This week we look at some changes in England's Women's Super League 1 team rosters as the league begins its sixth season and look at the midweek results from Week 1.
FA WOMEN'S SUPER LEAGUE - 2016/17
Chelsea Ladies (10-2-2 for 32 points in 2015 and Champions)
Emma Hayes' side will have Champions League play for the 2016-17 season along with the defense of their league and FA Cup title. Signing English international winger Karen Carney (who played for Hayes in Chicago) is an astute addition as she drove Birmingham's City's strong efforts in FA WSL from their beginning (finishing second in 2011 and 2012 and third in 2014).
Manchester City (9-3-2 for 30 points and 2nd)
Manchester City is well poised to win their first championship in England, leveraging the success of their sister club Melbourne City running the table unbeaten in Australia in 2015-16 and then winning the Grand Final; City's Scottish international defender Jennifer Beattie scored two goals on loan to Melbourne during the offseason. Manager Nick Cushing made arguably the top international signing of the season in attracting Swedish international forward Kosovare Asllani (who played in WPS for Chicago Red Star under Emma Hayes) from Paris St. Germain. Defender Megan Campbell is another new signing; the Republic of Ireland international played three years at Florida State University, winning an NCAA College Cup title in 2014, and won a league and FA Cup title at home with Raheny United in 2012-13. Unfortunately Campbell will miss the first few months of the season with an ankle injury that she picked up while away on international duty. Scottish international striker Jane Ross has signed from Vittsjo GIK of Sweden and has averaged a goal for every two internationals; this is her first time with a club in England and she could have a huge impact on City's campaign. The club went to Dubai for preseason training.
Arsenal (8-3-3 for 27 points and 3rd)
Head Coach Pedro Martinez Losa of Spain is in his third season with the traditional English powerhouse (he was formerly an assistant with WNY Flash for two seasons) and hopes to lead Arsenal back to the league crown that they won in years 1 and 2 (2011-2012). American Chioma Ubogagu, who socred six goals as a rookie, has returned to the U.S. to play for the Houston Dash. They picked up two strong players from Liverpool: Nigerian international forward Asisat Oshoala and English international midfielder Fara Williams.
Sunderland (6-2-6 for 20 points and 4th)
Coach Carlton Fairweather, who was a long-time Wimbledon Don player--including a member of the legendary side that defeated Liverpool in the FA Cup in 1987-88-- has added forward Stephanie Roche of the Republic of Ireland, who played for Houston Dash last season. Sunderland also brought in midfielder Krystle Johnston from Manchester City and defender Rachel Pitman, from DePaul University in Chicago, who has been capped by England at the youth level and signed a two year contract. Johnston explained her move: “It was a really easy decision to make and I'm delighted to have signed for the Club. Carlton [Fairweather] didn't really need to persuade me to be honest; I have played against Sunderland for quite a few years so I know what it's all about here. There is a real sense of togetherness and I think that is what makes them so hard to play against." Defender Kylla Sjoman played for four years at Arizona State University and has joined from Celtic Ladies after time with Herforder FC in Germany. Sjoman, who received two caps from Canada a few years ago, played with Doncaster Belles in year one of the WSL. English U-23 international Lucy Staniforth joined from Liverpool, but had her start with Sunderland as a 16 year old before spells at Lincoln Ladies and Bristol City before joining the Reds. Norwegian youth international Hilde Gunn joined mid-season during the transfer window after playing with Arna-Bjornar at home and Linkoping and AIK in Sweden.
Notts County (4-3-7-13 points for 5th)
Head Coach Richard Passmore, who always puts together a competitive side, had to compensate for losing Canadian international holding midfielder Desiree Scott (back to FC Kansas City) and defender Alex Greenwood (to Liverpool). Passmore did sign Swedish international defender Maja Krantz, who won four domestic Cups and a Damallsvenskan title with Linkopings FC. English international Rachel Yankey (36) is on loan from Arsenal for two months—which could be extended for a longer duration. Yankey is one of England's most capped players, having made 129 appearances for the Lionesses, scoring 19 times and she was also part of the Team Great Britain squad who competed at the London 2012 Olympics, appearing in all five games. Australian international defender Aivi Luik is a late signing and a fine player who has played in the U.S. (University of Nevada-Reno and FC Indiana), Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Ukraine and at home, winning a W-League title this winter with Melbourne City and with Brisbane Roar in 2010-11, and on two Grand-Final losing sides with the Roar over the years. She was named to the recent Asian Olympic Qualifying Team that won the tournament but was a late withdrawal due to an injury. Scottish international midfielder Leanne Crichton signed for a second season with the Magpies; she previously played for Celtic, Hibernian and Glasgow City before coming south to become a full-time player.
Birmingham City Ladies (3-4-7 for 13 points and sixth on goal difference)
Manager David Parker has Emily Westwood and defender Kerys Harrop returning and signed German defender Corina Schroder from Liverpool, but the loss of Karen Carney to Chelsea is huge on the offensive end and they could struggle to avoid the relegation zone.
Liverpool (4-1-9 for 13 points for 7th place on goal difference)
Liverpool Ladies, who won the WSL in 2013 and 2014, shockingly struggled in 2015. Head Coach Matt Beard left for Boston Breakers late in 2015 and the side is now led by Scott Rogers, who took his team to South Africa for preseason training, where they defeated Yarona Ladies 2-1 in Johannesburg and Mamelodi Sundowns 6-2 in Soweto, coming back from a 2-0 half-time deficit. Liverpool returns international goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain (ex-Vancouver Whitecaps of the W-League) and captain Gemma Bonner, but lost Fara Williams and Asisat Oshoala to Arsenal. English international forward Natasha Dowie moved to Doncaster Belles but Swedish striker Emma Lundh is a new recruit along with the Netherland's Shanice Van De Sanden (23) who joined from FC Twente and previously played at Heerenveen, having come through the youth set-up at Utrecht. Alex Greenwood from Notts County is a good pickup for their defense and is a former Everton player.
Reading (Promoted as WSL 2 Champions)
Reading has made some impressive signings as they move up to a full-time setup in WSL1. This side had five players called in to represent Wales during the recent Cyprus Cup: Laura-May Walkley, Rachel Rowe, Nia Jones, Helen Ward and Charlie Estcourt, while Grace Moloney lined up with the Republic of Ireland. Harriet Scott, who made 18 appearances for the Royals' last season, has signed a professional contract as did Welsh international Melissa Fletcher, who scored twice in nine games last season. England U-23 international goalkeeper was a sharp signing from Bristol. Earps also played with Doncaster and Birmingham City and has five years of experience in WSL1. Another acquisition from Bristol is Equatorial Guinea international forward Jade Boho-Sayo, who scored 8 goals in 9 appearances last season. A long-time pro in her native Spain, she plays internationally for the West African power.
Doncaster Rovers Belles (Promoted from WSL 2 as Runners-up)
Doncaster is back in WSL1 after two years away, when they were controversially sent down to WSL2, replaced by Manchester City. They have made some astute signings and should have a quality side to easily avoid relegation. Alexandra Gummer, a left sided player from Australia who has played on their U-19 national side, was a late signing. Gummer has played for Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory at home. She said about her signing: “It's really exciting. They are a quality group of girls here so it's really exciting to join for the upcoming season. I want to play at the highest level I can so when my chance comes I want to prove I can play at this level." Icelandic international midfielder Katrina Omarsdottir played at the University of California, Kristianstads of Sweden and after three years with Liverpool, joined Doncaster as did English forward Natasha Dowie, by way of Melbourne Victory. English international forward Sue Smith remains with the side as does English midfielder Emily Simpkins, who became the club's first ever full-time signing in November. One unforced departure was the unfortunate retirement of Ashleigh Mills after three seasons, due to being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Tribal Football wishes her all the best.
WEEK 1 RESULTS
In the first WSL1 games midweek on March 23-24, Manchester City defeated Notts County 1-0 at home, with English international team captain Steph Houghton scoring a late goal in injury time to secure the points before a crowd of 1,195; English national team first choice keeper Karen Bardsley earned the clean sheet.
Liverpool defeated Birmingham 1-0 with new Dutch import Shanice van de Sanden scoring the winning goal in the 8th minute and English international goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain preserved the shutout for her side, who played with 10 for the last 20 minutes. Chamberlain faced two Birmingham penalties, saving one while the other went wide. The match attracted 507 fans.
Arsenal defeated Reading 3-1 in London in front of 1,208 fans. Nigerian international forward Asisat Oshoala—an off-season signing from Liverpool—scored along with English youth and full team (1 cap) forward international Danielle Carter and Dutch international defender Dominique Janssen, while Equatorial Guinea international forward Jade Boho-Sayo replied for the new WSL1 league side.
Chelsea went on the road to defeat Doncaster 4-1 in front of 1,165. English internationals Karen Carney, Katie Chapman, Bethany England (U-23) and Eniola Aluko scored for the reigning champs, while English international defender Claire Rafferty put a cross into her own net for Doncaster's lone tally.
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribalfootball. 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