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The Week in Women's Football: UCL Round of 16; Andonovski announces first USWNT squad; Important NWSL changes;

This week, we look at the UEFA Women's Champions League Round of 16 second legs and the U.S. national team roster for new head coach Vlatko Andonovski's first two friendlies this week. We also talked with Canadian national team head coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller about the squad he is taking to a two-match tournament in China and his views on the NWSL and international leagues for his players. We also summarize some important changes in 2020 for how the NWSL will handle player compensation and contracts.

UEFA Round of 16 Second Legs

In arguably a tie that was more appropriate for the quarterfinal or even semifinal round, three-time reigning Spanish League Champions Atletico Madrid brought home a 1-1 tie from the first leg at Manchester City on October 16 and then the Spanish side advanced 3-2 on aggregate on October 30 after a 2-1 win at home, knocking Manchester City out of the tournament. Madrid's goals came from a 40 minute own goal by City and English national team captain Steph Houghton along with a strike from Madrid Captain Angela Sosa (68'), offsetting a 88th minute goal by Manchester City's German import Pauline Bremer. Sosa had three caps for Spain in 2018 before playing for the squad in the recent European Championship qualifiers.

The other four matches that day were largely pro formas as Lyon hosted Fortuna of Denmark, taking a 4-0 lead from the first away leg; the four consecutive Women's Champions League reigning champions put 7 more past the Danish club without reply to take the tie 11-0 on aggregate. For Lyon, Norwegian international Ada Hegerberg scored twice while Canadian international Khadeshia Buchanan, English international Nakita Parris and Portugal import Jessica Silva all scored once, along with French internationals and 2019 Women's World Cup team members Eugenie Le Sommer and Griedge M'Bock Bathy. Hegerberg is now the all-time leading goal scorer in the UEFA Women's Champions League with 53 goals, two more than now second placed Anja Mittag of Germany.

Bayern Munich came back from Kazakhstan with a 5-0 first leg advantage over BIIK-Kazygurt. The German side added two goals at home for a 7-0 aggregate win over BIIK, with Austria international defender Carina Wenninger getting a brace to account for all of the scoring in the second leg.

Barcelona had a 5-0 advantage for their second leg match at Minsk and won the tie 8-1 on aggregate, with a 3-1 win away at Minsk on October 30, with Nigerian international Emueje Ogbiagbevha scoring the loan goal for the Belarussians in the 60th minute, with all of Barcelona's goals coming from 2019 Women's World Cup team members after the hour mark through their captain Alexia Putellas, Mariona Caldentey and substitute Patricia Guijarro.

Wolfsburg of Germany was up 6-0 when they visited Twente of the Netherlands, adding one goal through German international midfielder Anna Blasse in the 17th minute for a 1-0 win in the return leg and 7-0 total on aggregate over the two legs.

On Halloween on October 31, Paris St. Germaincarried a 4-0 first leg away victory home for the second leg against Breidablik of Iceland and triumphed 3-1 for a 7-1 aggregate win, with Canadian international teenager Jordan Huitema scoring twice, along with one from Brazilian international Diani. Berglind Thorvaldsdottir, who is an Icelandic international who formerly played at Florida State University in the States and for a short time with Verona in Italy in 2017, scored the lone reply from Breidablik.

Also on October 31, 2018-19 English Super League Champions Arsenal entertained Slavia Prague after taking a 5-2 first leg lead. Aresenal won the home leg 8-0 to take the leg on aggregate 13-2, with seven goals coming from their triumvirate of Dutch imports: Danielle van de Donk and Vivianne Miedema—who both scored a hat trick—and Jill Roord, who scored once. Scottish international Kim Little scored a penalty for the other goal.

In the other close run tie of the Round of 16, Glasgow City entertained Brondby on October 31 after a shock 2-0 win away in the first leg. Brondby pulled back the two goal deficit with first half goals from Nanna Christiansen in the 6th minute and Frederikke Lindhardt in the 37th minute. Glasgow City advanced on penalties 3-1 in front of a sold out crowd of 800 at their tiny bandbox of a ground, that international club teams have complained about in the past from a facilities and team standpoint, but the atmosphere for the tense tie was tremendous. Leeann Ross scored for Glasgow City to start the tie decider process and then Nanna Christiansen replied for Brondby to make it 1-1. Kristy Howart had her penalty saved as did Tavlo Petersson of Brondby. Substitute Eilish McSorley—who was brought in just moments before the tie breaker began—gave City the advantage and then Freja Abilda, herself a late substitute for the penalty session, had her spot kick saved by Scottish international and 2019 WWC goalkeeper Lee Alexander to leave City ahead 2-1. Megan Foley's attempt was saved and then Brondby's Louise Kristiansen's shot was saved as well before Joanne Love scored to move City onto the quarterfinals for the second time ever, after the 2014-15 season. Love is closing in on 200 caps for Scotland and played over a decade ago with Doncaster Rovers Belles and one season in the semiprofessional WPSL in the States with the Cocoa Florida Expos. Last week City won their 13th consecutive Scottish League crown, so it was a very good week for the Scottish club. They are now paired with clubs with a long pedigree in the competition, two each from France, Germany and Spain and Arsenal of England.

Andonovski Brings in Three Players for his first U.S. National Team Camp Ahead of Tw0 Friendlies this Month.

Recently selected U.S. women's national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski has named a 24 players squad for his first games next week, at home against Sweden and Costa Rica. The Americans will play Sweden on November 7 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio and against Costa Rica on Nov. 10 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. Seventeen of the players were on the 2019 Women's World Cup Championship side, while Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe, Imani Dorsey of Sky Blue FC and Alan Cook of Paris St. Germain were called into a national team camp for the first time. In addition, defender Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars) and midfielder Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit) return to the roster. Both were called up for the final games of the Victory Tour in early October against the Korea Republic. Forwards Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage) and Midge Purce (Portland Thorns) also return to a camp roster. Williams has 19 caps and four international goals but has not played for the USA since the 2018 SheBelieves Cup and the uncapped Purce has not been in with the USA since the summer of 2018. Andonovski will name 18 players to suit up for each match.

Five players from the 2019 World Cup Team were not available for selection due to injuries: defenders Kelley O'Hara (Utah Royals), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars) and forward Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC). Forward Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) recently announced that she was pregnant with her first child. O'Hara, Krieger, Dunn, Davidson and Rapinoe will attend the first few days of training camp as Andonovski greets and works with the team for the first time but will then depart camp to continue their rehabilitations.

Andonovski explained his choices: "This first camp is short with two good games at the end, so after just being hired officially a few days ago, I personally don't have a lot of time to prepare for the camp or implement any major changes. Mostly, this is a great opportunity for me to get to know the players, get to know the system, and start building relationships. If there is one goal that I want to accomplish in this first camp, [it] is to change the focus from the World Cup and the Victory Tour. It was a tremendous summer for this team, but now the approach is different. We have new goals and the most important thing is to shift the mentality and start moving forward because Olympic qualifying is just around the corner."

U.S. WNT Roster - Sweden & Costa Rica Friendlies (Club; Caps/Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (4): Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit; 0/0), Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC; 3/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 23/0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 56/0)

DEFENDERS (6): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA; 0/0), Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 52/0), Imani Dorsey (Sky Blue FC; 0/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC; 169/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 30/0), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC; 38/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Morgan Brian (Chicago Red Stars; 86/7), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 93/19), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 77/12), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit; 36/10), Allie Long (Reign FC; 50/8), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 59/14), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 13/0)

FORWARDS (7): Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 160/32), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 286/118), Jessica McDonald (NC Courage; 13/2), Christen Press (Utah Royals FC; 128/49), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 60/18), Margaret Purce (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 19/4)

Canada Squad announced for Two Friendlies in China

Kenneth Heiner-Moller, the Canadian women's national team head coach, announced his squad on October 30 for the upcoming Four Nations Tournament that will take place in Yongchuan, China as their only friendly matches ahead of the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament early in 2020. Canada will first play Brazil on November 7 while hosts China PR will play New Zealand. The winners of both matchups, involving teams who appeared at the 2019 Women's World Cup in France, will then meet in the final on November 10, while the other two teams will play in the third-place match before the final match.

Canada's November roster will feature the majority of their 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup squad, along with 15-year-old midfielder Olivia Smith, a first-time call up to the Women's National Team, and Italian-based midfielder Maegan Kelly, who is being called into camp for the first time since March 2018. In all, Canada will have 23 players in camp, including players from professional clubs in the National Women's Soccer League, England, France, Sweden, and Italy.

This will mark Canada's third participation in the Four Nations Tournament in Yongchuan. Canada's most recent participation in the tournament was in 2013, when Adriana Leon (West Ham United in England's Super League) scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over China PR, and Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash) scored Canada's lone goal in a 3-1 loss to Korea Republic.

CANADA Roster for Four Nations Tournament in China
GK- Sabrina D'Angelo | SWE / Vittsjö GIK
GK- Stephanie Labbé | USA / NC Courage
GK- Kailen Sheridan | USA / Sky Blue FC
CB- Kadeisha Buchanan | FRA / FCF Olympique Lyonnais
CB- Vanessa Gilles | FRA / FC Girondins de Bordeaux
CB- Rebecca Quinn | USA / Reign FC
CB- Shannon Woeller | SWE / Eskilstuna United DFF
CB- Shelina Zadorsky | USA / Orlando Pride
FB- Lindsay Agnew | USA / Houston Dash
FB- Allysha Chapman | USA / Houston Dash
FB - Ashley Lawrence | FRA / Paris St-Germain FC
FB- Jayde Riviere | USA / University of Michigan
M- Gabrielle Carle | USA / Florida State University
M- Julia Grosso | USA / University of Texas at Austin
M- Maegan Kelly | ITA / Florentia Sangimignano
M- Sophie Schmidt | USA / Houston Dash
M- Olivia Smith | CAN / Ontario REX
F- Janine Beckie | ENG / Manchester City
F- Jordyn Huitema | FRA / Paris St-Germain FC
F- Adriana Leon | ENG / West Ham United
F- Nichelle Prince | USA / Houston Dash
F- Deanne Rose | USA / University of Florida
F- Christine Sinclair | USA / Portland Thorns FC

Tribal participated in a conference call with Canadian coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller on October 30 ahead of the team leaving for the tournament in China, which will be their only games ahead of a training camp in January before CONCACAF Olympic Games qualifying starts later that month.

Heiner-Moller explained his decision to bring in 15 year old Olivia Smith for the tour and said that she realistically could see time in China, "Definitely I haven't selected anyone who are just in as a training player. She could have some game action. I traveled with U-15, U-17 and U-20's. I remember the outside of my eye caught something with her passing skills. She has been catching a lot of eyes from coaches throughout her career. I saw her in a game taken down hard by an opponent but she kept on going at them with her one-on-one skills. When we prepped for the World Cup we had a camp in Toronto leading to the game in Mexico and we called some of the local players from the Ontario Super League and she was invited and you saw a young player at the senior level. You didn't know she was 15, she was doing good. Her touches were clean and she went 1-1 against the fullbacks. This is an opportunity to see her in the senior environment in our sessions and potentially playing her in an international game. If she comes in and looks as good as I hope she would, she can definitely see some game action."

Desiree Scott [Utah Royals] and Jessie Fleming [UCLA] were not included in the trip to China, giving the coaching staff a chance to look at other players as backup midfielders, an area that Heiner-Moller thought they were weak in terms of substitutes. He explained, "We have several players to look at and [it would] not make sense to bring them in and they would have limited minutes and I know what they are capable of doing. I want to look at other midfielders that are ready for qualifiers and give them that option in China."

Heiner-Moller talked about Canada's 4-0 defeat to Japan on October 3 at the IAI Stadium Nihondaira in Shizuoka. He said that in part, the heavy defeat was due to switching from their favored 3-5-2 formation to a back four for the second half due to personnel changes, as center back Rebecca Quinn (Reign FC) came out for attacking midfielder Janine Beckie to start the second half. Canada was down 1-0 at the half and playing well, but the wheels fell off in the last 25 minutes of the second half, with Japan scoring three times. The head coach said, "Something positive of a 4-0 defeat is the impact you do have on people. Meeting just after that loss, we had a hard conversation from me to them and among the players as to what it means to pull the [Canadian] jersey over your head. I know the work this group put in at the World Cup and they were disappointed to leave, we thought too early [losing in the Round of 16 to Sweden 1-0]. We were emotional but the lack of excitement we had coming back in together was my biggest concern and the lack of commitment for what we as a team are doing and that was the takeaway [from the Japan match]. We can use that going forward. If we miss that we are all down to 11 individual players on the pitch and 9 or however [many backups] actually sitting on the bench and just being individuals and that's not what Canada is about. Canada is about a team of very good individuals but the team is more important than anything. If we don't bring that commitment to be tactically very aware and solid, we do have small gaps that can lead to the potential of opponents taking advantage and Japan did that."

Heiner-Moller discussed the professional club opportunities and specifically the NWSL, in which some Canadian national team players have been allocated to teams in each of the seven professional league's seasons, in which the federation pays for some of their national team players' salaries to participate. Nine were allocated to NWSL teams by Canada Soccer for the 2019 season, with eight of them going to China—the exception being Desiree Scott of the Utah Royals, mentioned above. He said: "What we have done has been great, a great investment, not to say that it is the right investment or partnership moving forward. For 2021, how can we keep on improving on our individual players and their training environment? We are positive about the relationship [with the NWSL]. We are pretty content where we are, but are looking to improve training environment for all our players." The men's Canadian Premier League started this year with seven teams across the country, the first Canadian-only top professional league in the vast country since the Canadian Soccer League of the late 1980's through the early 1990's for six seasons. A women's version/offshoot of the league is probably a long way off and would take considerable investment; this reporter doesn't see this as a serious proposal until after the 2023 or even 2027 Women's World Cups.

This reporter then asked coach Heiner-Moller to talk about the leagues in Europe in comparison to the NWSL and Australia W-League. He said, "My biggest thing about NWSL and the Australia league is the limited amount of time they are spending in the league—[it is] very short—but France, Germany, Sweden has a longer league [of] 9-10 months and a lot of matches. That is where you get consistency throughout a season, so they [the players] are not off for several months. That's where the European leagues have some advantages. But then again if you look at the competitiveness of some of the leagues in Europe, it is not where you want our players to be at—if the best club is winning 7-0 or 8-0, it's not the best where they have to be pushed. We are getting close to where the players are in the clubs where it is suited for them and an operating system where our best defenders are and they have to defend, etc. It's individual from a player perspective [of finding] the best league and club suited for them." He felt that the longer season that most European leagues hold—with the notable exception of Iceland—compared to NWSL and W-League in Australia is the main advantage for his players in Europe.

On a related question, Heiner-Moller commented on his three fantastic goalkeeping triumvirate of Steph Labbe (North Carolina Courage), Kailen Sheridan (Sky Blue FC) and Sabrina D'Angela (ex-Carolina Courage who moved to tiny Vittsjo of Sweden for the 2019 European season). Labbe won the league title last week with the Courage after most thought she would be a backup to 2018 starter and league title winning keeper Katelyn Rowland, while Kailen Sheridan has started with Sky Blue for three straight years and had a strong season backstopping an improving squad, tying for the league lead in saves with 86 with Washington's Aubrey Bledsoe. D'Angelo on the other hand went to one of the smallest cities with a professional team, Vittsjo GIK, in a rural farming community of about 1,700 people near Malmo in the Southwest of the country. The players routinely stay in a nearby larger city but the fans pack the 1,500 seat stadium. The club is typically in the lower half of the table, never finishing higher than 7th in 2016. This season they were in a Champions League spot for most of the season and even spent time in first, finishing in third place on 41 points and a 12-5-5 (W-T-D) record, behind Champions Rosengard (49) and Goteborg (45). Vittsjo led the Damallsvenskan with the fewest goals allowed with 13. The club had four 2019 Women's World Cup team members in France this summer: defender C.J. Bott with New Zealand, backup goalkeeper Shannon Lynn of Scotland and Leandra Smeda of South Africa along with D'Angelo. Moller specifically addressed D'Angelo's season when he said, "What a problem to have as a coach to have three keepers that are as good as we got. I was in Sweden visiting her club [Vittsjo] in the spring, saw the sessions, spoke to the coach and spoke to the goalkeeper coach and leaving that team, Sabrina will definitely be involved because this is not a good team. They will be potentially fighting for relegation because what I saw wasn't too impressive. I could be wrong and she could have an impact on that team that is beyond what I noticed. They conceded less than 20 goals this year (13). Speaking to the coach [Thomas Martensson], he is praising her for her skill set but also the professionalism that she has brought and it makes you proud when you talk to coaches around the world. Sabrina has been outstanding and they won a medal (3rd place). For that team to win a bronze medal, it shows the impact she has had on the team this season."

NWSL Announce Compensation Changes and Other Player Acquisition Rules for 2020

On November 1, the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) announced changes to its salary cap and compensation rules for 2020. The salary cap in 2020 was set at $650,000, almost a 20% increase over 2019 ($520,000—though some initial reports last year had it as low as $421,500). The league maximum salary will be $50,000, up from $46,200 in 2019 while the league minimum will rise to $20,000, up from $16,538 and a huge increase of more than three times from around $6,000 in 2013.

The league has also added a concept borrowed from Major League Soccer, called allocation money. Allocation money enables team operators to invest funds in current or future players in excess of the current season's team salary cap. It also allows a player's salary to be in excess of the league maximum salary, which typically would be used to bring in a high salary international player from abroad, as this money cannot be used on Canadian or American internationals, but can be used on other domestic players. Teams may purchase up to $300,000 in allocation money from the league. Also, there will be no limit in 2020 on the number of guaranteed contracts. Player contracts are no longer permitted to include "additional work" (for example, performing at camps, etc.). There will no longer be an additional cap for teams to assist players in areas such as housing and auto expenses. Instead, housing will be provided for all players on a team's senior and supplemental rosters and must be provided while the player remains under contract. Housing will be in the form of an individual or shared apartment or house, or by providing the player with a stipend for housing costs. Teams are not required to provide cars to all players but if they choose to, the car must be available to the player for the entire duration of the season.

Players may also be signed to contracts of lengths up to three years. The following contract formats are now acceptable: one year term, one year term + one option year, two year term, two year term + one option year, three year term, three year term + one option year.
New to the NWSL, teams are now permitted to pay transfer fees to acquire players outside the NWSL. Transfer fees are paid using allocation money and do not count against a team's salary cap. There is no limit on the number of transfer fees paid per season, but teams must stay within the league's allocation money limit. Teams are also permitted to sell rights to players to teams outside the NWSL. When selling a player's rights, teams may either retain the rights to the player within the NWSL or keep a portion of the transfer fee. U.S. Allocated players may not be sold by teams.

These modifications should help the NWSL be more flexible in terms of recruiting top level international players, allowing teams to offer pay that is competitive to what they can receive in Europe or China. The extent that the league gets involved in transfers will be interesting as this phenomena is expected to dramatically increase in the women's game—which no doubt will be pleasing to these player's agents. The changes in the stipulations for housing and cars will also help the league be more transparent and consistent in these important player welfare issues, and move away from the problems that Sky Blue FC in particular have had (though they weren't the only team) in substandard housing and training facility situations.

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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