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The Week in Women's Football: Exclusive interview with PSV keeper Miller; USWNT roster for Mexico fixtures; Champions League quarterfinals review;

This week we look at the Netherlands League and talk to PSV Eindhoven goalkeeper Cassie Miller, who played in a FIFA U-17 World Cup for the U.S. but preferred starting her professional career in Europe rather than in the NWSL. We also present the U.S. Roster for two upcoming friendlies this month against Mexico, review the European Women's Champions League quarterfinals and discuss the latest European signing by the Portland Thorns for the 2018 season.

Netherlands League Update and Cassie Miller Interview

Cassie Miller finished her goalkeeping collegiate career at Florida State University last fall. In her redshirt freshman year of 2014, she played every minute in goal as the Seminoles went 24-1-1 and won their first College Cup national championship. She also posted the second lowest goals against average in the country of 0.34 that season. Over her career, she had 48 shutouts, the third highest total in NCAA Division 1 history. Her career goals against average was 0.569, second to UCLA's Katelyn Rowland's 0.40 from 2011-14 for goalkeepers playing 7,000 minutes or more (Miller is 22nd best all-time with no restriction on minutes played). Rowland now plays in the NWSL with the North Carolina Courage.

Miller played for the U.S. at the U-17 Women's World Cup in Azerbaijan in 2012 (won by France) and spent time with the U-20 side. During the past few summers, she played with the Chicago Red Eleven of the WPSL—owned by the NWSL Chicago Red Stars franchise—for a couple of summers, which allowed her to practice with U.S. international goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and work with the national team position coach on occasion. She was a definite to be a high draft pick by a NWSL side in the 2018 College Draft in January but never registered to be selected, as her heart was set on playing in Europe. FSU Head Coach Mark Krikorian helped her substantially with contacts and advice; a former WUSA head coach with the Philadelphia Charge from 2001 to 2003. Krikorian has always recruited international talent to FSU for years, including ex-Umea of Sweden and Japanese international midfielder Mami Yamaguchi and former Portuguese international and ex-Liverpool and Tribal Football.com contributor midfielder Amanda Da Costa. Krikorian's current side includes imports Megan Connolly of the Republic of Ireland, Heidi Kollanen, Emma Koivisto and Natalia Kuikka of Finland, Anna Patten of England, Gloriana Villalobos of Costa Rica and Deyna Catellanos, who helped Venezuela to the semifinals of the last two FIFA Women's World Cup, winning the Golden Boot in 2014 and the Bronze Boot and Bronze Ball in 2016. Miller said that: "FSU had a lot of different players from abroad and I can see some old teammates from around Europe in my travels and have the soccer side." Miller signed an 18-month deal in January 2018 with top Dutch side PSV Eindhoven. (PSV began play on the women's side in 2012/13 and its highest finish to date has been third for the last two seasons.) She has felt welcomed there and has found that many people are aware of PSV's women's side—this is the country that hosted the EUROS last summer and won the title for the first time in such stylish and convincing fashion.

Even though she had not played yet for Eindhoven, backing up Dutch international keeper Angela Christ, until she started in the 4-1 win over Heerenveen on March 27 (with American teammate Sam Witteman scoring twice) who is in her sixth season of the club, Miller is pleased with her move. Another rookie American keeper, Casey Murphy, was selected in the first round by Sky Blue FC but went to France instead and started on March 21 and on March 28 for Montpellier in their Women's Champions League quarterfinals aggregate defeat to Chelsea (see below). The difference between Miller and Murphy is that, if and when Murphy returns to the NWSL, she will have to go to Sky Blue FC (or another side that acquires her rights through a trade or dispersal draft if the Jersey club should ever fold) while Miller would come back as a free agent and can negotiate with a team wherever she wants to be.

Miller said that the move [abroad]: "has broadened my development and I've learned a different side of the soccer world. A different style of play, different perspectives and cultures. I came over to get a different look into the soccer world. For a goalkeeper, the style is completely different from the States. Here in the Netherlands, it is dribbling a keeper and different techniques for stopping shots, where as in the States the focus is on stopping long-range shots."

Miller does plan on returning to play in the NWSL at some point: "When my time is done overseas; I've always wanted to play professional in my own country." She is not worried that she will disappear from the national team radar, as she has been assured that the U.S. WNT coaches follow all the American pool players and prospects abroad.

The Dutch Women's LeagueEredivisie Women is composed of 9 clubs this season. The main developer of talent for the 2017 European Champions has always been domestic focused (along with some Belgium players) as the leagues conducted joint tables in the past as the BeNe League for three seasons from 2012-13 through 2014-15 seasons, with FC Twente (the Netherlands) and Standard of Belgium contesting the title all three years, with Standard winning in the cross-border competition's final season. Currently the Dutch season is in its closing stage, after a 16 round regular season that saw Twente, Ajax, PEC Zwolle, Heerenveen and Miller's PSV Eindhoven advance to the championship round. The other four sides will play to remain in the league and include ADO Den Haag, Alkmaar, Achilles '29 and Excelsior/Barendrecht of Rotterdam, which lost all 16 games and scored only 7 goals while allowing 56.Twenty-one-year-old Katja Snoeijs of Alkmaar led the league with 14 goals, while Fenna Kalma of Heerenveen (18) finished one back in second with 13 goals; Twente pair Ellen Jansen (25) and Joelle Smits (18) had 12 and 11 goals respectively to finish in the top four among scorers during the first phase of matches.

Though ADO Den Haag, Alkmaar, Achilles 29 and Heerenveen have all Dutch rosters while SBV Excelsior/BVV Barendrecht has Belgium goalkeeper Sofie Van Houtven as their lone import, there has been some interest in the league from players abroad with imports this year from England, Norway and CONCACAF, which should increase as the clubs stabilize and the league grows in stature.

PSV Eindhoven has a mix of internationals in addition to Cassie Miller in goal, including defender Kristina Erman of Slovenia (24), midfielder Sara Yuceil of Belgium (29)—who played last season with Olympic Marseille of France—midfielder Kim DeCesare of the U.S. (26), who played in the NWSL with Sky Blue FC and Boston Breakers and fellow American Sam Witteman, who played with Orlando in 2016 and North Carolina last season before joining PSV this spring and has played in 5 matches with 2 goals scored. Sofia Racz of Hungary (29), who played two seasons at Duisburg in Germany, is also a midfield option while Greek international (but raised in Germany and a German youth international before playing for Greece at the senior level) forward Sofia Nati (24) joined recently from Duisburg. The coach is Nebojsa Vuckovic (42) of Croatia, who has been coaching the club since January 2013.

PEC Zwolle has American defender Siobhan Mary McDonough (ex-University of Pittsburgh), and at 22 years old has played 16 games this season with 1 goal. England's English import Abby Holmes played 3 years before at Sunderland and has four goals in 16 games from her defensive position. Jamaican/American Marlo Sweatman (23) plays in the midfield (ex-University of Oregon/Florida State University who grew up in the Washington D.C. area but played for her mother's country of birth Jamaica ) and has 1 goal in 12 games for PEC.

Ajax has two players from Belgium, two from Spain and one from the U.S.; goalkeeper Elixabete Sarasola 26 played for Spain at the youth level and collegiately at the University of Charleston in the U.S. as well as for the Colorado Rush in the W-League. She has been at Ajax for 3 seasons. Belgium's imports are internationals defender Davina Philtjens (29) and midfielder Nicky van den Abbeele (24). Forward Willy (Ana Maria Romero) of Spain is in her second season at Ajax and has played for the national side as well as Valencia, Barcelona and Espanol. Forward Toni Payne, ex-U-17 international and Duke University, was drafted in the 2017 College Draft by FC Kansas City (now Utah Royals) but is another player that chose to play abroad rather than in the U.S., signing with Ajax after a trial. She would be tied to the Royals if and when she returns to the U.S.

Twente also has two imports from Belgium—Goalkeeper Nicky Evrard of Belgium and midfielder Jassina Blom of Belgium (who played last season with Heerenveen) and their coach is German—Tommy Stroot. Norwegian international defender Andrine Tomter (23) played two previous seasons at Avaldsnes and before that spent 5 seasons with Kolbotn.

U.S. National Team names roster for friendlies against Mexico next week

The U.S. has named a 22 player roster for two friendly matches against Mexico on Thursday April 5 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida and Sunday April 8 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. The U.S. has dominated all matches against their southern neighbor, winning 32 times against 1 tie and 1 defeat. Twenty of the 22 players named were on the U.S. roster for the 2018 SheBelieves Cup at the beginning of March, which the U.S. won. Becky Sauerbrunn returns to the team for this first time this season after recovering from a foot injury. Ashley Hatch did not make the final SheBelieves Cup roster after participating in a pre-tournament training camp. She was the NWSL Rookie of the Year for the North Carolina Courage but was traded before the season began to the Washington Spirit. Christen Press, who has refused to join the Houston Dash after an offseason trade, was not called into the side, a sign of things to come if she does not resolve the dispute with the NWSL or join a top club abroad soon. The NWSL has stated that they hope to find a resolution (i.e. another club for her) within the next week or so. The USA won the four-team tournament that featured Germany, England and France.

U.S. Women's National Team Roster by Position; Caps/Goals
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 2/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 14/0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 27/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 17/0), Tierna Davidson (Stanford; 4/0), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars; 4/0); Kelley O'Hara (Utah Royals FC; 107/2), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 21/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC: 135/0), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC; 15/0)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Morgan Brian (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 72/6), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 47/4), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 250/98), Allie Long (Seattle Reign FC; 35/6), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 9/0)

FORWARDS (7): Crystal Dunn (NC Courage; 60/23), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 1/0); Savannah McCaskill (Sky Blue FC; 4/0), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 138/81), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 33/9), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 133/35), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 19/4)

UEFA Women's Champions League Semifinalists Decided

In the first leg, the two English sides gave themselves solid advantages with 2-0 wins as Manchester City (Nikita Parris and Scotland's Jane Ross scoring the goals) at home to Linkoping and Chelsea away to Montpellier (with Korea Republic's Ji So-Yun and substitute Erin Cuthbert of Scotland scoring). In the return legs this past week, City built a 6-0 aggregate advantage by halftime, including a brace from England's Georgia Stanway, but Swedish international Marija Banusic scored her own double and Linkoping scored a third through substitute Tove Almqvist to make things interesting in a 5-3 Man City win (7-3 on aggregate). In the other match involving a Super League side, Fran Kirby was brilliant for Chelsea, scoring twice (once from the penalty spot) and assisting Swiss international Ramona Bachmann's goal in a 3-1 win in front of a Chelsea record home crowd of 3,000.

Wolfsburg of Germany outclassed Slavia Prague 5-0 at home with Penille Harder of the Netherlands scoring twice in the first leg; the Germans let off the gas in the second leg for a 1-1 tie and 6-1 aggregate victory. Olympique Lyon squeaked a 2-1 win at home in the first leg, with Barcelona scoring a crucial road goal through goals by Ada Hegerberg of Norway and Dzenifer Marozsan of Germany, and 19 year old Patricia Guijarro scoring for Barcelona. Hegerberg scored a late goal in the return leg in Spain and Lyon advanced 2-1 on aggregate. Hegerberg has 14 goals on the season and one more goal would give her the all-time CWL single season scoring record. Camille Abily made her 78th appearance in European club competition as a substitute, surpassing the all-time record previously held by goalkeeper Emma Bryne of the Republic of Ireland and Arsenal. She played last season for Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA WSL2 before retiring; she has a record 134 caps for Ireland.

In the Semifinals later this month Chelsea meets Wolfsburg while Manchester City plays Lyon. There could be an all English League final for the first time, but the Blues must overcome the two-time reigning WCL French side and Chelsea the same with Wolfsburg, which won two in a row in 2013 and 2014 and were losing finalists in 2016.

Portland Thorns Sign Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic of Switzerland

Another international star has left Europe to join the NWSL as forward Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic of Switzerland has moved from FFC Frankfurt to Portland and will arrive during the FIFA transfer window in April. Crnogorcevic has played in Frankfurt for 7 years and won the 2015 UEFA Women's Champions League title. Before that, she played for Hamburg. For Switzerland, she is the all-time leading scorer with 50 goals in 101 appearances and helped her country make the Round of 16 in their first ever Women's World Cup appearance in 2015 in Canada. She was approached to play for her parents country of Croatia as a youth, but turned down the opportunity.

At only 27, Crnogorcevic is at the top of her game and is an inspired signing by the 2017 league champions Thorns and the NWSL in general, though she will have a much longer commute for UEFA national team World Cup qualifiers and camps leading into next year's Women's World Cup; Switzerland is a favorite to qualify again.

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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