This week in women's football, we present some thoughts on the 2016/17 UEFA Women's Champions League Final, discuss the news that Hope Solo will be an announcer for Eurosport's European Champions Finals coverage this summer and look at the national team rosters for the U.S. U-23 and Canadian full side for their friendlies this month.
UEFA Women's Champions League Final Review
On June 1, 2017, Olympique Lyon defeated Paris St. Germain on penalties, after a 0-0 tie following 120 minutes, to win their fourth UEFA Women's Champions League title from 6 final appearances in 8 seasons (since 2009/10), placing them level with FFV Frankfurt with the most Euro titles with four. Though there were few scoring chances, the technical play of the two French sides, particularly in midfield but also in defense, was outstanding to watch. A crowd of 22,433 saw the crown jewel match in the European women's club football season in Cardiff, Wales.
Amazingly, I was interviewing a head coach for a women's summer semiprofessional team in the southwestern U.S. a few days before the final and asked him if he was going to watch it and received this response: "That has absolutely no value to me." I followed up as to whether his players were going to watch but he didn't know and didn't feel that it was his responsibility to encourage them to do so. It is astounding to me that we still have work to do in the U.S. on building the women's game, even among those who work in it. From a North American/CONCACAF perspective, there were a number of important story lines in the game, including Lyon starting American forward Alex Morgan—still recovering from a hamstring pull—rather than saving her as a substitute for later in the game, only to see her leave the game after 22 minutes with the hamstring bothering her. She will miss the U.S. Scandinavian tour next week—replaced by North Carolina Courage's Lynn Williams—but should recover for the Orlando Pride's NWSL games this summer. There were two Canadian internationals facing each other—midfielder Ashley Lawrence of PSG versus defender Kadeisha Buchanan—who both were playing in the College Cup Final for the University of West Virginia just six months ago. Bypassing the NWSL draft for France looked like a very good decision for both Canadians, who started and played the entire match. We saw Shirley Cruz of Costa Rica befuddle the Lyon defenders in her 80 minutes of play. Cruz has played in France since 2005; before her move to PSG she lined up for Lyon (her transfer in January 2012 was the first women's transfer that topped $1 Million Euros). Raquel Rodriguez of Penn State University and Sky Blue FC has certainly done well in the U.S. and brought more publicity to Costa Rica's national team, who qualified for their first Women's World Cup in 2015 and played well; however long before Rodriguez, there was a trailblazer for Costa Rican and Central American women's soccer and that person is Shirley Cruz.
Besides the four CONCACAF starters, there were another half dozen on the rosters who had played in the U.S. at some point during their career, including:
Camille Abily (France)—ex-Los Angeles Sol and FC Gold Pride in WPS, winning a title for the latter side in 2010.
Caroline Seger (Sweden)—won a WPS title with the Western New York Flash but was on the substitutes' list in Cardiff and did not play.
Paris St. Germain:
Vero Boquette (Spain)—ex-Portland Thorns in NWSL and a League MVP in WPS with the Philadelphia Independence; she also played with Chicago Red Stars in WPS as well as for clubs in Russia (Energy Voronezh), Sweden (Tyreso) and Germany (Frankfurt and Bayern) and won the Champions League title in 2015/15 with Frankfurt, when they defeated PSG 2-1 in the Final.
Cristiani (Brazil)—ex-Chicago Red Stars of WPS
Formiga (Brazil)—won a WPS title with Sky Blue FC and two Copa Libertadores with Sao Paulo's Club Sao Jose in 2013 and 2014
Laura Georges (France)—ex-Boston College
The international talent on display was outstanding in the Final and featured Lyon's Saki Kumagai of Japan—who scored during the penalty kicks, as she did in the WWC final in 2011 to win the title for her country against the U.S.—German Olympic Gold Medal winner Dzensifer Marozsan, Norway's Ada Hegerberg, and French internationals Wendie Renard, Amel Majri, Eugenie Le Sommer and Sarah Bouhaddi in goal—who won the match for Lyon with her winning spot kick in the 8th round of penalties. For Paris St. Germain, Polish international goalkeeper Katarzyna Kiedrzynek joined PSG for the 2013/14 season from Gornik Leczna and, despite missing a penalty in the shoot-out, played superbly. PSG's second goalkeeper is Netherlands international (122 caps) Loes Geurts while Spanish international defender Irene Paredes won a Spanish League title last year with Atletico Bilbao before coming to Paris Macedonian international forward Natasha Andonova joined earlier this year from Rosengard in Sweden after time in Germany with Turbine Potsdam, while French international center back Sabrina Delannoy, popular defender Laure Boulleau and long-time French forward Marie Laure-Delie are core players for the capital city side.
This game showed that these two clubs in particularly are raising the standard of the game in terms of international scouting, while still providing a place for French talent to play, ultimately benefitting their national team. To me, the Champions League Final is always a must watch and speaks to the need of FIFA to finally set a date and plan for a first official Women's Club Championship Tournament, of which first 2017 and now 2018 have been floated as possible dates, but no firm plans have yet been announced. Hosting the event in Europe (England, France, Germany, Norway or Sweden) would guarantee some strong gates and further help to advance the women's game ahead of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
Spare a thought for PSG, who also lost the French Cup a few weeks ago on penalties and will miss out on next season's Champions League as they finished third in the league behind Lyon and Montpellier, who will take the country's two allocated spots. If PSG had won, they would have also advanced as defending champion. It was PSG's second Euros Finals loss in three seasons, after following a 2-1 Frankfurt in 2014-15.
Hope Solo joining Eurosport to announce summer Euro Games
Hope Solo, the 202-cap former U.S. international goalkeeper, was announced on May 31 as "The Commissioner" for Eurosport's broadcasts of the UEFA Women's Championships in the Netherlands this summer. Solo said: "I'm excited to be joining Eurosport ahead of what is a brilliant summer for women's football in Europe. I'm here to shake things up, I will take no prisoners and I can guarantee fans an honest opinion….As a goalkeeper, my job is to call plays, organise the defense and read the opposing team's offense. This mindset will serve me well as Commissioner and I look forward to giving fans my own thoughts. It should be a great summer."
This is an interesting choice for Eurosport. Solo certainly knows the international game and one hopes that she avoids being compared to Abby Wambach, who was an analyst on some men's European Championship matches in 2016 for ESPN and was called by one media outlet as the broadcasts' "weakest link" and was generally panned for her lack of preparation. Solo's controversial history in the U.S. probably eliminates her from consideration for a similar position in North America. One good thing is that with just European teams involved, she will not be able to talk about the U.S. side and completely ignore the opposition (it still happens on U.S. national team telecasts) but one wonders if this career move was because she could not find a playing job after last year's meltdown in Brazil. After the loss to Sweden in the quarterfinals at the Olympics, she blasted her opponents as "cowards" and for its defensive playing style. With Solo on board, it will never be dull, but one hopes she does not distract from what should be an excellent tournament with her own unique brand of antics, which ultimately has cost her time with the U.S. team on a few occasions over the years.
The U.S. National Team Roster for the Nordic Cup in Sweden
The U.S. U-23 national women's team will travel to Sweden to play the 2017 Women's U-23 Open Nordic Tournament against Norway, England and Sweden. Seven members are with NWSL teams and the rest are college and high school players, with none currently playing abroad.
U.S. Under-23 Women's National Team Roster – June 2017
GOALKEEPERS (2): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; Kennesaw, Ga.), Casey Murphy (Rutgers; Bridgewater, N.J.)
DEFENDERS (8): Christina Gibbons (FC Kansas City; Raleigh, N.C.), Zoey Goralski (UCLA; Naperville, Ill.), Ellie Jean (Penn State; Coventry, Conn.), Hailie Mace (UCLA; Ventura, Calif.), Tegan McGrady (Stanford; San Jose, Calif.), Kristen McNabb (Seattle Reign; Montville, N.J.), Kaleigh Riehl (Penn State, Fairfax Station, Va.), Erica Skroski (Sky Blue FC; New Brunswick, N.J.)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Jordan DiBiasi (Stanford; Littleton, Colo.), Jaelin Howell (Real Colorado; Windsor, Colo.), Mayra Pelayo (Florida; West Palm Beach, Fla.), Brianna Pinto (CASL; Durham, N.C.), Margaret Purce (Boston Breakers; Silver Spring, Md.), Danielle Weatherholt (Orlando Pride; San Clemente, Calif.), Michelle Xiao (Stanford; Omaha, Neb.), Sandra Yu (Notre Dame, Strongsville, Ohio)
FORWARDS (4): Mallory Eubanks (Mississippi State; Lexington, Ky.), Ashley Hatch (NC Courage; Gilbert, Ariz.), Savannah McCaskill (South Carolina; Chapin, S.C.), Sophia Smith (Real Colorado; Windsor, Colo.)
Canada Names Roster for Two Games at Home
Canada Soccer has released the Women's National Team roster ahead of two matches against Costa Rica on 8 June in Winnipeg and 11 June in Toronto. Canada's National Team is primarily comprised of NWSL-based players. Three are with European sides, with midfielder Sophie Schmidt of FFC Frankfurt, Ashley Lawrence of PSG and Kadeisha Buchanan of Olympique Lyon, who battled each other for the European Women's Champions League title (see above). Two of the players are in college—Jess Fleming at UCLA and Rebecca Quinn at Duke—while two are still in high school and 16 year old Jordyn Huitema is age eligible to play in next year's U-17 FIFA World Cup, if Canada qualifies. At the upcoming Toronto match, Canada Soccer will honour Women's National Team players Josée Bélanger and Kaylyn Kyle, who announced their retirement from international play earlier this month. Additional retirement announcements are expected prior to the 11 June home match, and they will be recognized as well.
Canada Soccer Women's National Team v Costa Rica Roster (by position)
GK Stephanie Labbé, age 30, from Edmonton, AB/ Washington Spirit (NWSL)
GK Sabrina D'Angelo, age 24, from Welland, ON/ North Carolina Courage (NWSL)
GK Kailen Sheridan, age 21, from Whitby, ON/ Sky Blue FC (NWSL)
FB Lindsay Agnew, age 22, from Kingston, ON/ Washington Spirit (NWSL)
FB Allysha Chapman, age 28, from Courtice, ON/ Boston Breakers (NWSL)
FB Ashley Lawrence, age 21, from Caledon, ON/ Paris St-Germain FC (Division 1 Féminine)
CB Shannon Woeller, age 27, from Vancouver, BC/ FF USV Jena (Bundesliga)
CB Kadeisha Buchanan, age 21, from Brampton, ON/ FCF Olympique Lyonnais (Division 1 Féminine)
CB Shelina Zadorsky, age 24, from London, ON/ Washington Spirit (NWSL)
M Jessie Fleming, age 19, from London, ON/ UCLA (NCAA)
M Rebecca Quinn, age 21, from Toronto, ON/ Duke University (NCAA)
M Sophie Schmidt, age 28, from Abbotsford, BC/ FFC Frankfurt (Bundesliga)
M Desiree Scott, age 29, from Winnipeg, MB/ FC Kansas City (NWSL)
F Nichelle Prince, age 22, from Ajax, ON/ Houston Dash (NWSL)
F Deanne Rose, age 18, from Alliston, ON/ Scarborough GS United
F Adriana Leon, age 24, from King City, ON/ Boston Breakers (NWSL)
F Jordyn Huitema, age 16, from Chilliwack, BC/ Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite BC Soccer REX
F Janine Beckie, age 22, from Highlands Ranch, CO/ Houston Dash (NWSL)
F Christine Sinclair, age 33, from Burnaby, BC/ Portland Thorns FC (NWSL)
Next week: We catch up on the NWSL during their week break for international dates, with most teams having completed one-third (8 games) of the 24 game season.
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