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The Week in Women's Football: Comprehensive NWSL review; Real Salt Lake gain entry for 2018; USWNT and Canada friendlies;

This week we review some NWSL news, including a new franchise for 2018 in the Mountain West, coaching changes at three franchises and a review of last week's U.S. Canada two-game friendly series.

Real Salt Lake Joins NWSL for 2018

On November 16, the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) granted an expansion franchise to the Real Salt Lake (Utah) club, which also has franchises in Major League Soccer and the second tier United Soccer Leagues. RSL, the league's third expansion franchise over five seasons (along with Houston in 2007 and Orlando in 2010), is currently the eleventh franchise overall, with the league set to enter its sixth season in 2018, three years longer than each of the two previous women's professional leagues (WUSA and WPS) lasted in the States. This past season, the NWSL celebrated the 500th game in league history—more than the combined total of the WUSA and WPS—as it continues to grow the game in the U.S. and also remains to be a destination league for top international players.

NWSL Managing Director of Operations Amanda Duffy said: "We are very excited to welcome [owner] Dell Loy Hansen and Real Salt Lake into the NWSL family as the newest member of our league. During our discussions in this process, Real Salt Lake has demonstrated their unquestionable desire and commitment to bring the highest level of professional women's soccer to all fans of the game in Salt Lake City and Utah. Real Salt Lake will immediately be able to hit the ground running on the business side as well as provide the players with a top-notch training ground and one of the best game venues in the country."

The new club team name, brand identity and ticket pricing, broadcasting arrangement and corporate sponsorship opportunities, along with coaching hires and forming the roster, will be announced in the weeks to come.

"Our goal is build the very best women's sports organization in America," said Hansen, just weeks before the club opens the $73 million Zions Bank Real Academy in Herriman, Utah, just 15 minutes southwest of Rio Tinto Stadium. "Only 15 days ago was I asked to look into this opportunity, and as we learned about the NWSL vision from the league office and met with A&E executives as well as U.S. Soccer about their aspirations on and off the field, we knew we not only wanted to join as quickly as possible and participate, but we believe that our current infrastructure as well as the development initiatives on the RSL horizon align perfectly. Our community is already passionate about women's sports, and we believe that empowering and advancing the women's game accelerates the change to build a better Utah."

RSL is now the fourth club in the league operated jointly with an existing MLS club, joining Portland, Orlando and Houston, while the Carolina Courage is owned by a NASL club—North Carolina FC—which just announced that it is rejoining the United Soccer League for 2018, which it left 8 years ago to join the NASL when the club was known as the Carolina Railhawks. Real Salt Lake recently concluded its 13th Major League Soccer season in 2017. The club's MLS Cup 2009 victory marked the state of Utah's only major professional championship in almost 50 years (after the Utah Stars won an American Basketball Association title in 1970-71), and then made the 2010/11 CONCACAF Champions League Final. RSL has about 14,000 season ticket holders and Rio Tinto Stadium home in Sandy has hosted U.S. men's and women's national team games in front of a passionate fan base.

In 2015, the club expanded its development pyramid with the addition of Real Monarchs, one of several MLS-operated clubs playing in the USL, the United States' Division II setup. The RSL Foundation was established in 2016, created with the goals of being active in the community year-round, utilizing the popularity and reach of RSL and the Monarchs in promoting health and wellness in children throughout the region, engaging supporters of soccer to raise funds and volunteer time for various local initiatives. This year, owner Dell Loy Hansen opened the Zions Bank Real Academy, a world-class training facility that will host teams at all levels of the pyramid, along with the relocation of the renowned Real Salt Lake Academy in Herriman, Utah from Casa Grande, Arizona.

The one negative about this announcement is that this eleventh NWSL franchise may soon be ten, as there are some reports that FC Kansas City will fold, or be transferred entirely to Salt Lake City. Well-respected Blues head coach Vlatko Andonovski leaving Kansas for Seattle (see below) has added to the uncertainty regarding the two-time NWSL champions, as we discussed last month in our annual NWSL regular season review: (http://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/the-week-in-women-s-football-nwsl-end-of-season-review-special-4202807). At the time we called for the franchise not to be disbanded, as that does away with almost two dozen playing jobs as well as coaches and front office staff. It looks like that this situation may be avoided in a sense with the roster either transferring to Salt Lake, or enough job opportunities from the new club to wash out the clearly likely loss of FC Kansas City.

Coaching Changes in the NWSL

Sky Blue FC, which saw head coach Christie Holly depart the club late in the season with the assistants running the side at the end of the season, has named Denise Reedy as their new head coach. Reddy was previously an assistant coach with Sky Blue in 2014 and 2015 under then head coach Jim Gabarra, who she followed to Washington Spirit, helping the side to the 2016 league final. Reddy, a native of New Jersey, is supremely qualified for her position as she has been a head coach in three countries, including in 2007 with Jersey Sky Blue in the now defunct W-League; the side which ultimately joined WPS in 2009.Reddy said:"Words cannot describe how excited and honored I am to be the head coach of Sky Blue FC. This is where my coaching career started, and it feels great to be back in Jersey and part of such a professional organization. I am looking forward to starting this journey with such top-class players and cannot wait to get on the pitch." Ready holds a prestigious UEFA Pro Coaching License. She was an assistant coach to now Chelsea Head Coach Emma Hayes at the Chicago Red Stars in 2009 and 2010 in WPS and then was an assistant at Linkopings in Sweden in 2011 before becoming head coach in 2012. She then coached B93/HIK/Skjold in Denmark before heading up Vittsjo GIK back in Sweden in the 2014 season, when she then returned to the States and joined Sky Blue FC. Reddy, a defender, played 11 years in Sweden with Umea and Malmo and also played at Rutgers University, where Sky Blue FC plays their home games.

Though some felt that injured defender Christie Rampone, also a New Jersey native, would retire to head the club that she guided to the WPS title in 2009 as an interim coach, it's hard not to be excited about Reddy's hire. She had such a long playing career in Europe—starting long before women's professional soccer began in 2001—and then coaching there; she will bring a European coaching perspective meshed with many years assisting in WPS and NWSL. It will also be interesting to watch which imports she adds to a talented squad with Australia's All World forward Sam Kerr and Costa Rican international midfielder Raquel Rodriguez. Also, she now is the only woman that is a head coach in the league, after Laura Harvey's departure from Seattle (more below). Many followers of the league want to see more head and assistant coaching opportunities for women in this league and Reddy is an excellent choice who we hope will soon be joined by other qualified women, of which there are many in college coaching, but attracting them away from a stable employment situation is a challenge.

Harvey Leaves Seattle Reign to be replaced by FC Kansas City's Vlatko Andonovski.

On November 7, Laura Harvey announced that she was resigning as head coach and general manager of Seattle Reign FC. She has not announced what she is doing next but there will be no shortage of opportunities for her, including possibly the English Women's National Team, as she has been mentioned as a prime candidate. Her replacement is former FC Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who signed a two year deal as head coach and executive director of the clubs academy. Harvey will stay on through the end of the year to help Andonovski transition to the Pacific Northwest club. Interestingly, Andonovski, a native of Macedonia, won two NWSL titles in Kansas City, defeating the Reign in both the 2014 and 2015 finals.

Harvey explained her decision: "When Bill [Predmore] and I sat down after the season to talk about the future, I just wasn't sure what I wanted, but I knew the club needed a decision about my plans. Given my uncertainty it seemed best for all that I step away now to give the club a proper amount of time to hire my replacement. I'm going to take a little bit of time to reflect and decide what the best next move is for me. I hope that an opportunity comes my way and I will decide if it is the right one. It's been a tough decision to make but I feel like it's the right one for me and for the club." Harvey won 51 games, had 26 draws and 33 losses in her five years and won regular season titles (NWSL Shields) in 2014 and 2015. Harvey took a floundering side in the inaugural season that finished second from the bottom to the top of the standings in 2014, utilizing international talent such as Scotland's Kim Little and Wales' Jess Fishlock.

Andonovski is second in all-time league wins behind Harvey with 47, along with 35 draws and 37 losses. Reign owner Bill Predmore said: "When I asked Laura who she thought would be best to lead Reign FC after her departure, there was only one name she provided—Vlatko Andonovski. I have long admired how Vlatko works with his players, appreciated the grace, precision and resilience of how his teams play, and have long coveted the trophies he delivered as a result of his approach. I am confident he is the best person to build on Laura's legacy and will help the club achieve its goal of winning an NWSL championship." Harvey added: "For me, Vlatko was the perfect choice to build on what I've worked so hard to create in Seattle. I have a massive amount of respect for all he accomplished in KC, know that he will work well with Bill and the technical staff, and believe he can get the most out of our squad. I wish him the best of luck with the team and will do all I can to support him as he takes on this challenge."

Besides the England head coaching position, NWSL Media Association colleague Richard Farley of Four Four Two USA feels that Harvey will become more involved with the U.S. National Team, as she is already the U.S. U-23 head coach. If so, she could be well-positioned to take over from current head coach (and fellow-English native) Jill Ellis after the 2019 Women's World Cup and/or 2020 Olympic Games. It will be interesting to see what Harvey will decide.

U.S. takes four points from Canada in both sides last games of 2017.

The U.S. Women's National Team posted a 1-1 tie in Vancouver's B.C. Place Stadium on November 9 against neighbors and rivals Canada in front of a sellout crowd of 28,017, the first time the Americans had played in the stadium since they won the Women's World Cup in the summer of 2015. Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) scored on a half volley in the first half on an assist by Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars) while Adriana Leon (Boston Breakers) tied the match from a Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns) cross just before the hour mark in the second half. Morgan had two shots in front of goal in the 76th minute but Janine Beckie (Houston Dash) blocked them to preserve the tie for the Canadians.

In the rematch in San Jose, California on November 12th, the U.S. won 3-1 again in front of a near capacity crowd of 17,960 at Avaya Stadium, the home of the MLSSan Jose Earthquakes. Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars) scored in the 11th minute from a Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign) cross, which was her sixth national goal of the season, all from set pieces. Janine Beckie scored in the 50th minute with an assist from Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash) but Canada regained the lead through Alex Morgan, her team leading seventh goal of the years and 80th in her career. Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash) secured the win with a goal in the 80th minute, the 98th of her career.

- U.S. Women's National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Women's National Team vs. Canada
Date: Nov. 9, 2017
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: BC Place; Vancouver, BC, Canada
Attendance: 28,017 (sellout)

Scoring Summary:12F
USA 1 0 1
CAN 0 1 1

USA - Alex Morgan (Casey Short) 31stminute
CAN - Adrianna Leon (Christine Sinclair) 56

USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 5-Kelley O'Hara, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.), 7-Abby Dahlkemper,

14-Casey Short (22-Taylor Smith, 66); 8-Julie Ertz (6-Andi Sullivan, 74), 9-Lindsey Horan,

3-Samantha Mewis (10-Carli Lloyd, 65); 12-Lynn Williams (20-Allie Long, 87), 13-Alex Morgan,

15-Megan Rapinoe (23-Christen Press, 66)
Subs not used: 24-Ashlyn Harris, 16-Emily Sonnett
Head coach: Jill Ellis

CAN: 1-Stephanie Labbe; 2-Allysha Chapman, 4-Shelina Zadorsky, 5-Rebecca Quinn,

6-Deanne Rose (19-Adrianna Leon, 31), 10- Ashley Lawrence, 11-Desiree Scott,

12-Christine Sinclair (capt.), 15-Nichelle Prince (20-Maegan Kelly, 71), 16-Janine Beckie

(9-Jordyn Huitema, 90), 17-Jessie Fleming

Subs not used: 18-Sabrina D'Angelo, 21-Kailen Sheridan, 14-Jayde Riviere, 22-Lindsay Agnew, 23-

Julia Grosso, 24-Ariel Young

Head coach:John Herdman

Stats Summary: USA / CAN
Shots: 11 / 19
Shots on Goal: 4 / 8
Saves: 7 / 3
Corner Kicks: 4 / 5
Fouls: 13 / 14
Offside: 2 / 1

- U.S. Women's National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Women's National Team vs. Canada
Date: Nov. 12, 2017
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Avaya Stadium; San Jose, Calif.
Attendance: 17,960

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 2 3
CAN 0 1 1

USA - Julie Ertz (Megan Rapinoe) 11th minute
CAN - Janine Beckie (Nichelle Prince) 50
USA - Alex Morgan (Christen Press) 56
USA - Carli Lloyd (Alex Morgan) 80

USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 22-Taylor Smith (14-Casey Short, 66), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (capt.), 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 5-Kelley O'Hara; 8-Julie Ertz (6-Andi Sullivan, 75), 9-Lindsey Horan, 3-Samantha Mewis (10-Carli Lloyd, 75); 23-Christen Press (12-Lynn Williams, 82), 13-Alex Morgan, 15-Megan Rapinoe
Subs not used: 24-Ashlyn Harris; 16-Emily Sonnett, 20-Allie Long
Head coach: Jill Ellis

CAN: 1-Stephanie Labbe; 2-Allysha Chapman, 4-Shelina Zadorsky, 5-Rebecca Quinn; 11-Desiree Scott (24-Ariel Young, 71), 17-Jessie Fleming, 20-Maegan Kelly (22-Lindsay Agnew, 60); 6-Deanne Rose (15-Nichelle Prince, 31), 12-Christine Sinclair (9-Jordyn Huitema, 60), 16-Janine Beckie (23-Julia Grosso, 90), 19-Adriana Leon (14-Jayde Riviere, 71)
Subs not used: 18-Sabrina D'Angelo, 21-Kailen Sheridan
Head coach: John Herdman

Stats Summary: USA / CAN
Shots: 12 / 8
Shots on Goal: 6 / 2
Saves: 1 / 4
Corner Kicks: 10 / 2
Fouls: 12 / 12
Offside: 1 / 0

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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