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The Week in Women's Football: Liga MX Femenil review; Big NWSL offseason trades; Brian leaves Chicago for Olympique Lyonnaise

This week, we look at a key trade within NWSL and movement into and out of the league by international level players. We also review the opening championship of the first year Mexican league.


Major Offseason Trade—Shea Groom moves to Sky Blue FC while Kelley O'Hara is sent West to the Utah Stars
Sky Blue FC of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) sent defender Kelley O'Hara, midfielder Taylor Lytle and the no. 25 overall pick (a third round selection) in the 2018 NWSL College Draft to the Utah Royals FC (formerly the FC Kansas City franchise), while forward Shea Groom, defender Christina Gibbons and the no. 4 overall selection in the 2018 NWSL College Draft (to be held later this month) are transferred to Sky Blue FC. With the importance of the college draft every year in the NWSL—particularly the first round pick that Sky Blue received—these types of pre-draft trades typically involve experienced players and an opportunity to bring in talented rookies for the last remaining spots on the sides.

Shea Groom (24) scored 41 goals and 25 assists during her college career at Texas A&M. She was a number 12 overall pick in the 2015 NWSL College Draft by FC Kansas City and won a NWSL title with the Blues later that season, with 4 goals and 2 assists. In 2016, Groom was fifth in the league with a team-leading eight goals and was selected to the NWSL Second XI team. This past season, she had a team-best five assists and finishing second on her club with five goals. On the international front, Groom represented the U.S. U-23 Women's National Team in the 2015 La Manga Tournament in Spain

Gibbons, 22, was the no. 5 overall selection of FC Kansas City in the 2017 NWSL College Draft after finishing her career at Duke University, where she was a two-time College All American. During her rookie season for FC Kansas City in 2017, Gibbons started 23 of 24 contests and played a total of 2083 minutes, a team high, with 1 goal and 3 assists. She has played for the U.S. at the U-20 and U-23 level and is now playing for Melbourne Victory in Australia's Westfield W-League on loan.


For Utah, O'Hara and Lytle were two of the original members of Sky Blue FC from when the NWSL kicked off in 2013. O'Hara is second on Sky Blue for all-time goals scored with 15 and leads the team with 18 assists. For the U.S. National Team, the former forward at Stanford turned defender in the pros has 102 caps and won an Olympic Gold Medal in 2012 and Women's World Cup in 2015. O'Hara said about the trade: "I am excited to start a new adventure, playing for an organization that is invested in building a championship club within the NWSL. In my time with the USWNT, playing in Salt Lake has always been a top-notch experience with amazing facilities and a dedicated fan base."

Lytle has been a key player for Sky Blue for 5 years, appreciated by fans of the league and the team for her initiative and creative play, and finished with 5 goals and 11 assists over five seasons. Sky Blue FC now has a pair of first-round picks and will select back-to-back at no. 4 and no. 5 overall in the upcoming 2018 NWSL College Draft.



Utah signs Icelandic International Gunnhildur Jonsdottir

The Utah Royals have added Icelandic international forward Gunnhildur Jonsdottir for the 2018 season. Jonsdottir has been playing professionally in Norway for 5 years, with Valerenga last season (finishing seventh of twelve teams) and before that with Stabaek, Grand Bodo and Arna-Bjornar. The 29 year old has almost 50 caps for Iceland and helped them make the 2013 UEFA Championship Quarterfinals. She said: "I am so excited and grateful for the opportunity to play for Utah Royals FC this year. I have heard such great things about [head coach] Laura [Harvey], and I know I will learn a lot from her. In my conversations with Laura and the other Utah staff, I can already tell there is a great support system, and level of commitment from everyone involved."



Morgan Brian leaves Chicago for Olympique Lyonnaies

In a move in the opposite direct from Jonsdottir's move from Europe to NWSL, U.S. international midfielder Morgan Brian has left the Chicago Red Stars to join Olympique Lyonnaise, a route taken last year by national teammate Alex Morgan. Morgan's deal was a loan arrangement for five months from the Orlando Pride earlier this year; Brian however has signed a reported two and one-half year deal with the French giant. Brian was the number one draft pick of the Houston Dash in 2015 after playing at the University of Virginia and was already a senior international while in college. She won the Women's World Cup in 2015 with the U.S. and was a late season trade to Chicago in 2017. If she returns to the NWSL at any point in her career, Chicago will retain her rights.

Morgan will play in Lyon with French international midfielder Amandine Henry, who announced late last year that she was returning to Lyon after two successful seasons with the Portland Thorns, including a NWSL title win in 2017.



Mexico Liga MX Femenil Apertura (Opening) Championship Review

The 2017-18 Liga MX Femenil season in Mexico is at the half way stage, having finished the Apertura (Opening) championship late last year. The league began with a Cup competition in the Spring which saw Pachuca defeating Club Tijuana 9-1 in the final.

The inaugural season of the league, originally designed to be primarily a U-23 league—based on men's professional sides—has had a controversial start with national team players with dual citizenships (U.S.) banned from the league—resulting in the retirement of well-traveled Mexican-American midfielder Veronica Perez (Australia, Iceland, Sweden, NWSL and WPS) as a result.

Chivas of Guadalajara won the Apertura Championship (of one round of matches) held from July to November, with Lucero Cuevas of Club America of Mexico City finishing atop of the league goal scorers' table with 15 goals. The 22-year-old won her first cap this season for the senior Mexican side. In second place were Cuevas' Aguilas teammate, and 18-year-old Mexican youth international Dayana Cezares, 15-year-old youth international Natalia Mauleo of Toluca, 29-year-old Desiree Monsivais of Monterrey—who once played for Kazakhstan power BBIK Kazygurt—and 23-year-old Alicia Cervantes of Atlas, who all had 10 goals.The league averaged a healthy 3.39 goals a match.

Guadalajara was coached by Luis Camacho—a 34 year old former player in the Mexican League who took the Guadalajara women's job after two seasons at Real San Cosme in Puebla in the Mexican 3rd Division for men. Guadalajara was led by Tania Morales (29), who played for Mexico in the U-20 World Cup in Russia in 2006. Club America is coached by long-time former national team head coach Luis Cuellar and led by goalkeeper Cecelia Santiago, who was rostered for 4 U-20 World Cups and played for the senior team at the 2011 WWC as a 16 year old. Pachuca coach Eva Espejo is one to watch as she was named CONCACAF's 2017 Coach of the Year and has forward Monica Ocampo on the side, who played for years in the U.S. with FC Indiana, the Atlanta Beat in WPS and Sky Blue FC in NWSL. Tijuana is coached by Andrea Rodebaugh, who played at the University of California, then club ball in Japan and France and was a national team midfielder for Mexico at the 1999 Women's World Cup, her country's first time at the event.

The one non-Mexican coach in the league is UANL's Osvaldo Batoeletti, a native of Argentina who has been in Mexico as a player and coach for decades, while fellow Argentine compatriot Pablo Bocco of Cruz Azul—who has coached men's teams in Argentina, Mexico and Honduras—was replaced in November by Alberto Aguilar of Mexico.

Club America topped the Apertura table with 35 points and only one loss but lost in the semifinals to Guadalajara who finished one point behind in joint second with UANL. Pachuca advanced to the semifinals as the second place club in Group B, even though they had one point less than Monterrey, who finished third in Group A; the two highest placed teams in each group advanced to the playoffs. Veracruz finished at the bottom had 2 ties in 14 games and scored only 8 goals with 35 against.

In the semifinals, Guadalajara defeated Club America 4-2 in the first leg at home in front of 2,153 and clinched the tie with a 2-2 draw in the second leg in Mexico City in front of a crowd of 18,827 for a 6-4 aggregate win. Pachuca won its home leg 4-0 against UANL before losing the return leg 3-0, in front of 14,702, to narrowly advance on aggregate 4-3. Guadalajara won the tie with a 3-0 second leg home victory over Pachuca with two goals from Mexican youth international Arlett Tovar (20) and the winner from Mexican U-20 international forward Norma Palafox (19) in front of 32,466, having lost the first leg away 2-0 in front of 28,955 fans.

The Torneo Clausura will start this month and hopeful attendances will continue to be strong.

The 2017-18 Torneo Apertura Final Overall and Group Standings are as follows:

Pos

Pld

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Pts

1

América

14

11

2

1

48

11

+37

35

2

UANL

14

11

1

2

51

7

+44

34

3

Guadalajara(C)

14

11

1

2

33

10

+23

34

4

Monterrey

14

10

1

3

38

17

+21

31

5

Pachuca

14

9

3

2

36

16

+20

30

6

Toluca

14

8

2

4

26

16

+10

26

7

UNAM

14

5

6

3

24

15

+9

21

8

Atlas

14

6

2

6

24

29

−5

20

9

Tijuana

14

5

4

5

17

19

−2

19

10

Querétaro

14

5

2

7

19

29

−10

17

11

Morelia

14

5

1

8

10

29

−19

16

12

Necaxa

14

2

4

8

8

22

−14

10

13

León

14

3

1

10

18

42

−24

10

14

Cruz Azul

14

2

2

10

9

37

−28

8

15

Santos Laguna

14

1

2

11

11

46

−35

5

16

Veracruz

14

0

2

12

8

35

−27

2


Group 1

Pos

Team

Pld

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Pts

1

América

14

11

2

1

48

11

+37

35

2

Pachuca

14

9

3

2

36

16

+20

30

3

Toluca

14

8

2

4

26

16

+10

26

4

UNAM

14

5

6

3

24

15

+9

21

5

Tijuana

14

5

4

5

17

19

−2

19

6

Morelia

14

5

1

8

10

29

−19

16

7

Cruz Azul

14

2

2

10

9

37

−28

8

8

Veracruz

14

0

2

12

8

35

−27

2


Group 2

Pos

Team

Pld

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

Pts

1

UANL

14

11

1

2

51

7

+44

34

2

Guadalajara

14

11

1

2

33

10

+23

34

3

Monterrey

14

10

1

3

38

17

+21

31

4

Atlas

14

6

2

6

24

29

−5

20

5

Querétaro

14

5

2

7

19

29

−10

17

6

Necaxa

14

2

4

8

8

22

−14

10

7

León

14

3

1

10

18

42

−24

10

8

Santos Laguna

14

1

2

11

11

46

−35

5




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
About the author

Tim Grainey

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