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The Week in Women's Football: Swedish Damallsvenskan 2018 First Half Season Review

This week we review the first half of a very interesting 2018 Swedish Damallsvenskan league season.

Swedish Damallsvenskan 2018 First Half Season Review

At the halfway point of the 2018 Damallsvenskan season, Pitea are the surprise leaders. If Pitea (8-0-3—24 points) can repeat their blistering start to the season—when they won 7 straight games, rather than their three-game losing skid against Rosengard (0-1) at home, Kristianstad (1-2) away and crashing to Vittsjo (1-4) at home in June—during the second half of the season, they should have a good chance for their first league title in club history. A hopeful sign was their 2-1 victory at home to Limhamn on July 8 to close the first half of the season as the league takes a summer break, with a restart on August 5. Pitea are currently two points ahead of second placed Goteborg (22 points), with Rosengard (20 points) in third. Kristianstad is fourth on 19 points and two-time champions Linkoping are surprisingly in fifth on 18 points. At the other end of the table, 2018 promoted side Kalmar is virtually assured of relegation with only 1 win, 10 losses and 3 points, with Eskilstuna United (12 points), Vittsjo (12 points) and Djurgarden (13 points) currently in a battle to avoid the second relegation spot.

In terms of goalscorers, English international forward Natasha Dowie of Linkoping leads the league with 10 goals. The former Liverpool FA Super League two-time title winner and former Boston Breaker was surprisingly not selected by the other 9 sides in the NWSL dispersal draft of Breakers players, though there were reports that she was headed back to Europe, which was indeed the case. Dowie scored 15 goals in Australia for an inconsistent Melbourne Victory over the past three Westfield W-League seasons. She has been in brilliant form for Linkopings, who are vying for a third consecutive league crown. Unfortunately she was not retained for the second half of the season for financial reasons. At press time, Dowie has not signed for another club but there will be no shortage of options for the ever prolific scorer. Other imports among the league leaders including Finland's Linda Sallstrom of Vittsjo (29) in third with 7 goals (who has played in the Damallsvenskan for over a decade), Germany's Anna Mittag of Rosenborg in fourth with 6 goals and newcomer and Scottish international Fiona Brown of Rosengard is tied for fifth with 5 goals. Four imports are tied for 12th place with 4 goals: Iva Landeka (Croatia) of Rosengard (in her third year with the club after years with USV Jena in Germany), American Christen Press of Gothenburg (who has moved back to the NWSL to join the Utah Royals this month), 2017 Euros runner-up Sanne Troelsgaard-Nielsen of Denmark with Rosengard and 2017 European Championship winner Sheila Van den Bulk (Netherlands) of Djugarden, who joined the side in 2016, after time in Norway and at home with ADO Den Haag.

We look at the teams prospects for the second half of the season, with particular focus on each club's line-up of imports and significant mid-season moves. With their spring-late fall season as opposed to fall to spring in most other European countries, Sweden is always a target for player acquisition abroad during the summer FIFA transfer season.

Pitea's (8-0-3—24 points) imports include defender Faith Ikidi (31) of Nigeria, who has been with the club since 2011, while defender June Pedersen of Norway—who has been with the side for a decade—has 3 goals. American midfielder Jocelyn Blankenship, who was on the books of the NWSL's Orlando Pride last season and in 2016 after failing to make the Boston Breakers side during the 2016 preseason, hasn't appeared in any games this season. Blakenship played at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and is the school's all-time career leader with 22 assists, along with 14 goals, and is tied for first at Loyola in career appearances (80). Newcomer Norwegian forward Andrea Norheim (19), who was on Olympique Lyon's books the past two seasons after playing at home with Klepp, has 2 goals so far this season. The club's leading scorer is 24-year-old Swedish youth international and full-national team pool player (though she is waiting for her first cap) Julie Karlenas with 5. She is in her second season with Pitea and won an Elitettan title (2nd Division) crown at Mallbacken in 2014 and a UEFA U-19 Championship with Sweden in 2011/12.

Pitea was the best side in Sweden during the second half of last season so there is optimism that they can continue their top of the table formand capture their first ever league title. If they do win the crown, they can expect some more investment and could bring in more international stars; even though the town has only 41,000 inhabitants, it is becoming known internationally as a hub for women's football, much as Umea was in the past during the time of Marta and other international level stars.

Goteborg (7-1-3—22 points) looked like a mid-table team until they ran off 5 consecutive wins, including back-to-back 3-2 wins over Vaxjo (at home) and Kalmar (on the road) just before the summer break; they are now in second, two points behind the leaders. For imports, goalie Loes Geurts (32) of the Netherlands, who won the 2017 UEFA Championships with her country and has over 100 caps, is in her fourth season with the club, returning after a year at PSG; she already has more starts this season in Gothenburg (7) than in her years in Paris (6). American defender Taylor Leach is in her second season with the club after having previously played with second division side Ostersund. Leach played at the University of South Carolina and was in the Houston Dash's pre-season camp in 2015. She had two own goals in first two weeks of the season but has looked strong in central defense, particularly during the recent winning streak, and has played all 11 matches. In midfield, Felicia Escobar Sarnbratt (17) has played at the youth level for Mexico, qualifying via her father, who is a native of the country. Finland's Emma Koivisto Finland (23) is in her first season in Sweden after transferring from Honka, where she won a Finnish League Naisten Liiga title last year. Forward Adelina Engman of Finland (23) has 2 goals from 11 appearances in her fourth season with the club, after transferring from Aland United at home, where she won two league titles and was runner-up on two other occasions. Engman is moving on to Chelsea this summer and is being replaced by 20-year-old Swedish youth international Julia Zigiotti Olme, who has scored five goals this season for Hammarby. Another Swedish youth international Rebecka Blomqvist (20) currently leads the club with 5 goals and will be looked upon to shoulder more of the scoring load now that Christen Press has returned to the States, though the acquisition of Olme should help as well. A strong developing prospect is Annahita Zamanian (20), who has 2 goals in five games, and is in her third year with the club. Zamanian was born in London but has played for France at the youth level. She played in the SUD Ladies Cup U-20 tournament last month, in which France hosted the tournament; France finished second to the U.S. but ahead of Germany (third) and Haiti (fourth).

Rosengard (6-2-3—20 points) is currently sitting in third place, but the 10-time league champion (including previous names Malmo FF and LdB FC Malmo) including 5 since 2010, could still pip Pitea for the title, or Gothenburg for the second UEFA Women's Champions League spot for 2019-20. They have experience throughout the lineup, including Swedish international veteran Caroline Seger, German international Anja Mittag up front (6 goals in 11 games) and New Zealand/American Ali Riley in defense. Their offense has been firing nicely as they lead the league with 24 goals and have allowed the fewest as well (9) among the twelve sides. Their two new imports up front in Scottish forward Fiona Brown and Norwegian forward Lisa-Marie Utland have been pleasant surprises. Brown (23) has been a revelation in her first season at Rosengard with 5 goals in 10 matches, after playing one year with Eskilstuna. She won two Scottish league titles with Glasgow City. Utland (25) has had a solid start in her first season in Sweden at the Malmo-based club, with 3 goals in 10 games.

In defense, their imports include: Iceland's international defender Glodis Viggosdottir (23) of Iceland, who is in her second year at Rosengard and won two titles at home with Stjarnan.She first moved to Sweden in 2015 to join Eskilstuna. New Zealand international defender Ali Riley (30) grew up in America and has been with Rosengard for seven seasons, winning 3 Damallsvenskan titles after 2 titles in Women's Professional Soccer. Simone Boye-Sorensen of Denmark won two titles at home with Brondby.

In midfield, Iva Landeka of Croatia (28) has 4 goals as does Sanne Troelsgaard-Nielsen (29) of Denmark, who is in her second season at Rosengard, and has recently extended her contract for another season.

Kristianstad (5-4-2—19 points) is fourth and still has a chance of finishing in the top two for a UEFA Champions League spot. In goal, 19-year-old Moa Olsson of Sweden, who has played all 11 games this season in goal, replacing 32-year-old American Brett Maron, who has been out with an injury but is back in training; she is in her sixth season with the club. American midfielder Becky Edwards (30) played 4 seasons in NWSL and 2 in WPS, winning a NWSL title in Portland in 2013 and two titles in WPS. She is in her second season with Kristianstad this stint, after playing with the club in 2012 before the NWSL started.

The club has two experienced Nigerians in midfield who have both contributed a goal in 11 games this season and have played in Scandinavia for years: Ogonna Chukwudi (29) has been in Sweden since 2011 and Rita Chikwelu came to Umea in 2010 from Finland and then transferred to Kristianstad before the 2017 season.

International defender Sif Atladottier of Iceland (32) has been an ever present this season; she joined the club in 2011 after playing with Saarbrucken in Germany and at Valur at home, where she won three consecutive league titles. Forward Tine Schryvers of Belgium (25) joined the club in 2017 after playing with Valerenga in Norway. Kristianstad's leading goalscorer is 24-year-old Swedish international Amanda Edgren with 5 goals.

Kristianstad's head coach is Elisabet Gunnarsdottir of Iceland, who has been at the club since 2011. She won four league titles and one Cup title at home as coach of Valur from 2003-2008 and has coached Iceland at the international level as an assistant for the full team and head coach of their U-21 side.

Linkoping (5-3-3—18 points) is surprisingly in fifth after winning the last two Damallsvenskan titles but has had some substantial turnover of late. This season the club has a strong Danish influence, starting with their interim head Henrik Jensen. The club is still looking for a permanent coach as Jensen does not want the job on a full-time basis for personal reasons; he is a former coach with Brondby at home on the women's side and a number of Danish men's clubs. Danish international defender Janni Arnth-Jensen Denmark (31) captains the side and has been with the club for 5 years, winning the 2016 and 2017 league crowns. Fellow Danish international Maja Kildemoes has played in 8 games and is in her second season with Linkopings. In midfield, long-time Danish international Johanna Rasmussen has returned from an ACL tear and chipped in two goals; she is in her second season with the side after 6 years with Kristianstad. She won a Damallsvenskan title in 2008 in Umea before playing in WPS in the States. Danish international forward Nicoline Sorensen (20) has been on 3 Damallsvenskan-winning sides between Linkoping and Rosengard, as well as a champion at home with Brondby, but is now returning home, with her next destination unknown.

Midfielder Emmaliina Tulkki (18) of Finland is in her second year after joining from Ilves of Finland. Another 18-year-old, Frida Maanum of Norway has seen more playing time in her second season at the club. Regarding forwards, Natasha Dowie is not returning for the second half of the season and her 10 goals will be sorely missed; her destination is unknown (see above). Swedish international and ex-Manchester City's Kosovare Asllani has 3 goals in 9 games but has been playing in central midfield for much of the season; she could be an option up front. The club is still missing Swedish international forward Marija Banusic, who played for Chelsea for a short while in 2015. Banusic finished fourth in the league in scoring last season with Linkoping with 11 goals, behind imports Tabita Chawinga of Malawi and Kvarnsveden (25 goals), Linda Sallstrom of Vissjo and Finland (15 goals) and American Ella (Masur) McLeod of Rosengard with (13 goals), who is now playing with 2017-18 Champions League finalists Wolfsburg in Germany. Banusic joined China's Beijing BG Phoenix, who Spanish international Vero Boquete left PSG for earlier this year; the club is coached by Kim Bjorkegren who formerly coached Linkopings. Chawinga joined Jiangsu Suning and scored this weekend in a 3-0 championship final win over Dalian Quinjian, home to young Nigerian superstar Asisat Oshoala, who formerly played at Liverpool and Arsenal.

A huge pick-up this summer is veteran Canadian international goalkeeper Steph Labbe, who played previously in Sweden with Pitea and Orebro. She joins after two years with the Washington Spirit in NWSL (2016-17) and helped Calgary Foothills in the UWS make the national finals as Western Division Champions. She won a third place medal with Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

This side critically needs more scoring up front to replace Banusic and more recently Dowie, or their title and European Women's Champions League spot hopes could be dashed at season's end.

Hammarby (5-0-6—15 points) of Stockholm is in sixth place. Lotta Okvist (21), a Swedish youth international defender at multiple levels, signed with the club last week after she was released by Orlando Pride in the NWSL without playing a game. Okvist played for Pitea and Umea before signing for Boston Breakers late last year; they folded and Houston Dash signed her but shipped her to Orlando in the preseason.

In midfield, Australian international Elise Kellond-Knight (27) is in her first season, after a couple of years in Germany with Potsdam and has also played in Japan and Denmark after seven years at home with Brisbane Roar. Kellond-Knight is expected to play with the Matildas in France 2019, which would be her third consecutive World Cup. American Kelly Conheeney, who played with Sky Blue FC in the NWSL in 2016 and was on the roster but did not play with the Houston Dash in 2017, is in her first year in Sweden, and has 1 goal in 2 appearances this season. Conheeney played collegiately at Virginia Tech University. Hammarby is in a good position at mid-table but have surrendered 14 goals for eighth best in the league and needs to be tighter in the back, in order to stay clear of the relegation zone, which they are currently only three points above.

Vaxjo (4-2-5—14 points) sits in a tie for seventh with Limhamn and is two points above the relegation zone, after being promoted from the second division last season. American Katie Frame (30) has played in 9 games in her first season with Vaxjo; she spent last season with Avaldsnes in Norway—who finished second—and previously played in Sweden with Vittsjo, Linkoping and Mallbacken after time in WPS in the States.

Twenty-two-year old midfielder Jelena Cankovic of Serbia has 1 goal in 11 games with the club that she won promotion with last season. She has played in Spain, Hungary and at home and won 6 league titles—including the Elitettan crown last season.

Limhamn Bunkeflo 07 (4-2-5—14 points) is tied for seventh with Vaxjo. They were promoted to the Damallsvenskan following the 2016 season and finished last season in ninth with 26 points. They have two players from Finland, 2 from Iceland, one Dane and one American. Of the two players from Finland, goalkeeper Kreeta-Liisa Yli-Santti (27) won the 2nd division title with Vaxjo last year after transferring from Ilves at home, but has not played this season, as Emma Lind of Sweden has played all 11 league games. Lind has been with the team for 3 years, winning the Elitettan title in 2016. Forward Eveliina Parikka (27) of Finland has 1 goal in 11 games in her second year with Limhamn after 6 seasons at PK-35 Vantaa of Finland, where she won 5 titles and finished runners up once, along with 3 national cup titles.

The two imports from Iceland include defender Ana Bork Kristjansdottir (28), who is in her third season in Sweden, and midfielder Rakel Honnudottir (29), who has three goals in 7 games in her first stint abroad after winning a league title with Breidablik in 2015, after time with Thor/KA.

Defender Maria Thomsen (19) of Denmark has played every game after transferring from Odense at home ahead of this season. American forward Hanna Terry (27) has no appearances this season and is with her third different club in Sweden (QBIK and KIF Orebro—the latter who were relegated last season) after two seasons with the Portland Thorns.

The team's leading scorer is Mia Persson with 5, who played collegiately at Lindsey Wilson College in Kentucky. She has been with Limhamn for six years and scored 17 goals in 2016 when the club won promotion to the Damallsvenskan by winning the Elitettan title.

LB07 is tied for ninth in goals with Eskilstuna and only Kalmar (35) and Eskilstuna (22) have allowed more goals than LB07 (16), but they need to increase their scoring proficiency and keep a few more clean sheets to survive the drop.

Djurgarden (3-4-4—13 points) is in ninth place and only one point out of the relegation zone. The Stockholm club has a number of imports including goalkeeper Guobjorg Gunnarsdottier (32) of Iceland, who has played in all 11 games. She has been with Djurgarden for 3 years, after time at Lillestrom in Norway (where she won two league titles), Turbine Potsdam and Avaldsnes in Norway. She also played with Djurgarden from 2009-2012. In midfield she has country-mate Ingibjorg Siguroardottier (who has 2 goals in 11 games) in her first spell abroad after winning a league title at home with Breidablik in 2015, as did Honnudottir of Limhamn (see above).

Defender Ingrid Ryland (29) of Norway is in her first season in Sweden, after playing at home, with a short spell in 2015 with Liverpool. Midfielder Sheila van den Bulk of the Netherlands (29) has 4 goals in 11 games in her third season with Djurgarden after time in Norway and at home with Den Haag; she won the UEFA title last summer and the Algarve Cup this year with her national side. Also in midfield is Michelle Worner of Germany (24), who has two goals this season and has played in Sweden since 2015, first with Sunnana in the second division before joining Djurgarden in mid-2016. Also in midfield is Portia Boakye of Ghana (29), who has played in Turkey and Hungary and is in her first season with Diurgarden. Canadian forward Jenna Hellstrom (23) played in 6 matches for Rosengard last season and was slated to play this season but went home after some cup games in a dispute. She is Kent State University in Ohio's all-time leader in goals (37) assists (33) and points (107). She was a NSCAA Second Team All-American in 2016 at Kent State and played for her country at the U-15 level. It will be interesting to see if she plays in Sweden again. Forward Wilma Sjoholm (19) of Finland is in her first season in Sweden.

Vittsjo (3-3-5—12 points) is tied for tenth with Eskilstuna. Canadian/Scottish goalkeeper Shannon Lynn (32) has started all 11 games and has been with the club since 2014. She was raised in Canada but has been capped by Scotland. She played with Hibernian and for a brief spell at Chelsea in 2013. Defender Osinachi Ohale of Nigeria 26 in her second year at Vittsjo and played in 19 games with Houston Dash of the NWSL in their inaugural season of 2014. American defender Lorina White (23) is in her first season in Sweden after playing with Stjarnan of Iceland in 2017. She played collegiately at Ball State University in Indiana. Fellow American defender Genessee Daughetee (25) is in her second year at Vittsjo after three years with Montpellier, who were Ligue1 runners up in 2016-17. During the mid-summer break, both White and Daughetee are leaving the club, for destinations unknown. A third American, midfielder Rachel Mercik (26) is in her third year with the club after playing with Turbine Potsdam and played at University of California Berkeley and was a U.S. youth international.

In midfield, Finland's Emmi Alanen (27) has been with the side for 3 years after 3 seasons with Umea, after coming from Finnish league side Kokkola F10. Forward Linda Sallstrom (29), also of Finland, has 7 goals in 11 games and has played in Sweden for over a decade with Djurgarden, Linkoping and the last four seasons with Vittsjo. She is reportedly a transfer target for Paris St. Germain. New Zealand international forward Hannah Wilkinson (26) played in two U-20 and two full Women's World Cups. She played at the University of Tennessee in the States and has been at Vittsjo for two seasons.

Eskilstuna (3-3-5—12 points) finished third in the league in 2017 and to find themselves tied for tenth with Vittsjo and in the relegation zone is a shock for this efficient club. Defender Vaila Barsley, who played at St. John's University in New York and has been capped once by Scotland—who she qualified for through her mother—is a native of England and has 2 goals in 8 games in her sixth season with the club. Defender Brianne Reed (ex-Rutgers University) of the U.S. (24), who played two seasons with FC Kansas City in the NWSL, joined the side after playing in 2017 with Kvarnsveden, who were relegated that season. American midfielder Molly Menchel (ex-University of Virginia) is 26-years-old and played with Reed in Kansas City in 2016 and has also played in Norway and Cyprus, where she won a league title with Apollon in 2016/17.

Finland's international midfielder Julia Tunturi (22) \has played all 11 games thus far in her first year in the Damallsvenskan after playing for TPS and Aland United at home. Fellow midfielder Ngozi Okobi of Nigeria transferred this year to the side after two years at Vittsjo and had a brief stint with the Washington Spirit in 2015; despite being only 24, she has played in four FIFA World Cup Finals—the 2008 and 2010 U-17's, 2012 U-20's and the 2015 WWC in Canada.

Eskilstuna just announced that they signed Canadian international defender Shannon Woeller, who was playing at USV Jena in Germany, after time in Iceland, Norway, in the U.S. with Rutgers University and the Seattle Sounders in the W-League, as well as her hometown Vancouver Whitecaps in the now defunct W-League.

Kalmar (1-0-10—3 points) promoted to the top league for this season unfortunately looks to be going right back down to Division 2, having struggled mightily this term. Their imports all have some connection to the States. In defense, they have 37-year-old defender Ifeoma Dieke, who joined Kalmar this season after six years with Vittsjo—she also played for Chicago Red Stars and the Boston Breakers in WPS and the Atlanta Beat in WUSA in 2003 and has over 100 caps for Scotland. American defender Shade Pratt (ex-University of Maryland) has 2 goals in 8 games and played briefly for Portland in 2016 and Sky Blue in 2015 in the NWSL and Roa of Norway last season. Australian international midfielder/defender Aivi Luik, who was on Australia's side that finished second in this spring's Asian Cup, has 1 goal in 9 games and has won the last three W-League titles with Melbourne City as well as one with Brisbane Roar in 2010-11. Forward Erin Gunther (ex-Creighton University) from the U.S. (27) was in the side for the past few years in the second division and Kristin Haugstad (24) of Norway, who played collegiately at LaSalle University in Pennsylvania from 2014-2017, also played at Valerenga in the past.

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

Tim Grainey
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Tim Grainey

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