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The Week In Women’s Football: France beat US to clinch SheBelieves Cup; Aussie ace Ashleigh Sykes joins Portland Thorns

This week we review the final match day of the SheBelieves Cup, including France's 3-0 defeat of the Americans; summarize the England U-23 National Team's win over the U.S. U-23's in Spain, look at a historic U.S. women's franchise joining UWS and a veteran Australian forward joining the Portland Thorns.

Viva La France! French team beats US 3-0 to clinch SheBelieves Cup

The U.S. lost its second match in a row and finished in last place in their own tournament—the second annual SheBelieves Cup—with 3 points (even with Germany but trailing on goal difference) with a 3-0 defeat to France on March 7th on the final match day of the tournament.

France recorded only its second ever win over the U.S. and now has a 2-2-17 (W-D-L) record all-time in 21 matches. The loss resulted in the Americans flipping places with the French, who finished last in the inaugural tournament last season, while the Americans won the title with three consecutive victories over England, France and Germany. The Americans also lost to England 1-0 on March 4, 2017 and they have not encountered two consecutive home losses since 2000.

The France match was effectively over within 9 minutes of the start when Camille Abily scored from a penalty kick after Eugenie Le Sommer was pulled down in the penalty box by goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

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Le Sommer then scored from a long ball by Wendie Renaud (Olympique Lyon), which the Lyon forward collected and raced past the defense, slotting the ball into the net past Naeher. Abily—who used to play in WPS with the Los Angeles Sol and FC Gold Pride's title winning side in 2010 and has been with Olympique Lyon since returning to France after that summer season—scored again midway through the second half (63rd minute). Laura Georges in defense had a strong match—the three time Women's World Cup veteran played at Boston College early in her career and is now with Paris St. Germain. The Portland Thorns' Amandine Henry was influential in the middle. The offensive statistics were similar for both sides— the Americans led on shots 13-12, corners 9-7, and trailed on shots on goal 5- 6 while Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns and ex-Paris St. Germain) had a goal called back for offsides in the second half—but France controlled play for large periods with flank play and by using their blinding speed in the American's half of the pitch. France's head coach Oliver Echouafni, who took over for Philippe Bergeroo last September after the Rio Olympic Games, is undefeated in his 8 matches in charge. He played in Ligue 1 with Nice and RacingStrasbourg among others and managed Sochaux. Some expressed concerns upon his appointment that he had never coached women, but he has the team firing on all cylinders and they will be favorites to win Euro 2017 this summer in the Netherlands as well as their home-based World Cup in two years. Some have felt that France has undelivered in their past two most recent World Cup campaigns, with a fourth place showing in 2011 and fifth in 2015 after a quarterfinal defeat to Germany on penalties, but they have only had three Women's World Cup appearances (including 2003) so the currently rated third place team in the world in the FIFA rankings really should not feel defensive about its past and is clearly building the squad nicely for their next two major tournaments.

France demonstrated in the SheBelieves Cup that they have an excellent mix of experience with Georges (176 caps), Abily (161 caps), Elise Bussaglia of Wolfsburg (152 caps) and Marie Laure Delie with (65 goals in 101 games) along with some talented youngsters in Griedge M'bock, Sandie Toletti, Grace Geyoro and Kadidiatou Diani, who were all leaders in the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Championship side. In addition, backup goalkeeper Meline Gerard started in place of longtime number 1 Sarah Bouhaddi—who Gerard also backs up at Lyon—and had a fine match to record the shutout, including a superb punch clearance of a strong shot by UCLA's Mallory Pugh in the 56th minute.

U.S. Women's National Team vs. France
SheBelieves Cup

March 7, 2017 - Washington D.C., RFK Stadium


USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 20-Allie Long, 7-Casey Short; 16-Rose Lavelle (2-Mallory Pugh, 45), 3-Samantha Mewis (9-Lindsey Horan, 70), 6-Morgan Brian (8-Julie Johnston, 70), 17-Tobin Heath, 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.) (5-Kelley O'Hara, 78); 12-Lynn Williams (13-Alex Morgan, 70), 23-Christen Press (19-Crystal Dunn, 45)
Subs not used: 11-Ali Krieger, 14-Jessica McDonald, 15-Emily Sonnett, 18-Jane Campbell, 22-Brianna Pinto, 24-Ashlyn Harris
Head coach: Jill Ellis

FRA: 21-Meline Gerard; 2-Eve Perisset (5-Assatou Tounkara, 68), 3-Wendie Renard (capt.), 4-Laura Georges, 6-Amandine Henry, 7-Sandie Toletti (15-Elise Bussaglia, 53), 9-Eugenie Le Sommer (18-Marie Laure Delie, 65), 10-Camille Abily (17-Gaetane Thiney, 81), 12-Elodie Thomis (11-Clarie Lavogez, 70), 22-Amel Majri (14-Camille Catala, 81), 23-Sakina Karchaoui
Subs not used: 1-Laetitia Philippe, 16-Sarah Bouhaddi, 13-Kadidiatou Diani, 20-Grace Geyoro
Head coach: Olivier Echouafni

England loses a close match to Germany

Germany defeated England 1-0 in their final SheBelieves Cup match on Tuesday March 7 at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. Anna Mittag (Wolfsburg after playing for Paris St Germain last season) scored just before half time to give Germany the points and their first win of the competition, after a 1-0 loss to the U.S. and a 0-0 draw with France.

On the goal, Mittag let a long pass from Sara Dabritz (Bayern Munich) run past her to Lina Magull (who has been on loan to Black Forest side SC Freiburg from VfL Wolfsburg for a few seasons); Magull fed Mittag who then scored from 10 yards out. England was even with Germany for shots on goal (2 each) and just behind their opponents in total shots (14-12). England had the advantage in corner kicks (5-4) and fouls (14-11). England finished third in the tournament with 3 points on goal difference. Siobhan Chamberlain of Liverpool started for the second consecutive match over American born Karen Bardsley (Manchester City); Chamberlain had an excellent tournament and only allowed one goal against the Americans and Germany.

For the final match day, 11,208 fans attended the England-Germany match at RFK Stadium on a rainy evening, with 21,638 announced for the France-U.S. nightcap.

The U.S. next plays Russia April 6 in Frisco, Texas and on April 9 in Houston. England will also have two home matches in April, their last matches at home before this summer's UEFA Women's Euro 2017 finals, against Italy at Port Vale's Vale Park on Friday 7 April and then against Austria at MK Dons' Stadium in suburban London on Monday 10 April. Both games kick-off at 7.45pm.

Germany vs. England
SheBelieves Cup

March 7, 2017 - Washington D.C., RFK Stadium


GER: 12-Laura Benkarth (21-Lisa Weiß, 47); 2-Josephine Henning, 4-Leonie Maier (24-Kristin Demann, 46), 5-Babett Peter, 9-Alexandra Popp, 10-Dzsenifer Marozsan (capt.), 11-Anja Mittag (18-Lena Petermann, 84), 13-Sara Däbritz (7-Pauline Bremer, 90), 14-Anna Blässe; 17-Isabel Kerschowski (23-Verena Faißt, 60), 20-Lina Magull (27-Sara Doorsoun, 80)
Subs not used: 1-Almuth Schult, 15-Mandy Islacker, 26-Hasret Kayikci, 29-Felicitas Rauch, 31-Linda Dallman
Head coach: Steffi Jones

ENG: 13-Siobhan Chamberlain; 3-Demi Stokes, 4-Lucy Bronze, 5-Steph Houghton (capt.), 15-Laura Bassett; 7-Jordan Nobbs, 8-Jade Moore (18-Jill Scott, 73), 9-Jodie Taylor (11-Ellen White, 63), 17-Fara Williams (6-Millie Bright, 52), 19-Toni Duggan, 20-Karen Carney
Subs not used: 1-Karen Bardsley, 21-Mary Earps, 16-Gemma Bonner, 10-Izzy Christiansen, 12-Rachel Daly, 22-Nikita Parris, 23-Rachel Williams
Head coach: Mark Sampson

2017 SheBelieves Cup Standings

France - 2 wins, 0 draws, 1 loss, +4 goal difference 7 points

Germany - 1,1,1, 0, 4

England - 1, 2, 0, -1, 3

USA - 1, 2, 0, -3, 3

France's Roster for the tournament is shown below, with only Henry and Wolfsburg's Bussaglia based abroad

France Women's National Team Roster by Position:

Goalkeepers (3)

Sarah Bouaddi (Olympique Lyonnais)
Méline Gérard (Olympique Lyonnais)
Laëtitia Philippe (Montpellier HSC)

Defenders (6)

Laura Georges (Paris Saint-Germain)
Sakina Karchaoui (Montpellier HSC)
Griedge M'bock (Olympique Lyonnais)
Eve Perisset (Paris Saint-Germain)
Wendie Renard (Olympique Lyonnais)
Aissatou Tounkara (FCF Juvisy)

Midfielders (8)

Camile Abily (Olympique Lyonnais)
Élise Bussaglia (FVL Wolfsburg, GER)
Grace Geyoro (Paris Saint-Germain)
Amandine Henry (Portland Thorns, USA)
Claire Lavogez (Olympique Lyonnais)
Amel Majri (Olympique Lyonnais)
Gaëtane Thiney (FCF Juvisy)
Sandie Toletti (Montpellier HSC)

Forwards (5)

Camille Catala (FCF Juvisy)
Marie-Laure Delie (Paris Saint-Germain)
Kadidiatou Diani (FCF Juvisy)
Eugénie Le Sommer (Olympique Lyonnais)
Élodie Thomis (Olympique Lyonnais)

England U-23's defeat U.S. U-23's in Spain

The same day that England's full national team shocked the U.S. in the SheBelieves Cup, another English national team defeated an American side. England's U-23 national team beat the U.S. 2-0 in La Manga, Spain. Claudia Walker (Everton) opened the scoring in the 27th minute with a header off of a Hannah Blundell (Chelsea) cross while Mel Lawley (Birmingham City) doubled the score just before the half time whistle. England's U-23 side also defeated Sweden's U-23 national team 3-1 while in Spain

The U.S. defeated Japan 2-0, on goals by University of South Carolina forward Savannah in the 18th minute and former Harvard striker and 2017 Boston Breaker college draft choice Margaret Purce in the 74th minute, and Norway 1-0 on Morgan Andrews (a 2017 Boston Breakers college draft choice) score in the 34th minute.

As we discussed last week, the U.S. Under-23 side was coached by former Arsenal manger Laura Harvey, now with Seattle Reign.

U.S. U-23 Women's National Team vs. England U-23 WNT
Women's U-23 La Manga Tournament 2017
March 4, 2017

USA: 1-Casey Murphy; 5-Christina Gibbons (capt.), 25-Mandy Freeman, 20-Katie Naughton, 2-Samantha Witteman (10-Celeste Boureille, 58), 7-Ashley Sanchez (13-Kayla Mills, 80), 6-Tierna Davidson (17-Tyler Lussi, 69), 8-Morgan Andrews (19-Emily Ogle, 58), 4-Margaret Purce, 24-Savannah McCaskill (18-Danielle Weatherholt, 58), 9-Ashley Hatch
Subs not used: 3-Erica Skroski, 11-Arielle Ship, 12-Madalyn Schiffel, 14-Makenzy Doniak, 15-Adrienne Jordan, 16-Kristen McNabb
Head Coach: Laura Harvey

ENG: 1-Sophie Baggaley, 3-Jess Carter, 5-Gabby George, 12-Leah Williamson, 4-Aofie Mannion, 10-Beth England (16-Jodie Brett, 75), 15-Keira Walsh, 8-Jade Bailey, 2-Hannah Blundell, 19-Mel Lawley, 20-Claudia Walker (9-Freda Ayisi, 85)
Subs not used: 6-Molly Bartrip, 8-Jade Bailey, 13-Megan Walsh, 14-Abbey-Leigh Stringer, 17-Sarah Mayling, 18-Jenna Legg
Head Coach: Joel Roberts

Western New York Flash joins another league

After the Western New York Flash sold their NWSL franchise to North Carolina interests to become the North Carolina Courage in January, it was a bit surprising to learn this week that the club will join United Women's Soccer for the 2017 season.

They will join fellow Northern New York side Syracuse Development Academy in the Eastern Conference. The Flash will play in Buffalo, where they began play in 2009 in the United Soccer League's W-League, before playing in Rochester's purpose build soccer stadium from 2011 onwards. Gemma Davidson, an English international forward now with Chelsea, played with the Buffalo Flash in 2010.

After winning the USL W-League title, they won the Women's Professional Soccer Title in 2011—with Brazil's Marta, former U.S. international forward, Abby Wambach, Canada's all-time leading goal scorer Christine Sinclair, New Zealand's Ali Riley and American goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris on the roster—then the WPSL-Elite crown in 2012, before winning the National Women's Soccer League title last year on penalties in an engaging final over the Washington Spirit.

Former New Zealand international player Aaron Lines, who coached the Flash to the titles in 2010, 2011 and 2012, is now a Vice-President for the organization, and explained how the Flash will feature top-tier level play for collegiate-level athletes returning to the western New York area for the summer: "We are excited to bring United Women's Soccer to Buffalo and continue the strong legacy of the Western New York Flash in the women's game. This team completes the Flash pyramid offering a final destination for collegiate and post-collegiate players in the WNY area looking to continually advance their game."

Despite leaving the NWSL, the Flash has continued its youth Academy and the UWS side will be an important development arm of that effort.

Australian W-League leading goalscorer in 2016-17 Signs with Portland Thorns

Portland Thorns have signed the 2016-17 Australian Westfield W-League Golden Boot winner forward Ashleigh Sykes for the 2017 season, beginning in June. Former Chelsea coach Mark Parsons signed Sykes, who can play in the middle or on the flanks. Sykes helped Canberra United win the Premiership (Regular Season title) this season and joined the club in the W-League first season in 2008-09 and has won two league crowns with Canberra. Sykes is a full international and played as a substitute during two 2015 Women's World Cup matches.

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribalfootball. His latest book is Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

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