This week, we present our annual review of rosters and results from the first round of the Qualification Stage of the Women's Champions League for 2020-21, looking at teams from countries that typically do not receive a lot of media attention, but are deserving of it since they are champions (in most cases) of their respective countries and have some talent on their rosters with interesting backgrounds. We also have some news from United Women's Soccer (UWS) including three players moving abroad and 6 new teams in UWS League 2 for 2021.
WCL Qualifying First Round Single-Leg Ties
For the Qualification Round of the 2020-21 Women's Champions League, 40 clubs are competing as in past years and drawn into 10 groups, but instead of 10 hosts of 4 team groups, due to COVID-19 there will be two qualification rounds—with two single elimination games and the winners of the first round were drawn again for the one-leg matches on November 18-19 for a spot in the Round of 32, the stage at which the top 22 teams in Europe will enter.
The 2020-21 Qualifying Round groups are
1 CSKA Moskva (RUS)
2 FC Minsk (BLR)
3 Flora Tallinn (EST)
4 Rīgas FS (LVA)
1 ŽFK Spartak (SRB)
2 Pomurje (SVN)
3 Agarista-ȘS Anenii Noi (MDA)
4 Breznica Pljevlja (MNE)
1 WFC-2 Kharkiv (UKR)
2 Okzhetpes (KAZ)
3 Alashkert (ARM)
4 Lanchkhuti (GEO)
1 Valur (ISL)
2 Vålerenga (NOR)
3 HJK Helsinki (FIN)
4 KÍ Klaksvík (FRO)
1 Górnik Łęczna (POL)
2 Apollon LFC (CYP)
3 ŽNK Split (CRO)
4 Swansea City (WAL)
1 Gintra Universitetas (LTU)
2 Ferencváros (HUN)
3 Slovan Bratislava (SVK)
4 Racing FC Union Luxembourg (LUX)
1 St. Pölten (AUT)
2 NSA Sofia (BUL)
3 Mitrovica (KOS)
4 Kamenica Sasa (MKD)
1 Anderlecht (BEL)
2 Glasgow City (SCO)
3 Linfield (NIR)
4 Peamount United (IRL)
1 PAOK (GRE)
2 Olimpia Cluj (ROU)
3 SL Benfica (POR)
4 Birkirkara (MLT)
1 Vllaznia (ALB)
2 SFK 2000 Sarajevo (BIH)
3 ALG Spor (TUR)
4 Ramat Hasharon (ISR)
There are 9 debutants this year: ALG Spor (Turkey), Benfica (Portugal), CSKA Moskva (Russia), Ramat HaSharon (Israel), Kamenica Sasa (North Macedonia), Lanchkhuti (Georgia), Okzhetpes (Kazakhstan), Racing FC Union (Luxembourg) and Vålerenga (Norway).
KÍ Klaksvík (Faroe Islands) and SFK 2000 Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) are entering for a record 18th season, equal with round of 32 contenders Brøndby (who like Sarajevo are in Europe for an 18th consecutive year).
CSKA Moskva of Russia 2 vs. Flora Tallinn of Estonia 0
CSKA is a famous club in Moscow on the men's side but are now starting to make a move on the women's side, having won their first championship in 2019, besting cross-town rival Locomotive Moscow (56 to 44 points), and is making their debut in the Women's Champions League this season.
CSKA's imports are:
D Yulia Myasnikova—Kazakhstan (27). The full international for Kazakhstan played for years at BIIK Kazygurt after originally playing with Alma, both at home. She is in her second season with the Moscow club.
F Gabrielle Onguene—Cameroon (31). Onguene is a veteran of the Russian League and is in her fourth season with CSKA, having previously won the title at Rossiyanka in 2015; she has played in the last two Women's World Cup for her country, making the Round of 16 on both occasions.
F Ogonna Franca Chukwudi—Nigeria. The 32-year-old has been a fixture for years in Sweden, playing in 2019 for Djurgarden in Stockholm, after seasons with Kristianstad, KIF Orebro and Umea. She played for her country in the 2007, 2011 and 2019 Women's World Cups; she moved to Moscow in February of this year.
Flora Tallinn of Estonia did not have any imports on their roster, fielding an all domestic-based side.
FC Minsk of Belarus 3 (BLR) vs. Rīgas FS of Latvia 0
Minsk used penalty kick goals by one of their Ukrainian internationals (Lyubov Shmatko in the 58th minute) and one of their Cameroon duo (Henriette Akaba in the 80th minute) after a first half open-field goal from Belarussian international defender Kseniya Kubichnaya (18th minute). Kubichnaya is 21 and transferred this season after four seasons at Isloch-Rguor
Minsk of Belarus rostered three Ukrainians, three imports from Africa and one from Russia:
D Lyubov Shmatko—Ukraine. The Ukrainian international has won the 2017, 2018 and 2019 league titles with Minsk.
D Maria Galay—Russia. Galay spent years with Zvezda Perm at home, where she won 3 league titles.
D Alvine Njolle—Cameroon. Njolle has won 4 titles in her 4 previous seasons with Minsk.
M Tamila Khimich—Ukraine. She is also a full international in her fourth season with the club.
M Nadege Cissi—Ivory Coast. The 23-year-old played in the 2015 WWC in Canada and is in her third season in Minsk.
F Anastasiia Skorynina—Ukraine. She won a league crown last season with Zhytlobud-2 Kharkiv at home.
F Henriette Akaba—Cameroon. The Cameroonian international joined the club this season from Atasehir Belediyespor. She has been on her country's Women's World Cup roster in both 2015 and 2019.
Rigas of Latvia had only one import, midfielder Pia Foosnaes from Norway, who has been a fixture with the side for some years.
ŽFK Spartak of Serbia 4 vs. Agarista-ȘS Anenii Noi of Moldova 0
Spartak Subotica won at home against Agarista-SS Anenii Noi with a hat trick from defender Violeta Slovic (29) in the last 30 minutes. Slovic has won 9 consecutive league titles at Spartak and is a Serbian international. They had used only 3 American imports in this year's WCL—down from six last year—while 2 years ago they used two from the U.S., two from Brazil and one from Ghana; in 2020-21 all three Spartak imports are new to the team this season:
M Emily Heslin—U.S. (24). The ex-University of Minnesota midfielder first signed in the fall of 2019 with Maccabi Kishronot Hadera in Israel before joining Spartak in July.
F Kaylee Shea Davis—U.S. (22). She played at Texas State University.
F Gabrielle Farrell U.S./Jamaica (22). The Pennsylvania native played at Liberty University and was capped by Jamaica in 2020.
Agarista made their third consecutive WCL appearance this year and used an all-domestic squad, except for 17-year-old Ukrainian Yelvzaveta Indycha.
Pomurje Beltinci of Slovenia 3 vs. Breznica Pljevlja of Montenegro 0
Pomurje Beltinci of Slovenia defeated Breznica Pljevlja of Montenegro 3-0 on November 4 with a brace from Slovenian international Spela Kolbl (22), who has won three league titles with Pomurje. Their only import was 16-year old Julia Lackner, a midfielder from Austria.
Breznica Pljevlja of Montenegro had three imports on the side—all forwards—with two from Central Europe and one from Asia:
F Stefana Bitevic—Serbia (28)
F Merima Gradinovic—Bosnia and Herzegovina (25)
F Hazuki Kimoto—Japan (22)
WFC-2 Kharkiv of Ukraine 9 vs. Alashkert of Armenia 0
Kharkiv defeated Alashkert 9-0 with an entirely home-based squad except for Ksenia Khairulina (23), a Kazakhstan international who previously played at BIIK-Kazygurt at home. Ukrainian international Natiya Pantsulaya (who has played at ALG Spor in Turkey and spent 6 months with Atletico Madrid in Spain in the 2019-20 season but saw no league game action) had a hat trick in less than 10 minutes late in the match after Ukrainian international Yana Kalinina scored twice.
Alashkert of Armenia made their second consecutive appearance in the Qualification stage in 2020-21 and used only native Armenians on their UEFA WCL roster, with the exception of 20-year-old Maral Artin of Germany, who played in the second division in Germany for three seasons with Frankfurt II (two years) and Bayern Munich (one season), and previously as a junior at 1899 Hoffenheim 2.
Okzhetpes of Kazakhstan 1 vs. Lanchkhuti of Georgia 2 (GEO)
In a match featuring two WCL debutants, Lanchkhuti won a close game 2-1 in overtime in Shymkent, Kazakhstan; the Georgian side was one of the few road teams to win in the 20 first qualifying round matches. For Lanchkhuti, 31-year-old Khatia Chkonia (who has been capped by her native Georgia and returned home this season after playing in Turkey for over 10 years across 6 teams) scored in the 62nd and 95th minute. For Lanchkhuti, their lone import was 19-year-old Salome Gasviani, who plays for Azerbaijan but was born in Georgia and transferred to Lanchkhuti from FC Martve Kutaisi of Georgia this summer.
Okzhetpes utilized no imports, unlike their compatriots—BIIK of Shymkent—who qualified directly to the Round of 32 for the first time this season, with their strong performance over the years granting a second spot to the nation through UEFA's coefficients calculations.
Valur of Iceland 3 vs. HJK Helsinki of Finland 0
Valur, in a tense battle to retain their title this season in Iceland with Breidablik, utilized all domestic-based players. In the win over HJK, they had goals from Elin Jensen—third in the league goalscoring race with 13 goals and an Icelandic international—as well as from Gunnhildur (Gunny) Jonsdottir—on loan from the Utah Royals of the NWSL—and Mist Edvardsdottir (30)—who has played with Valur for years and spent a short spell in Norway with Avaldsnes and Brazil with Vitoria, both in 2013. Valur is two points behind 2018-19 champions Breidablik (40 vs. 42) but has played 16 games to only 15 for Breidablik, with 18 games total in the league season. Breidablik set a standard for Icelandic clubs—along with Stjarnan in 2017-18—by making the WCL Round of 16 last season.
For HJK, they had three imports, two from America:
G Karina Kork—Estonia (25)—who transferred this year from Parnu of Estonia
D Kristina O'Donnell—US (22)—ex-University of Oklahoma
F Alexa Genas—U.S. (22)—ex-Campbell University in North Carolina
Vålerenga of Norway 7 vs. KÍ Klaksvík of Faroes Island 0
WCL debutants Valerenga of Norway defeated KI Klasvik of the Faroe Islands 7-0, with Ajara Nckout of Cameroon scoring twice plus single tallies from imports C.J. Bott of New Zealand and 20-year-old Janni Thomsen of Denmark, along with goals from Norwegians Synne Jensen, Rikke Nygard and Andrine Tomter. Nckout is currently in a three way tie for the Golden Boot in the 2020 Toppserien League with 9 goals.
Valerenga is in the lead in the domestic league with one game left on goal difference (+21 to +17) as they are joint top on 35 points with Rosenborg, with Avaldsnes one point behind (34). This would be Valerenga's first Toppserien title, after finishing second last season, if they can maintain their slim lead. They won the first division title in 2011 and promotion to the top flight that season. They have won two Cups, in 2017 and 2019.
Valerenga's had 11 imports in their WCL side:
G Hannah Seabert—US
G Jaelen Justine Tompkins—US
D Maruschka Waldus—Netherlands
D C.J. Bott—New Zealand
D Ingibjorg Sigurdardottir—Iceland
D Stine Pedersen—Denmark
M Sherida Spitse—Netherlands
M Dejana Stefanovic—Serbia
F Ajara Nckout—Cameroon
F Janni Thomsen—Denmark
F Rikke Madsen—Denmark
To read more about Valerenga's imports, see our review of Norwegian football from late September: (https://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/the-week-in-women-s-football-valerenga-leads-in-toppserien-uswnt-hire-goalkeeper-coach-brazil-sierra-leone-update-4342061).
KI used a roster entirely of Faroe Islanders; 15 of their 25 player roster were teenagers, with a half-dozen only 16 years-of-age.
Górnik Łęczna of Poland 4 vs. ŽNK Split of Croatia 1
Gornik won 4-1 at home on November 4 with two goals from their lone import, 26-year-old Patricia Hmirova of Slovakia, who is a full international and has also played club ball at home and for one season with FC Neunkirch in Switzerland.
ZNK Split were debutants to the WCL in 2019-20 and returned with a much different mix of imports. Last season they had two Australians from the W-League, two Serbians and one each from Brazil, Italy and Slovenia. This season they only had three imports on their roster, including two from neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina and one from Canada:
G Stephanie Bukovec—Canada/Croatia (25). Bukovec was born in Toronto but has played in Holland with PEC Zwolle and Ajax, winning a league title last year with the Amsterdam power, as well as in Iceland and Croatia. She has been capped at the full national team level by Croatia. She played collegiately in the States at Oakland University in Michigan and Belmont University in Tennessee.
M-Aida Hadzic—Bosnia and Herzegovina (28). A full Bosnia and Herzegovina international who joined Split from SFK 2000 at home in June.
M Merjema Medic—Bosnia and Herzegovina (21). She is a full international as well as playing on BH's U-17 and U-19 sides. She played at ZNK SFK 2000 Sarajevo, where she won four titles from 2016-17 through 2019-20 and also was on Split's league's winning squad in the Croatian league in 2019-20.
Apollon LFC of Cyprus 3 vs Swansea City of Wales 0
Apollon received a strong start to their 2020-21 campaign on November 4 with a 3-0 defeat of the Welsh champions of 2019-20—Swansea City's fourth championship overall and two behind all-time leaders Cardiff Metropolitan University—with a brace from American/Cypriot Krystyna Freda and one from Rio Hardy of the U.K. Last season Apollon surprisingly were eliminated in the Qualifying stage after a 1-0 loss to group champion and debutants Braga of Portugal. Apollon of Cyprus again had a large number of imports but have doubled the number of Cypriots on their roster from last season's European competition, to 6 from 3, with two being goalkeepers. Imports this year include:
G Aubrei Corder—U.S. (22)
D Matilda Abramo—Sweden (22)
D Steffi Hardy—England (24)
D Felippa Wallen—Sweden (20)
D Julie Nicole Lester—U.S. (22)
D Kyriaki Kynossidou—Greece (30)
M Lais Dos Santos Araujo—Brazil (24)
M Elizabeth Addo—Ghana (27)
F Katie Jayne Lockwood—England (22)
F Anna Klara Folksesson—Sweden (22)
F Milica Mijatovic—Serbia (29)
F Rio Hardy—England (24)
F Krystyna Freda—U.S./Cyprus (27)
Freda is an American that we have featured in the past and significantly has just recently debuted for Cyprus in the European Championship qualifiers. She was loaned to Glasgow City this past summer to boost their delayed 2019-20 WCL roster for the last three rounds, which were held in a central location in Spain, where the Scottish side fell 9-1 to eventual finalists Wolfsburg in the one-leg quarterfinal tie. She then debuted for Cyprus in October in the two ties against Portugal, losing 3-0 at home on October 23 and falling again four days later in the road return by a 1-0 scoreline.
Krystyna Freda (21) attacks against Portugal in a European Championship Qualifying match in October of 2020. (Photo courtesy Krystyna Freda)
Freda told TribalFootball.com exclusively, "Joining the CYWNT has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. To get together and play with a group of special players and fight for something more than just your club, but for your country, it is something unfathomable by someone who has never had the chance. I have been in Cyprus now for quite some time, and it has truly become my home and to be able to represent it in international play in one of the biggest honors I have even been bestowed."
Regarding this season's WCL campaign for Apollon, Freda said, "I believe that my club, Apollon Ladies, has put together an amazing group of players this year, not just on the field, but off as well. It is one of the closest teams I have been on and with that closeness comes a different type of understanding in the pitch. I think we have the potential and quality in our squad to make a play for the Round of 16 this season [The furthest the club has advanced is the Round of 32 in an impressive 7 occasions in 10 campaigns prior to 2020-21]. Hopefully we don't draw Wolfsburg in the 32, because it's a bit too soon for me to face them again [after this past summer on loan with Glasgow City], but with a good draw I believe we will surprise some people! With the addition of our new coaching staff as well, it has taken Apollon Ladies to a level that I think it may have never been at before. I am looking forward to going to Poland in less than two weeks' time and showing Europe who Apollon Ladies are and that we are valid contenders against the best teams out there."
The new coaching staff that Freda refers to is headed by Swedish manager Kim Bjorkegren, who coached Beijing BG Phoenix in China in 2018-19 and previously was with Linkopings when they won the Damallsvenskan in 2017.
Freda has certainly achieved what many young players dream of, whether American or from other nations outside of Europe. They dream of playing in the Women's Champions League, which she has for three clubs (two in Cypress and one in Scotland), and is a fixture for an Apollon club that is loaded for a strong WCL run this year. She is also now a full international and playing in the European Championship qualifiers. She has gone from the New Jersey Copa, the runner-up in the first ever United Women's Soccer Championship in 2016 where she was the league's leading scorer with 15 goals, to major accomplishments in Europe. The dream and the path for young players of European glory is alive and truly vibrant through achievements like Krystyna Freda's.
Also on the Apollon roster are two new signings: Elizabeth Addo is well-known to followers of the game. The Ghanaian came onto the scoring scene in Sweden and then rapidly moved to clubs in the NWSL, Australia and China. Lais Do Santos Araujo of Brazil played with Adelaide United last winter with Addo after a spell with Arna-Bjornar in the Norwegian top flight. She also played at the University of Florida and the Brazilian U-20 national team.
Swansea City used all domestic players except for 31-year-old midfielder Laura Davies of England. Davies signed for the Swans from Welsh Premier Women's League side Abergavenny, where she spent three years as a player and one as a manager with the Monmouthshire-based club.
Gintra Universitetas of Lithuania 4 vs. Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia 0
Gintra Universitetas is another side who want to make up for missing out on the Round of 32 last season, finishing third in a group with Vllaznia of Albania and Wexford of the Republic of Ireland; they got off to a good start at home this season in Siauliai with a 4-0 defeat of Slovan Bratislava on November 4. Their 18-year-old import from Finland—Amanda Kass—along with Tristan Corneil of Canada (from the penalty spot) and Americans Abby Carchio and Ruvimbo Mucherera scored the goals for the import-laden club. Gintra led in shots 19-6, shots on goal 10-3 and corners 11-2.
Gintra has appeared in the continental club competition 17 consecutive years, advancing to the Round of 32 on three occasions and reaching the Round of 16 in 2014-15 and 2017-18.
Gintra's 10 imports included 6 from North America:
G Maja Zajc—Slovenia (22)—a senior international.
D Tristan Corneil—Canada (26)—she won a league title in 2020 with Gintra after playing in Sweden's Elitettan in 2019.
D Amanda Kass—Finland (18)—who transferred to the club for this season from Myran in Finland.
D Alika Keene—US/Jamaica (26)—ex-Harvard University and Orlando Pride in 2019, but who did not play any league matches in the NWSL. She was one of six players from Harvard who courageously wrote an op-ed with five other former teammates for the Harvard student paper against the members of the university's male soccer players who rated the female players quantitatively based on physical characteristics and objectified them for their own personal amusement, a practice that went on for some years. In part, the letter read, "In all, we do not pity ourselves, nor do we ache most because of the personal nature of this attack. More than anything, we are frustrated that this is a reality that all women have faced in the past and will continue to face throughout their lives."
D Anastaia Rocane—Latvia (28)—she is a full international for Latvia has won 5 titles in Latvia and 2 in Estonia, in addition to one achieved this year in Lithuania with Gintra.
M Jessica Ayers—US (27)—played last season with Myran in Finland and who played at Colorado College and was drafted by FC Kansas City in the NWSL in 2015.
M Jelena Cubrilo—Serbia (26)—she has played with Rayo Vallecano in Spain. A full and youth international for Serbia, she won three league titles at home with Subotica and two with Gintra, as well as playing in Croatia.
M McKenna Davidson—US (26)—she was raised in Hawaii but plays internationally for Wexford Youths in Ireland after college at Pacific University in Oregon. Wexford won a league title in 2018 and she played against Gintra and helped to knocked them out of WCL, scoring and assisting in Wexford's crucial 2-1 victory of Gintra. Last season Wexford won the FAI Cup Final 3-2 over this year's WCL representatives Peamount United (see below). After winning a league title in Lithuania, she now hopes to help her new club to the knockout stage of the Champion's League. She is coached by Thomas Croke, her former coach at Wexford FC, who became an assistant with Gintra after helping out with video sessions during COVID.
M Abby Carchio—US (23)—ex-Brown University in Rhode Island who initially signed a 3 month contract and hopes to move to a higher-profile league.
F Ruvimbo Mucherea—US (24)—She was born in the States but is a Zimbabwean international.
Slovan Bratislava had their entire roster from Slovakia.
Ferencváros of Hungary 6 vs. Racing FC Union Luxembourg 1
Ferencvaros of Hungary blasted Racing Union of Luxembourg 6-1 on November 3 in Budapest, with braces from Hungarians Fanni Vago (29)—who has over 120 caps with her full national team and has played in Iceland, Romania and Austria, winning four titles while at St. Polten and 8 in total, including 3 in Hungary and 1 in Romania—18-year-old Sara Puszati (a youth and full international for Hungary and with the club since 2016) and one from Jamaica's Tiffany Cameron (below). Their 8 imports included:
G Chandra Bednar—Canada (30)—she has played for clubs in Sweden since 2015, winning a Damallsvenskan league crown as a backup with Linkoping in 2016.
D Melisa Hasanbegovic—Bosnia and Herzegovina (25)—is a full international team member who has played in Norway, Sweden, Hungary and the Czech Republic as well as for SFK 2000 Sarajevo at home from 2012-2017.
D Inna Zlidnis—Estonia—A full international for Estonia who won three league titles with Ferencvaros and played for one season with Hohen Neuendorf in the German second division in 2014.
M Elizabeth Betsy Brandon—US—she played one minute of one game with the Houston Dash in 2019 after a college career at the University of Virginia.
M Vanessa Marques Portugal—a full and youth international with over 60 caps for the seniors who joined from Sporting Braga at home.
M L Lara Ivanusa—Slovenia—who played in 2017 with Kvarsveden in Sweden's Damallsvenskan and won a league title the next season in Scotland with Glasgow City.
F Viktoria Nagy—Slovakia (19)— a U-19 international who won the Hungarian league title with Ferenc in 2019-20.
F Tiffany Cameron—Jamaica (29)—born in Canada and played at Ohio State University and then in the NWSL, with Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City, followed by time in Cyprus, Germany, Sweden, Israel and Norway; she was on the Reggae Girlz WWC team last summer. She was a youth international for Canada before playing for Jamaica.
Racing FC Luxembourg were debutants this year. They had 8 players from France along with defender Cinara Gomes and midfielder Raquel Miranda of Portugal and forward Bruna Sant'Ana of Brazil.
NSA Sofia of Bulgaria 3 vs. Kamenica Sasa of North Macedonia 1
NSA Sofia defeated Kamenica Sasa 3-1 at home on November 4, with 21-year-old Teya Penkova, who has won 5 consecutive league titles with Sofia since 2015-16 and is a U-19 Bulgarian international, putting away a first half brace. NSA Sofia's only import was international goalkeeper Viktorija Doneva of North Macedonia.
Kamenica Sasa of MKD are debutants to the WCL this season and fielded an all domestic-based squad.
St. Pölten of Austria 2 vs. Mitrovica of Kosovo 0
St. Polten defeated Mitrovica 2-0—a disappointment for the Kosovo club who advanced last year to the Round of 32 while knocking out Romanian power Olimpia Cluj in the process—with first half goals from Austrian international Jennifer Klein (21) in the 26th minute and Jasmine Eder (28) in the 61st from the penalty spot. Klein played the last two seasons with Hoffenheim's first and second team in Germany after previously winning a league title with St. Polten in 2017-18. Eder also played in Germany in the past and has won 5 league championships with St. Polten. St. Polten was leading the league last season when it was cancelled due to COVID-19 after 9 games. St. Polten leads the league again this season with 21 points from 7 games, two points ahead of Austria Wien/Landhaus and Sturm Graz, with the latter having played one game more than the other two sides.
St. Polten had 7 imports, with most of them veterans of the game, to boost their efforts to reach the Round of 16 for the first time in 7 events, something which compatriots SV Neulengbach did five times in 6 campaigns, the last in 2014-15.
D Leonarda Balog—Croatia (27)
D Alexandra Biroova—Slovakia (29)
M Maria Mikolajova—Slovakia (21)
M Isabelle Meyer—Switzerland (33)
M Mateja Zver—Slovenia (32)
M Tea Krznaric—Croatia (16)
F Bernadett Zagor—Hungary (30)
Last year KFF Mitrovica of Kosovo had a number of Albanians (7) in their 2019/20 UEFA Champions League team sheet, which makes sense as many Kosovo residents are of Albanian descent. In 2020/21 Mitrovica, in their third consecutive WCL campaign, added two South Africans and reduced the number of Albanians to 5:
G Viona Rexhepi
D Endrina Elezaj
D Gresa Haziri
F Ambra Gjegji
F Suada Jashari
Their new South African signings were 29-year-old Portia Nhlapho and forward Andisiwe Mgcoyi, the latter represented her nation at the 2012 London Olympic Games finals. Mgcoyi has played at home for Mamelodi Sundowns and in Slovakia, Hungary, on loan in Germany with Saarbrucken in Division 2, in Albania and now in Kosovo. Nhlapho also played at home with Sundowns. Both players were not on the 2019 South Africa Women's World Cup Finals roster but were together in Albania's Women's League with Apolonia in 2019-20, with Mgcoyi scoring 17 goals in eight games before COVID19 cancelled the league schedule.
Anderlecht of Belgium 8 vs. Linfield of Northern Ireland 0
Anderlecht of Belgium hosted Linfield of Northern Ireland on November 4 and won 8-0 with braces by a quartet of Belgium internationals: Laura Deneve (26, who joined Anderlecht back in 2012-13), Sarah Wijnants (21, a member of the last 5 Belgium League Champions between Anderlecht and Standard Leige), Tine De Caigney (23, who joined Anderlecht from Lierse SK 5 years ago) and Tessa Wullaert (27—ex-Manchester City and Wolfsburg). The team only had two imports on the side: international midfielder Stefania Vatafu of Romania, a long-time member of Olimpia Cluj at home, and Sakina Ouzraoui Diki (19), who was born in Spain but is a Belgium youth international.
These two sides played last year in the same qualification group, with Anderlecht winning 3-1.
Linfield of Northern Ireland used an entirely home-based side.
Glasgow City of Scotland 0 (6 PK) vs. Peamount United of the Republic of Ireland 0 (5 PK) (IRL)
In one of the biggest surprises of the first qualification round, Glasgow City of Scotland—a traditional battler in the WCL who made the quarterfinals twice, including last summer in the delayed 2019-20 edition, and the Round of 16 five times in 13 previous European club champions—defeated Peamount United of the Republic of Ireland 6-5 in penalties after 120 scoreless minutes. Ireland youth international Lauryn O'Callaghan missed from the spot after American Zaneta Wyne had scored for City in the seventh round, with one miss each per side during the first 5 penalty kicks. Peamount gave Glasgow as good as they received, trailing in total shots (16-10) and with a very narrow difference for shots on goal (7 for Glasgow City to 5 for Peamount United). Lee Alexander, a Scottish international goalkeeper, made two saves in the penalty shootout but both sides were fantastic in their penalty kicks. The 11 penalty kicks made in the shootout combined were superb and can all be seen in the highlights (15 minutes) and are worth showing to anyone that believes that a goalless match is dull, which this one certainly wasn't (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruLeR9nfxnQ). As Brenden Graham of RTE in Ireland wrote after the game, "When the dust settles, Peamount will take huge confidence from their display against a fully professional team after a performance that has done the Women's National League [in Ireland] proud.
Peamount United players watch the penalty shootout against Glasgow City (Photo Courtesy RTE of Ireland)
Glasgow City's imports included:
D Zaneta Wyne—U.S. (30)—who played at the University of New Mexico and then in Cyprus, Finland, Iceland, Norway as well as a season in the FA WSL with Sunderland. She joined City after playing two seasons with Klepp IL in Norway. She also has French citizenship.
D Janine Van Wyk—South Africa (33)—ex-Houston Dash, Fortuna Hjorring in Denmark and South African captain with 170 caps and club owner at home with JVW F.C., which she started in 2013 and that won the national championships in 2019.
M Sharon Wojcik—U.S. (27)—she played at played at Sporting in Portugal after her collegiate soccer at Virginia Commonwealth University.
F Clare Shine—Republic of Ireland (25)—A full international who has played at home for Raheny United and Cork City. She is in her second stint and fourth season with City.
F Aoife Colville—Australia (19)—transferred earlier this year from Canberra United.
F Lauren Wade—Northern Ireland (26)—She played last season at Trottur in Iceland, winning the second tier title and spent a short time with Umea in Sweden in 2017. She won a league title at home with Glentoran back in 2014.
F Nicole Robertson—US (24)—She played at Purdue University in Indiana and then for three seasons in Denmark at Brondby, B93 and Aab, scoring over 75 goals and becoming the first women's player in the country to transfer for a franchise fee.
Peamount United used an entirely home-based squad led by Republic of Ireland national team veterans forwards Aine O'Gorman (31)—with over 100 caps but who has played mostly at home in her career except for a spell in England with Doncaster Rovers—and Stephanie Roche (31)—with over 50 caps and who has played in France with ASPTT Albi, the Houston Dash in NWSL in 2015, Sunderland Ladies in England and C.F. Florentina in Italy.
Peamount was an inaugural franchise and champions of the Women's National League in Ireland in 2011-12 and advanced to the Round of 32 in the UEFA Women's Championship as the best runner-up team in the Qualification Round in 2011-12 (having qualified as 2010 FAI Women's Cup title holders).
Benfica came away from Salonika with a 3-1 win, as Thomai Vardali, a Greek international who has won 5 league titles at PAOK since 2011-12 around a stint in the States at East Tennessee State University, gave the home side hope in the 57th minute by halving the Portuguese side 2-0 lead, though 21-year old Portuguese U-19 and U-17 international Catarina Amado restored the two goal advantage 4 minutes later. Benfica had a healthy advantage in shots 14-5 and shots on goal 8-2. Canadian Cloe Eyja Lacasse was credited with the winning goal just before halftime (see more below).
Benfica, a famous name on the men's side and winners of the equivalent competition 2 times and finished runners-up on five other occasions, is making their debut this season on the Women's Champions League competition. Their imports include:
G Daniele—Brazil, who finished CONMEBOL Libertadores Femenina runners up in 2018 with Santos.
M Ana Vitoria Keliemaschwsk—Brazil
M Pauleta (Paula Dominguez)—Spain
M Christy Ucheibe—Nigeria, who played in 2019 with Assi in Sweden's Elitettan.
M Evy Pereira—Cape Verde Islands
F Nycole Raysla—Brazil U-20 international
F Jolina Amani Netherlands—Former U-19 international who transferred from Excelsior at home this season.
F Cloe Lacasse—Canada/Iceland—The 27-year-old native of Sudbury, Ontario. played for IBV in Iceland for the past 5 seasons, after previously playing four years at the University of Iowa. She gained Icelandic citizenship in June of 2019, and though the Icelandic national team has shown interest in her, she has not received clearance yet from FIFA. She scored 54 goals in 79 games in the Urvalsdeild Women's (now Pepsi Max) League. She joined Benfica this season.
POAK of Greece had two imports: defender Miljana Smiljkovic of Serbia and forward Gisela Lisbeth Betancourt of Colombia (33). Betancourt, a Colombian international, has played with the UWS Houston Aces and collegiately at Graceland College, a small school in Missouri. She scored 23 goals a year ago for Greek club Elpides Karditsas A.C to finish third in the league in goalscoring two years ago before being sought out for a transfer ahead of the 2019/20 summer by PAOK.
Olimpia Cluj of Romania 2 vs Birkirkara of Malta 1
Olimpa Cluj of Romania defeated Birkirkara of Malta 2-1 on November 3, fighting back from a one goal deficit at the half. Cluj was appearing in their ninth Women's Champions League since 2011-12, having advanced four times to the Round of 32 and once to the Round of 16 in 2012-13, but surprisingly fell in the Qualifying Group stage in 2019-20.
Olimpia Cluj of Romania had 4 imports including two Americans in goalkeeper Erin Louise Seppi (22 and ex-University of Maryland) and midfielder Brianna Curtis (23 and ex-Iowa State University), along with defender Cloe Marie Macuiba of France and Moldovan international forward Carolina Tabur.
Birkirkara of Malta, which won their fourth consecutive Malta league title last season, had one import in forward Canadian Christabel Oduro (28). She played at the University of Memphis and the Canadian National Team, including at the 2012 U-20 World Cup and played in Germany, Sweden (Kalmar in the Elitettan); she won two league titles at Ramat HaSharon in Israel (2016-17 and 2017-18).
Vllaznia of Albania 3 (3 PK) vs. ALG Spor of Turkey 3 (2 PK)
In one of the most exciting games of the qualification round, Vllaznia of Albania defeated visitors ALG Spor of Turkey 3-2 on penalties after a 3-3 deadlock on November 3. Albanian international defender Lucie Gjini (who has won four league titles at Vlaznia since 2016-17) scored twice before fellow Albanian international defender Arbiona Bajraktari scored in the last minute of overtime to send the match to penalties, after Turkish full and youth international midfield/forward Ilayda Civelek (who joined the club in October from Atasehir BC in Istanbul) seemingly had given her side the win in the 118th minute. In their tenth appearance in the WCL, Vllaznia hope to repeat a Round of 32 appearances as they did last year.
Vllaznia of Albania's imports included only one American and three from neighboring country Kosovo:
G Kelly O'Brien—US (24)—In her second year with the club and won a league title in 2019/20 by five points (52 to 47) over second place Apolonia in the 10 team league. She played with Lafayette College and the Lafayette Inferno in UWS, both in Pennsylvania.
G Lavdije Behramaj—Kosovo (21)
F Jehona Shala—Kosovo (19)
F Rrezona Ramadani—Kosovo (18)
ALG Spor of Turkey is making its debut in the WCL this season. They fielded an all domestic-based team except for midfielder Yana Derkach (22) of Ukraine,
defender Vusala Seyfatdinova of Azerbaijan and forward Esther Sunday of Nigeria, who played for her country at the 2012 U-20 Women's World Cup and at the senior WWC in 2015. She won two Belarussian league titles with Minsk in 2014 and 2015 before moving to Turkey.
SFK 2000 Sarajevo of Bosnia and Herzegovina 4 vs. Ramat Hasharon of Israel 0
On November 3, host SFK 2000 Sarajevo of Bosnia and Herzegovina coasted to a 4-0 victory of Ramat Hasharon of Israel. After a first half tally just before the half-time break by Selma Kapetanovic (23—who won a league title last season in Hungary with Ferencvaros after winning three titles in a row with SFK), SFK then added three more goals in a 14 minute spell beginning in the 67th match to seal the match.
Hosts SFK Sarajevo of Bosnia-Herzegovina included three players from Montenegro on their roster:
D Sanja Nedic
M Jasna Djokovic
F Armisa Kuc
In 2020-21 Sarajevo is participating in its 18th consecutive Women's European Champions season, but has advanced to the knockout stage only three times, including in 2018-19 where they fell to Chelsea 11-0 over two legs.
Hapoel Nir Ramat HaSharon of Israel are debutants in the Champions League this season. Their five imports all came from CONCACAF countries and include American goalkeeper Mary Niehaus, who played at St. Louis University through the 2019 season and who finished first in career goals against average (0.56) and second in wins (45) and shutouts (30) and played with the St. Louis Lions in the WPSL. Other imports were American defender Heidi Lynne Ruth (ex-Southeastern University), Costa Rican international defender Fabiola Sanchez (who played at Martin Methodist College in the States and spent a brief time with Kilmarnock in Scotland and at home last year with Codea-LDA) and Canadian midfielder Karlee Pedersen (26), who has played in the past with Asarum, Kalmar and Assi in the Elitettan (Second Division) in Sweden after college at the University of Simon Fraser in British Colombia. The fifth import is American forward Kaylan Rose Bradford Williams, who played at the University of New Hampshire and worked this past summer at a health department's COVID testing center in Wisconsin.
More UWS alumni head abroad
Chandra Davidson (Indiana Union in 2018) signed with Portuguese First Division side Sport Clube União Torreense. The Hamilton, Ontario, Canada-native joins her new team ahead of the 2020/2021 Liga BPI season. Davidson also played at Indiana University, with 13 goals in 75 appearances for the Hoosiers.
Chandra Davis in the colors of her new team in Portugal—Sport Clube União Torreense. (Photo courtesy United Women's Soccer.)
Samantha Dewey (Indiana Union in 2019) signed her second pro deal with SC Heerenveen Vrouwen ahead of the 2020/2021 Vrouwen Eredivisie season in the Netherlands. Dewey previously signed with Real Betis Feminas of the Primera Iberdrola in Spain, where she appeared in three games last season before COVID-19 shut the league down. The Xavier University-alum collected 2019 UWS Midwest Player of the Year honors after scoring 13 goals and six assists (32 points) for the Midwest Conference champion Indiana Union.
Samantha Dewey with the jersey of her new club—SC Heerenveen. Photo courtesy United Women's Soccer.
Abi Kim (Los Angeles Galaxy Orange County – 2019 UWS National Champion) is on the move to Italy, signing with Fiorentina Women's FC in Serie A. Kim, who was drafted 26th overall in the 2020 NWSL College Draft by Orlando Pride, and also spent time on the USWNT U-20 team during their run in the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. Kim netted 18 goals with 10 assists during her 4-year collegiate career at University of California.
Former U.S. international Abi Kim in action for the Los Angeles Galaxy in UWS. Photo courtesy United Women's Soccer.
UWS League Two Announces Great Lakes Conference
UWS League Two has announced the formation of the Great Lakes Conference, in preparation for the 2021 season. All six teams hail from the state of Michigan: AFC Plymouth, Corktown AFC, Legends FC, Livonia City FC, North Oakland SC, and Rebels FC.
AFC Plymouth is the newest squad of the bunch, founded in 2020.
Corktown AFC will field a reserve team in UWS League Two in addition to having their first team compete in the UWS national pro-am league. The women-specific soccer club in Detroit attracts top-level players through their invitation-only recruiting process.
Legends FC re-joins the league after a rebrand from Michigan Legends FC. The club initially spent three seasons at the UWS level, qualifying for the conference playoffs in 2017 and 2018. Based out of Brighton, Michigan, the club offers a youth to pro-am enterprise as their UWS2 team is composed of players that graduated from their youth club.
Livonia City FC is the lone team in UWS2 to compete in the 2020 UWS Keystone Showcase hosted by Detroit City FC this past July. Founded in 2015, the club is part of the MPSL [Michigan Premier Soccer League] women's division where they keep their reserve side, and field a more competitive team in UWS League Two. The organization also fields a men's side in NPSL, a national amateur soccer league.
North Oakland Soccer Company (NOSC) is the oldest club in the group, founded in 1987 in Rochester, MI. The women's side came about a bit later in 2017, and quickly became a top club in Michigan. NOSC picked up a 2018 MPSL Championship and Michigan State Cup Championship in only their second year of existence.
Rebels FC also holds dual membership between UWS League Two and MPSL. Founded in 2016, the club picked up a MPSL League Cup crown just three years later in 2019. The Macomb County [Northeastern Detroit suburbs], Michigan-based team also fields a men's team in the UPSL and MPSL.
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.
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