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The Week in Women's Football: Exclusive interview with ex-Liverpool star da Costa; USWNT roster announced; Matildas triumph over Brazil in Sydney;

This week, we catch up with Amanda Da Costa, the former Liverpool and Portuguese midfielder (and former TribalFootball.com contributor) who retired last month from the game.

We also present the roster for the U.S. National Team matches versus New Zealand this week and summarize the first game of the series. We also report on some news from Australia, including pay raises for national team and W-League players, the result of the first Matilda-Brazil game and a new signing for Brisbane Roar from Hong Kong.

Amanda Da Costa Retires from the Game

We reported a few weeks ago about long-term players in NWSL retiring during the season to pursue careers outside the sport. A high profile international recently made a similar decision and she should be familiar to TribalFootball.com readers—Amanda Da Costa. Da Costa won two league titles at Liverpool under Matt Beard, played for Portugal this summer at the EUROS, in NWSL with Washington, Chicago and Boston (again under Beard) for three seasons, a year in WPS with the magicJack franchise in South Florida, and was a contributor to TribalFootball.com while she played for the Reds. Da Costa talked to us about what she is doing next and her thoughts on the game in Europe and in the States.

Da Costa said that she has just enrolled in graduate school in New York State to study to be a school psychologist. She is also working at the college in the student admissions office. She explained that, even when playing in Chicago last season, she knew that her retirement was coming: "I've known for a while and prepared for the moment but soccer was really an important and the only chapter of my life."

In her recruiting position at the college, she helps "students who want to go to school, to help them find a good path for themselves, which I have done through coaching and mentoring rookies. I am learning to take everything that being an athlete taught me and apply it to my job and hopefully my teacher profession. It's a different environment but I still feel comfortable because of what the game has given me."

Da Costa began playing for Portugal's national team in late December 2015, for a European Championship qualifier. We had talked in the past about her decision to come back to the States to try to pursue a spot with the U.S. National Team (she had played for the U-17 and the U-23 side): "I realized that the U.S. thing was not happening and had another opportunity that I wanted to take full advantage of and it felt right.

Portugal reached out—she qualified through FIFA's ancestry rules—and at that time I said 'Yeah, it feels right'. I knew I was getting ready to retire and do something different but I had that feeling that I didn't do everything that I wanted to do yet with soccer internationally, so that was the perfect opportunity to do that. I have always gone with the flow and made the most of every moment." She mentioned Portugal's win this summer over Scotland as historic—their first win ever at the Euros—and she recalled: "All the traveling fans we had cheering us, it was very emotional; I even saw my Mom and Dad cheering in the stands."

Thinking about the future, Da Costa felt that the Portugal national team: "is in a great spot and has a great future" and should continue to do well in the years to come.

They are currently receiving the same training ground access as their men's teams, including meals, and "overall is a great setup." Also, she felt that the Federation: "reaching out to Brazil, Germany, myself [American] players of Portuguese descent, who want to leave their current situation and represent their heritage, that is a really big deal and developing a program that has caliber, that wants players to do that, is huge for the women's game."

At the league level in Portugal, Da Costa thought that there is much more work to do. Sporting has become a focal point or 'a mini Barcelona,' with major signings of late of domestic and international players, and: "is pretty much the national team roster." She feels that the league is heavily tilted to Sporting and Braga—the two top clubs—with a huge gap below them: "You need more competition elsewhere in the league. I hope other clubs start to do more."

While Sporting has the men's [side] backing, the women players still are not paid. She said: "People should rally around the league and not just Sporting. To distribute the top talent, every team in league has to do that type of recruiting." She thought that the allocation system that NWSL used to spread American and Canadian National Team members around evenly across teams (when it launched and for new additions every year) might be a solution, but then it could shortchange the top players, who might not get as much experience as playing against a talented full side (this could hamper somewhat national team development as a national side that play essentially at club level in theory can have an advantage with consistency and understanding over a side amalgamating players from different clubs and even countries).

In order to recruit players from other countries, as clubs in neighbouring Spain have been doing recently, Da Costa said that: "They [Portuguese league teams] need to have players make more than just food money to get seasoned players." She felt that otherwise, only those just out of college in the U.S. might be tempted more for the experience, but will essentially not be able to save any money as they can in other countries.

Turning to the NWSL, Da Costa felt that the primary areas of concern were economic, facility development and additional competitions. She said that: "I made less than half of what I made as a rookie [in 2015] now [in 2017]. The money [for players] will grow but clubs need to make up with the lack of pay in other ways, with consistency. 'Can we offer players meals every day?' Teams need to work with more partners, like in Boston we received two $100 Duncan Donuts cards. That buys a lot of coffee. We had great apartments in Boston but we had a long drive to save money on rent. So can there be gas reimbursements? The little things to make players happy go a long ways." She concluded with a hope that: "Can clubs be more diligent about making players feel that they are in a professional environment, giving them little things that help them live more comfortably?"

Team training and facility issues were a crucial area that Da Costa saw as a "disparity across the league" that was working against some teams. She cited North Carolina, Portland and Orlando as having outstanding set-ups, which is significant as all three sides have links with either MLS or NASL [2nd Division teams]. She said that if you look at the league table, these teams tend to have more success [with a few weeks left in the season, all three sides are currently in the top four in the league and thus in position for post-season playoff spots]. Da Costa said: "Other teams don't have the same amenities, and facilities, even the quality of playing surface; they are trying but it is hard to have a league that is so competitive as this one is with such disparities from top to bottom." She felt that some players would be willing to forego a pay raise for a year or two if they saw teams putting the money into facilities improvement.

Da Costa would like to see one or two in-season cup competitions, even including non-league teams. (There is an annual U.S. Women's Open Cup but few teams participate—primarily because they can't afford the travel commitments—and mostly it attracts amateur sides). She explained: "In England they had the FA Cup and Continental Cups. In the U.S. there is the just the league and the playoffs for the top 4 teams. There are no extra games. The extra competition will give teams near the bottom something to play for. It will also raise the integrity of the league and give us something to play for."

She felt that some of these changes will help the league: "to keep more quality players. If so many my age leave, they are not earning enough to make a life so the league will have an undue balance of young players." She noted that she was the oldest player (at 27) on the Red Stars last season in Chicago and in Boston (she will be 28 next month) except for 33-year-old Tiffany Weimer (ex-Santos of Brazil, WPS, Denmark, Sweden and Finland).

Even with her new career path, Da Costa still plans to be involved in the sport as: "I'm still a soccer junkie" She runs Advantage Training for skills clinic and small group work: "I get to work with kids purely for fun. I don't see that stopping anytime soon. I'll join a summer team and go to town on people, just for fun."

You have to be happy for Amanda Da Costa as she starts a new career outside of soccer; she clearly has thought about her choice and is excited about her new job and courses. She has provided so many thrills in Europe and in the U.S; fittingly, Da Costa scored from the penalty spot late in injury time in her last professional game, a 2-1 home loss to Orlando on August 19, before which Da Costa was honored by the club. Amanda Da Costa will be missed on the field in the future.

Jill Ellis Names 22 Players for Two Match home series versus New Zealand; the Americans win the first match 3-1.

U.S. Women's National Team head coach Jill Ellis has named 22 players to the roster for two matches against New Zealand, Sept. 15 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City (Denver), Colorado and on Sept. 19 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ellis will name 18 players to suit up for each of the two matches.

Veteran midfielder Tobin Heath is back in camp after recovering from a back injury that kept her out of the U.S. lineup since March. Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris also returns after suffering from a quad injury that kept her off the field for both club and country for some months. Midfielder Morgan Brian also returns from injury, not having played for the national time since March. Brian recently was acquired by the Chicago Red Stars from the Houston Dash. Midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who has been out for several weeks after minor knee surgery following the Tournament of Nations where she scored twice, is fit enough to be on the roster for the New Zealand games.

All the players are NWSL-based except one in college—Tierna Davidson of Stanford who is uncapped—and one abroad, Chelsea's Crystal Dunn. Chicago Red Stars leads with 5 players on the roster, while league leaders North Carolina Courage have 4 and Portland Thorns and Orlando Pride each have 2. Boston Breakers, Sky Blue FC, FC Kansas City, Houston Dash, Seattle Reign and Washington Spirit have one each; thus each NWSL team has at least one player in the camp.

In addition, Chicago Red Stars Sofia Huerta was again invited to train with the U.S. team (she trained with the USA during the entire 2017 Tournament of Nations last month) as she waited for the approval of the request for change of association from FIFA, which officially came on September 14. She became eligible immediately to play for the Americans. Huerta played for Mexico at the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup and has five caps for the senior team. She has 18 goals and 9 assists in 60 games in three years with Chicago and played last winter with Adelaide United in Australia.

The USA is 12-1-1 all-time against New Zealand, which is ranked 19th in the world.

The most recent meeting between the teams came in the opening game of the 2016 Olympics, a 2-0 win in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on goals from Lloyd and Morgan.

U.S. Women's National Team Roster by Position (Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 18/0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 1/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 13/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 7/0), Tierna Davidson (Stanford; 0/0), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 51/9), Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC; 99/2), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City; 129/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 13/0), Taylor Smith (NC Courage; 3/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars; 67/6), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 131/18), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 37/3), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers; 6/2), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC; 30/5), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 28/5), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 123/33)

FORWARDS (5): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC; 54/22), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 128/74), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars; 90/43), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 26/5), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 10/2)

The Americans won the first game of the two game set with a 3-1 win over New Zealand on September 15 in front of a crowd of 17,301 in Commerce City (Denver). Julie Ertz scored two first half goals, Alex Morgan scored the final tally on an assist from substitute Sophia Huerta, who was cleared the day before to play for the U.S. after playing for Mexico's full side in the past. Kelly O'Hara captained the side in her hundredth international. New Zealand scored in the 75th minute from Hannah Wilkinson (Vittsjo of Sweden and ex-University of Tennessee) with an assist from Ali Riley (FC Rosengard of Sweden, ex-Stanford University and two time WPS champion). Stanford University sophomore Tierna Davidson, who trained with the USA for four days in Colorado, left camp before the game and returned to Palo Alto to play in her Sunday match for the Cardinal.

U.S. Women's National Team Match Report

Match: U.S. Women's National Team vs. New Zealand
Date: Sept. 15, 2017
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Dick's Sporting Goods Park; Commerce City, Colo.

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

USA – Julie Ertz (Lindsey Horan) 16th minute
USA – Julie Ertz 24
NZL - Hannah Wilkinson (Ali Riley) 75
USA – Alex Morgan (Sofia Huerta) 79

USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 22-Taylor Smith (11-Sofia Huerta, 51), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 5-Kelley O'Hara (capt.) (14-Casey Short, 77); 8-Julie Ertz, 3-Samantha Mewis (20-Allie Long, 60), 9-Lindsey Horan (6-Morgan Brian, 74); 2-Mallory Pugh (19-Crystal Dunn, 60), 13-Alex Morgan, 15-Megan Rapinoe (23-Christen Press, 60)
Substitutes: 18-Jane Campbell
Head coach: Jill Ellis

NZL: 1-Erin Nayler; 2-Ria Percival, 5-Meikayla Moore, 6-Rebekah Stott, 7-Ali Riley (capt.); 13-Rosie White (18-Aimee Phillips, 87), 10-Annalie Longo, 11-Kirsty Yallop (16-Olivia Chance, 84), 12-Betsy Hassett, 14-Katie Bowen; 17-Hannah Wilkinson
Substitutes: 21-Anna Leat 23-Victoria Esson, 3-Anna Green, 4-Cj Bott, 8-Daisy Cleverley, 20-Malia Steinmetz, 22-Katie Rood, 25-Liz Anton, 26-Jane Barnett
Head coach:
Tony Readings

Stats Summary: USA / NZL
Shots: 14 / 5
Shots on Goal: 4 / 3
Saves: 2 / 1
Corner Kicks: 7 / 3
Fouls: 8 / 11
Offside: 0 / 1

News from Australia; Improved Pay For All Players, a win over Brazil in Sydney and a new international signing from Hong Kong for Brisbane Roar

Football Federation Australia has agreed a new two-year agreement on pay with the Professional Footballers Australia, which also affects the W-League. Under the new two-year agreement, all players, other than youth players on scholarships, are guaranteed a minimum salary of at least AU$10,000 (6,700 Euros) for the coming season and $12,200 (8,200 Euros) for the 2018/19 season, with no prescribed maximum cap on any one player's salary. The average retainer for Westfield W-League Players is expected to rise from $6,909 (4,600 Euros) to $15,500 (10,400 Euros) for Season 2017/18 and $17,400 (11,700 Euros) in 2018/19. Previously, many players were considered amateur and received only reimbursement of expenses.

The Westfield W-League salary cap per club will be increased from AU$150,000 (100,700 Euros) in 2016/17 to AU$300,000 (201,400 Euros) in 2017/18 and AU$350,000 (235,000 Euros) in 2018/19. Total player payments in the league are rising from a total of AU$450,000 (302,150 Euros) in 2016/17 to AU$1.62 million (1.08 million Euros) this season and AU$1.99m (1.34 million Euros) for next season.

While the new agreement sets minimum standards, the highest earning Australian female professionals—those playing in the Westfield W-League, other professional leagues overseas and for the women's national team—are expected to now earn at least AU$130,000 (87,200 Euros) a year. Professional Australian female players are competing regularly in overseas leagues including the USA, Germany, China, South Korea, Japan and Norway.

According to the Australian Football Federation news release, "The new agreement provides contracting certainty, larger roster sizes, a significantly increased salary cap, an agreed commercial framework to underpin the growth of the women's game, enhanced minimum medical standards, key principles for the first ever formal maternity policy for Westfield W-League players and the establishment of a formal partnership with the players through the Professional Women's Football Committee to drive further employment, performance and competition reform."

Football Federation Australia and the clubs are projected to spend a combined total of around $5.9 million (4.0 million Euros) on payments to female players in the Westfield W-League. When payments to Westfield Matildas representatives are added, this figure rises to approximately $7.9 million (5.3 million Euros).

This agreement is tremendous news for players in Australia as well as for the women's game in general. The increase of salaries at the individual level are important but what really catches attention is the massive spend for the W-League of 3 times last year's expenditure and 4 times that for total Federation salary expenses really takes the W-League into a semi-professional level status, similar to the English FA Super League or leagues in Norway or Sweden. This should damper concerns among some women football followers in Australia who this year felt threatened by the growth of women's leagues in Australian Football, Netball and Cricket. The AFL is still largely amateur and this move by Football Federation Australia ups the ante in the arms race among women's sports codes in the country. This spending should also increase Australia's chances to host the 2023 Women's World Cup, with Asian competitors, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, as well as Colombia from CONMEBOL and possibly New Zealand from OCEANIA.

Australia defeats Brazil 2-1 in Greater Sydney

Goals by Lisa De Vanna (Canberra United last season) and Sam Kerr (Sky Blue FC), on an assist by Alanna Kennedy (Orlando Pride) powered the Matildas to a 2-1 victory of Brazil. Brazil scored through Debinha (North Carolina Courage) on an assist from Cristiane (Changchun Volkswagen Exc. Women's Club of China) with 11 minutes remaining to narrow the margin. The game attracted 15,089 and was a sellout in suburban Penrith. Australia, unbeaten in their last seven matches, has defeated long-time rival twice in a month, having defeated the South Americans last month 6-1 in the U.S. The sides play again on Tuesday in Newcastle.

Roar signs Hong Kong International for the 2017/18 season

Brisbane Roar have signed Hong Kong International attacker Wai Ki Cheung for the Westfield W-League 2017/18 season, the first Hong Kong national to play in the W-League. Cheung (26) is seen as part of a strong generation of talent with the Hong Kong national squad. She scored her team's only goal in the second round of the East Asian Football Federation Tournament in November 2016. Hong Kong finished third in the second stage, defeating Guam 1-0 but lost to Chinese Taipei 5-0 before losing to Group A winners Korea Republic 14-0. The final round of the tournament is in December and involves Korea DPR, Korea Republic, Japan and China in what should be an evenly matched tournament. Guam had won the First Round over the Northern Marianas, Macao and Mongolia, with Mongolia withdrawing.

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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