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The Week In Women’s Football: UEFA CL Round of 32 set; Aussie great De Vanna joins Orlando Pride; Solo exits Seattle

This week we look at the nine teams who advanced to the Round of 32 knockout stage of the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League from the 36 team Qualifying Round that was played in nine, four team groups--hosted by one team in each group--last week.

We feature BIIK-Kazygurt of Kazakhstan, whose Bulgarian head coach Kaloyan Petkov has assisted teams in America and Russia and doubles as the Kazakhstan national team head coach.

We also catch up on NWSL news, with a Canadian international joining FC Zurich, an Australian star joining Orlando and possibly looking at a CL stint late in the year, and Hope Solo's latest meltdown—could she be headed abroad as well?


Champions League Update
Nine Clubs Advance From 32 Team Qualification Round

Let's first look at the 9 teams that advanced from last week's UEFA Champion's League qualification rounds and then we present the Round of 32 draw for next month's matches.

Group 1 Qualifying Round winners Apollon Limassol of Cyprus has won four consecutive domestic doubles. In the Champions League, they are still known for their 4-1 defeat of Swedish power Umea IK (without Marta but still loaded with international stars) in their second ever appearance in 2010/11 during the qualification stage. Apollon has made the Round of 32 in six of their last seven seasons (from a total of eight appearances), falling surprisingly in the qualification round last season. The side has long imported international talent including Mexican national team goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago (now in Iceland with Akureyri), English international Lianne Sanderson (now with the Western New York Flash) and Portuguese international Monica Mendes (ex-University of Texas-Brownsville and now in Switzerland with FC Neunkirch) as well as a few NWSL veterans including: Yael Averbuch (FC Kansas City), Ashley Nick (Sky Blue FC) and goalkeeper Michelle Betos (Portland Thorns).

This season their starting goalkeeper is American Kelsey Brouwer, who played at Middle Tennessee State University and set the school mark for wins (33) shutouts (27) and minutes played (6,368); she spent the preseason with FC Kansas City in the NWSL. Other Americans on the side include defender Paige Nelson (ex-University of North Carolina), who was a Seattle Reign draft pick this past January and she scored 1 goal last week against KI of the Faroe Island, Halle Bissin (ex-University of San Francisco) and midfielder Maegan Kelly (ex-Marquette University in Milwaukee) who played seven games for FC Kansas City's in 2013. Kelly then went to Stjarnan in Iceland in 2014 and on to Aland United in Finland before joining Apollon Limassol. Other imports include Julia Molin of Sweden, who scored 1 goal against KI, two midfielders from Greece: Danai-Eleni Sidira and Kyriakik Ynossidou, Rachel Cuschieri of Malta and forward Lisa Alborghetti of Italy, who was capped once by the full national side after youth internationals and a long career with Brescia.

Apollon qualified for the knock-out stage after two of their three qualification games, as did Minsk of Belarus, the team we feature next.

In Group 2, Minsk of Belarus utilizes a half-dozen African imports—five from Nigeria and one from Cameroon—with the balance of the squad from Belarus. Their imports include defender Onome Ebi from Nigeria—a four-time Women's World Cup team member from 2003 through 2015, who has also played professionally in Sweden and Turkey and scored in the 3-1 qualifying round win versus Standard Leige of Belgium—defender Alvine Njolle of Cameroon, midfielders Halimatu Ayinde of Nigeria (who played with Western New York Flash after last summer's World Cup) and Gift Ele Otuwe of Nigeria (2007 World Cup side member) and Nigerian forwards Emueje Ogbiagbevha—who led the Russian league in scoring in 2010 and 2011-12 with Rossiyanka (23 and 15 goals respectively) and who scored 3 goals against Osijek in a 5-0 qualifying round win—and Aminat Yakubu, who played in Nigeria's 2012 U-17 World Cup squad in Azerbaijan.

This is Minsk's third straight Champions League campaign, and second consecutive time that they have advanced to the Round of 32.

In Group 3, Breidablik of Iceland is currently in second place at home in the Urvalsdeild, two points behind Stjarnan (34-32) but won their qualifying group on goal difference (+13 to +3) over Spartak Subotica of Serbia. Both teams had seven points, after drawing their first match 1-1 and then defeating NSA Sofia of Bulgaria and host Cardiff in their other two matches. Breidablik utilizes primarily an all-Icelandic squad with only one import—Olivia Chance (ex-University of South Florida with 31 goals in 79 games) in midfield from New Zealand, who has played in the U-17 World Cup in 2010 in Trinidad and Tobago and received a few caps at the senior level. This season represents their fourth Champions League appearance, Breidablik made the Round of 32 in their last appearance in 2010-11 and the quarterfinals in 2006/07.

In Group 4, KKPK Medyk Konin Poland's squad is also primarily home-based except for three imports from Eastern Europe who have national team experience for their respective countries: Romanian defender Maria Ficzay and two Bulgarians: defender Radoslava Slavcheva and Liliana Kostova—who played for many years in Cyprus with Apollon Limassol. This is Medyk Konin's third straight Champions League Round of 32 appearance. The Polish side defeated Olimpia Cluj of Romania 3-1 in the final match of their qualification group; Olimpia finished second in the group for whom Alexandra Lunca led all scorers in the qualification round with 7 goals. Olimpia had made the Round of 32 three times in six consecutive years in the CL and made the Round of 16 in 2012/13.

Group 5 winners Zurich are led by Swiss international scorer Fabienne Humm, who scored the fastest Women's World Cup hat trick in history in Canada with three goals in five minutes in their 10-1 defeat of Ecuador. Finnish international forward Sanni Franssi, who played in the 2014 U-20 World Cup in Canada, is also a threat up front. Midfielder Federica Cavicchia was Swiss-born but capped by Italy at the youth level. The 2016-17 campaign is the Swiss side's eight consecutive appearance in the round of 32; they hope to make at least the round of 16, which they accomplished in 2008/09 (UEFA Women's Cup), 2013/14 and 2014-15.

Group 6 winners WFC SFK 2000 Sarajevo of Bosnia-Herzegovina has only two imports in the side, both of whom are Montenegrin internationals: midfielder Jasna Djokovic and forward Armisa Kuc, both with over 20 caps. This is SFK's fourteenth consecutive appearance in the UEFA competition and only their third time advancing out of the Qualification Round (in 2009/10 and 2012/13).

BIIK-Kazygurt in Group 7, defeated second placed Gintra Universitetas of Lithuania 3-0 in their final group game decider to advance to the Round of 32 for the third straight season under Bulgarian Coach Kaloyan Petkov, who doubles as the national team coach. Petkov was an assistant coach in the U.S. at FC Indiana under now Haitian national team head coach Shek Borkowski for a number of years. Petkov followed Borkowski to Zvezda 2005 Perm in Russia after which he interviewed for and won the head coaching position in Kazakhstan in 2012. His top tier club in Kazakhstan is becoming a destination side for imports, including Americans. This year his imports include: Cameroonian defender Josephine Ngandi, Kristina Mashkova of Russia (who played at FC Zorky Krasnogorsk in Russia) and Darya Kravets of Ukraine (also from FC Zorky in Russia). In midfield BIIK-Kazygurt has Annette Jacky Messomo of Cameroon but who has played internationally for Equatorial Guinea and club ball in Germany, Czech Republic and Serbia, and two Americans: Chinyelu Asher (ex-Purdue and University of Louisville) and Jordan Roseboro (ex-University of Miami and Western New York Flash). At forward, the side has two Nigerians: Chinwendu Ihezuo (who played in the 2014 U-20 WWC in Canada) and Charity Adule (who played in the U-20 WWC in Germany in 2010 and Japan in 2012), along with international Gulnara Gabelia of Georgia and Alina Litvinenko of Kyrgyzstan, who was the youngest ever to score an international goal for her country against Palestine in a 2010 Asian Cup qualifier at age 13.

Petkov explained in an exclusive interview with Tribalfootball that his extensive use of imports—in which he started nine in the first Qualifying Round match against Gintra with only two locally based from Kazakhstan—helps to improve the level of play among the native Kazakh players. He envisions that, in the future, there will be less reliance on imports and that will translate to a better local player, who then may have a better chance of playing abroad, which Petkov said is not a realistic expectation at the present time. He has had a few from the national team go to Russia to play club ball but they take a foreign player allocation spot and have to compete for playing time, which a higher profile recruit from America, Western Europe or Africa is more likely to receive. Petkov said that the gulf between Kazakhstan soccer and that of Western Europe is still substantial but a player in Kazakhstan can earn a monthly salary that is among one of the top salaries for a women's player in the region. The advantage that he has as a dual club/national team coach helps when recruiting Kazakh players because: “They perceive that they will receive more of my attention by joining BIIK." He was originally hired to coach the club side but that later the national team job was added. It was a natural decision as, at the time, his side comprised about twenty of the national team pool players but in the 2017 European Championship Qualifiers, he has ten from BIIK.

For BIIK's foreigners, the range of monthly salaries can reach a few thousand dollars (depending on if the player signs a multi-year contract). For the imports, they can save most of their salary as their meals and lodging is provided free of charge—even internet, shampoo and other supplies is taken care of. In addition, BIIK pays a full year contract, not 6-7 months like NWSL. For a young American college graduate that is not on a full-year national team contract, they can save considerably more money in an exotic location with top class training facilities, than if they were to make a NWSL team, and have to pay living expenses. Petkov said that: “Once they see the set-up (team hotel with accommodation for 80)—with eight fields (one artificial) and team stadium right there, they find the arrangements are much better than many NWSL teams."

Petkov utilizes a lot of college, NWSL and WPSL coaches for contacts and player recommendations. In addition, his former side FC Indiana—a professional setup launched in 2004 while women's pro soccer was effectively nonexistent in North America—has a number of former players in the coaching ranks such as Sharolta Nonen, a three-time All American at the University of Nebraska and former Canadian National Team player, who is now an assistant at East Carolina University.

With the national team, the Kazakhs sit fourth in Group 8 in Euro 2017 Qualifying, with 4 points from a 1-1-5 record, behind joint leaders Norway and Austria (both with 16 points) and Wales (7 points) but ahead of Israel (2 points), who they defeated 1-0 on June 2 at home. They finish the Euro qualifiers away to Norway on September 15th.

All of the current national team squad play their club ball in Kazakhstan, with ten of the side on Petkov's BIIK side. Goalkeeper Irina Sratovtseva spent time with Zvezda 2005 in Russia, where Petkov was an assistant coach before moving to Kazakhstan in 2012.

They play Verona in the Round of 32, of whom Petkov said that: “They are very strong conditionally. They have a lot of power and are a women's only side [not connected to a men's program]." They also have some imports including English defender Paige Williams (who played at Everton), Swiss goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann (who played in Germany with Hamburg, Lokomotive Leipzig and Duisburg and with now defunct Torres Calcio in Italy), Dutch midfielder Dominique Bruinenberg and long-time Italian national team forward Melania Gabbiadini, who has been at Verona for almost a decade and scored 12 goals last season and 31 in 2013/14. Petkov said that big games such as against Verona or when they lost 6-2 to aggregate after a 2-2 tie at home in 2014-15 to a Frankfurt side that eventually won the title and BIIK were the only team to take points from them (and also even score on them beside PSG in the final): “provide an awareness of the caliber of play and help the team improve."

I met Kaloyan Petkov over ten years ago and he always impressed me with his strong knowledge of the global women's game. He's completing his UEFA Pro License as well. He is definitely a coach to watch as he continues to develop the game in a country that he loves.

In Group 8, Avaldsnes of Norway qualified for the round of 32 in their first Champions League campaign. They utilized four Brazilians, two Icelandic imports and one from the U.S.—Madalyn Schiffel, who played at the University of San Francisco and spurned the Washington Spirit, who selected her with a late round pick, for Europe. Alvaldsnes has a trio of Brazilian defenders: Leticia Santos (a U-20 World Youth Cup player in Canada in 2014 and joined the club from Sao Jose for the 2015 season), Andreia Rosa (her fourth season in Norway and who won a Silver with Brazil at the 2008 Olympic Games in China) and Bruna Benites (a 2012 Olympian).

In midfield, the team has Icelandic international Holmfridur Magnusdottir (who played with Paul Riley's Philadelphia Independence in WPS as well as in Denmark with Fortuna), and country-mate and international Thorunn Jonsdottir (who played one year at the University of Rhode Island and four seasons in Brazil with Santos—winning two Women's Copa Libertadores titles--Flamengo and Vitoria) and Brazilian midfielder Luana Berolucci Paixao (who is in her second year with the side after leaving from Centro Olimpico in Brazil).

FC Twente of the Netherlands in Group 9 is making their fifth appearance in UEFA's round of 32 and made the round of 16 last season, knocking out Bayern Munich of Germany in the process. The side is comprised entirely of Dutch nationals except for their lone import (like Iceland's Breidablik)--Slovenian international defender Kristina Erman, who played in Italy at Torres and Riviera di Romangna in Serie A.


Qualification Round Notes:

Avaldsness (Group 8), BIIK-Kazygurt (Group 7), ZFK Minsk (Group 2), Medyk Konin (Group 4), Twente (Group 9) and Zurich (Group 5) won all three games in their qualifying groups.

Avaldsness (Norway) was the only Champions League debutant side to make the Round of 32, while the other first-time participants were: Ramat HaSharon (Israel), Newry City (Northern Ireland), Breznica Pljevija (Montenegro), Criuleni (Moldova) and Hajvalia (Kosovo)--the first Kosovan side to play in any UEFA football competition.

The tournament's only ever-present (since it began as the UEFA Women's Cup in 2001-02), 16-time entrants KÍ Klaksvík of the Faroe Islands, finished tied for third in Group 1.


Round of 32 Draw

In the draw for the round of 32 pairings for October 5/6 and 12/13, the 2015/16 runners-up Wolfsburg face a rematch with Chelsea, who they defeated last year in the round of 16. The other English side, Manchester City, which is in their first Champions League campaign, is paired with Russian side and 2009 runners up Zvezda-2005 of Perm. Swedish club Eskilstuna—another first timer in the Champions League--encounter former quarter-finalists Glasgow City of Scotland (2014/15-- they fell to eventual finalist Paris Saint-Germain 7-0 on aggregate). Glasgow City is in their tenth European club campaign. The third first-time CL side is Sturm Graz of Austria, who take on Zürich.

The draw comprises two clubs from Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Norway (with Avaldsnes coming through from the qualification round) Russia, Scotland, Spain and Sweden along with 8 other qualification round winners, discussed above.

Round of 32 draw (5/6 & 12/13 October)

Sturm Graz (AUT) v FC Zürich (SUI)

Breidablik (ISL) v Rosengård (SWE)

LSK Kvinner (NOR) v Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)

Avaldsnes (NOR) v Lyon (FRA, holders)

Eskilstuna United (SWE) v Glasgow City (SCO)

SFK 2000 Sarajevo (BIH) v Rossiyanka (RUS)

Chelsea (ENG) v Wolfsburg (GER)

Twente (NED) v Sparta Praha (CZE)

Apollon (CYP) v Slavia Praha (CZE)

Athletic Club (ESP) v Fortuna Hjørring (DEN)

Minsk (BLR) v Barcelona (ESP)

Medyk Konin (POL) v Brescia (ITA)

Manchester City (ENG) v Zvezda-2005 (RUS)

BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ) v Verona (ITA)

Hibernian (SCO) v Bayern München (GER)

St. Pölten (AUT) v Brøndby (DEN)


NWSL News

Adriana Leon transfers to Switzerland

Canadian international forward Adriana Leon was transferred from the Western New York Flash to Swiss National League side FC Zurich Frauen last week, which is in the round of 32 for the Champions League. Flash head coach Paul Riley said “She has a great opportunity in Europe and, based on the present form of our front two [Americans Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald who are second and third in the NWSL in scoring], we all feel it will be hugely beneficial for her career to get substantially more playing time and experience in a different league. She is a talented player and I personally want to thank her for her commitment and dedication to our club over the past nine months."

Leon has spent the past nine months with the Flash after being acquired in a trade with the Chicago Red Stars in November 2015 where she played since 2013, after a midseason trade from the Boston Breakers. Leon made ten appearances with the Flash, including three starts.


Lisa De Vanna joins Orlando Pride - Europe might be an offseason destination

Lisa De Vanna joined the Orlando Pride for the final two games of the NWSL season, rejoining her former Australian national team coach Tom Sermanni. De Vanna becomes the third Matildas' player on the Pride roster, joining Steph Catley (out injured for the rest of the year) and Laura Alleway in Orlando. The trio will be reunited after posting an undefeated record during the 2015-16 W-League campaign, leading Melbourne City FC to the Westfield W-League championship in the club's inaugural year. De Vanna could return to Melbourne City for the W-League 2016-17 season at home, but don't be surprised to see her in this season's UEFA Champions League—perhaps with Manchester City. She played in 2006 for Doncaster Rover Belles in England and has played before with teams in NWSL and WPS.

De Vanna, 31, joined the Pride after leading Australia to its first Olympic quarterfinal appearance since 2004, losing to Brazil on penalties. A native of Perth, De Vanna has 40 goals in her 117 international appearances



Hope Solo Quits Seattle - Is She Champions League Bound?

Last week, U.S. Soccer banned Hope Solo from the National Team for six months—ostensively for her comments against Sweden in the Rio Olympics but also general behavior and attitude over the past few years, but oddly it did not keep her from the Federation-owned NWSL, even though ultimately national team player contracts include national team and NWSL compensation. Solo took last weekend off in the 3-1 Seattle Reign home win against the Portland Thorns. Her backup Haley Kopmeyer played well in the important win as the Reign chases a playoff berth. Laura Harvey, the Reign's coach who coached at Arsenal before coming to the States, was very understanding and said that Solo could take as much time off as she needed from the club side after the suspension was announced: “It's about someone's livelihood. It's about their career. Irrelevant of what the decision is and who made the decision, it's somebody's life and somebody's career. As a human being, getting the information that Hope got yesterday, I'm sure it was devastating for her. I'm trying to be mindful of that more than anything."

However, Solo made the decision this week that she would not be back with the Reign this season: “Coming to terms with the fact I was fired from the U.S. Women's National Team after 17 years of service has been devastating. After careful consideration, I have decided to end my season with the Seattle Reign, an organization I love playing for. Mentally, I am not there yet. After watching the team's win against Portland this weekend and seeing Haley Kopmeyer playing so well in goal, I truly believe this decision is what's best for me and for the Reign organization."

Solo was criticized again when she was seen cursing as she told her husband Jerramy Stevens (who played in the National Football League with the Seattle Seahawks) about the suspension in front of a documentary film crew (stirring viewing that film will be--no doubt) saying: “Six month suspension, no pay, terminated contract effective immediately. Terminated contract. Not just a suspension--seventeen [email protected]#$%^& years [in the national team program] and it's over!" Solo has since accused U.S. Soccer of ostracizing her from its women's national team because of her leadership role in the national team players' association collective bargaining agreement talks and a gender discrimination complaint against the Federation for wage parity with the men's national team players.

Solo may have a point that the Federation might have conveniently quieted a noisy voice ahead of finalizing the CBA, but she has long been a lightning rod for endless bad publicity (including a recent doping ban that was overturned, a domestic abuse court case involving her sister and nephew, her husband cited for drunk driving in a U.S. Soccer van at a national team camp, charges that her Dancing With The Stars television appearance was rigged so she couldn't win--not ever a chance according to dance judges--and a charge of abuse against her dance partner, her rants against Brazil's struggles with the Zika virus, etc.).

Her decision to quit the Reign this late in the season is an insult to coach Harvey and the rest of the club, as their goal is to make the title game for the third consecutive year and win the league for the first time. She turned her back on the Reign and Seattle and showed no loyalty to them, just as she is complaining that U.S. Soccer did to her. A native of Washington, she played collegiately at the University of Washington and for the past 4 seasons for the Reign. Kopmeyer (who played at the University of Michigan, four years with the Reign and with Apollon of Cyprus and Brisbane Roar last season in Australia), has done well over the past two years with significant playing time while Hope was engaged in the World Cup and other NWT games. She also had a good off-season in Australia. However, Solo still is arguably the best player in the world and you want her on your team for the playoffs, which the Reign is still in a battle to make. It should be the coaches decision who to play, not Solo's. Hope Solo has always done things that she wants and spun it to look like it helps others.

It has long been rumored that she will head abroad, possibly to a Champions League participant or a top tier team in Germany or France. She played in Sweden with Goteborg in 2004 and France with Lyon in 2005 during the years between WUSA folding after the 2003 season and WPS's launch in 2009. She was also rumored to be a target of Manchester City after the 2013 Reign season, with a six figure salary offered. Manchester City is in the Champions League this season and in the Super League title race; they could make a move for her again, though the league will switch to a Fall Start for 2017 and play an interim one round schedule ahead of the regular 2017-18 schedule and that would be a lot of money to finance during off-league times. Any European team's management must serious give pause about the ramifications of signing Hope Solo because:

She will probably demand an annual salary in the $125,000-$150,000 range—though she made almost $250,000 on her federation contract, of which about approximately one-fifth of that was for NWSL play. Typically top club salaries go to forwards and midfielder and not goalkeepers.

She will do what she wants always—the team be damned—see the Haley Kopmeyer reference when she quit the Reign.

She can be a handful in the locker room once she learns the local language (if she doesn't go to an English-speaking country) and Heaven help the coach that she doesn't respect—see her tirade against national team coach Greg Ryan at the 2007 Women's World Cup.

Undoubtedly some side will take the chance on Solo. Good luck to them.



Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribalfootball. His latest book is 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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