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The Week in Women's Football: USWNT complete slick double; Canada topple England; AFLW impact;

This week we look at the recent friendlies for the U.S. and Canadian women's national teams, including high profile matches between the Americans versus Australia as well as Canada versus England. We also touch on a phenomenal event in Australia last week involving another women's football code, and the potential impact for women's soccer, particularly ahead of the 2023 Women's World Cup—if Australia is selected to host the event.

U.S. Defeats Australia 5-3, Blasts Belgium 6-0

In a highly anticipated friendly between 2019 Women's World Cup favorites with the 2015 World Cup champion Americans against the up-and-coming Matildas of Australia, the Americans won 5-3 in a goalfest watched by 17,264 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City (suburban Denver), Colorado on April 4. Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) scored her 100th international goal and Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit)—a Colorado native—scored twice after substituting in to start the second half. The score was 1-1 at half time with Lisa De Vanna (Sydney FC) countering Morgan's opener. The Matildas took an early second half lead from Caitlin Foord (Portland Thorns/Sydney FC) but Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Megan Rapinoe (Reign FC) and Pugh's first tally staked the Americans to a 4-2 lead. Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars/Perth Glory) scored with one minute remaining and then Pugh finished the scoring in injury time with goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars) recording the assist from her long punt to Pugh.

Alex Morgan's 100th career goal was also her second of 2019. She is tied with Tiffeny Milbrett (100 goals) in sixth place on the all-time scoring list, behind Abby Wambach (184), Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Michelle Akers (107) and Carli Lloyd (106). Morgan has scored 27 goals over her last 32 WNT matches, a span that runs from the end of 2017. The 27 goals have included six braces and one hat trick. Morgan earned cap No. 159 and moved into sole possession of 17th all-time for U.S. international games played. Rapinoe won her 150th cap, the 21st American to hit that target, and her goal was the 44th of her career and third of 2019.

- U.S. Women's National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Women's National Team vs. Australia
Date: April 4, 2019
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Dick's Sporting Goods Park; Commerce City, Colo.

Attendance: 17,264

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 1 4 5
AUS 1 2 3

USA - Alex Morgan (Crystal Dunn) 14th minute
AUS - Lisa De Vanna (Caitlin Foord) 29
AUS - Caitlin Foord (Sam Kerr) 47
USA - Tobin Heath (Emily Sonnett) 53
USA - Megan Rapinoe 61
USA - Mallory Pugh (Emily Sonnett) 67
AUS - Sam Kerr (Hayley Raso) 81
USA - Mallory Pugh (Alyssa Naeher) 90+5

USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 2-Emily Sonnett (12-Tierna Davidson, 79), 7-Abby Dahlkemper (10-Carli Lloyd, 85), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 19-Crystal Dunn; 8-Julie Ertz, 9-Lindsey Horan (23-Christen Press, 64), 16-Rose Lavelle (3-Samantha Mewis, 46); 17-Tobin Heath, 13-Alex Morgan (20-Allie Long, 81), 15-Megan Rapinoe (capt.) (22-Mallory Pugh, 66)
Substitutes not used : 11-Ali Krieger, 24-Ashlyn Harris, 26-Jessica McDonald
Head coach: Jill Ellis

AUS: 1-Lydia Williams; 2-Gema Simon, 4-Clare Polkinghorne, 8-Elise Kellond-Knight (16-Hayley Raso, 68), 9-Caitlin Foord (17-Mary Fowler, 75), 10-Emily Van Egmond, 11-Lisa De Vanna (15-Emily Gielnik, 57), 13-Tameka Butt (19-Katrina Gorry, 90), 14-Alanna Kennedy, 20-Sam Kerr (capt.), 21-Ellie Carpenter
Substitutes not used:12-Teagan Micah, 18-Mackenzie Arnold, 3-Aivi Luik, 5-Laura Alleway, 22-Elizabeth Ralston, 23-Teigen Allen
Head coach: Ante Milicic

Stats Summary: USA / AUS
Shots: 17 / 10
Shots on Goal: 11 / 3
Saves: 0 / 6
Corner Kicks: 11 / 1
Fouls: 8 / 7
Offside: 7 / 0

Eleven of the 21 Australian players are based with NWSL teams, with another playing at UCLA: goalkeeper Teagan Micah. Nine play in Australia with one each based in Norway and Spain.

Defenders Steph Catley (Reign FC/Melbourne City) and Laura Alleway (Melbourne Victory) and forward Chloe Logarzo (Washington Spirit/Sydney FCs) did not play against the Americans as they brought minor injuries into camp and head coach Ante Milicic did not want to risk further injuries to them.

Sixteen-year-old Mary Fowler played the last 15 minutes against the U.S. for the Matildas for recently hired coach Ante Milicic, after refusing a previous call-up late last year from coach Alen Stajcic. Fowler had previously been capped by Australia but has been heavily courted by the Republic of Ireland. Stajcic called into question the Fowler family lifestyle (they have moved a lot to help further their children's soccer career) when her father took her to Europe to work with Cristiano Ronaldo's speech coach before trailing with European clubs rather than play in two end-of-year friendlies versus Chile. Her brother Quivi and sister Ciara have played for the Republic at the youth level and she has said last summer that to play for the same country has been a goal of hers: "I want to play for Australia, but obviously Ciara and Quivi have played for Ireland. And we all want to play together for the same country. Family is really important to me, it's important to all of us. I'm not in any rush to make that decision right now, I'm only 15, so we'll see."

Fowler could still change allegiances as her caps have come in friendlies, but if she plays in a full international tournament, then she is tied to one country; for that reason, look for her to be part of the Matildas side in France this summer, which would put an end to the Irish efforts to convince her to play for their program. The Republic of Ireland has never qualified for a European or World Cup finals, whereas Australia is a legitimate final four side. It would seem that Australia is in the lead for her long term commitment and a spot in France might be the easiest way to resolve this issue once and for all.

GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Lydia Williams (Reign FC, USA), 12-Teagan Micah (UCLA, USA), 18-Mackenzie Arnold (Brisbane Roar FC)

DEFENDERS (8): 2-Gema Simon (Newcastle Jets FC), 4-Clare Polkinghorne (Houston Dash, USA), 5-Laura Alleway (Melbourne Victory FC), 7-Steph Catley (Reign FC, USA), 14-Alanna Kennedy (Orlando Pride, USA), 21-Ellie Carpenter (Portland Thorns, USA), 22-Elizabeth Ralston (Sydney FC), 23-Teigen Allen (Melbourne Victory FC)

MIDFIELDERS (6): 3-Aivi Luik (Levante UD, Spain), 6-Chloe Logarzo (Washington Spirit, USA), 8-Elise Kellond-Knight (Reign FC, USA), 10-Emily Van Egmond (Orlando Pride, USA), 13-Tameka Butt (Klepp Il, Norway), 19-Katrina Gorry (Brisbane Roar FC)

FORWARDS (6): 9-Caitlin Foord (Portland Thorns FC, USA), 11-Lisa De Vanna (Sydney FC), 15-Emily Gielnik (Melbourne Victory FC), 16-Hayley Raso (Portland Thorns, USA), 17-Mary Fowler (Bankstown City Lions FC), 20-Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars, USA)

The Americans then went to Los Angeles and defeated Belgium 6-0 on April 7 at Banc of California Stadium (home of Los Angeles FC of Major League Soccer) before 20,941 fans. Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC) scored twice and is now tied for fourth on the all-time U.S. international goalscoring list. Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) and Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage) also scored. Lloyd tallied twice within 5 minutes to give her team a comfortable 2-0 lead, with both goals coming from headers. Horan and then Mewis also scored from headers for a 4-0 first half lead This was the first ever meeting between the two nations' women's full national teams.

- U.S. Women's National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Women's National Team vs. Belgium
Date: April 7, 2019
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Banc of California Stadium; Los Angeles, Calif.
Attendance: 20,941

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 4 2 6
BEL 0 0 0

USA - Carli Lloyd (Tierna Davidson) 14th minute
USA - Carli Lloyd (Crystal Dunn) 19
USA - Lindsey Horan (Christen Press) 26
USA - Samantha Mewis (Christen Press) 33
USA - Alex Morgan (Carli Lloyd) 52
USA - Jessica McDonald (Christen Press) 90+1

USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher (24-Ashlyn Harris, 46); 11-Ali Krieger, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 8-Julie Ertz (7-Abby Dahlkemper, 46), 12-Tierna Davidson; 9-Lindsey Horan (20-Allie Long, 60), 19-Crystal Dunn (13-Alex Morgan, 46), 3-Samantha Mewis (25-McCall Zerboni, 73); 22-Mallory Pugh (26-Jessica McDonald, 61), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.), 23-Christen Press
Substitutes not used: 2-Emily Sonnett, 17-Tobin Heath
Head coach: Jill Ellis

BEL: 21-Nicky Evrard; 2-Davina Philtjens (5-Shari Van Belle, 59), 4-Heleen Jaques (17-Maud Coutereels, 59), 6-Tine De Caigny (3-Ella Van Kerkhoven, 80), 9-Tessa Wullaert (capt.), 11-Janice Cayman, 18-Laura De Neve, 19-Chloé Vande Velde (13-Elena Dhont, 46), 20-Julie Biesmans, 22-Laura Deloose (16-Sarah Wijnants, 85), 23-Kassandra Missipo (8-Lenie Onzia, 86)
Substitutes not used:1-Justien Odeurs, 12-Lisa Lichtfus, 14-Davinia Vanmechelen
Head coach: Ives Serneels

Stats Summary: USA / BEL
Shots: 17 / 4
Shots on Goal: 8 / 0
Saves: 0 / 2
Corner Kicks: 4 / 2
Fouls: 6 / 10
Offside: 1 / 2

Belgium, ranked 20th in the World by FIFA, had eight players with clubs abroad, two in England, two in the Netherlands, two in Italy and two in France. Eleven of the 12 domestic players play on two clubs—RSC Anderlecht (6) and AA Gent (5)—with one player based with Standard de Liège. Janice Cayman, now with Montpellier in France, played from 2009-2012 at Florida State University and briefly with the Western New York Flash in 2016.

Belgium missed qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France, finishing second in UEFA Women's World Cup Qualifying Group 6, two points behind qualifier Italy, and then fell to Switzerland in the two-leg semifinal playoff series which ended tied 3-3 on aggregate, but Switzerland went through on away goals.

Belgium qualified for the 2017 UEFA Women's Championship for the first time and was drawn into a group with eventual champions Netherlands, Denmark and Norway. Belgium lost 1-0 to Denmark, defeated Norway 2-0 but fell to the Dutch 2-1 to finished third in the group and was eliminated, along with winless Norway. Now Norway is competing in the World Cup in France and Belgium is on the outside looking in.

Belgium head coach Ives Serneels was a long-time professional player at home and was named head coach of the Women's National Team in March of 2011.

Belgium finished third at the 2019 Cyprus Women's Cup, beating Slovakia 3-0, drawing Austria 0-0, and downing Nigeria 1-0 before tying with Austria 0-0 again in the Third-Place Match, but winning 3-2 on penalty kicks.

GOALKEEPERS (3): 21-Nicky Evrard (FC Twente, NED), 12-Lisa Lichtfus (R. Standard de Liège), 1-Justien Odeurs (RSC Anderlecht)

DEFENDERS (6): 17-Maud Coutereels (Lille OSC, FRA), 22-Laura Deloose (RSC Anderlecht), 18-Laura De Neve (RSC Anderlecht), 4-Heleen Jaques (Fiorentina Women's FC, ITA), 2-Davina Philtjens (Fiorentina Women's FC (ITA), 5-Shari Van Belle (AA Gent)

MIDFIELDERS (3): 20-Julie Biesmans (Bristol City, ENG), 23-Kassandra Missipo (AA Gent), 8-Lenie Onzia (AA Gent)

FORWARDS (8): 11-Janice Cayman (Montpellier HSC, FRA), 6-Tine De Caigny (RSC Anderlecht), 13-Elena Dhont (AA Gent), 19-Chloé Vande Velde (AA Gent), 3-Ella Van Kerkhoven (RSC Anderlecht), 14-Davinia Vanmechelen (PSV Eindhoven, NED), 15-Sarah Wijnants (RSC Anderlecht), 9-Tessa Wullaert (Manchester City, ENG)

For the Americans, all of their players were with NWSL teams. Goalkeeper Jane Campbell (Houston Dash) was named to the roster after Adrianna Franch suffered a minor knee injury during training with the Portland Thorns. Prior to traveling to Denver, Campbell was released from camp and returned to their pre-season training for the Dash.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 20/0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 41/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 35/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 17/1); Crystal Dunn (NC Courage; 80/24), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride; 98/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals FC; 153/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 27/0), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC; 30/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 77/18), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 64/7), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit; 23/6), Allie Long (Reign FC; 40/6), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage; 45/8), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 11/0), McCall Zerboni (NC Courage; 8/0)

FORWARDS (7): Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC; 146/27); Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 269/105), Jessica McDonald (NC Courage; 6/1), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 158/99), Christen Press (Utah Royals FC; 111/47), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit; 48/13), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC; 149/43)

Canada Defeats England 1-0 and Nigeria on a European Tour

Canada's Women's National Team made an important statement that some less than stellar play—particularly in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Tournament—last year might be a thing of the past and that writing off the Maple Leaf's Women's World Cup hopes early might well be a mistake. Canada fell to England in a 2-1 loss in the 2015 WWC Quarterfinals before a full house in Vancouver but the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games Bronze Medalists looked strong in two recent internationals in Europe, particularly in their 1-0 win over 2015 WWC Bronze Medalists England on April 5 in Manchester. Canada is ranked fifth in the world by FIFA and Christine Sinclair scored her 180th career international goal in the 80th minute (she is now only four away from typing American Abby Wambach with 184) on a rebound after Nichelle Prince's (Houston Dash) shot careened off the crossbar. Head coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller, who is 5-0-0 and 11-2-4 (W-D-L) with Canada since taking over in January of 2018 from now men's national team coach John Herdman, said after the game: "I think we put on a very good performance. This is one of the contestants who will compete to win the FIFA Women's World Cup. It is part of our DNA not to sit back and we can counter because we have fast players up front. We took the game back, took initiative, and even away from home, we want to be that team. This win will definitely give us momentum and I think this was a big step for us. We've played some big opponents ahead of this match, but, this was by far our best opponent this year." Steph Labbe (recently signed with North Carolina Courage) kept the clean sheet.

On April 8, Canada played Nigeria in Murcia Spain, as preparation for meeting Cameroon in the group stage this summer in France. Desiree Oparanozie (who has been with Guingamp of France for 5 years after time in Germany, Russia and Turkey) opened the scoring for Nigeria in the 27th minute but second half goals by Janine Beckie (Manchester City) and Sophie Schmidt (Houston Dash) within six minutes of each other gave the North Americans the lead by the 53rd minute, which they held for the rest of the match. Heiner-Moller said: "It definitely was a battle. They gave us some physical challenges but I think we stood up to it. The most important thing was we showed composure, after going 1-0 down, it's about keeping our structures right and keeping our composure. The second half was about us having more players in the penalty area and we definitely became more dangerous. This camp was all about partnership and sharpening the tools. It's about finding more than one player to each position and I think we solved that. It's a great group, in total, a great camp and two great wins."

Australian Football League Women's Final Attracts 53,000 in Adelaide

We understand that Australian Football (footy) is a different code from soccer-football, but the Grand Final for the three year old national league (AFLW) is significant as 53,034 showed up at the Adelaide Oval on March 30 to see the hometown Crows win their second AFLW title in three seasons with a 63-18 victory over Carlton of Melbourne. There was a bit of chaos with stadium officials as some gates weren't opened initially as the crowd kept streaming in—initial hopes were in the 20,000 to 25,000 range even the day before the final—but the final attendance figure was an all-time record for the AFLW and the fifth largest crowd ever to watch football in South Australia.

The W-League and soccer was represented by two Grand Final players as current Brisbane Roar player Jenna McCormick played for the Crows this season after finishing with the Roar (and has now won two Premiership titles with the Crows), while Brianna Davey (24) captained Carlton. Davey played for Melbourne City and the Matildas as a goalkeeper—including a short spell at Linkoping in Sweden—before quitting football to play in the AFLW. With 17 caps, she was dropped from the national team squad by Alen Stajcic just before the Women's World Cup in Canada in 2015, which may have played into her decision to switch codes. She was an All-Australian player for Carlton in 2018.

Australian Football has approximately 450,000 female players, which the AFLW has helped to grow, though soccer is making inroads, particularly among younger players. The 53,000 crowd should help continue to drive more players, fans and sponsors to the Australian Footy code and ultimately the AFLW, which began with 8 teams in 2017, had 10 this season and will add 4 more for the 2020 season. The attendance was great to see for women's sports. A gauntlet has been thrown down by the Aussie Football code and now the challenge for the Australian Football Federation (Soccer) is to determine how to continue to sustain youth enthusiasm for the sport while helping the W-League grow and increase its relevance. For some perspective, the W-League final on February 16 was a Grand Final record but attracted only 6,127 in Sydney to see Sydney FC win 4-2 over Perth Glory. The Women's World Cup, if held in Australia in 2023, could be a tipping point for women's soccer to make up ground on Aussie Rules, but only if plans are developed to leverage the high interest the global tournament will bring and not have it be a nice memory with no real impact. This is a topic we will return to in the months to come—how soccer can advance against an established football code, which has clearly done a tremendous job in establishing their national league in a nation with a rich history of women's sports activities. If Australia is successful, the model can be rolled out to other countries where women's soccer competes to establish a viable presence, even for the NWSL in the United States, which is still struggling to establish a brand in most of their markets.

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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