Bayern Munich of Germany but won 1-0 at home on Oct 4 and then lost 2-1 on October 11 in Munich but advanced on away goals, with all three tallies in the game coming in the second half. English international Fran Kirby scored the crucial goal for Chelsea on the hour, while her club and England teammate Gemma Davison—who won a W-League and WPS Championship with the Buffalo/Western New York Flash in 2010 and 2011—scored an own goal in the 76th minutes, after Czech international forward Lucie Vonkova (who joined Bayern from FF USV Jena in the off season), scored in the 56th minute for the German club.

The other English side in the WCL—Manchester City—also advanced to the Round of 16, winning 3-0 away at St. Polten of Austria in the first let and then again by the same score in the return leg at home on October 12, with goals from English international and 2012 Great Britain Olympian Jill Scott, Nikita Parris and substitute and English youth international Melissa Lawley. In the first away leg, English international defenders Demi Stokes and Steph Houghton and Parris scored the goals.

A minor shock in the first round was Montpellier of France falling at home to Russian club Zvezda 2005 1-0, but the French side turned the tie around on the road on October 11 with a 2-0 win to take the tie 2-1 on aggregate, with both goals coming from Sofia Jacobsson of Sweden, who earlier in her career played in Russia with Rossiyanka, before joining Chelsea in 2013 and then Cloppenburg of Germany afterwards.

Olimpia Cluj of Romania fell 1-0 at home to Rosengard of Sweden on October 5 and lost away by a 4-0 scoreline on October 11 for a 5-0 defeat on aggregate. All of Rosengard's goals in the return leg in Malmo were scored by players with national team experience: German international Anja Mittag, Croatian midfielder Iva Landeka, Sweden's Hanna Folkesson and Iceland's Glodis Viggosdottir. Sweden's Zecira Musovic in goal pitched the shutout, with Canadian international goalkeeper Erin McLeod on the bench. Former WPS players Ali Riley (New Zealand), Anita Asante (England), Swedish international midfielder Caroline Seger and American forward Ella Masar all started the second leg, which was a good win by Eva Malin Levenstad, recently named head coach and at age 29 is the youngest coach in the Damallsvenskan. Levenstad spent most of her career with Rosengard's predecessor Malmo, appearing in over 150 games, and had a few caps with Sweden. Canadian rookie Jenna Hellstrom (ex-Kent State University) was on the bench but did not play.

Three teams advanced from the Qualifying Stage to Round of 16: Gintra Universitetas of Lithuania, BIIK-Kazygurt of Kazakhstan and Starjnan of Iceland. Two sides advanced from five nations to the Round of 16: the Czech Republic, Italy, England, Sweden and France. The Round of 16 draw is on Monday October 16 with the two legs on November 8-9 and 15-16.



US Roster for matches with the Korea Republic

U.S. Women's National Team Coach Jill Ellis named 22 players for two games against Korea Republic later this month, in New Orleans on October 19th at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and on October 22 at Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina—the home of the regular season champion NWSL North Caroline Courage. Twenty were with the side for their two victories against New Zealand last month. Carli Lloyd returns from injury while Andi Sullivan, a senior at Stanford, has a chance to add to her four caps. Other than Sullivan and Crystal Dunn of Chelsea, the rest of the side are based with NWSL teams. Midfielder Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers) will be in training camp as she works her way back to full fitness but will not be on the roster for the matches.

To qualify for France 2019, South Korea needs to finish in the top five in a tournament in April in Jordan with seven other sides: host Jordan, Japan, Australia, China PR, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, with five teams advancing to the 2019 Women's World Cup.


U.S. Women's National Team Roster by Position (Caps/Goals):
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 1/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 13/0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 9/0), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 53/11), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars; 1/0), Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC; 101/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City; 131/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 15/0), Taylor Smith (NC Courage; 5/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 132/18), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 39/4), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash; 242/97), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC; 31/5), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 30/5), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 125/33), Andi Sullivan (Stanford; 4/0)

FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC; 55/22), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 130/77), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars; 92/43), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 28/6), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 11/3).



Portland Thorns win their Second NWSL title in 5 years.

The Portland Thorns won a hard-fought NWSL Final over the North Carolina Courage 1-0 on October 14 in Orlando, Florida. U.S. international Lindsey Horan scored from a long free kick by Emily Sonnett for the winning goal in the 50th minute in front of a somewhat disappointing crowd of 8.124, which no doubt would have been much larger if the hometown Pride had triumphed in their semifinal last weekend against the Thorns. Interestingly, Portland's first NWSL title win was in 2013 when they defeated the Western New York Flash, the predecessor of the current North Carolina Courage and the 2016 champions. The match was very physical throughout the game, with the Courage having to substitute starters Taylor Smith in defense (12th minute) and Kristen Hamilton (39th minute) in the first half, both after hard fouls by U.S. international Tobin Heath, who herself only played in 2 regular season games after recovering from a back injury. Head Coach Paul Riley said after the match: "I'm obviously disappointed. I thought we played a brilliant game overall. Obviously two early substitutions changed the formation a little bit, but I give a lot of credit to our players who hung in there, outplayed them. I thought we were the better team overall."

Mark Parsons, the former Chelsea assistant said: 'It was a battle out there and a very tight game with not much rhythm until the last 20 [minutes], once we kind of sunk in a bit too much. It was a physical and intense battle. We look at what we tried to achieve in the game on the defensive side of the ball we ticked a lot of boxes. We knew it was going to be really hard to get into the game and get rhythm. I thought they did a great job of pressing us, pressing our backline and pressing the center mids. And when the opportunities came, and there wasn't [sic] many of them, we put the ball in a couple of dangerous areas. What Lindsey [Horan] all year has continued to grow and she's the best and biggest in enormous games. You think back in the last two years, the semifinal of last year, the person who grabbed that goal to make it 4-3 was Lindsey. Thankful the ball dropped to her and knew it was going to end up in one place. Tight game, maybe the most beautiful ugly game I've ever been a part of. Glad we won and that's over." Parsons won the title in his second season with Portland, after coaching the Washington Spirit.

2017 NWSL Final Lineups:
NC Courage: Katelyn Rowland; Jaelene Hinkle, Abby Erceg (C), Abby Dahlkemper, Taylor Smith (Makenzy Doniak,12'); Denise O'Sullivan (Stephanie Ochs, 86'), Sam Mewis, McCall Zerboni, Kristen Hamilton (Jessica McDonald, 39'); Lynn Williams, Ashley Hatch

Subs not used: Sabrina D'Angelo, Meredith Speck, Samantha Witteman, Nora Holstad

Portland Thorns: Adrianna Franch; Emily Sonnett, Amandine Henry (Allie Long, 90'+), Meghan Klingenberg, Katherine Reynolds; Emily Menges, Ashleigh Sykes (Dagny Brynjarsdottir, 54'; Hayley Raso (Nadia Nadim, 69'), Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan; Christine Sinclair ©

Subs not used: Britt Eckerstrom, Tyler Lussi, Celeste Bourelle, Mallory Weber

Score:
NCC: 0
POR: 1

Goals:
NCC:
POR: Lindsey Horan (Emily Sonnett, 50')

Attendance: 8,124

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

Tim Grainey
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Tim Grainey

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