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The Week in Women's Football: Champions League Round of 32 wrap-up; NWSL announce awards; UK star chooses Europe over Aus;

This week, we look at UEFA Women's Champions League results, and present some news out of the NWSL following the conclusion of its sixth season, including 2018 season player awards and two high profile U.K. internationals' off-season loan plans abroad.



UEFA Women's Champions League Round of 32 Wrap-up

The UEFA Women's Champions League Round of 32 was difficult for the nine Eastern European clubs in the two legs this month, as only one side advanced to the Round of 16. BIIK-Kazygurt of Kazakhstan could not hold its 3-1 advantage from their home leg and lost 4-2 on aggregate to Barcelona on September 26, who scored through Spanish international midfielder Patricia Guijarro (20) in the 4th minute, 2015 Spanish Women's World Cup Team defender Marta Torrejon in the 48th minute and Dutch international Lieke Martens in the 90th minute. Barcelona would have advanced with a 2-0 win on away goals, but Martens confirmed that they would advance against the very strong champion from Kazakhstan, who for the first time in 3 years will not play in the Round of 16.

In other matches involving Eastern European sides, Kharkiv of the Ukraine fell 10-1 on aggregate to Linkoping of Sweden and Bayern Munich of Germany defeated Spartak Subotica of Serbia by a similar large margin (11-0) after the two legs. Ajax of the Netherlands defeated Sparta Prague of the Czech Republic 4-1 on aggregate. Rosengard of Sweden defeated Ryazan-VDV of Russia 3-0, with a 2-0 home win in the second leg, while fellow Scandinavian side LSK of Norway defeated Zvezda 2005 of Russia 4-0 on aggregate.

Chelsea won 11-0 over Sarajevo from Bosnia-Herzegovina while Manchester City surprisingly is out of the competition this year, falling to Spanish champion Atletico Madrid 3-1 on aggregate; City lost the home leg 2-0 on September 26 with first half goals by Spanish international midfielder Silvia Meseguer (29 years of age) and Brazilian forward Ludmila Da Silva (23), who is in her second year with the Spanish champions.

In an all-Eastern European tussle, Slavia Prague of the Czech Republic advanced with a 7-0 aggregate win over Gintra of Lithuania and Terez Kozarova scored a hat trick in the home 4-0 second leg win, with the other tally coming from American Ashley Herndon. Czech Republic international Kozarova has won eight league titles between stints with the two major domestic clubs in Prague: Sparta and Slavia. Herndon played at James Madison University, spent time with the W-League side D.C. United Women in 2011 and 2012 and has been coaching youth in the States before joining Slavia ahead of this season.

In other matches, Glasgow City defeated the only one of eight debutants in the WCL Group stage to make it to the Round of 32—Somatio Barcelona of Cyprus—by a 2-1 margin on aggregate. The Scottish champions won the first away leg 2-0 in Cyprus but surprisingly lost at home 1-0 on an early goal by American forward Krystyna Freda, who Tribal Football.com talked to last month after their surprising Group Victory in the Qualifying Stage (www.tribalfootball.com/articles/the-week-in-women-s-football-exclusive-with-somatio-barcelona-attacker-krystyna-freda-champions-league-qualifying-round-review-4244941).

Zurich of Switzerland defeated Honka of Finland 6-1 on aggregate, with Zurich winning 5-1 in the second leg, as Swiss international Fabienne Humm (who has been with the club for a decade) scored a hat trick and Swiss international Martina Moser (who has over 100 caps) scored from the penalty spot and Coumba Sow (who has been capped by Switzerland at the youth level and played collegiately at Monroe Community College and Oklahoma State University in the States) added a goal, while 18-year-old Finnish youth international Jutta Rantala scored a 90th minute goal for Honka's only goal of the tie.

Both French sides advanced to the Round of 16 as expected. PSG overcame St. Polten of Austria 6-1 and Lyon blasted Avaldsnes of Norway 7-0 with French international Eugenie Le Sommer and Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg scoring braces in the 5-0 home second leg win on September 27th.

The two Italian sides split in a twin set versus two Danish sides. Fiorentina of Italy advanced over Fortuna of Denmark 4-0 on aggregate while in the other Denmark vs. Italy tie, Brondy narrowly squeaked past 2017-18 Italian champions Juventus 1-0 at home on September 26 as Danish international Nicoline Sorenson (21) tallied in the 33rd minute to give her side the advantage in the 3-2 aggregate result.

Wolfsburg of Germany, WCL runners-up last year to Lyon 4-1 in extra time, defeated Thor/KA of Iceland 3-0 on aggregate.



NWSL Season End Awards

Two leaders of the North Carolina Courage won NWSL 2018 end-of-season awards, as well as two from the NWSL runners-up Portland Thorns. Paul Riley was named league Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. 2013 inaugural season winner Vlatko Andonovski (then with FC Kansas City) finished second with Seattle this year and 2016 winner Mark Parsons of Portland was third. Riley coached the Thorns in 2014 and 2015 and the club went a different direction with him after they missed the playoffs in 2015, despite losing over half the squad to international duties during the Women's World Cup and through injuries. Leading his club to the title in Portland in 2018 must have been hugely satisfying to the Liverpool native, as was defeating the club in 2016 in a pulsating 4-3 overtime semifinal victory--again in Portland—when he led the unheralded Western New York Flash (now Courage) to their first league crown.

List of NWSL Coach of the Year:

YEAR COACH CLUB
2013 Vlatko Andonovski FC Kansas City
2014 Laura Harvey Seattle Reign FC
2015 Laura Harvey Seattle Reign FC
2016 Mark Parsons Portland Thorns FC
2017 Paul Riley North Carolina Courage
2018 Paul Riley North Carolina Courage

North Carolina Courage's captain and New Zealand international Abby Erceg was named as Defender of the Year for 2018; Ercig is the first non-American to win the award in the league's six year history. Erceg helped to lead a Courage defense that allowed the fewest goals in the league and earned 11 clean sheets, with 2 goals and 2 assists. Erceg has re-signed with the Courage for the 2019 season. Three time winner Becky Sauerbrunn of Utah was second, Portland's U.S. Emily Sonnett was third, Chicago's Julie Ertz was fourth and Abby Dahlkemper of the Courage—who won the title last season—was fifth—all four of whom are U.S. international pool players.

List of NWSL Defender of the Year:

YEARDEFENDERCLUB
2013 Becky Sauerbrunn FC Kansas City
2014 Becky Sauerbrunn FC Kansas City
2015 Becky Sauerbrunn FC Kansas City
2016 Lauren Barnes Seattle Reign FC
2017 Abby Dahlkemper North Carolina Courage
2018 Abby Erceg North Carolina Courage

Despite Sky Blue FC's recording only one win in 24 games and their bottom of the table finish in 2018, they saw forward Imani Dorsey awarded the Rookie of the Year title. Washington Spirit's Andi Sullivan and fellow Sky Blue rookie teammate Savannah McCaskill finished second and third respectively. Dorsey, 22, was the fifth overall selection by Sky Blue FC in the 2018 NWSL College Draft. The Duke University graduate opted to finish up her degree before joining the club full-time in early June, playing in just 13 total games during the 2018 season, Dorsey still finished the year with a team-leading four goals (tied with Katie Johnson and Carli Lloyd) while also adding an assist. Her four goals were also the highest total among NWSL rookies this season. Dorsey becomes the second Sky Blue FC player to receive the NWSL Rookie of the Year title in the past three years, joining 2016 winner and teammate Raquel Rodriguez (Costa Rica).


List of NWSL Rookie of the Year:

YEARROOKIECLUB
2013 Erika Tymrak FC Kansas City
2014 Julie Johnston Chicago Red Stars
2015 Danielle Colaprico Chicago Red Stars
2016 Raquel Rodriguez Sky Blue FC
2017 Ashley Hatch North Carolina Courage
2018 Imani Dorsey Sky Blue FC

Portland's Lindsey Horan was name the league's Most Valuable Player in 2018—the first Thorns player to ever win the award. She scored 13 regular season goals (third) along with 2 assists in 22 games. Horan scored the game-winning goal and registered an assist in Portland's 2-1 NWSL semifinal victory over Seattle Reign FC on Sept. 15.

Since joining Thorns FC in 2016, Horan has scored 22 goals and tallied four assists in 61 NWSL regular-season appearances, logging 5,408 minutes. For her career in Portland, Horan ranks third all-time in points (48) and goals (22), fourth in games started (61) and minutes played (5,408) and fifth in games played (61).


All-Time NWSL Most Valuable Player:


2013: Lauren Holiday – FC Kansas City

2014: Kim Little – Seattle Reign FC

2015: Crystal Dunn – Washington Spirit

2016: Lynn Williams – Western New York Flash

2017: Sam Kerr – Sky Blue FC

2018: Lindsey Horan – Portland Thorns FC

Horan's teammate Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year for the second consecutive season. She made 14 starts in 2018, posting a record of 9-3-2 and recording three shutouts. She made 45 saves and finished the regular season with a 76.3 save percentage Among NWSL goalkeepers who have appeared in at least 20 career matches, Franch has the best goals-against average (0.86) in NWSL history and ranks tied for second with 24 career shutouts. Former Thorns goalkeeper Michelle Betos (now Seattle) won the title in 2015, when she scored a goal from the field of play.



All-Time NWSL Goalkeeper of Year:

2013: Nicole Barnhart – FC Kansas City

2014: Alyssa Naeher – Boston Breakers

2015: Michelle Betos – Portland Thorns FC

2016: Ashlyn Harris – Orlando Pride

2017: Adrianna Franch – Portland Thorns FC

2018: Adrianna Franch – Portland Thorns FC

The NWSL named 22 players to their 2018 Best XI and Second XI squads. Five players were voted to the Best XI for the second consecutive year, led by Utah Royals FC defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who earned her sixth straight selection to the squad. Chicago Red Stars forward Sam Kerr, North Carolina Courage defender Abby Dahlkemper, Portland Thorns FC goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, North Carolina Courage midfielder McCall Zerboni were the others to repeat as selections from the 2017 Best XI.

Three players earned their first selection to the Best XI this year: North Carolina Courage defender Abby Erceg, Portland Thorns FC midfielder Lindsey Horan and Portland Thorns FC defender Emily Sonnett. Erceg was also one of three players—along with Horan and Reign FC forward Megan Rapinoe—that made the leap to the Best XI after making the Second XI last season.

Looking at the two teams combined, North Carolina had seven players selected—four on the Best XI—while Portland had six—four in the Best XI. Seattle had 3 players named—one on the Best XI—while Chicago and Houston had two players on the combined squads, with Chicago having one (Sam Kerr)—one on the Best XI—and Utah Royals and Sky Blue having one each, with Utah's Becky Sauerbrunn on the first team


NWSL 2018 Best XI

Position

Player

Club

Country

Note

Goalkeeper

Adrianna Franch

Portland Thorns FC

USA

1.00 GAA

Defender

Emily Sonnett

Portland Thorns FC

USA

1 goal, 1 assist

Defender

Becky Sauerbrunn

Utah Royals FC

USA

1,720 minutes

Defender

Abby Erceg

North Carolina Courage

NZL

2 goals, 2 assists

Defender

Abby Dahlkemper

North Carolina Courage

USA

1,710 minutes

Midfielder

Tobin Heath

Portland Thorns FC

USA

7 goals, 7 assists

Midfielder

Lindsey Horan

Portland Thorns FC

USA

13 goals, 2 assists

Midfielder

McCall Zerboni

North Carolina Courage

USA

3 goals, 1 assist

Forward

Crystal Dunn

North Carolina Courage

USA

8 goals, 5 assists

Forward

Sam Kerr

Chicago Red Stars

AUS

16 goals, 4 assists

Forward

Megan Rapinoe

Seattle Reign FC

USA

7 goals, 6 assists


NWSL Second XI


The NWSL Second XI is comprised of the next leading vote getters at each position that did not make the Best XI (listed by position):

Position

Player

Club

Country

Note

Goalkeeper

Lydia Williams

Seattle Reign FC

AUS

10 Clean Sheets

Defender

Merritt Mathias

North Carolina Courage

USA

3 goals, 2 assists

Defender

Julie Ertz

Chicago Red Stars

USA

1,126 minutes

Defender

Emily Menges

Portland Thorns FC

USA

1,305 minutes

Defender

Steph Catley

Seattle Reign FC

AUS

3 assists

Midfielder

Debinha

North Carolina Courage

BRA

8 goals, 2 assists

Midfielder

Carli Lloyd

Sky Blue FC

USA

4 goals, 1 assist

Midfielder

Christine Sinclair

Portland Thorns FC

CAN

9 goals, 6 assists

Forward

Lynn Williams

North Carolina Courage

USA

14 goals, 5 assists

Forward

Rachel Daly

Houston Dash

ENG

10 goals, 2 assists

Forward

Sofia Huerta

Houston Dash

USA

5 goals, 4 assists

The NWSL awards are voted on by club officials, players, media that cover the league on a consistent basis and fans.


Seattle Reign Offseason Loan Updates

As one of the Seattle Reign's two internationals from the U.K. will bypass Australia's Westfield W-League this season to play in a top European league, another is hopeful to return down under after the holidays. Wales international Jess Fishlock has joined Olympique Lyon of France's Feminine Division 1 on loan with immediate effect (as of September 24) rather than returning to Melbourne City for the NWSL offseason, while English international forward Jodie Taylor will likely return to Australia for the 2018/19 W-League season. Fishlock's loan agreement will last until Lyon finishes the 2018/19 UEFA Women's Champions League. Fishlock said: "Growing up in Europe it was always a dream to someday play in the Champions League—it is a magical competition. When I went on loan to Frankfurt in 2015 I got to enjoy the competition, but I had to return to the NWSL prior to the final. I feel very lucky to have the chance to return to the competition with Lyon and to hopefully have the chance to play in the final. Seattle [has] been fantastic and [has] always supported me. I am extremely thankful to be part of such a tremendous organization. I cannot wait to get back to Seattle to work towards the title next season with the Reign." Fishlock had 2 goals and 1 assist in 18 games for the Reign in 2018. In six years in Seattle, she totaled 26 goals and 17 assists in 114 games. In Australia in 5 seasons with Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City, she had 21 goals in 54 games and was actually a Player-Coach for City for part of the 2016/17 season, guiding them to a league title.

English international forward Jodie Taylor (Seattle Reign) talked to Tribal Football.com just before the NWSL playoffs in September and when asked what her plans were for the NWSL offseason, she said: "Good question. Finish out the season [with the Reign]. We have a couple of camps for the National Team from October/November, and then spend time in the U.K. with a well-deserved break. In January, probably back in Australia as a guest player again. It works well with the NWSL season and our national team has been quite supportive of this. [I need to] balance rest and recover and still being able to stay fit and build back to the start of next year [in the NWSL and the Women's World Cup]." Unless something changes, City seems to be where Taylor will finish the W-League season.


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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