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The Week In Women’s Football: Hope Solo blasts ‘cowardly’ Sweden as the US crash at Rio Games

This week we look at England's National Team roster for a week-long training camp, including the first call up for Sky Blue FC's Leah Galton.

We also review the Olympic Games' last group matches and quarterfinals and talk about another Hope Solo foot-in-mouth incident, feature the UWS summer league's leading scorer who was brought in for a trial chance in the NWSL and a young American coach who is making a name for herself in Sweden.

England calls 23 into training camp—with American-based Leah Galton receiving her first full team invite.

Sky Blue FC's Leah Galton—one of two English rookies playing in NWSL after collegiate careers in the States (along with Houston Dash's Rachel Daly)—was called into England's Senior National Team camp for the first time on August 11. Galton has previously been capped by England at the U-17 and U-19 level and played with the U-23 side in a tournament in Spain in March. Sky Blue FC head coach Christy Holly said: “We are absolutely delighted for Leah in her receiving this call-up to the senior England National Team. Leah is a fantastic player who has dedicated herself to improving all elements of her game, which she has clearly shown throughout the NWSL season for us at Sky Blue FC. This call-up is a very important step in her development as a player, and we fully expect her to showcase her abilities on the international level the same way that she has done since arriving here in New Jersey." Galton was the number 13 pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft and registered 122 career points at Hofstra University and was the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year for her last three seasons, the first player to earn three consecutive league honors.

Despite missing the first five Sky Blue games in order to finish her degree at Hofstra, Galton has been a revelation at Sky Blue, who are currently in fifth on a 6-4-5 (W-T-L) for 22 points, just three points out of a playoff spot—Chicago Red Stars has 25 points. In ten games Galton has three goals (tied for the team lead) and three assists (second on the team). NWSL is on a break for the Olympics but Galton is expected to be back on Saturday August 27 when Sky Blue FC hosts the fourth place Red Stars in a crucial match in their playoff quest, after missing the postseason the last two seasons.

Coach Mark Sampson called 23 players into camp, all of whom are all based in England with the exception of Daly and Galton. Super League leaders Manchester City had 7 players selected, third place Arsenal saw 5 called in, second place Chelsea and sixth place Notts County each had 4 women selected and fifth place Liverpool had one selection. Sampson discussed the purpose of the camp: “This is an important camp for us. We're less than a year away from the Euros and we will use the week to set out all of the work we will need to do to prepare as best we can for next summer. This is a great opportunity for us to work with the players to agree individual and team plans so we are at our maximum level come July, giving us the best chance possible of winning the Euros. We made the decision to not play a fixture so we could focus on our work on the training field, in the gym and off the pitch."

The Lionesses will train for seven days ahead of their two final UEFA Women's European Championship qualifiers, against Estonia on September 15 at Meadow Lane in Nottingham and then away against Belgium in Leuven on September 20. England, already qualified for next summer's tournament, has a two point lead at the top of Group 7 over second place Belgium (16-14 points).

Goalkeepers:Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Rebecca Spencer (Chelsea).

Defenders: Laura Bassett (Notts County), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Gilly Flaherty (Chelsea), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Arsenal).

Midfielders: Izzy Christiansen (Manchester City), Jade Moore (Notts County), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Notts County), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Arsenal).

Forwards:Karen Carney (Chelsea), Danielle Carter (Arsenal), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Gemma Davison (Chelsea), Leah Galton (Sky Blue FC), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Ellen White (Notts County).

Olympics Update - U.S., China, France Australia all fall short of the semifinals

In the Rio Olympic quarterfinals on Friday August 12th, Group G winners and three time consecutive Gold Medal holders the U.S. lost to Sweden 4-3 on penalty kicks after the sides ended 120 minutes tied (1-1) in Brasilia. Sweden played well and took the lead in the 61st minute through a clinical slotted goal by Stina Blackstenius (Linkopings), just under defender Julie Johnston's leg and past goalkeeper Hope Solo (Seattle Reign). Forward Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) tied the game in the 77th minute and both sides had goals called back for offside in the final minutes of the second overtime period. Morgan missed the first penalty for the U.S. while Solo later saved from Linda Sembrant (Montpellier in France). With the teams tied at 4-4, Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars) put her attempt well over the bar and Lisa Dahlkvist (Paris St. Germain) scored to send Sweden to the semifinals. Sweden, coached by former American coach Pia Sundhage, finished second in the 2003 World Cup and fourth in 2011 and now aims for its first medal in its sixth Olympics.

Captain Carli Lloyd [Houston Dash] said after the match that: “It [the loss] doesn't feel real right now. It's going to hurt."

Hope Solo, a lightning rod for boos and criticism from Brazilian fans throughout her four games, turned her angst on Sweden after the game, saying that: “We played a bunch of cowards….The best team did not win today. I strongly, firmly believe that."

Solo continued: “Sweden dropped back. They didn't want to open play. They didn't want to pass the ball around. They didn't want to play great soccer, entertaining soccer. It was a combative game. A physical game. Exactly what they wanted. Exactly what their game plan was. We had that style of play when Pia was our coach. I think it was very cowardly. But they won, they're moving on. And we're going home."

Pia Sundhage replied to Hope's comments: “According to Hope Solo, I think you should define what is a good team. Well, usually – especially with the Americans – a good team is when they're winning. And they're winning all the time. That's the best team in the world. But for once they didn't go the whole way through. We won the game. They played more attacking football than we did. We defend very well. And the fact that…it went to penalty kicks says something about our defending. U.S. play better in the attack, we played better in the defense. And at the end of the day we won the game and that's what all counts….It's OK to be a coward if you win."

Solo's national team career is probably finished, what with domestic abuse court cases and myriad instances of her comments causing distraction for the team.

What about English-native head coach Jill Ellis however?

With a tie and a loss in the last two games, under criteria used for previous coaches (Greg Ryan—1 loss in a World Cup semifinal and Tom Sermanni—2 losses at the Algarve Cup) she should be worried about her tenure. The players will support her—rightly so--and she certainly deserves a chance to continue based on her World Cup win and strong dialogue with the players. However, the U.S. National Team Players Association has difficult negotiations coming up with U.S. for their new, multi-year collective bargaining agreement, beginning in January of 2017. With a Gender Equity complaint filed on their pay compared to the men's side, it's difficult to predict what path U.S. Soccer will chose during the negotiations, but with the team not making the semifinals for the first time in 13 World Cups and Olympic Games, U.S. Soccer officials will not be happy and the contract talks will probably be quite difficult, with wholesale team and coaching changes possible. It will also be interesting to track how many Americans leave NWSL for European, given that the next World Cup is almost three years off, and in France. Also, how long will recent high school graduate Mallory Pugh stay at UCLA—when Ellis coached for many years—or turn professional with Portland Thorns (who have her rights) or go to Europe? Also, how will the typical 8-10 fall friendly games be marketed to Americans—will last year's “Victory Tour" now become the “Depression Drag" and how much will attendances drop off from last year's phenomenal success—with some games drawing in the 30,000 to 40,000 range. The first two matches in September are with Thailand (September 15 in Columbus) and the Netherlands on September 18 in Atlanta and attendances will be closely tracked. The American's surprising loss in Rio has set off an early start to lots of interesting drama in the offseason.

In other quarterfinals, Germany defeated China 1-0 on Melanie Behringer's (Bayern Munich) goal in the 76th minute in Salvador. Germany had two-thirds of the possession in the game. China should be pleased with their Olympics quarterfinal berth and combined with a quarterfinal appearance at last summer's World Cup, they are on their way to challenge for titles as they did in the last 1990's (Runner-up at WWC 1999 and fourth in 1995 and Olympic Games runner-up in 1996)).

Group F winners Canada defeated France 1-0 in Sao Paulo in a rematch of the third place match in London 2012, which Canada won in overtime. Sophie Schmidt (FFC Frankfurt) scored on a header in the second half from a Janine Beckie (Houston Dash) header and Canada's defense led by goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe and defenders Shelina Zadorsky (both Washington Spirit), Kadeisha Buchanon (West Virginia University), Josee Belanger (Orlando Pride) and Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash)--who played a tremendous game at left back--held the French scoreless. A sad note is that midfielder Louise Cadamuro (Necib) announced that she is retiring from the game and she was a marvaleous, insightful presence for years with France and Lyon, often referred to as the female Zinedine Zidane--the former French men's World Cup winner and now Real Madrid coach.

Group E winners Brazil overcame Australia on penalty kicks in a sold out Belo Horizonte Estadio Mineirao after 120 scoreless minutes, gaining revenge a round of 16 defeat last year at the World Cup in Canada. Brazil prevailed in the penalty kicks (7-6) with tremendous placement shots from both sides. Brazil's Marta (F.C. Rosengard in Sweden) saw her kick in the fifth round saved by Lydia Williams (Houston Dash) but then Brazilian goalkeeper Barbara saved from Katrina Gorry (Brisbane Roar and ex-F.C. Kansas City). Two rounds later, Barbara saved from Alana Kennedy (Western New York Flash) to send Brazil to Rio for a semifinal matchup with Sweden. The U.S.-Sweden and Brazil-Australia matches represented the first two Olympic Soccer matches ever to go to penalty kicks, in the sixth edition of women's soccer in the Games.

In the final group matches on Tuesday August 9, Sweden and China both advanced from a 0-0 tie as did Australia in a 6-1 win over Zimbabwe, needing the three points to make the quarterfinals. They were up 2-0 in the first 15 minutes, with goals from Lisa DeVanna (Melbourne City) and Clare Polkinghorne (Brisbane Roar) giving the Matildas a great start. Kyah Simon (Boston Breakers) and Alanna Kennedy (WNY Flash) scored singles while substitute Michelle Heyman (Canberra United and ex-Western New York Flash) scored twice to give Australia a 6-0 lead and they were even in goal difference with second place Germany, but a stoppage time goal from Immaculate Msipa gave Zimbabwe their third goal in their inaugural Olympics (one against each opponent). Zimbabwe's goal left the Aussie's third in the group combined with Germany's 2-1 defeat to Canada, so Germany finished second and Australia third in the group behind the Maple Leafs. In a surprise in Manaus, Colombia tied the U.S. on two free kick goals by Catalina Usme, who plays for Independiente Medellin's women's side and is a junior women's team manager. Her first goal dribbled through Hope Solo's legs, to the delight of the local fans. Why Jill Ellis didn't start backup Allysa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars) is surprising, given that the Americans had already qualified for the next round. That is partially why there is such a gap between Solo and her younger challengers, who get very rare chances to start with the national team.

UWS Star Freda Trials with NWSL's Final

Two weeks ago, we featured the United Women's Soccer league's (UWS) finals. The summer league's leading scorer in their inaugural season, Krystyna Freda, had 15 goals and 3 assists with league runner up Jersey Copa F.C. and has been brought in by the Western New York Flash of the NWSL for a trial. The Flash sits 3rd in the table with 26 points from 8 wins and 2 ties in 15 matches. Freda does have professional experience, scoring ten times in 14 games for Finnish side Merilappi United, after tallying 63 goals in four years at Winthrop University in South Carolina.

Young American Coach in Sweden

Jackie Bachteler is a 27 year old coach who began the 2016 season as a women's head coach with a second division team in Sweden—rare on two counts—her age and that she is American-born and raised, and only went to Sweden after college (though she has a definitely Swedish accent when speaking English.) Bacheteler has been coaching since she was 10 and played collegiately at West Florida University. Bachteler was on the Boston Breakers WPS reserve side but after the professional league folded in 2011, she played and coached in Finland and then moved west to Sweden. She combined a position as a head coach in Sweden's Division III league with playing in the second division. She met Tony Gustavsson—the current lead assistant coach of the U.S. national team—at a coaching camp while he was the head coach at Tyreso, the now defunct powerhouse that was the home of Brazil's Marta, Spain's Vero Boquette and American Christen Press among other stars, which he led to a league title and a UEFA Women's Champions League runner-up spot. Bachteler applied the TikiTaka Football Development approach to youth camps for Tyreso sides, traveling twice a week to Stockholm to coach while playing second division ball at Gustafs GolF. Some of the senior players started to join her sessions. Tyreso staff scouted one of her games and she joined the side the next season, playing on the B team, while still coaching. She then moved to Djugarden and played in the Elitettan (2nd division) but retired from playing and took the head coaching position this year at Sunnana, giving her a chance to implement her vision for a team. Unfortunately, at the midway stage the team was struggling and in the relegation zone; at one point she only had 8 healthy players and had to supplement her side with youth players. She resigned from Sunnana during the summer break and is considering an assistant coaching role with a Damallsvenskan side as well as a head coaching position with a first division side on the continent. When asked about her future coaching plans she said: “NWSL is a goal at some point but I love European soccer and want to win the Women's Champions League and do it while playing well." She wants to create a team moment (like the Final of the 1999 Women's World Cup between the U.S. and China was for her growing up) and spread it to help grow the women's game. She also feels that players should be role models to younger generations.

When asked what advice she would give to a young player from North America looking to play in Sweden or other countries after college, she said: “Take any opportunity to make contacts, including teams directly. College coaches can help. You want the opportunity to show off. Even playing in the lower divisions in Sweden, you will be seen by Swedish and European coaches." She felt it was all about taking a chance in a new country: “You're not coming to make money, or receive glamor. You come for your love of the game and to purse big dreams. You try to go to the next step, to make your dream a reality. There is a lot of sacrifice, —moving from your home country, a new language, taking a pay cut, different type of food—but a really great sacrifice."

She felt that, with a few exceptions for the international caliber players, that women did not need an agent to move to another country, particularly when they were starting out because: “There is not enough money yet to warrant any but top-level international agents."

Jackie Bachteler is a young American women's soccer coach who is patiently making a mark in Sweden. She is passionate about the women's game potential for continued advancement. She is a name to watch in upcoming years in the club game in Europe as she continues impressive work to achieving her own goals for the sport of women's soccer.

Tim Graineyis 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

*Hope Solo photo credit: Arianna Grainey Photography

Tim Grainey
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Tim Grainey

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