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The Week in Women's Football: Simon joins Spurs; UWS players abroad; W-League teams

This week, we examine some high profile transfers among international players to European clubs, as well as some UWS players in America moving abroad now that their 2021 summer season is over; we also have news that two more W-League franchise have signed up to begin play in the new league in 2022.

Tottenham Hotspurs' New Signings from Abroad

On August 7 it was announced that Australian international forward Kyah Simon had joined Tottenham in the English Super League on a two year contract from PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, where she recently spent this past season and appeared in seven games and scored twice. She played in 2 Women's World Cups but was a late omission from the 2019 Matilda side as she was recovering from injuries. She was on the 2020 Olympic side this summer where she made her 100th appearance for the Matildas. Simon (30) had previously played at home and in the U.S. In the W-League, she won three league titles, two Premierships, a Golden Boot, a Young Player of the Year award and the Julie Dolan medal (for W-League Player of the Year).

Simon said about her move, "I'm really excited to join Spurs, an incredible, historic club that is known around the world. Playing in the WSL has always been a dream of mine and I'm so happy to be joining such a big club. It's a fantastic opportunity and a good challenge for me. The club is making strides on and off the pitch and I'm looking forward to meeting the team and helping them achieve success next season." Tottenham finished the 2020-21 season in eighth place in the 12 team league, with a record of 5-5-12 (W-D-L) for 20 points. Fellow Matilda Alanna Kennedy played at Spurs last season but was recently released.

The Spurs also signed English international forward Chioma Ubogagu (28), who moved from Real Madrid, where she scored twice in 11 games in 2020/21 after scoring five times in 18 games for Tacon the previous season (which rebranded as Real Madrid after the 2019-20 season). She was capped by England in 2019 at the full level but grew up in the States, went to college at Stanford University in California, was capped by the Americans at the youth level (winning the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup title in Japan) and played four NWSL seasons from 2016-2019 in Houston (one season) and Orlando (three seasons), as well as the 2018/19 season with Brisbane Roar in Australia. In her 73 NWSL career games, she scored 13 goals and added 7 assists.

Chinese international midfielder Tang Jiali (26) comes on loan to Spurs for the 2021-22 season from Shanghai Shengli. Tang joined Shanghai in January, 2016, and has made 42 appearances to date over the course of two separate spells at the club. In her debut season for the Chinese Super League side, Tang played in 14 games and scored seven goals. The 26-year-old moved to Jiangsu Suning in January, 2018, where she helped them clinch the title, making 25 appearances and scoring 11 times. Tang returned to Shanghai for a second spell at the beginning of the 2020 season, where she scored eight times in 15 appearances.

Tang made her senior debut for China in December, 2014 against the Americans and was a finalist for the Best Young Player of the Tournament at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada. She scored vital goals recently in China's 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifying campaign against Australia, Thailand and Chinese Taipei. Tottenham Head Coach Rehanne Skinner, who took over as head coach last November and previously coached with the Welsh and English national teams' programs, said about her new import, "We are really excited to have a player of Tang's quality coming to Spurs. She has been a prolific goalscorer in the Chinese Super League and instrumental in helping China in their successful Olympic qualifying campaign. The additional strengths Tang brings to the team will be key to our success moving into the new season."

Anna Leat signs with West Ham United after the Olympics

New Zealand, the 2023 WWC co-hosts with Australia, saw their much acclaimed young goalkeeper Anna Leat (20) sign with West Ham United in England this month. She was on the Olympic Games side this month with the Football Ferns in Japan, after playing at home and collegiately at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Last season, the Hammers finished joint ninth with Aston Villa on a 3-6-13 record for 15 points, just 3 points above the bottom side Bristol City, who were relegated. Australian international MacKenzie Arnold was the starter last season in 16 games, with Republic or Ireland international Courtney Brosnan appearing in six matches. Leat will be playing for a fellow Kiwi in head coach Olli Harder (34), who joined last December after being an assistant at Norwegian women's clubs Kleep IL and Sandnes Ulf. He has also coached at the youth level in China and the U.S., as well as collegiately as an assistant at Yale University and New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Inter Milan brings in Four Internationals for the 2021-22 Season

Anna Björk Kristjánsdóttir (31), an international defender with Iceland who spent last season at Le Havre in France where she appeared in 18 matches—which finished at the bottom of the 12 team league with a 2-2-18 record for 8 points and was relegated—has joined Inter Milan in Italy. She previously played two seasons at PSV in the Netherlands and three seasons in Sweden with Limhamn Bukeflo 07 and KIF Orebro. She played against Italy at the international level in April in two friendlies for Iceland, a 1-0 defeat and a 1-1 tie.

Elin Landström (29) is making her first move abroad to join Inter after four seasons at Linkopings FC, two at Goteborg and five at Umea; she was capped by Sweden in 2010 and 2011 at the U-19 level.

Another new Inter signing is Henrietta Csiszár, a 27-year-old Hungarian international midfielder who has played five years with Bayer Leverkusen and won a league title in 2013-14 at home with MTK Hungaria FC of Budapest.

Macarena Portales Nieto 23 is a forward from Spain who was capped at the U-19 level—finishing second in the UEFA U-19 championships in 2016—and joins Inter Milan after playing two seasons with Madrid CFF after a season each at Sevilla and Zaragoza.

Other Moves within Italy

Defender Amanda Nildén (23) joins champions Juventus, who are targeting a repeat crown in Italy—a fifth in succession—as well as the UEFA Women's Champions League title under former Arsenal and Melbourne City head coach Joe Montemurro. Nilden played the last two seasons at Eskilstuna in Sweden after three seasons in England at Brighton and Hove Albion, winning promotion in 2017/18 after a second place finish in her first year and then playing two seasons in the WSL. She had been capped at the U-17, U-19 and U-23 level by Sweden and won her first full cap in February in a 3-0 win against Malta.

Naples has signed Cameroonian defender Marie-Aurelle Awona who played at Stade de Reims last season, which finished tied for sixth place last season with Montpellier on a 9-3-10 record for 30 points. Awona has played entirely in France at Dijon, Soyaux and Le Mans except for one season at Madrid CF in 2019/2020. She played in the past two Women's World Cups for Cameroon. She should help shore up the fifth worse defense in Serie A last season (38 goals allowed while scoring 22) as Napoli finished in 10th with a 3-5-14 record for 14 points, just two points above relegated San Mario (12 points) and well ahead of Pink Sport Bari (3 points), who also went down to Serie B.

Other Moves To European Clubs for 2021-2022

Mexican international Emily Alvarado joins Stade de Reims in France for the 2021-22 season. She has been capped at the U-17, U-20 and senior level by Mexico. She made her full international debut for Mexico in May 2019 against the U.S. She will join American Rachel Corboz, who is in her third season at the club and fourth in France, when she started at Fleury 91 in 2018-19 after finishing college at Georgetown and is now in her third season with Stade de Reims. Also new this season on the Reims roster from CONCACAF is Haitian international defender Kethna Louis (25), who moved from LeHavre. Canadian-raised Easther Mayi Kith (24) plays for Cameroon and is in her second season with Reims after one season at Metz and two with Montpellier—playing only six games in total in her first three seasons in the league. She played for Cameroon in the two intercontinental play-off matches against Chile for a last Olympic Games berth earlier in the year and appeared in the 2014 U-17 Women's World Cup for Canada in Costa Rica. She played at West Virginia University.

Other internationals include English U-19 international midfielder Grace Rapp, who is in her third season at Reims after two in Iceland with Selfoss after finishing collegiately at the University of Miami. She previously played at home with Yeovil Town. Ukrainian international forward Tatyana Romanenko (30) is also in her third season at Reims after five years at Kubanochka of Russia, and Turkish international forward Melike Pekel has played in France since 2016/17 with Riems now her fifth club, after playing with Bayern Munich in Germany, where she was raised.

Arsenal has signed Norwegian international midfielder Frida Maanum from Linkoping of Sweden, following Swedish head coach Jonas Eidevall, who moved from Rosengard to join Arsenal this summer to replace Joe Montemurro. She would be a replacement for Dutch international midfielder Daniëlle van de Donk, who recently made the move to powerhouse Olympique Lyon in France. Maanum played for her country as an 18-year-old during the 2017 EUROS final. Eidevall (38) joined the Gunners from Swedish side Rosengard, after helping the Malmo-based club reach the quarter-finals of last season's Women's Champions League. He began as a 23-year-old assistant coach at men's side Lunds BK, before taking the head-coach role three-and-a-half years later and guiding them to the 2009 second-division title. He then moved to Rosengard's women's team, first as an assistant and then as the head coach, achieving back-to-back Damallsvenskan titles in 2013 and 2014. After a brief move to Helsingborgs on the men's side as an assistant he returned to Rosengard and led them to the 2018 Swedish Cup and their first league title in four years in 2019. He explained his feeling on taking the job in early July 2021, "I feel honoured to be taking this role. Arsenal have a rich history, more successful than any other women's team in England. I want to add to these honours. It's super important that we win, and we will be very ambitious about that, but it's even more important that we live the values and defend the club badge on a day-to-day basis. I cannot wait to do that at Arsenal." He should bring a fast-paced, attacking style to the Gunners, which should be attractive for fans to watch.

2021 UWS Players in the States Move Abroad

Midfielder Ena Sabanagic is headed to Iceland, where she has signed a deal with HK. Sbaanagic scored three goals and added one assist in five matches with Chicago KICS this season in UWS. She played at Purdue University in Indiana.

Goalkeeper Liz Harrington has signed for the Puerto Rico Sol, coached by former Haitian and Puerto Rican women's national team head coach Shek Borkowski. Harrington made 34 saves for FC Austin Elite this year.

Satara Murray (28), a Jamaica international defender first capped in 2021, who was born and raised in the States and also played with the FC Austin Elite—where she grew up—signed with Bristol City of England, who will play in the second tier next season. Murray played at the University of North Carolina and then with Liverpool in the WSL from 2015-19 and then in nine games for the Houston Dash before joining Kolbotn in Norway in 2020. She was on the Dash's reserve roster for a time this season. She was also eligible to play for England, the U.S., Antigua and Barbuda as well as Guyana through her parents and grandparents.

Melanie Cunha has signed a professional contract with Lakatamia FC of the Cypriot First Division after playing this summer with NJ Copa FC, finishing with eight goals—tied for fifth in the UWS league—and two assists in eight games. She played collegiately at St. Joseph's University and Montclair State University on the east coast.

Goalkeeper Taylor Beitz, who played with Jacksonville FC in UWS League Two last season, has signed a professional contract to play in France with Football Feminin Yzeure in Feminine Division 2 Group B. She started at the University of Minnesota and then finished at the University of Arkansas.

Asheville City SC of North Carolina and Southern Soccer Academy in Georgia joins the W-League for 2022

Earlier this summer we announced that the United Soccer League was relaunching an amateur W-League next season—(see: The Week in Women's Football: Northern Ireland and Scotland clash; San Diego granted franchise; Matildas squad for Europe trip - Tribal Football). At that time, we announced eight teams had signed on but that as many as 30 were expected to join.

  • Chattanooga Red Wolves SC
  • Greenville Triumph SC
  • Hartford Athletic
  • Minnesota Women's Soccer
  • Kaw Valley FC (Kansas City area)
  • Queensboro FC (New York)
  • South Georgia Tormenta FC (Statesboro, Georgia)
  • Washington D.C.

Spokane, Washington announced last month that it is joining the league, either in 2022 or 2023 when its new downtown stadium is expected to be ready. Franchises number ten and eleven announced this week that they will join the league for next season. Ashville City SC in North Carolina, which was founded in 2016, was built on the mission of creating an environment that enables local players to pursue their dreams, using soccer as a force for good within the community and seeking to win championships for its supporters.

Asheville City SC has fielded a women's team since 2018 and in joining the W League, the club will expand its ability to offer its players and coaches a competitive game day environment in which they can hone their skills and advance their careers to the greatest degree. In addition, the W League's career development pillar will help continue Asheville City's mission of helping players pursue their dreams both on and off the pitch.

Southern Soccer Academy in Georgia is also entering the W League for 2022 and is one of the largest youth soccer organizations in the United States. Southern Soccer Academy offers more than 18 programs for boys and girls incorporating more than 8,000 players across 16 locations in the state of Georgia. The club's mission is founded upon its commitments to community, quality, family and passion. Through these commitments, Southern Soccer Academy strives to provide and enhance the growth and participation of youth soccer within its community by promoting player development and creating a player-centered environment that is enjoyable for all participants, regardless of individual ability or gender.

In addition, the club has recently completed the development of a new state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar soccer-specific stadium that will serve as the home of its new USL W League team and will include two floodlit showcase fields, a 1,000 seat capacity stand and men's and women's locker rooms, classrooms and a conference center. Southern Soccer Academy will prepare to welcome its fans to a new home for the 2022 season.

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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