We review the WPSL Final, which had a losing quarterfinalist step in to win the tournament, look at some key aspects of the first two rounds of the women's football at the Rio Olympics and present the last two Olympic Game rosters in our series over the past weeks--for Zimbabwe and Germany.
Boston Breakers Reserves Win 2016 WPSL Title
Boston Breakers Reserves won the 2016 Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) title with a 3-0 win over the San Diego SeaLions during the Final Four Weekend in Columbus, Ohio on July 30-July 31. This was the second straight season that a NWSL reserve side won the WPSL title after Chicago Red Stars triumphed last season. The SeaLions won the title in 2013 over the Houston Aces, who also lost in 2014 to Beach FC of Southern California before then winning WPSL Elite title in 2015; the Aces moved to UWS for 2016. Another Boston Breakers reserve team—the Boston Aztecs—won the league title in 2010 when the parent franchise was in Women's Professional Soccer (WPS).
The Breakers defeated Chicago Red Stars Reserves (2-1) in the semifinals while the SeaLions disposed of the Atlanta Silverbacks 3-1. Atlanta formerly played for years in the now defunct W-League. Ghana national teamer Sherifatu Sumaila of the California Storm led the league in scoring with 31 points on 9 goals and 13 assists.
Roselord Borgella of the Haitian National Team led the Breaker Reserves with 8 goals on the year. Other Breakers with international links included: Gloria Douglas (ex-University of Virginia), who previously played in Japan with Iga FC Kunoich and Sarah Jacobs, who played with Boroondara Eagles of the Victoria (Melbourne) State League in Australia.
Rachel Stelter (ex-Davidson College) played for AC Sparta Praha in Czechoslovakia while Kylie Strom (ex-Boston University), tried out with the WNY Flash, Houston Dash and the Breakers of the NWSL and spent time with FFC Frankfurt's reserve team in Germany. Along with Strom, Stephanie Verdoia (Seattle University and U.S. U-23 international), Christen Westphal (University of Florida where she was a two-time All-American and U-23 international) and Rachel Wood (University of North Caroline/UC Irvine and who played a year in Iceland) have all spent time with the Breakers' NWSL side this season.
Oddly enough, the Breakers Reserves lost in the conference final the previous weekend to another NWSL reserve side, the Washington Spirit, by a 3-1 scoreline. The Spirit won the last W-League championship in 2015 before the league folded. This season, they had to withdrawal from the Final Four as college teams had called some of their players back early--welcome to the world of the WPSL. On more than a few occasions, teams have made the WPSL playoffs over the past ten years but did not participate because their players were called back early to their college sides or due to budget restrictions. A few years ago, the head coach of a division winner in the city I was raised in was talking to me after his team surprisingly won the division title. I asked him about his team's travel plans to the conference finals and he said: “Oh we're not going. We had some players leave early and so we're just celebrating winning the division." The second place team advanced instead—I'm sure they were celebrating more than the winners were.
Another year, a team's general manager was in the playoff race a week before the playoffs but said: “If we do win the division, we can't afford to travel for the playoffs. I want to win, but then I don't."
The Spirit's predicament was unfortunate; this is a first class organization that certainly would have traveled if they had not been undercut by college coaches. The WPSL and UWS—as FIFA affiliated leagues through U.S. Soccer's Amateur Division--have no recourse since college soccer has always operated outside of FIFA. In the future, there needs to be an agreement with the college coaches that the players be allowed to remain with the club team through the playoffs if they qualify—just as any loan agreement would stipulate between FIFA affiliated clubs. Many of these summer teams play top quality soccer with international players or former professionals, so it's not like the college players have been sitting around on a beach for three months--they come into college camps in good shape. Some college coaches are supportive of these leagues while others are not and it becomes a control issue. When college coaches restrict the time that their players can spend in WPSL or UWS, they are doing a disservice to the club, which already sometimes has limited time with their players when integrate them into the side, not even taking into account youth international callus during the summer (which on occasion affects these teams). Some players move out of state to be with a summer league club for a different playing experience or just to explore a different part of the country and these controlling college coaches cut into that experience. One former W-League team general manger once told me that he would not sign college players unless they were from outside of his area and agreed to stay in their city during the summer, as utilizing local college players from four nearby colleges was a problem since: “I never know if they will show up for games, much less practices; their college coaches don't see the league as a priority and so they don't either." Something has to change in the future for the club-college team agreements and the big losers in this fiasco were the Washington Spirit, which was prevented from winning a second championship title in two years in two different leagues, as well as the integrity of the WPSL. I would also add the integrity of some college coaches but they don't care. One college coach “persuaded" some of his international caliber players to not participate in a FIFA World U-20 Tournament because they would miss a few games—against inferior competition. It seemed odd that beating Southern Nowhere State took priority over playing Germany or Japan on the world stage. National teams in CONCACAF typically track which colleges cooperate with national team camps and tournaments and steer their players to those programs. Maybe the summer amateur leagues need to do the same thing in reverse.
Click HERE for the 2015 Final WPSL standings.
OLYMPIC GAMES HIGHLIGHTS—FIRST TWO ROUNDS OF GROUP PLAY
The 2016 Rio Olympics Games competition has revealed some entertaining games—particularly Canada-Australia, Brazil-Sweden and France-U.S.--new stars, a new reviled figure in Brazil and some nail-biting moments for a few teams entering their third group matches on August 9.
Three In/Two Out
Three teams have qualified for the quarterfinals after games on August 3 and 6 to open the tournament: Brazil, Canada and the U.S. Two sides: Colombia and South Africa are mathematically eliminated from the competition. Canada seems in fine form, taking a lead in their first match over Australia in the first 21 seconds on a goal by Janine Beckie (Houston Dash). Christine Sinclair pressed a defender on the opening kickoff, stole the ball and then fed a wide open Beckie. The Maple Leafs lost Shelina Zadorsky to a straight red card in the 19th minute for a foul on Michelle Heyman and played the rest of the match with ten women. The favored Australians struggled against the strong ball control play of the Canadians. Beckie missed a penalty in the second half but Sinclair scored in the 80th minute on a breakaway. Coach Alen Stajcic seemed to be at a loss in terms of his lineup during the game, pulling Samantha Kerr (Sky Blue FC)—his most creative forward—at halftime and playing dynamic Orlando Pride winger Steph Catley for only the second half, and forwards Lisa DeVanna and Kyah Simon for 29 and 19 minutes respectively. In their second match against Germany, two first half goals by Kerr and Caitlin Foord, were offset by late Germany strikes by Sara Daebrit (47') Saskia Bartusiak (88') to cost the Matilda's two crucial points.
The U.S. defeated New Zealand 2-0 and France 1-0 to clinch their spot in the last eight. The U.S. played tentatively against a lively French attack in the first half, but took control of the game in the second, with Carli Lloyd scoring the winner from close range. Brazil defeated China P.R. 3-0 and Sweden 5-1. Marta has three goals thus far, Cristiane has two and Andressa Alves looked like a future superstar against China, scoring the second goal and presenting numerous problems for the Chinese defense.
Zika Pesters Hope
Speaking of problems, Hope Solo has been routinely booed in her first two games in Belo Horizonte, with people screaming “Zika" on her goal kicks. Solo has been something less than excited about going to Brazil and posted a picture on Twitter of lots of insect repellant in her luggage. Hope always brings baggage everywhere with her and some people should just not use Twitter (hear that Hope?) but there is no discounting that she was world class against France (in her 200th international appearance) and very strong against New Zealand. She has said that she wants to start a family, but that doesn't preclude her from continuing her career. U.S. Soccer has conveniently distanced itself from women internationals in the past that they felt were disruptive (Brandi Chastain was the most prominent) but Jill Ellis' quandary is, does she give up a core piece of her defense ahead of the next World Cup for a less drama filled environment—stay tuned.
Key Matches on Tuesday
On Tuesday August 9th, in Group E, China and Sweden will play a crucial match, with both even on 3 points. A tie or a win likely leaves China second to Brazil. Sweden could still advance as one of the two best third place sides even with a loss, but their goal difference of -3 is of huge concern. In Group F, Canada (6 points) and Germany (4 points) should finish one and two in the group. Australia plays Zimbabwe and a win and a cavalcade of goals from their talented forwards should reverse a -2 goal difference and see them sneak in as a probable third-place qualifier. In Group G, France and New Zealand are tied for second with three points but France has a +3 goal difference to -1 for New Zealand, who were lucky to hang on for a 1-0 win against Colombia Saturday. Even a tie could send them home early, a shame after making the quarterfinals in London in 2012 and narrowly missing a Round of 16 spot in Canada last summer.
ZIMBABWE OLYMPIC GAMES ROSTER
Zimbabwe's first group match opponent in the 2016 Olympics was Germany, who practiced against African opponents in a friendly, beating Ghana 11-0. Zimbabwe's national women's team--strapped for money--played local side Mwana Africa, a team made up of women whose husbands work at the Trojan Mine in Bindura, about an hour's drive north of the capital Harare. Zimbabwe defeated the hosts 10-0. Mwana Africa's women's team goalie had no boots and one midfielder had to breast feed her daughter at half time. Zimbabwe, using an entirely home-based side, are heavy underdogs in Rio but the experience they will gain is important. We hope the Zimbabwean Soccer Federation—which was having trouble funding their men's side successful qualification to next year's African Championship, even having possessions seized to pay creditors—can attract outside funding for the women's team to continue to play—hopefully against better competition than Mwana Africa.
Goalkeeper DRINGIRAI, Chido Flame Lily Queens FC (ZIM)
Defender MUTOKUTO, Lynette Black Rhinos FC (ZIM)
Defender MAKOTO Shiela Blue Swallows Queens FC (ZIM)
Defender MAJIKA Nobuhle Inline Academy FC (ZIM)
Midfielder EMMALULATE Msipa Black Rhinos FC (ZIM)
Midfielder MANDAZA Talent Black Rhinos FC (ZIM)
Forward NESHAMBA Rudo Weerams FC (ZIM)
Midfielder KAPFUMVUTI Rejoice Inline Academy FC (ZIM)
Forward ZULU Samkelisiwe ZULU Flame Lily Queens FC (ZIM)
Midfielder CHIRANDU Mavis Weerams FC (ZIM)
Midfielder KAITANO Daisy Black Rhinos FC (ZIM)
Midfielder NYAUMWE Marjory Flame Lily Queens FC (ZIM)
Forward JEKE Erina Flame Lily Queens FC (ZIM)
Defender CHIBANDA Eunice Black Rhinos FC (ZIM)
Forward MAKORE Rutendo Black Rhinos FC (ZIM)
Goalkeeper MAGWEDE Lindiwe Cyclone Stars FC (ZIM)
Forward BASOPO Kudakwashe Black Rhinos FC (ZIM)
Forward MUZONGONDI Felistas Mwenezana FC (ZIM)
Germany 2016 Women's Olympic Games Roster
The German Women's National Team goes to Rio with the goal to win a championship, like the men's side did at the World Cup in 2014. Josephine Henning of Arsenal, Dzsenifer Marozsan of Lyon and Anja Mittag of Paris Saint-Germain are the only imports on the side. Five players each come from VFL Wolfsburg—the losing finalists in 2015-16 to Lyon on penalties in the UEFA final after winning in 2012-13 and 2013-14--and Bayern Munich, the 2 time reigning league champions. Two players were called in from 1FFC Frankfurt—7 time league champion and 4 time UEFA club champs.
Goalkeeper SCHULT Almuth VfL Wolfsburg (GER)
Defender HENNING Josephine Arsenal LFC (ENG)
Defender BARTUSIAK Saskia 1. FFC Frankfurt (GER)
Defender MAIER Leonie FC Bayern München (GER)
Defender KRAHN Annike Bayer 04 Leverkusen (GER)
Midfielder LAUDEHR Simone FC Bayern München (GER)
Midfielder BEHRINGER Melanie FC Bayern München (GER)
Midfielder GOESSLING Lena VfL Wolfsburg (GER)
Forward POPP Alexandra POPP VfL Wolfsburg (GER)
Forward MAROZSAN Dzsenifer Olympique Lyonnais (FRA)
Forward MITTAG Anja Paris Saint-Germain FC (FRA)
Defender KEMME Tabea 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam (GER)
Midfielder DAEBRITZ Sara FC Bayern München (GER)
Defender PETER Babett VfL Wolfsburg (GER)
Forward ISLACKER Mandy 1. FFC Frankfurt (GER)
Midfielder LEUPOLZ Melanie FC Bayern München (GER)
Midfielder KERSCHOWSKI Isabel VfL Wolfsburg (GER)
Goalkeeper BENKARTH Laura SC Freiburg (GER)
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