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The Week in Women's Football: Interview with Guyana coach Sherry; 1League Canada; Challenge Cup update

This week, we explore the Guyana women's national team's recent exciting run in Group F of the CONCACAF W Championship qualifiers, in which they just missed the finals on a last second goal by Trinidad and Tobago, which pipped them to the Group title. TribalFootball.com talked exclusively with Guyana women's national team assistant coach Kevin Sherry about the tournament, their reliance on Guyanese diaspora and plans for further development of the CONCACAF member nation's—located on the Northeastern Coast of South America—women's football. We also look at the draw and schedule for the CONCACAF W Championship Finals this summer. At the minor league level, we present a summary of the first National Indoor Soccer League season for women, as well as W League and UWS news and finally some news from the provincial amateur level in Canada. We also have a quick summary of the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup Final between North Carolina and Washington to close out our pre-season tournament review from last week's column (see: The Week in Women's Football: Sh'Nia Gordon interview; Ukraine update; NWSL Challenge Cup - Tribal Football).



Guyana's women's national team assistant coach Kevin Sherry talks about Guyana's recent CONCACAF Women's World Cup Qualifiers and their plans for future development of women's football in the country.

TribalFootball.com talked exclusively with Guyana women's national team head coach Kevin Sherry the week after his team narrowly missed out on a CONCACAF W Championship Finals berth this summer in the last seconds of a 2-2 tie away against Trinidad and Tobago in group play. He described the difficult loss by saying that, "The pain still hasn't gone away—so close [to a Final's spot]." The coaching staff, led by Dr. Ivan Joseph, a native of Guyana and now an educator in Toronto, Canada, decided to give the squad a little space to get over the defeat, "The message was to process it in our own ways. We didn't ask for any feedback. It is only now that we are in touch with each other again to gather in some feedback and [assess] where do we go from here, so it is not an emotional reaction to what happened. I think those kinds of situations can spur you on or defeat you so it is important that we pick ourselves up, see the positive and what is the potential for the future, rather than looking backwards negatively too much."

Sherry, a native of England who is in his second year as the full-time assistant coach at Grambling University in Louisiana, after 14 years as the head coach of the women's team at Louisiana Tech University, is in his fourth year of assisting Guyana and made a strong point about they can either build from the aftermath of this defeat for future successes or slip down the table with that game as the reason. There are examples of teams building back from surprising defeats. Philippines comes to mind immediately; they lost in the Women's Asian Cup third group match in 2018 in Jordan to Thailand 3-1, when a win would have guaranteed them a berth in the 2019 WWC in France. In a playoff for the fifth and Final AFC spot in France, they crashed to Korea Republic 5-0. Earlier this year, the team won two games in the Group Stage over Thailand (1-0) and Indonesia (6-0) and then defeated Chinese Taipei (4-3 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw) in the quarterfinals to clinch a berth in next summer's 2023 Women's World Cup (they lost in the semifinals again to Korea Republic but by a much narrower 2-0 result). Interestingly, Philippines did it with only a handful of players based at home, with three-quarters of the roster coming from North America (primarily California). Guyana also heavily utilized their diaspora with only four squad members based in Guyana, with the balance coming primarily from Canada, but also the U.S. and England. The path to future success is available to Guyana—they just have to continue to build on their present plan. As far as an example of a team that fell apart, that would have to be Trinidad and Tobago, who lost in the last minute of their 2015 intercontinental play-in second stage match to a last-second goal against Ecuador at home. One could argue that the team has consistently underperformed since then, but has been hindered by a federation which has hired coaches with little planning, withdrawn funding and impeded the development of the women's game. The question for T&T is if they can use their 2022 W Championship Final's berth to make a prolonged quest for their first ever WWC in the expanded 2023 field or will federation politics, poor planning and other issues impede them and they simply make up the numbers. We will know the answer in two months' time from Mexico at the CONCACAF W Championship Finals

When asked what things Guyana needed to improve to build off of their very strong Group Stage effort, Sherry said that there were two things, "One is, we've put some real work with local development at grass roots with [one of the coaching staff] Akela Castello [(34)—a former international midfielder who is now the women's U-17 national team coach]. She came to America and studied with me for a whole pre-season a couple of years ago. That investment in her is felt with the investment at the grassroots level so that the kids are getting some really good training now with her. This time in Guyana, we could see the local kids coming and training with us; we could see the huge improvement in their game. We now have a conveyor belt, of the next time we gather for Gold Cup qualification, there will be a significant number of local players who are going to be part of that squad. Four years ago, when we started, that would have been just unheard of and impossible.

Sherry said that the national team coaching staff is dedicated to building the game locally in a country where most of the population and development is in the capital and seaport of Georgetown (118,000 out of 783,000 in the nation), "The gap between being at that level to play in is not as huge as it would be for a bigger country. You can get a kid from Canada who is a bit better than what you have in the islands but she is not so much better. If you develop the Guyanese kids, they can become that level very, very quickly. Within two years, Akita has these kids ready to go."

Sherry's second wish was, "We need things to be smoother, little details with scheduling, everything to do [with] when the team is in camp. Finer details that are unseen and can be smoothed out, it causes less problems and less friction and is less tiring for everyone. We have something here that can be really good so now let's make the whole process a little bit more professional—that will increase our chances of success even more."

Related to the development of local players is the always controversial decision of reliance on diaspora at the national team level. With their development efforts locally in Guyana, Sherry said: "There will be a significant increase in that number [of local players, which was only four in the latest group games] next time." He also said that an effort was made for the diaspora, "to make sure that every player was aware of their heritage and [to] instill a pride in Guyana in them." This included learning the national anthem and having the players talk about which side of the family their Guyanese heritage came from, the number of visits they have made to the country in the past, etc. Sherry emphasized that, "They weren't mercenaries and there was definite pride in that and that helps." He said that they have not faced a lot of recriminations locally on this issue but success has helped, "When you are not winning, that is the first question local media or people will ask, 'Why are we not using local talent?' When you are winning, that question becomes less frequent. We want to develop girls' soccer in Guyana and Ivan [Joseph] wants to do it in the Caribbean on a bigger scale. We want to help it develop and at the same time want to be successful. It's a fine balance. I think we are now crossing that bridge into an area where more local talent is being developed to go into the team."

Guyana's local league has six teams but it is regionally-based around the capital city of Georgetown. Part of their effort is to develop women's football throughout the country and Sherry indicated that, "If you are not around Georgetown they will not play or practice." In our review of the final group matches in the CONCACAF region, we discussed forward Annalisa Vincent being the first indigenous women's footballer from the nation to receive a college scholarship [to Graceland University in Iowa] (see: The Week in Women's Football: CONCACAF Regional Championship - Group play review - Tribal Football). Sherry said that she was from the Amazonia region in the south of the country and, "needed to take two boats and a bus to Georgetown—an incredible journey." The national team hopes to uncover more regional talent like Annalisa in the years to come.

In what turned out to be a crucial 0-0 deadlock to Nicaragua four days before the final Group match in Tobago, Sherry said, "We prepared well for them. We knew they were good, technically well organized. We thought they would drop further back and we used Stefani [Kouzas—20 from Montreal in Canada] as striker for more possession than Analisse [Vincent], who gets in behind. We corrected it for the second half [but] we might have had more joy if we started Analisse [both players started the final match against T&T]. We did not underestimate Nicaragua. We knew they were very technical soccer players and that's what they were and could have won it in the last minutes with a ball across the six-yard box."

Sherry also described the reaction to the team at home, with more media attending their practices and games and more tickets were sold, "Even the President of the whole country [Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali] was getting involved. If we had gotten through, the country would have blown up with pure enjoyment and enthusiasm."

As a student-athlete, Sherry played for the West London Institute of Higher Education and won the British National College Championship in 1987. He was selected to play for the FISEC Great Britain U-18 team and for Bangor City in the United Kingdom and Morning Star in Hong Kong. Sherry earned degrees in physical education/sports science and sociology from Bangor University in Wales, along with his Master's degree from Leicester University in England. He possesses the United States Soccer Federation's "A" license and the U.E.F.A. "International" coaching license from England. Kevin Sherry was very impressive to talk to, dedicated to his mission to assist in the growth of women's football in Guyana and is also a key contributor to an important university's women's sports department in the deep south.



CONCACAF DRAW AND SCHEDULE IS SET FOR THE 2022 W CHAMPIONSHIP

The tournament will start on July 4 in Monterrey, Mexico, with the Final on July 18. The 8 qualifiers were divided into two groups, from which the semifinalists will automatically qualify for 2023 WWC in Australia/New Zealand, and the two third place sides in the group stage will move on to the 10 team intercontinental playoffs for three more spots. The tournament champion also automatically qualifies for the next Olympic Games Finals while the second and third place sides will play off later for a second Olympic Games Finals berth. Games will be held in two cities in the Northern Mexico city: Estadio Universitario and Estadio BBVA.

Group A: United States, Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti
Group B: Canada, Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago

CONCACAF W Championship Final Schedule:

Monday, July 4, 2022 – Estadio Universitario
United States vs Haiti
Mexico vs Jamaica

Tuesday, July 5, 2022 – Estadio BBVA
Costa Rica vs Panama
Canada vs Trinidad and Tobago

Thursday, July 7, 2022 – Estadio BBVA
Jamaica vs United States
Haiti vs Mexico

Friday, July 8, 2022 – Estadio Universitario
Trinidad and Tobago vs Costa Rica
Panama vs Canada

Monday, July 11, 2022
Canada vs Costa Rica - Estadio BBVA
Panama vs Trinidad and Tobago - Estadio BBVA
Jamaica vs Haiti - Estadio Universitario
United States vs Mexico - Estadio Universitario

Five of the teams—U.S., Mexico, Jamaica, Canada and Costa Rica—have qualified for WWC Finals in the past, while Haiti made the 2018 U-20 Women's World Cup Finals in France and were one of the surprises of the tournament. Panama and Trinidad and Tobago have both lost in the Intercontinental playoffs in the past to CONMEBOL sides (Argentina and Ecuador), respectively.

This will be the second CONCACAF Women's World Cup qualifying tournament to be held in Mexico, with the 2010 tournament also held there. The United States won the first four CONCACAF Women's World Cup qualifying tournaments in which it competed (1991, 1994, 2002 and 2006) but fell to Mexico in the semifinal of the 2010 competition, which forced the USA to win the Third-Place match and then defeat Italy in a two-game playoff to earn a berth to the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany (where they lost the Final to Japan). It remains the USA's only loss in this qualifying tournament. The USA is 32-1-0 all-time in Concacaf Women's World Cup qualifying.

Memphis Americans Women's side wins first National Indoor Soccer League title

The Memphis Americans women's team were crowned champions of the National Indoor Soccer League. On April 2, the women defeated the Fayetteville Fury 4-1 in the semifinals. The victory marked the seventh time the Memphis Americans defeated the team this season. The next day, the women faced the Rome Gladiators in the NISL championship. After being tied 3-3 at the half, the Memphis Americans scored two unanswered goals to win 5-3. Head Coach Corey Adamson said, "I am so proud of these ladies and grateful for the fans who have cheered them on all season long. Finishing the season with an 18-3 record when facing such talented teams is no easy feat. They've etched their names in the history books by bringing home the first NISL championship. We're already looking forward to next season."

For Memphis, Southampton, England natives Jennifer Osmond and her sister Julia played at the University of North Alabama and were both named to the UNA team of the decade for the 2010's.

Alexis Catt played at Purdue University and plays internationally for Chile but grew up in Indiana and played with Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile in Chile and Joliet United in the UWS, FC Indiana in WPSL and Houston Valkyrie (of the semi-professional Premier Arena Soccer League).

NISL Season 1 Table

GP W L T GF GA DIF

Memphis Americans 19 15 4 0 96 45 +51

Rome Gladiators 12 6 6 0 57 55 +2

Columbus Rapids 18 7 11 0 63 87 -24

Fayetteville Fury 17 5 12 0 51 80 -29

For the Columbus Rapids, most of the players were from the region, as of the 21-player roster, 12 were in-state from Georgia, 3 hailed from Florida, 2 were from Alabama, and 1 each was from Ohio and Virginia. The two exceptions were the captain and midfielder Brittney Conway, the Captain, who played at Eastern Washington University in Cheney and was raised in Snoqualmie, on the west side of the state in the Cascade mountains. Midfielder Brianna Canty was raised in Pleasanton, California and played at West Point Military Academy in New York State.

Fayetteville Fury had three players from abroad:

Goalkeeper Mayar Elgeyoshi from Central Carolina Soccer Club and Egypt.

Midfielder Jennyfer Montes from Averett University (Danville, Virginia) and El Salvador

Forward Liliana Valle of El Salvador

Memphis Americans midfielder Kelsey Keown led the league with 21 points, Carrie Banks of Rome Gladiators led in goals scored with 16 and forward Brianna Conley of the Columbus Rapids led the league in assists with 9, tied with Memphis' Lauren Odino-Draughon (ex-Iowa State University, who has played with the Des Moines Menace and Memphis Lobos of the WPSL).

Memphis Americas goalkeeper Angel Hailey (at the University of Montevallo after time at Northwest Community College and University of Louisiana-Monroe) led the league in GAA with 2.08, wins with 11 and shutouts with 4—the only ones posted by any keeper in the league—while Bria Riancho of Columbus (Columbus State University in Georgia) was second in goals against average with 3.72 and wins with 4.

W League expansion for 2023 and playoff format for 2022 season

The United Soccer League (USL) announced Stockton, California as the USL W League's first expansion team for the 2023 season. The addition will establish a W League presence in California. They are expected to join Spokane, Washington next year in the western portion of the country, as the city is constructing a new stadium for soccer in downtown.

The USL W League has also announced the structure of the 2022 W League Playoffs, which will begin July 13 and culminate with the inaugural W League Final on July 23. The playoffs will feature eight teams, one from each of the seven divisions and a wild card bid. All playoff matches will be live streamed. All seven divisions—Deep South, Great Lakes, Heartland, Mid Atlantic, Metropolitan, South Atlantic and Southeast—have been allotted one playoff berth for each Division Title winner. The final playoff berth will be a wild card awarded to the second-placed team with the best record from either the Great Lakes or Metropolitan Division, the two divisions with the most teams competing. The locations of all matches will be determined via a bid process conducted by the League. Matchups, game times, and locations will be announced following the completion of the regular season.

The following schedule outlines the dates of each round of the 2022 W League Playoffs:

July 13: Quarterfinals

July 17: Semifinals

July 23: USL W League Final





UWS News

Middletown Sporting CT of Connecticut joins the UWS League Two and the seven-team conference for 2022 alongside Massachusetts Rush Central, South Shore Select, and the reserves sides for Blackwatch Rush, Connecticut Fusion, New England Mutiny and Worcester Smiles. Head Coach and former NWSL and international player Tiffany Weimer said, "We are very excited for the opportunity to have our players compete in UWS2 this summer. The players we have joining us this summer deserve the professionalism and quality of competition that this league provides." Weimer most recently played in the first division of UWS last season with National Runners-up Connecticut Fusion and will now be leading the newly launched U-23 team for Sporting CT. Tiffany holds her USSF National B License and is the Yale University Assistant Coach. She is a 12-year professional player in 6 countries (U.S., Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Brazil, and Canada). She is also Owner and Co-Founder of Duktig Brand—the official supplier of coaching notebooks for the UWS.

After a successful inaugural season in UWS League Two (UWS2), Paisley Athletic FC of Kearny, New Jersey is being promoted to the first division of the national pro-am league. This upcoming season, they will field a First Team to compete in UWS League One and a Reserve Team to compete in UWS2. The club will compete in the Mid-Atlantic Division of League One alongside Coppermine United, Keystone FC, Lancaster Inferno, and New Jersey Copa FC.

Erie Commodores FC of Pennsylvania is another new team for the 2022 season. The club will compete in the Penn-NY Division of the East Conference, alongside AC Syracuse Pulse, FC Buffalo, Pittsburgh Hotspurs, and Rochester Lancers. Erie Commodores FC has a strong history of running senior elite teams, having managed a Men's team in the NPSL (National Premier Soccer League) since 2009. During that time, the Commodores have won six Conference Championships, three Division Titles, three National Semi-final appearances and played in The National Final in its inaugural year. They look forward to the opportunity to bring the same success to their new women's program.

Club owner John Melody said, "The club's aspirations are always to compete at the highest level. In discussions with the League, an opportunity arose to go into League One and we accepted. We want to provide the opportunity for the girls to play at the highest level and grow the game of soccer in Erie, PA and surrounding areas!" Head Coach Becks Young (who has been a women's team assistant coach at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania) said, "It's exciting for the club and city as a whole. We are really looking forward to competing in this top league and helping to drive women's soccer forward in this town for many years to come. We are looking forward to the challenge that this league will provide for us." The Erie Commodores FC will play their home games at the Erie Sports Center.






League1 Canada Launched for 2022 Season

Canadian Soccer Business (CSB) in partnership with BC Soccer, Soccer Québec and Ontario Soccer, announced on March 31 the formation of League1 Canada, an alliance of Canada's existing provincial Division III Pro-Am men's and women's soccer leagues: League1 BC, League1 Ontario and Première ligue de soccer du Québec (PLSQ). The goal was to unify and elevate men's and women's provincial Division III Pro-Am

soccer leagues nationwide.

Working together, the three partner leagues' goal is to have alignment on the sporting pathway for Canadian men and women to develop and transition to the professional level. The benefits include sharing of best practices while respecting the unique realities that exist in each province. In the first instance, alignment in league logos demonstrates commitment for 2022, both League1 BC and League1 Ontario will have aligned logos with PLSQ transitioning in 2023. The alliance will also create a unique value proposition for potential national commercial partnerships through a series of national tournaments, competitions, and activations. Bringing the three semi-professional leagues together will allow a collaboration that helps strengthen and develop match standards, growth development and opportunity for inter-competition down the road.

L1Ontario Executive Chairman Dino Rossi said, "I am confident that, by working together and establishing a close alignment of interests, we will grow the sport at the Division III Pro-Am level to all new heights." President of Soccer Québec Pierre Marchand added, "This alliance will be very profitable as the leagues will be able to benefit from more resources and expertise, which will allow them to grow further and take a more important place in the landscape of Canadian soccer, which is in full swing."

League1 BC is an adult open age Pro-Am Soccer League operated by BC Soccer. Established in 2021. League1 Ontario is the province of Ontario's pro-am, standards-based, senior league, which began in 2014 with a ten team men's division, which has now grown to 22 teams in the men's division and includes a separate 20 team women's division. League1 Ontario serves as a stepping stone between the high-performance youth level and elite amateur and professional levels of the game. The Première ligue de soccer du Québec is a semi-professional [division 3] soccer league created in 2012.



2022 NWSL Challenge Cup Final Update

On May 7, in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup Final, the host side North Carolina Courage defeated the Washington Spirit 2-1. The Courage was led by their Brazilian duo of Debinha and Kerolin, with the latter being named as the Challenge Cup Final MVP. Kerolin scored the first goal in the tenth minute after a wonderful turn on the ball and long dribble out of midfield from Debinha. Ashley Hatch tied it up for Washington in the 25th minute with her tournament-leading sixth goal. The Courage's winning goal came after Kerolin was roughly taken down in the penalty box by Sam Staab; Kerolin was limping quite heavily and was pulled out of the game a few minutes later. Though Staab was not called for a penalty kick, the resulting N.C. corner bounced off of Spirit defender Taylor Ayler near the goal line and into the net, with Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury hitting her head on the goal post; though she was down for a while, Kingsbury was able to finish the match. Then in stoppage time, the Spirit's Jordan Baggett (ex-Stanford University) was stretchered off with a head injury after an unintentional tangle with Debinha. For the Spirit, it was the first loss in a match that was played (except for two COVID-related forfeits last year) for head coach Kris Ward since taking over as head coach last August.

Some good news for the tournament was announced the day before by Commissioner Jessica Berman of a new three-year sponsorship with UKG—a workforce management company—which paid bonuses to each winning side player of $10,000, with $5,000 for the runners-up—a significant amount for a preseason tournament. As a result of the collective bargaining agreement just concluded between the league and players association, the payout was originally to be $1,000 per player for the Cup winners and $500 for the runner-up. The two semifinal losers will now get $1,500 each. Berman told the media: "Our partnership is purpose-driven, and we believe that will eventually lead to broader impactful change, not only for women in professional sports but for women and underrepresented groups worldwide who have advocated tirelessly for the equity they deserve."


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 yours copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey


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