This week, we look at Canadian international forward Janine Beckie's moves from Sky Blue FC to Manchester City. With the launch of the 2018-19 UEFA Women's Champions League which began last week, we look at the 8 debutant teams and find some interesting imports on their rosters for the Qualification Round.
Beckie moves from low-lying Sky Blue FC to English Power Manchester City
Canadian international forward Janine Beckie (23) was transferred from her NWSL side Sky Blue FC to England's Super League club Manchester City. Beckie told the Canadian Press: "It's a really exciting time. I'm still a bit on Cloud 9 . . . This really is a very great dream come true." Beckie, who grew up in Colorado but has played internationally for her parents' homeland of Canada, is a dual citizen of both nations. The all-time leading scorer at Texas Tech University with 57 goals, she has been in NWSL for three seasons, she was first selected in the first round of the 2016 College Draft by the Houston Dash in and was transferred before the 2018 season to Sky Blue FC. Beckie is supremely talented and a prolific scorer for her national team but has quite frankly been a victim of playing on underachieving sides in her professional career. She scored 3 goals and 2 assist in 14 games (11 stars) as a rookie in 2016, then scored 2 goals and 1 assist in 2017 in 24 games on the lowest scoring team in the league (22 goals in 24 games), all with the Dash. The move to the rebuilding Sky Blue FC didn't help her goal scoring stats (0 goal and 0 assists in 15 games this season) but her side again has scored less than 1 goal again (14 in 17 games) which is the second worst total in the league.
Beckie in a statement released last week made an effort to emphasize that she was not trying to just get out of Sky Blue FC and the league but was moving towards an opportunity and still hopes to play in the NWSL in the future, with which she would be able to negotiate with any side in the league: "I only have feelings of gratitude for Sky Blue, management, ownership, coaching staff and for our fans. I know a lot of things have been said about the club within the last few weeks, and like any other club, improvements can be made. These women deserve the most professional environment possible to work to be successful. I am confident the club will continue to move towards making necessary changes. Personally I have enjoyed my time here and am very thankful for this group of people. My experience on the field has been one of growth, new learnings and being pushed to develop my game. Off the field, I have felt very lucky to witness the chemistry we have built and sustained over the course of this season; this is truly a unique crew with big hearts and a common vision to bring the club to its potential. Now I believe that the time has come to embark on a new journey in my life and to join a league I have always dreamt of playing in, that will allow me to continue my growth as a player. That is why I have asked the club to accept a transfer for me, which they did, knowing this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. This decision comes from an incredible opportunity I cannot pass up, not in the interest of just getting out of Jersey. My intention is to eventually return to the NWSL when the time is right and I would love an opportunity to represent Sky Blue again when the time comes."
Beckie has scored 22 goals in 43 appearances for Canada since debuting with the full side in November of 2014. She scored three goals in the 2016 Rio Olympics to help Canada win the bronze medal but did not make the World Cup team the previous year which Canada hosted, instead playing in the Pan-American Games which Canada also hosted that same summer.
Beckie said specifically about her new club: "Top of the line, the best women's environment in the world, in my opinion. And so I'm really proud of myself for doing what I could to get their attention and make my way over there. It's a dream environment, I think, for any footballer….They're definitely a very talented, very well-coached, organized side and somewhere that I think that I'm really going to find a lot of success and hopefully win a couple of championships. It's going to be a dream come true to play in the Champions League and I'm really looking forward to be in an environment that's going to help me peak for next summer (at the World Cup)."
Manchester City (12-4-2) was runner-up to Chelsea last season in the domestic FA Women's Super League. City won the Women's FA Cup in 2017 and the league and Continental Cup in 2016. Man City has also reached the semifinals of the Women's Champions League the last two seasons, losing to eventual winner Lyon both times. Beckie is an inspired pickup by Man City and she could burst out as an international star with such a strong squad, which can play to her strengths.
UEFA Women's Champions League First Round Qualifiers
The 2018-19 UEFA Women's Champions League Qualifiers began on August 7 with 40 teams divided into 10 groups of 4, with the 10 group winners advancing to the round of 32, as well as the two group runners-up with the best records.
This week, we look at eight clubs—Basel of Switzerland, Górnik Łęczna of Poland, Somatio Barcelona FA of Cyprus, Anderlecht of Belgium, Akadimia Elpides Karditsas of Greece, EBS/Skála of the Faroe Islands, Mitrovica of Kosovo and SS Anenii Noi of Moldova—who are all making their debuts at the Women's European Champions League scene, finding two English players and one America among these 8 teams, plus a number of players with international experience and some who played collegiately in the States.
Basel of Switzerland has four imports, with one each from Austria, Croatia, Germany and England. English defender Yasmine Bunter played at Francis Marion University in South Carolina, where she played forward. Other imports include defender Sarah Klotz of Austria, midfielder Nicole Banecki of Germany (29)—who has received full caps and played for Germany at the FIFA U-20 Finals in China in 2008—and Croatian international forward Kristina Sundov (31) who has played in the German Frauen-Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen and Duisburg, Telstar in the BeNe League (Dutch-Belgium former joint league) and various clubs in Switzerland as well as at home.
Górnik Łęczna, of Poland has an entirely domestic-based squad with the exception of Croatian international defender Ana Jelencic.
Anderlecht of Belgium, which was drawn into the same Qualifying Stage group as fellow debutants Gornik Leezna, has two imports: Romanian international midfielder Stefania Vatafu of Romania—who played many years for WCL regulars Olimpia Cluj at home—and forward Vanessa Susanna of the Netherlands.
Somatio Barcelona FA of Cyprus has nine imports, three from the Ivory Coast as well as one from England and one from the United States. English defender Caitlin Mary Hayes has played for Everton as well as Man City and Man United at home and Mississippi College in the States. She played this summer with Chattanooga FC in Tennessee in the WPSL. On signing with Chattanooga, she said: "I can't wait to spend my summer there and invest not only my time into the team but also the community and city as a whole. Everything I have experienced with the club so far has been nothing short of excellent, from the organization of the staff, the passion of the locals and the overall love from everyone involved to build an organization that embodies excellence and success. Once I was announced by the club after signing for the 2018 season, I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome and the support given to me over social media." Chattanooga FC won the Southeast Conference title with a 7-0-1 record, but lost to league championship finalists Pensacola 2-1 in the South Regional Semifinal.
American forward Krystyna Freda (25) played at Winthrop University in South Carolina, where she scored over 50 goals in 4 years. She had tryouts for a few NWSL teams but never played in a league match.
Goalkeeper Anna James-Buhiagas of Spain formerly played with Verona of Spain. The team's three Ivory Coast imports all were with the side that debuted at the Women's World Cup in 2015: defender Fatou Coulibaly, midfielder Rita Akaffou and forward Rebecca Elloh—the latter two also played with Gintra in Lithuania. Nigerian international defender Ngozi Ebere formerly played at PSG in France. Midfielder Tiina Trutsi, an Estonian international, played at the University of South Alabama. Forward Maria Zacharatou of Greece completes the large contingent from outside of Cyprus.
Akadimia Elpides Karditsas of Greece is boosted by a trio of Colombian internationals, along with one player each from Spain and Sweden. Midfielder Isabella Echeverri and forwards Tatiana Ariza (who played at Austin Peay University in Tennessee) and Gisela Arrieta Betancourt (who finished second in Greece last season among goal scorers with 23 goals); all three played together this summer for the WPSL Champions Houston Aces in the WPSL. Midfielder Maria Contreras is from Spain and fellow midfielder Hanna Spets of Sweden played at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.
KFF Mitrovica of Kosovo has seven players from neighboring Albania:
Goalkeeper Viona Rexhepi Albania
Defender Endrina Elezaj Albania
Defender Gresa Haziri Albania
Midfielder Xhemile Berisha Albania
Forward Ambra Gjegji Albania
Forward Egzona Zeka Albania
Forward Suada Jashari Albania
Two of the eight newcomer clubs have all domestic-based squads: SS Anenii Noi of Moldova and EBS/Skála of the Faroe Islands. EBS/Scala replaces KI Klaksvik, who represented the country in the UEFA Women's Champions League for 17 straight seasons, before losing their championships win streak to EBS last season.
There was good news for one of the eight debutants on August 13 as Somatio Barcelona FA of Cyprus won Group 2 with American forward Krystyna Freda scoring both goals in a crucial 2-0 victory over previously undefeated Belarus power ZFK Minsk. The Group 3 duo of Górnik Łęczna of Poland and Anderlecht of Belgium came close to advancing to the Round of 32 as well, tying Glasgow City with 6 points at the top of the table, but the Scottish club advanced on a three way tie breaker. Basel finished second to ZFK Spartak of Serbia in Group 5. Akadimia Elpides Karditsas of Greece also were runners-up in their WCL debut, finishing second to Eastern European CWL veteran side BIIK of Kazakhstan, falling 2-1 to BIIK in their first game on August 7.
We will look at the 10 clubs to advance to the next round in the weeks to come, including an interview or two with key players on these squads.
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