This week, we look at Lyon's surprising loss to PSG in the UEFA Women's Champions League Quarterfinals and two high-profile loan agreements from Lyon to the NWSL this summer as a result of their early elimination from the continental club championship competition. We also examine a NWSL side announcing a significant rebranding effort, after over a decade known by its now former name. We look at some more international friendlies from earlier this month and some UWS news—including a new team in Baton Rouge, Louisiana signing a two-time Women's World Cup Finals player with Colombia—as we discuss how some U.S. colleges playing their 2020 fall season in the spring because of COVID and their 2021 fall season in just a few months could affect a number of player loans to UWS and WPSL summer league teams.
UEFA Women's Champions League—Assessing Lyon's Loss to PSG
With the Women's Champions League now though to the semifinal stage after the quarterfinal first and second legs were held at the end of March, Chelsea, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Paris St. Germain are all through. The familiar missing name—Olympique Lyon of France of course—who fell to PSG on away goals in the quarterfinals. Lyon won the first leg in Paris 1-0 thanks to a late Wendie Renaud penalty kick in the 86th minute. The second leg was delayed by over two weeks as Lyon fought a COVID-19 outbreak at the club. At home on April 18, Lyon gained a 2-0 advantage with a Catarina Macario (U.S. international) goal in the 4th minute from French international Amel Majri's short pass in the box as she drew Canadian international back Ashley Lawrence to her, leaving Macario free. PSG replied through French international defensive midfielder Grace Geyoro (23) in the 25th minute and then PSG and French international forward Kadidiatou Diani crossed the ball from the right side and Lyon legend Wendie Renaud was unfortunate to put the ball into her own goal on the hour mark; the away goals advantage held up in the last half hour for the major upset. PSG led in total shots (11 vs. 4), in shots on goal (4 vs. 3) and in corners (10 vs. 3) in the second leg.
With the victory in Lyon, Paris ended Lyon's 13-game winning streak in the Champions League and their 31 game unbeaten streak. PSG handed Lyon its first loss in the Division 1 Arkema in almost four years (80 games) last November. The return game in March was postponed because of COVID. Lyon, which has won 14 straight league titles, will host PSG in May in the rescheduled game. PSG (with 16 wins and one tie) currently leads the Division 1 Arkema by four points but Lyon (which has won 15 games against the one loss) has a game in hand.
Lyon leads all sides with seven Champions League titles and had won the last five years in succession. Paris has only played in two WCL finals, losing both, first to Frankfurt in 2015 and then against Lyon in 2017.
Paris head coach and former France women's national team manager Olivier Echouafni, who played mostly with Nice during his professional career, said: "It was a great performance from the girls and we have to congratulate them. They've been rewarded for their work. The start of the game was complicated, but they showed a lot of strength of character to come back. The qualification was merited over the two legs….We didn't panic [after the early goal]. The girls never doubted. They knew they hadn't started well, that's all. The goal we scored was from perhaps our hardest chance to put away, but that gave us a lot of confidence….We continue to grow and add maturity. It's only the second time we've knocked out Lyon in Europe, so to say we've moved ahead of them… no. We needed a save from [Chilean international] Christiane Endler right at the end. Otherwise, we would have been knocked out. Games between the teams are always tight."
Bouhaddi and Marozsan go to OL Reign in the NWSL on loan for the summer
One direct knock-on effect of Lyon's early WCL elimination—after five consecutive years as champions—was that two of their stars will go on loan this summer to sister club OL Reign in Tacoma Washington: French international goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi and German international midfielder Marozsan. Bouhaddi and Marozsan were slated to join the Utah Royals FC [now Kansas City NWSL]—ahead of the 2020 NWSL season that was substantially reduced in scope and number of games because of the raging COVID-19 pandemic. The players backed away from Utah and both signed extended deals with Lyon in June of 2020, with Bouhaddi signing through June 2024 and Dzsenifer Marozsan through June 2023. Marozsan (29) won French league and UEFA Women's Champions League trophies in her first four seasons with Lyon. She won the 2013 European Championship and 2016 Olympic gold medal with Germany. Bouhaddi (34) has played for Lyon since 2009 and won the French league title every season. She has 149 caps for her country.
These two players are hugely significant acquisitions for the NWSL, even if it is just for one season. We are now starting to see more activity between the two sister organizations, with English international's Jodie Taylor move to France just before the 2019/20 WCL last summer, the loan for Spanish international Celia Jimenez from the NWSL side to Lyon this winter, and training moves opportunities for American Bethany Balcer and Mexican and American international Sofia Huerta. Of course, neither Germany nor France qualified from this summer's Olympic Games Finals or these moves would likely not have happened this year. The top three European sides advanced to Tokyo based on their 2019 WWC finish—runners-up the Netherlands and semifinal losers Sweden and England (attending as a Great Britain team, which can add Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish players.)
Other NWSL News: Sky Blue FC changes its name to NJ/NY Gotham FC and will have a WPSL reserve side
Sky Blue FC—which has been in existence since first playing in the now defunct USL's W-League in 2007 as Jersey Sky Blue, then won the 2009 WPS title for their three years in that defunct league, and joined the NWSL in 2013—is rebranding itself in a major way as they move into Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, just outside of New York, for the 2021 season. The team struggled for years playing at Rutgers University in South-Central New Jersey, both on the field and off. They have played better in recent seasons and now with English ex-pat Freya Coombe (raised in Buckinghamshire and who coached at Reading) as head coach, looks a good bet for a playoff run this season. They still have American international Carli Lloyd in attacking midfield and, with veteran defender Estelle Johnson (who plays international for Cameroon since 2019) and young talent like Midge Purce, Evelyne Viens of Canada, and Canadian international goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, their play on the turf and re-branding should help them to make more in-roads into the New York media market.
General Manager Alyse LaHue explained the process that they went through for their name change: "This process is the culmination of a wide-ranging collaboration among our fans, players, front office, and owners. The club has a tremendous history and close relationship with its fans, so it was important we listened and remained completely open-minded throughout the process. What emerged is a new brand that is overwhelmingly fan driven, respectful of the club's past, and representative of a promising future."
The club is also working with Downtown United Soccer Club to launch a Women's
Premier Soccer League (WPSL) team that operates under the name NJ/NY Gotham
Reserves and will serve as the NWSL side's official reserve team, beginning play this
May. La Hue explained, "Having the opportunity to extend our reach within the women's
game and develop a pipeline of talent towards the pro team is an important step for us as
Downtown United Soccer Club (DUSC) is the most comprehensive youth soccer club in New York City, serving approximately 5,000 participants annually. Founded in 1982, DUSC offers a Soccer For All approach to programming for ages 3-23 through its Recreation Leagues, Camps, Classes and its Travel Academy program. The girls program at DUSC is committed to elevating girls and women's leadership, along with diversity in NYC and is proud to be one of the few programs that has women in leadership roles across the board. Becki Tweed, current NJ/NY Gotham FC Assistant Coach, and Eleri Earnshaw, DUSC Girls Academy Coach, will serve as Co-Head Coaches of the Reserves squad. The team will be competing in the WPSL Metropolitan Conference – South Division with a seven-game regular season, followed by league playoffs. All home games will be played at historic Randall's Island in NYC—where Pele first played with the New York Cosmos of the NASL in 1975. The WPSL is in its 23rd season and is the largest women's soccer league in the world with more than 136 active teams from coast to coast in 32 states.
More International friendlies
We featured a number of internationals in last week's column—including UEFA Women's Euro Qualifiers, Olympic Games Final Playoffs and friendlies but we by no means covered all of the interesting friendlies around the world (See: The Week in Women's Football: Euro play-in results; Olympic two final spots; USWNT, Canada friendlies; - Tribal Football). We discuss a few others below.
Uzbekistan defeated India 1-0 in Olmaliq, a city of 120,000 in the Tashkent region of the country on April 5 but fell to Belarus 3-1 on April 11 at the same venue. On April 8 Belarus defeated India 2-1, also in Olmaliq. Belarus topped Uzbekistan 3-1 on April 12 in Olmaliq.
On July 7, Lithuania edged Jordan 1-0 on an artificial turf field in Charentsavan in Armenia. The next day Armenia defeated Lebanon 2-0 in Yerevan. On April 10, Lithuania blasted Lebanon 7-1 in Yerevan while Armenia and Jordan tied 1-1 in Charentsavan. On April 12, Jordan defeated Lebanon 6-0 in Charentsavan while Armenia and Lithuania tied 2-2 in Yerevan.
Japan played two friendlies during the FIFA international window and won both by 7-0 scorelines. On April 8, they blasted Paraguay 7-0 in Sendai, with Aston Villa's Mana Iwabuchi scoring a brace and the others goals coming from 5 different players. They then walloped Panama 7-0 on April 11 with a hat trick of goals and an assist from Yuika Sugasawa (30) of Urawa Reds.
Japan's side included two players from the U.S. and one each from England, Germany, Italy and Sweden, with 19 playing with domestic clubs
3 SAMESHIMA Aya (Omiya Ardija VENTUS)
15 MIYAKE Shiori (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
2 SHIMIZU Risa (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
16 MIYAGAWA Asato (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
5 MINAMI Moeka (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Urawa Reds Ladies)
22 TAKARADA Saori (Washington Spirit, USA)
4 TAKAHASHI Hana (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Urawa Reds Ladies)
7 NAKAJIMA Emi (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
24 MIZUTANI Yuki (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Urawa Reds Ladies)
14 HASEGAWA Yui (AC Milan, ITA—who recently moved to Italy from TV Beleza)
6 SUGITA Hina (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
17 MIURA Narumi (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
19 SHIOKOSHI Yuzuho (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Urawa Reds Ladies)
20 HAYASHI Honoka (AIK Fotboll, SWE)
23 KITAMURA Nanami (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
25 KINOSHITA Momoka (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
9 SUGASAWA Yuika (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Urawa Reds Ladies)
13 HAMADA Haruka (Mynavi Sendai Ladies)
8 IWABUCHI Mana (Aston Villa, ENG)
11 TANAKA Mina (Bayer Leverkusen, GER)
10 MOMIKI Yuka (OL Reign, USA)
12 MIYAZAWA Hinata (Mynavi Sendai Ladies)
Kosovo visited North Macedonia and won a pair of games 3-1 and 1-0 in Skopje on April 8 and 11, respectively. Kosovo joined FIFA in 2016 and their women's side now has 7 wins, three against North Macedonia, two against Estonia in the most recent Women's EURO qualifying, against Turkey at home (and a tie) in that same Women's EURO competition and against Northern Ireland 1-0 in March 2018 in the Turkish Women's Cup. Their players are primarily home-based or from neighboring Albania, but they have begun to recruit diaspora, primarily from Germany.
On April 7, Namibia defeated Angola 4-0 in Windhoek and completed a sweep three days later in the Namibian capital city 1-0. Elsewhere in Africa, South Africa defeated 2022 Olympic Games Finalists Zambia in Johannesburg and Ethiopia overwhelmed South Sudan 11-1 in Addis Ababa. We have been covering South Sudan's development of their women's program earlier this year (see: The Week in Women's Football: NWSL allocated players; NC Courage sign James; UWS expansion teams; South Sudan appointment - Tribal Football) and though a setback for their new South African women's national team head coach Shilene Booysen, they will learn from such a defeat and apply it to their upcoming matches against other CAF teams. The team's second match three days later saw them reduce the gap in a 3-0 loss to Ethiopia, again in Addis Adaba.
Belgium edged 1-0 of Ireland on a 14th minute goal by Tinne De Caigny (23) of Anderlecht in Brussells on April 12
On April 10 Italy defeated Iceland 1-0 and then the two sides tied 1-1 on April 13, with both games in Firenze. In the first game, an Arianna Caruso (21) goal in the 72nd minute separated the two nations. Caruso has 6 goals this season for Juventus from 16 matches. Valentina Giacinti (Milan)—with 17 goals in 18 games this season and second in the league to fellow international Cristiana Girelli of Juventus, who has 20 from 17 games—gave her team the lead in the first minute, which was countered by Karolina Vilhjalmsdottir (19) in the 40th in Firenze. She moved to Bayern for the 2020/21 season after scoring 4 goals in 15 matches for Breidablik this summer. The twenty-three players were primarily based abroad, with seven based in Sweden—a traditional landing spot for Iceland's women's players—three in France, two in Germany and one each in England Italy, and the U.S. The domestic players all come from domestic powerhouses Breidablik (5) and Value (3).
ICELAND SQUAD MATCHES FOR GAMES IN ITALY
Sandra Sigurðardóttir – Valur
Cecilía Rán Rúnarsdóttir – Örebro, SWE
Telma Ívarsdóttir – Breiðablik
Hafrún Rakel Halldórsdóttir – Breiðablik
Elísa Viðarsdóttir – Valur
Anna Björk Kristjánsdóttir – Le Havre, FRA
Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir – Rosengard, SWE
Guðrún Arnardóttir – Djurgarden, SWE
Guðný Árnadóttir – Napoli, ITA
Hallbera Guðný Gísladóttir – AIK, SWE
Áslaug Munda Gunnlaugsdóttir – Breiðablik
Karitas Tómasdóttir – Breiðablik
Andrea Rán Hauksdóttir – Le Havre, FRA
Dagný Brynjarsdóttir – West Ham, ENG
Berglind Rós Ágústsdóttir – Örebro, SWE
Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir – Orlando Pride, USA
Alexandra Jóhannsdóttir – Eintracht Frankfurt, GER
Karólína Lea Vilhjálmsdóttir – Bayern Munich, GER
Berglind Björg Þorvaldsdóttir – Le Havre, FRA
Elín Metta Jensen – Valur
Agla María Albertsdóttir – Breiðablik
Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir – Kristianstad, SWE
Hlín Eiríksdóttir – Pitea IF, SWE
UWS New Franchises Join UWS and UWS2 as the leagues start play in May, after largely missing last year because of COVID-19
The West Conference of United Women's Soccer (UWS) has seen two of the four national pro-am league champions come from this region. Internacional Club Atlético (presented by the Power Of One Foundation and formed in 2015 by Founder Gabriel Monsalvo) is the newest member of the UWS West and will be based out of Santa Ana, California. Santa Ana is the second most populous city and the county seat of Orange County in the Greater Los Angeles area. The team will play their home games at Santa Ana Stadium, also known as Eddie West Field. It is a city-owned and operated 9,000-capacity football and soccer stadium located in downtown Santa Ana.
The newly-formed Southeast Conference of United Women's Soccer (UWS) has picked up a historically-successful organization to help cement its presence in the region. The Pensacola FC Women will not only field their acclaimed First Team in UWS but their Academy Team (established in 2019) as well. Founded as the Gulf Coast Texans in 2011, the team captured the 2012 and 2019 titles in the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) and made five national championship appearances in seven seasons. The Pensacola FC Women closed out their 2019 season with an impressive 12-0-0 undefeated record. The club also fields men's teams in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and NPSL U-19 as well as the Gulf Coast Premier League (GCPL). This is a highly significant move for a top side from the WPSL to the UWS—between which there has been some switching of leagues over the past few seasons. It will be interesting to think about what the Pensacola FC players and staff think of their new league.
For both leagues, with some college teams playing full competitive 2020 seasons this spring (particularly in the western U.S.) with the College Cup next month (held with 48 teams rather than 64 with the entire tournament in North Carolina to limit exposure to COVID) and then Fall play resuming this fall, some colleges may not release their players for WPSL or UWS summer season, so we will monitor this for readers in the months to come.
Louisiana Fútbol Club of the Greater Baton Rouge area has also joined the Southeast Conference of the UWS for the 2021 season. The organization operates under the umbrella of the Gulf South Texans: a youth club based out of Baton Rouge and an affiliate of the Dallas Texans Soccer Club, one of the best youth clubs in the country. They are the first UWS team from the state of Louisiana. Louisiana FC Founder & Head Coach Orlando Cervantes said, "We are grateful to be able to be able to bring a high level of women's soccer to the Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Louisiana area. There has always been a high level of men's soccer in this state. It's now time that we showcase the women's game with players that have played in FIFA World Cups and Olympic games. The purpose of creating this program is to give all players in Louisiana an ability to see what can be achieved after high school, during college and after college as a professional player."
Cervantes has served as the State Technical Director for the Louisiana Soccer Association and was the Head Women's Soccer Coach at Lamar University (Division I). He added about the importance of this level team in the state, "Many players in our state are good enough to play in college, semi-professionally and professionally but do not know those opportunities exist. Good enough has simply been the status quo here for too long. It is time that the women's game take a giant leap forward in Louisiana and we are confident that Louisiana FC will provide impetus for that to happen. We cannot wait to take the field and represent Louisiana with pride!"
The organization's first-ever signing mirrors that attitude as Colombian Women's National Team player Oriánica Velásquez will join Louisiana FC for their inaugural season. The former Indiana University star has been capped 41 times for "Las Cafeteras" and played in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympic Games and the 2011 and 2015 FIFA Women's World Cups. Velásquez has most recently competed professionally with Club Deportivo Popular Junior Fútbol Club S.A. in the Liga Femenina Profesional de Fútbol Colombiano and played in Turkey with Antalya Spor in 2016-17, scoring 14 goals in 14 games.
Oriánica Velásquez of the Colombian women's national team, faces the U.S.'s Tobin Heath in the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada. Photo Courtesy United Women's Soccer and Louisiana F.C.
In UWS 2, Spirit of Liverpool USA (SLFC), founded in 2004, is a Premier Soccer Club based in the Central Mass/Northeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island areas and is joining the New England Conference this summer. Currently, SLFC has close to 30 teams ranging from U-9 to U-19 age groups. Spirit of Liverpool USA's mission is to provide its members an affordable premier soccer experience with an opportunity to develop their soccer abilities, train in a competitive team environment and to compete at the highest possible level regardless of gender, ethnic background, race, religion or socioeconomic status. They continue to seek out opportunities to give their players pathways to success in the game, such as this. Woodstock Academy - Bentley Complex (Woodstock, CT) will serve as the home venue for the SLFC women's team.
An eleventh team has been added to the New England Conference of United Women's Soccer (UWS) League Two for the 2021 season. Bayside Football Club will be the first-ever UWS team from the state of Rhode Island. Based out of East Providence, the organization was established in 1997 and has attracted players from across Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. Bayside FC has had great success with a multitude of State Cup victories and representation on the regional and national stage as well. The club is built on a strong foundation of player development with Bayside alumni playing at top colleges, both regionally and nationally.
Bayside FC Director of Coaching Chris Clarke said. "Bayside FC is delighted to be a part of UWS League Two for the 2021 season. We are committed to providing our players with opportunities to continue to grow and develop, and the professional and structured environment the UWS can provide will help us do just that."
The two newest league members will join Aztec Soccer Club, New England Futbol Club (Red & White), South Shore Select, Upper 90 Soccer Academy (U-23 & Women) as well as the UWS reserve teams for the Albany Rush, Connecticut Fusion, New England Mutiny and Worcester Smiles in the New England Conference this summer.
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