This week we look at the Sweden's Damallsvenskan league season, which just ended this month. We also update the reader on some roster changes in the NWSL, focusing on the Boston Breakers and Seattle Reign.
Linkopings wins Swedish League Title
Linkopings won the 2016 Swedish Damallsvenskan championship—their second in their history after a 2009 title—with a solid ten point lead (62 versus 52 points) over three time consecutive defending champions (nine times champion time champions overall) and powerhouse Rosengard (formerly Malmo). Rosengard has now been league runners-up in eleven seasons. Eskilstuna United (38 points) and Pitea IF (37 points) were a distant third and fourth respectively. At the other end of the table, Mallbackens and Umea are relegated, but both entered the final weekend with hopes of avoiding the drop. Umea tied Kristianstads, two points above them in tenth, (1-1) away, securing Kristianstads' safety as Mallbackens crashed at home to Rosengard (7-0).
On the goals front, Denmark's international Pernille Mosegaard-Harder (24 goals) and Swedish international Stina Blackstenius (20 goals) powered champions Linkopings and finished first and second in league scoring respectively, while Norwegian international Kristine Minde had 11 tallies to finish ninth. Third place goal scorer Tabita Chawinga of Malawi finished with 15 goals with Kvarnsveden. Chawinga is 20 and some of her goals were astounding to watch; she has the speed of a track and field star. There is hope in Sweden that she will qualify soon and decide to play internationally for Sweden. American Ella Masar had a strong season for Rosengard and tied for fourth with 13 goals with teammate and Brazilian international Marta and Mimmi Larsson of Eskilstuna. Macedonia's Natasa Andonova had eight goals for Rosengard to finish tied for 11th with Orebro's Canadian international forward Melissa Tancredi, who has two bronze Olympic medals. Andonova played for years with Turbine Potsdam in Germany before joining Rosengard in 2015. Two of Tancredi's international teammates at Orebro also were among the goals this season: fellow Canadian defender Marie-Eve Nault scored once and Mexican international (and former NWSL player) Veronica Perez had two goals. Only four of the top twelve scorers in the league were Swedish.
Among some of the other imports in Sweden, Republic of Ireland's Louise Quinn had five goals for Eskilstuna, while Australian forward Chloe Logarzo had two. Logarzo is spending the offseason with Newcastle Jets in the Westfield W-League. English native Vaila Barsley, who had previously played in Iceland, had one tally.
On the attendance table, the average league gate was a healthy 815, with Eskilstuna United (1,897), Linkopings FC (1,571) and Pitea IF (1,125) all drawing over 1,000 fans a game. The highlight of the season was the late season crowd of 6,221 to see Minde score the only goal in a 1-0 defeat of Rosengard.
Sweden Damallsvenskan 2016 Season Final Table
Linköpings FC - 22 (Matches), 20 (Wins), 2 (Draws), 0 (Losses), 73-14 (Goals For-Against), 59 (Goal difference), 62 (points)
FC Rosengård - 22, 16, 4, 2, 62-13, 49, 52 pts
Eskilstuna United DFF - 22, 11, 5, 6, 34-26, 8, 38 pts
Piteå IF - 22, 10, 7, 5, 29-31, -2, 37 pts
Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC - 22, 9, 6, 7, 35-24, 11, 33 pts
Djurgårdens IF FF - 22, 7, 6, 9, 32-34, -2, 27 pts
Vittsjö GIK - 22, 5, 9, 8, 29-37, -8, 24 pts
KIF Örebro DFF - 22, 5, 8, 9, 27-38, -11, 23 pts
Kvarnsvedens IK - 22, 5, 8, 9, 30-48, -18, 23 pts
Kristianstads DFF - 22, 3, 6, 13, 18-35, -17, 15 pts
Umeå IK FF - 22, 2, 7, 13, 16-47, -31, 13 pts
Mallbackens IF Sunne - 22, 3, 4, 15, 19-57, -38, 13 pts
NWSL Roster Move Updates
Boston Breakers coach Matt Beard, who won two FA Super League titles at Liverpool, has been very active this offseason as he prepares for his second season in NWSL, determined to improve on last season's disappointing last place finish with only 11 points out of a possible 60. Late last month, the Breakers signed Norwegian international forward Emilie Haavi. Haavi comes from Lillestrom SK where in four seasons she has 49 goals in 82 games. Prior to that she played for Roa and scored 39 times in 51 games. Haavi said about her move: “I'm really looking forward to becoming a member of the Breakers family and wearing that blue jersey. To play in the NWSL has always been a dream of mine. I can't wait to get the season started." Haavi, who played in the 2011 and 2015 Women's World Cups for Norway, has 15 goals in 59 national team matches. Haavi should link up well at the top of the field with English international Natasha Dowie, a late addition last season to the Breakers, who had 3 goals in seven games. The Breakers desperately need to improve their scoring output, having netted only 14 times in their 20 games, for the lowest total in the ten team league.
Boston made some other moves recently, including signing midfielders Rosie White (New Zealand) and acquiring Amanda DaCosta (Portuguese-American) from Chicago Red Stars. White played the past two seasons for Liverpool (for a short time under Matt Beard) and had 4 goals in 33 matches. White previously spent four seasons at UCLA and scored the winning penalty kick in the College Cup final in 2013. She had 17 goals and 12 assists in four seasons, playing in a more forward position. White has 14 goals in 73 games for New Zealand and has played for the Ferns in the past two World Cups and Olympic Games. She has also been to a U-17 World Cup (2008) and two U-20 events (2008, 2010).
DaCosta played for Matt Beard for three seasons at Liverpool and won two league crowns. The former correspondent for Tribal Football.com, DaCosta returned to NWSL for the 2015 season to play for the Washington Spirit where she had 3 goals in 17 matches. She was traded to the Red Stars ahead of the 2016 season and appeared in 13 games with 8 starts. She returned to NWSL in part to try to be in a better position to play for the U.S. full national team, as she told this reporter in 2015. She finally joined Portugal under FIFA's ancestry rules—Portugal's Federation officials had been interested in her for years—and DaCosta helped the side to qualify for the 2017 European Championships for the first time, overcoming Romania in an exciting two leg play-in, advancing on away goals.
Beard announced that Swedish midfielder Louise Schillgard will not return to the Breakers in 2017 for family reasons. Schillgard had played for Beard in Liverpool while also playing at home for Linkopings among a number of other Damallsvenskan clubs in addition to RCD Espanyol of Spain and Western Sydney Wanderers of Australia. She had played for Sweden at the 2009 Euros Finals in Finland and had retired from the game in 2014, but was persuaded to play again by Beard.
The past week, Boston acquired defender Megan Oyster (ex-UCLA) from 2016 NWSL runner-ups Washington Spirit in exchange for defender Kassey Kallman and midfielder Kristie Mewis. Boston also acquired the #3 and #9 overall picks in the 2017 NWSL College Draft in January in Los Angeles. Oyster, now playing on loan with Newcastle Jets in Australia, has been a solid starter for the Spirit in 35 games, never coming off the bench in her time in NWSL, and won the College Cup with UCLA in 2013. Kallman spent two seasons in Boston after winning a league crown with FC Kansas City in 2014. Mewis played three seasons with the Breakers, scoring 10 goals with 5 assists in 51 games.
Off the field, the Breakers announced that Mark Thomas has been named President of Business Operations (including sales, marketing, sponsorship, etc.) and that Lee Billiard—who joined the club in 2011—transitions to President of Soccer Operations and Development. Thomas was the former Head of Business Development for Norwich City Football Club (2013-2014) and was a professional player with Wimbledon FC in the English Premier League. Throughout his career, Thomas has provided several leading companies and sports organizations with consultancy advice for creating and selling sports sponsorship packages, along with training and developing existing sales teams.
The Seattle Reign acquired midfielder Christine Nairn from the Washington Spirit, along with backup goalkeeper Madlyn Schiffel in exchange for midfielder Havana Solaun and college draft picks in the 2017 and 2018 drafts. Nairn, who has been capped by the full national team on a few occasions, had played in Seattle in 2013 and is currently with Melbourne Victory in Australia's Westfield W-League. Head Coach Laura Harvey said about Nairn: “I'm excited for Christine's return to the club. We felt it was the right time for Christine to come back to the club as we work towards achieving our ultimate goal. She played a key role in Washington's success over the past three seasons and believe she can make a similar impact for our club." Schiffel has played at the U-20 and U-23 levels but spent this season on loan with Avaldsnes IL in Norway.
Dutch international forward/midfielder Manon Melis announced that she will not return to the Reign next season. A long-time player in the Damallsvenskan, it was rumored in Sweden that she was offered a tremendous package by Seattle to play in 2016 there, but had always had plans to end her career this year. She had 7 goals and 2 assists in 16 games and was sublime at times in midfield. In a recent interview, fellow forward Beverly Yanez praised Melis' style, calling her “Dynamic and different in how she shoots the ball with both feet and can bend the ball with pace and accuracy."
Beverly Yanez has announced that she will join Melbourne City during this off-season in the Westfield W-League. We will have more from our interview with Yanez in a few weeks.
Tim Grainey is a contributor to 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