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The Week in Women's Football: CONCACAF awards; Ireland in California

This week, we review the Republic of Ireland's Women's National Team tour to California, for friendlies with the U.S. full and U-23 national teams. We also present the CONCACAF women's award winners for 2015.

This week, the Republic of Ireland was in the United States for a national team camp and to play the U.S. National Team on Saturday, January 23 in San Diego, with another game (closed door session) versus the U.S. U-23 team on Monday January 25 at the U.S. National Team training center in Carson (suburban Los Angeles).

In the first game, the Americans overwhelmed Ireland 5-0, with four goals coming in the first half, including a hat trick from Carli Lloyd, playing more as a true forward than her traditional midfield role. Lloyd's goals came in the 6th, 21st and 28th minutes; with line mate Alex Morgan assisting on the first two goals. Morgan, making her 100th appearance for the full national team, scored in the 45th minute on a feed from Lloyd. With a second half of 12 combined substitutes, 17-year-old American forward Mallory Pugh entered the game for her debut cap in the 58th minute and scored her first goal 25 minutes later.

Pugh—who is still a senior in high school and looks to be attending UCLA next fall, despite some reports that she was considering bypassing college to play in the NWSL with Portland Thorns—is a youth international team veteran for the Americans. The Americans had 23 shots during the game versus only 2 for the Republic of Ireland, with a 9 shots on goals to 2 advantage. The game attracted 23,309 fans to San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium.

The Republic's manager, Sue Ronan, made a late addition for the tour, bringing in Irish/American defender Grace Wright—a youth international with Ireland and currently a sophomore at Texas A&M—to replace Chelsea's Niamh Fahey, who withdrew from the squad due to a knee injury. The team is quite young, with five other youth internationals: Katie McCabe, Clare Shine, Megan Connolly, Ciara Rossiter and Savannah McCarthy, who were instrumental in Ireland making the U-19 European Championship semifinals in 2014.

The full squad for the California trip was:

Goalkeepers: Emma Byrne (Arsenal/England), Niamh Reid Burke (Shelbourne)

Defenders: Meabh De Burca (Galway), Megan Campbell (Unattached), Jessica Gleeson (Wexford Youths), Savannah McCarthy (Galway), Aine O'Gorman (UCD Waves), Sophie Perry (Brighton & Hove Albion/England), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United/Sweden), Ciara Rossiter (Wexford Youths), Grace Wright (Texas A&M/USA).

Midfielders: Diane Caldwell (Unattached), Karen Duggan (UCD Waves), Siobhan Killeen (Shelbourne), Ruesha Littlejohn (Glasgow City/Scotland), Katie McCabe (Arsenal/England), Denise O'Sullivan (Glasgow City/Scotland), Julie Ann Russell (UCD Waves).

Forwards: Megan Connolly (Florida State University/USA), Fiona O'Sullivan (Unattached), Stephanie Roche (Sunderland/England), Clare Shine (Glasgow City/Scotland).

After a long career in Europe, in Sweden, France, Germany and with Notts County in England, Fiona O'Sullivan is now an assistant coach at her alma mater, the University of San Francisco, and runs her own soccer camp business in the Bay Area.

Defender Megan Campbell—a recent graduate of Florida State University—is going to pursue a professional career.

Campbell said about her time at Florida State: “Florida State was great and I loved it over there."

She was the first women's Irish player to ever win an NCAA Division 1 soccer championship. Campbell played in Ireland with Raheny United, winning a league title and the Women's FAI Cup in 2013. About the match with the Americans, she said: “Who wouldn't say they'd be looking forward to playing the U.S. World Champions? It's a great opportunity for the younger players, to experience that. We will all enjoy it and thrive on it."

Forward Stephanie Roche played with the Houston Dash last season, where she was a teammate of Carli Lloyd's, but now is with Sunderland. She focused on how playing the World Champions would help the Irish in their quest to make the European Championships next year for the first time: “[This game] gives us experience to learn from our mistakes in our last few Euros and do well the rest of the year."

Ireland has played three Euro matches and is in fourth place in their group, behind Spain, Finland and Portugal. They fell to Finland, 2-0, Spain 3-0 and defeated Portugal 2-1.

Megan Connolly, who had such a tremendous freshman season at Florida State in 2015, being named to the All-American team after scoring 9 goals and 10 assists in 22 games, said: “Moving halfway around the world turned out better than expected."

She said about facing the Americans: “Growing up watching the U.S. team and in World Cup, playing them, and hopefully to get some game time, is awesome." Connolly made her national team debut in the 71st minute for the Irish in the San Diego match.

The U.S. team was missing some key players from the World Cup Team that was victorious in Canada due to injuries: midfielder Megan Rapinoe who is recovering from a torn ACL, midfielder Morgan Brian (knee), and defenders Becky Sauerbrunn (knee) and Julie Johnston (groin strain). The U.S. defeated Ireland 3-0 last May in San Jose, just before the Women's World Cup. The team squad for the game in San Diego was:

GOALKEEPERS: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign).

DEFENDERS: Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Jaelene Hinkle (WNY Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns).

MIDFIELDERS: Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Danielle Colaprico (Chicago Red Stars), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Univ. of Wisconsin), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (WNY Flash), Heather O'Reilly (FC Kansas City).

FORWARDS: Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Sydney Leroux (FC Kansas City), Stephanie McCaffrey (Boston Breakers), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado).

For the U.S. U-23's, coached by University of Virginia head coach Steve Sampson—who won the U-20 Women's World Cup in 2012 and is now a national team assistant coach—five players come from the NWSL, with the balance being college-tied, though four were drafted in the recent NWSL draft: Abby Smith (Boston Breakers), Erica Skroski (Sky Blue FC), Samantha Wittemann (Orlando Pride) and Mackenzy Doniak (Western New York Flash). The roster includes nine players who have represented the USA in a FIFA Women's World Cup at the youth level.

U-23 Women's National Team Roster by Position:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Stanford), Katelyn Rowland (FC Kansas City), Abby Smith (Texas)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (Western New York Flash),Caprice Dydasco (Washington Spirit), Kristen McNabb (Virginia), Kayla Mills (USC), Gabrielle Seiler (Florida), Erica Skroski (Rutgers), Christen Westphal (Florida)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Marti Corby (Grand Valley State), Mandy Freeman (USC), Christina Gibbons (Duke), Shea Groom (FC Kansas City), Alexis Shaffer (Virginia), Havana Solaun (Seattle Reign), Josee Stiever (Minnesota), Andi Sullivan (Stanford), Mallory Weber (Penn State) Samantha Witteman (California)

FORWARDS (6): Mackenzy Doniak (Virginia; Chino Hills, Calif.), Tyler Lussi (Princeton), McKenzie Meehan (Boston College), Toni Payne (Duke), Taylor Smith (UCLA), Murielle Tiernan (Virginia Tech)


CONCACAF BEST XI FOR 2015

CONCACAF named its annual best eleven squad, with five Costa Ricans, four Americans from the Women's World Cup champions and two from Mexico. Hope Solo was named goalkeeper of the year and Carli Lloyd was named player of the year. Lloyd was also named FIFA Player of the Year and U.S. Soccer Player of the Year for 2015 and won the CONCACAF goal of the year title (for men and women).

CONCACAF Female Best XI:

GK: Hope Solo (GK/USA), Seattle Reign FC (USA)

DF: Kenti Robles (DF/MEX), Atletico Madrid (ESP); Becky Sauerbrunn (DF/USA), FC Kansas City FC (USA); Lixy Rodriguez (DF/CRC), UCEM Alajuela (CRC); Diana Saenz (DF/CRC), University of South Florida (USA)

MF: Carli Lloyd (MF/USA), Houston Dash (USA); Shirley Cruz (MF/CRC), Paris Saint-Germain FC (FRA); Katherine Alvarado (MF/CRC), Saprissa (CRC); Veronica Perez (MF/MEX), Canberra United FC (AUS)

FW: Alex Morgan (FW/USA), Orlando Pride (USA); Raquel Rodriguez (FW/CRC), Penn State University (USA)

Note: Perez is headed to Sweden to play with KIF Orebro and Rodriguez was drafted by Sky Blue FC in NWSL.

CONCACAF Female Player of the Year

1. Carli Lloyd (MF/USA); Houston Dash (USA)

2. Alex Morgan (FW/USA); Orlando Pride (USA)

3. Shirley Cruz (MF/CRC); Paris Saint-Germain FC (FRA)

CONCACAF Female Goalkeeper of the Year

1. Hope Solo (GK/USA); Seattle Reign FC (USA)

2. Dinnia Diaz (GK/CRC); Moravia (CRC)

3. Cecilia Santiago (GK/MEX); Apollon Limassol (CYP)

CONCACAF Female Coach of the Year

1. Jill Ellis (USA); United States Women's National Team

2. Amelia Valverde (CRC); Costa Rica Women's National Team

3. Raiza Gutierrez (PAN); Panama Women's National Team/Panama Women's Under-20 National Team

Next week we review the 2015/16 Westfield W-League season in Australia and the Grand Final on January 31, 2016, along with more NWSL signings and player news.

Tim Grainey
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Tim Grainey

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