This week we look at Western New York Flash's new head coach for 2016 and other NWSL news, present the rosters for England, France Germany and the USA for the SheBelieves Cup international exhibitions beginning this coming weekend and look at Australia's squad for the 6 team Asian Olympic Game Qualifiers which also starts this week.
The Western New York Flash of the professional NWSL hired Paul Riley as head coach for 2016. He previously coached the Portland Thorns in 2014 and 2015, making the playoffs in his first year but falling short in the World Cup season—in part because of a number of injury issues--and his contract was not renewed. Fellow U.K. ex-pat Mark Parsons replaced Riley in Portland while Riley now takes over from former New Zealand international Aaron Lines—the longtime coach who led the Flash to titles in the W-league, WPS and WPSL-Elite. Lines will stay with the Flash in an executive role.
Riley was a success as a coach in his two years in WPS, being named coach of the year both seasons after taking the expansion Philadelphia Independence to two League Finals, losing in 2010 to FC Gold Pride and in 2011 to the Lines-coached Flash (both winning sides included Brazil's Marta and Canada's Christine Sinclair.) Riley won two amateur titles in WPSL in 2006 and 2009 with the Long Island Rough Riders, where he was coach of the year in 2009.
Seven of ten NWSL coaches for 2016 are internationally-born, including six from the U.K.—Sky Blue FC's Christy Holly from Northern Ireland, Tom Sermanni of Orlando from Scotland, four from England including Matt Beard of Boston, Parsons of Portland, Riley with the Flash and Laura Harvey of Seattle. Vlatko Andonovski of Kansas City is from Macedonia, leaving only Randy Waldrum of Houston, Rory Daimes of Chicago and Jim Gabarra of Washington Spirit as native-born American coaches. In the future, we hope to see more women coaches—either domestic or international—and, just as we saw with the Women's World Cup in 2015, where 8 of the 24 sides (33%) were led by women, up from 4 of 16 teams in 2011 (25%).
OTHER NWSL NEWS
The Flash also announced this week that they were waiving Australian international forward Michelle Heyman. Signed after the World Cup, she scored 1 goal in 9 games in 2015 but in Australia this past winter she scored 5 goals for Canberra United and is the all-time W-League goal scorer with 55. She would be an excellent target for clubs in Northern Europe during the transfer window.
The 2016 NWSL regular season runs from the third weekend in April until late September. The league will not hold any games during FIFA dates. In addition, the NWSL will take a 25-day break from August 1 through August 25 for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil. The League will play approximately 74 matches prior to the Olympic break and 26 matches following it. Each of the 10 teams will play 20 regular season games in 2016 – 10 home and 10 away.
ENGLAND, FRANCE, GERMANY AND US MEET IN SHEBELIEVES CUP
The rosters for the four teams in the high profile SheBelieves Cup, which begins next week, were released this past week. The U.S., England, France and Germany will compete in the friendly tournament, which will assist the U.S., French and German national teams in the pre-Olympic Game preparation. Typically these nations participate in Portugal's Algarve Cup or the Cyprus Cup. On March 3 in Tampa, Germany will face France followed by the U.S. versus England. On March 6, the U.S. faces France while England plays Germany in a rematch of the third place match that they won in overtime from a 108th minute penalty from Fara Williams in Edmonton. Both matches will be in Nashville, Tennessee. The last round will be staged on March 9 in Boca Raton, Florida, with France playing England and Germany facing the Americans.
U.S. head coach Jill Ellis has named a 22-player roster for the tournament which features 19 of the 20 players who helped the USA win a berth in the Rio Olympic Games last week in the CONCACAF Finals. Ellis has also recalled 2015 Women's World Cup winners Whitney Engen and Heather O'Reilly, who has 228 caps and 46 goals in her international career. Ellis also added one new player--Seattle Reign FC defender Lauren Barnes. Barnes, who has played for Melbourne Victory in Australia for the last two Westfield W-League seasons, has never been capped at the senior level. All the side is NWSL-based except for Mallory Pugh, who is still in high school.
For England, head coach Mark Sampson named 19 of the 23 players from the 2015 Women's World Cup side. English players who have experience in U.S. soccer include: goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, who grew up in Southern California and played in WPS for Sky Blue FC, defender Lucy Bronze who played at the University of North Carolina and scored two goals in the World Cup in Canada, Portland Thorns forward Jodie Taylor who scored the first goal against Canada in the World Cup quarterfinal and Eniola Aluko (98 caps) who played for a number of teams in WPS. The entire squad is all based in the FA-WSL with the exception of Taylor.
France brings 16 of 23 players from their 2015 World Cup side that lost in penalties to Germany in the quarterfinal, when they looked the better side for much of the game.
France has eight players with 97 or more caps, led by veteran midfielders and ex-WPS star—Los Angeles Sol and FC Gold Pride--Camille Abily (158 caps/30 goals) and defender Laura Georges (167/6), who played college soccer at Boston College. Louisa Necib (135/34), one of the finest attacking midfielders in the world, is on the side along with forward Eugenie Le Sommer (116/52), who had three goals during the World Cup last summer. All the squad is home based except for Elise Bussaglia (150/27), who plays in Germany with Vfl Wolfsburg.
Germany's head coach Silvia Neid led her country to a Women's World Cup title in 2007 and has been head coach since 2005. She will retire after the Olympics, giving way to Steffi Jones, a former player with Washington Freedom in the WUSA and the head of the 2011 World Cup organizing committee in Germany. German will bring 16 of the 23 players from the 2015 Women's World Cup to the SheBelieves Cup. Anja Mittag, who has scored 39 goals in 132 caps and won the Bronze Boot with five goals at the 2015 Women's World Cup, will lead the front line. Mittag is one of only two players on the roster who play outside of Germany; Mittag plays at PSG in France while defender Josephine Henning is with Arsenal Ladies in the FA WSL. Former University of Central Florida striker Lena Petermann, who helped Germany to the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup title in Canada and scored two goals against Thailand in the 2015 Women's World Cup, is now with SC Freiburg in the Black Forest region of the country.
U.S. Women's National Team SheBelieves Cup Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (9): Lauren Barnes (Seattle Reign FC), Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Heather O'Reilly (FC Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)
England Women's National Team SheBelieves Cup Roster by Position:
DEFENDERS (9): Laura Bassett (Notts County), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Gilly Flaherty (Chelsea), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Claire Rafferty (Chelsea), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Arsenal)
France Women's National Team SheBelieve's Cup Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Sarah Bouhaddi (Olympique Lyonnais), Méline Gerard (Olympique Lyonnais), Laëtitia Philippe (Montpellier HSC)
DEFENDERS (7): Sabrina Delannoy (Paris Saint-Germain), Kelly Gadea (Montpellier HSC), Laura Georges (Paris Saint-Germain), Jessica Houara D'Hommeaux (Paris Saint-Germain), Sakina Karchaoui (Montpellier HSC), Amel Majri (Olympique Lyonnais), Griedge Mbock Bathy (Olympique Lyonnais)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Camille Abily (Olympique Lyonnais), Viviane Asseyi (Montpellier HSC), Charlotte Bilbault (FCF Juvisy), Elise Bussaglia (Vfl Wolfsburg), Kadidiatou Diani (FCF Juvisy), Kheira Hamraoui (Paris Saint-Germain), Aurélie Kaci (Olympique Lyonnais), Marie-Charlotte Leger (Montpellier HSC), Elodie Thomis (Olympique Lyonnais)
FORWARDS (4): Marie-Laure Delie (Paris Saint-Germain FC), Claire Lavogez (Olympique Lyonnais), Eugénie Le Sommer (Olympique Lyonnais), Louisa Necib (Olympique Lyonnais)
Germany Women's National Team She Believe's Cup Roster by Position:
DEFENDERS (7): Saskia Bartusiak (1. FFC Frankfurt), Kathrin Hendrich (1. FFC Frankfurt), Josephine Henning (Arsenal Ladies), Tabea Kemme (1. FFC Turbine Potsdam), Annike Krahn (Bayer 04 Leverkusen), Leonie Maier (FC Bayern München), Babett Peter (VfL Wolfsburg)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Melanie Behringer (FC Bayern München), Anna Blässe (VfL Wolfsburg), Sara Däbritz (FC Bayern München), Sara Doorsoun (SGS Essen), Lena Goeßling (VfL Wolfsburg), Svenja Huth (Vfl Wolfsburg), Isabel Kerschowski (VfL Wolfsburg)
FORWARDS (6): Mandy Islacker (1. FFC Frankfurt), Lina Magull (SC Freiburg), Dzsenifer Marozsan (1. FFC Frankfurt), Anja Mittag (Paris St. Germain FC), Lena Petermann (SC Freiburg), Alexandra Popp (VfL Wolfsburg)
ASIAN FOOTBALL CONFEDERATION OLYMPIC QUALIFICATION TOURNAMENT BEGINS IN JAPAN
The last region to hold its Olympic Qualifying tournament begins this week in Asia with six teams, with each side playing the other five in a league format and the top two teams advancing to the 2016 Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro Brazil.
(The European play-in for one last spot in Rio will be held from March 2-March 9 among Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.) Australia, attempting to qualify for their third Olympics after making Greece in 2004 and hosting the games in Sydney in 2000, will play the other five participants in a physically difficult schedule of five games in ten days (from February 29 through March 9) along with tournament host Japan, Korea DPR, Korea Republic, Vietnam and China PR. Australian head coach Alen Stajcic is bringing 20 players to the qualifying tournament, of which only Lisa DeVanna has competed at the Olympic Finals. Five players: Caitlin Cooper, Emily Gielnik, Chloe Logarzo, Aivi Luik and goalkeeper Casey Dumont, were not part of the 2015 World Cup Quarterfinalists.
Stajcic explained how difficult this tournament will be for the Matildas: “Our physical preparation needs to be at a high level and our players need to be capable of backing up every second day. It is the same for every team competing so we need a squad full of fit players and players who can carry a high workload. By game four or five it will be a war of attrition and come down to a bit of luck with injuries, but certainly the teams that are more resilient will give themselves a better chance to qualify."
German based duo Elise Kellond-Knight and Emily van Egmond will join up with the squad in Osaka after their clubs in the Frauen-Bundesliga played their first matches of the season this past weekend. NWSL-based players Lydia Williams (Houston), Laura Alleway (rumored to be headed to Orlando), Steph Catley (Orlando), Caitlin Foord (Sky Blue FC in New Jersey), Allana Kennedy (Western New York Flash) and Kyah Simon (Boston Breakers) are all going to the Osaka-based tournament ahead of the NWSL team training camps later in March.
Stajcic discussed forward Samantha Kerr's (Sky Blue FC) omission from the side as Kerr is recuperating from a foot injury she received while playing for Perth this winter in the A-League: “We've been monitoring Sam's recovery and she's only been out of the moon boot for a couple of weeks so it was always going to be touch and go, but with the short turnaround between matches it was not worth taking the risk…. She had a few issues in her rehab. For her to be a part of this squad, everything had to go 1000% smoothly and it hasn't. Her health is the main priority. We can't push her beyond the limit where it could affect her long-term health. She's unfortunately had to bow out of the squad but the Olympics is a good motivation and long term goal for her. Hopefully we qualify and she can put her hand up and be available for selection for Rio."