By Tim Grainey
This week, The Grainey Report looks at some key player acquisitions in leagues abroad—particularly in England and Sweden--including some North Americans moving overseas to play. We also review the final U.S.-Scotland game in Nashville and look at the roster for the upcoming U.S. U-23 trip to Spain.
New International Signings Ahead of New Seasons in Europe and Japan
England’s eight semiprofessional FA WSL teams are preparing for their third season by signing a number of high profile internationals, including a few Americans.
Liverpool Ladies is garnering a lot of attention with ten new signings and pundits feel they could challenge Arsenal’s two-year reign at the top of the table. They inked U.S. National Team defender Whitney Engen. Engen won the final WPS title with Western New York Flash in 2011 when she was the league’s defender of the year. She played a few games with Tyreso in Sweden on loan that fall before joining Pali Blues in 2012, which lost the W-League final in penalty kicks to the Ottawa Fury.
Midfielder Amanda Da Costa--who played at Florida State, magicJack in WPS and with the Boston Breakers in WPSL Elite--is also moving to Liverpool.
“Having the opportunity to play for a club such as Liverpool is really humbling,” Da Costa explained of the move. “The club has such a tremendous history that I am grateful to now be a part of. The culture in England revolves around football, and that was one of the biggest things that made me decide to play overseas. It is never easy leaving the people I care about at home, but it is also so exciting to get to meet amazing new people and experience a different life. I am eager to start the season with my new teammates here in Liverpool.”
Another Liverpool signing with experience in America is Icelandic international midfielder Katrin Omarsdottir, who played with the Orange Country Waves in WPSL last summer after a four-year collegiate career at the University of California-Berkeley. She has previously played club ball in Iceland and Sweden.
Another impactful signing for Liverpool is Swedish international midfielder Louise Fors, who spent the winter in Australia with the Western Sydney Wanderers. She has also played for AIK and Linkopings at home as well as Espanyol in Spain.
Liverpool also captured German U-20 international forward Nicole Rolser from Bad Neuenahr, where she played for three years. English youth defenders Gemma Bonner and Lucy Bronze are also signed with Liverpool for the 2013 season. Two English internationals, Fara Williams and Natasha Dowi, are moving across the park from city neighbor Everton Ladies.
Chelsea Ladies have former Chicago Red Stars head coach Emma Hayes directing their side this season, signing her in December. Chelsea has signed English international forward Eniola Aluko from Birmingham City. Aluko, a trained lawyer, was one of the most exciting imports to play in WPS (with St. Louis, Atlanta and Sky Blue FC). She will be joined by young Swedish international forward Sofia Jakobsson, who had an injury-riddled time in Russia with Rossiyanka last season. She decided to sign with Chelsea over big-spending Paris Saint-Germain after Linkoping could not afford her rumored monthly salary of 5,000 Euros, a high salary in women’s soccer terms. Jakobsson, a tall, raiding forward, could be one of Hayes best signings. Hayes, who coached collegiately in the U.S. as well as an assistant at Arsenal, knows the American market well and could be bringing in some talent from these shores.
Two of Iceland’s internationals are also joining Chelsea—defender Olina Vidarsdottier and midfielder Edda Gardarsdottir--who played with KIF Orebro in Sweden for the past three seasons. Orebro finished in tenth last season, with the two teams below them being relegated.
English international goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, who played at Cal-State Fullerton and with Sky Blue FC in WPS, has also moved from Sweden to England, leaving Linkoping for Lincoln Ladies. Expect to see Bardsley playing in Sweden in a few months time during this summer’s UEFA Championships. England is one of the 12 finalists at the event to be held in Sweden in July. The Three Lions will face France, Spain and Russia in their first round group.
In Sweden’s Damallsvenskan, which starts in mid-April, some interesting signings include Scottish international forward Jane Ross, who played with Scotland on their recent tour of the United States. Ross is moving from Glasgow City to Vittsjo. She helped Glasgow City--the dominant side in the country--to six Premier League titles, three Scottish Cups and three League Cup titles.
Former Atlanta Beat goalkeeper Brett Maron will play for Kristianstads DFF, who she played for in 2009. She had signed with Potsdam early in 2012 to replace Alyssa Naeher, who was due to return to the U.S. and play in WPS, but when the league folded Naeher returned to Germany and Maron moved to Iceland, where she played with Valur of Reykjavik in Iceland’s Urvalsdeild last season.
Jodie Taylor, who has played professionally in four countries throughout her young career, will join Goteborg, who finished in fourth place last season. Taylor played last season for Birmingham City in England’s FA WSL and previously played for the Melbourne Victory (Australia), the Pali Blues (U.S.) and Ottawa Fury (Canada), the latter two in the USL’s W-League. She played collegiately at Oregon State University.
Nigeria national team forward Francisca Ordega, who played in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup for the Super Falcons, the 2012 U-20 World Cup in Japan and the 2010 U-17 World Cup in Trinidad, has signed with Pitea. Injury prevented her from appearing for Russian club Rossiyanka, which constantly seems to have more traffic in and out of the club than a Starbucks during rush hour.
Canadian international defender Marie-Eve Nault has signed for KIF Orebro DFF. Nault played for Canada in last summer’s London Olympics and the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany. Nault played at the University of Tennessee and for FC Indiana and Ottawa Fury in the W-League.
“I knew they were looking for a defender and that they followed the Olympics,” She said about her signing with Orebro. “So I contacted them and we agreed on a one-year contract for the 2013 season. I’m very excited about the opportunity of continuing my career in Sweden. I’m excited to meet the team at the end of February and hopefully I can bring my international experience and help the team achieve its goals for the 2013 season. As far as expectations go, I just want to be constant defensively and make sure I adapt to the system so our back four is strong and hard to penetrate. Hopefully I can help out offensively as well with a couple assists.”
Canadian National Team head Coach John Herdman has been supportive of his national team pool players continuing to play in top level national leagues, whether NWSL or major leagues in Europe such as Germany, Sweden, Norway or France.
Republic of Ireland international midfielder Louise Quinn has left Peamount United of Ireland after eight years to join Eskilstuna United in Sweden’s Elitettan (second division), where American defender Karise Hilt is in her second season. Hilt is a native of Massachusetts and played at Central Connecticut State University. Australian midfielder Leah Blaney, who played with the Boston Breakers in 2011, and English defender Vaila Barsley are other imports at the club.
Further down the league ladder in Sweden, Emily Dowd--who scored 22 goals and 12 assists for the University of Tennessee from 2008-2011--signed with Tierps IF (Division 1 or third division) while former Oregon State University midfielder/forward Melinda Ingalls will return to the Division 2 Östersunds (fourth division) for her second season.
Jaime Souza, who played for 2 years at Vfl Wolfsburg in Germany, will play for Norwegian Toppserien (top division) side Arna Bjornar.
Katie Bethke, a forward who spent time with the Atlanta Beat in WPS and for the Ottawa Fury in the W-League after playing at the University of Minnesota, has left Bayer Leverkusen in Germany for newly promoted Norwegian side Avaldsnes IL, who won the First Division title last season. Bethke previously played in Norway for Arna Bjornar.
Canadian goalkeeper Justine Bernier, who played at the University of Alabama, the Toronto Lady Lynx and Vancouver Whitecaps of the W-League, has joined Klepp of Norway’s Toppserien. Bernier played at various youth levels for Canada. American goalkeeper Ashley Thompson, who played at UCLA, has stayed with Medkila IL in Norway after playing with Stjarnan of Iceland in 2011.
We expect to see more signings with Iceland’s top women’s teams as their season starts in May, later than in Sweden or Norway. Iceland has been a popular location for American players and coaches.
Goalkeeper Michele Dalton had a strong year for the Philadelphia Fever in WPSL Elite and has signed for UMF Selfoss in Iceland’s top tier league, the Urvalsdeid.
Monica Dolinksy, a forward who played for the University of Kansas Jayhawks, has signed with Aland United in the top Finish women’s league, the Naisten Liiga. Dolinksy played for Kokkola F10 in 2011 in Finland and for Ostersunds DFF in Sweden’s second division the year before.
Washington Spirit’s Mexican National Team allocation defender Alina Garciamendez is trying out with Frankfurt FFC, as a possible replacement for Ali Krieger, who has left the club to return to the U.S. and coincidentally was also allocated to the Spirit. If signed, Garciamendez would finish the 2012-13 season for Frankfurt and then join the Spirit this summer. Also on trial at Frankfurt is former Ottawa Fury Canadian forward Mallory Outerbridge. Outerbridge was the 2011 W-League MVP after she scored 17 goals for the Fury. Outerbridge recently trialed with Orebro in Sweden but was not offered a contract.
Another Mexico Women’s National Team player will definitely finish her season abroad before joining the NWSL. Teresa Noyola, who won a College Cup at Stanford, will see out her contract with BeNe League side ADO Den Haag in the Netherlands before joining the NWSL Seattle Reign.
Defender Beverly Goebel-Yanez and former Duke All-American midfielder Rebecca Moros (who both played for Washington Freedom and Western New York Flash and won a league title in 2011) will return again for a second season in the Nadeshiko League with INAC Kobe Leonessa. Goebel-Yanez, who scored 13 goals last season in Japan, said: “I am very excited to re-sign with INAC Kobe for the 2013 season. I learned a lot from the club and players, and for that I am thankful. I not only enjoyed the possession style of soccer, but I have a huge amount of respect for the Japanese culture. It is difficult, at times, being so far away from family and friends, but I truly love the sport and I want to do all I can to continue to improve in as many different aspects of my game…. I hope I am able to positively impact the team this year and I will work my hardest to do so.”
Former Florida State standout defender Toni Pressley has recently signed with Ryazan VDV in the Russian Supreme Division.
Note: The source of comments by Da Costa, Nault, and Goebel-Yanez is: “Our Game Magazine.”
US National Team Defeats Scotland in Nashville
Abby Wambach scored the 153rd goal of her career in her 200th international in the 51st minute for what became the winning goal as the U.S. prevailed over Scotland 3-1 on Wednesday, February 13 in Nashville, Tennessee. Lyon-based midfielder Megan Rapinoe (21st minute) and Tyreso’s Christen Press (54th minute) also scored, with Press notching her third goal in the two game series. The U.S. won again by the same 3-1 score as four days before in Jacksonville. The Nashville fans came out strongly with a crowd of 14,224 despite a very cold evening. Scotland’s Suzzane Grant scored a late consolation goal nine minutes from the end. New U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni—a native of Scotland--stayed with his pledge to introduce new players to the national team, particularly younger players like Press (first two caps). Crystal Dunn—currently a junior at UNC—received her first appearance in Nashville while midfielder Kristen Mewis (recent draft pick by Kansas City in NWSL) and defender Julie Johnston (Santa Clara) earned their first caps in the Jacksonville match.
For Scotland, their side has been improving over the last few years and last fall just missed out on a spot in the 12 team European Championships this summer in Sweden. Veronica Boquete, who won a W-League title with the Buffalo Flash in 2010 and then played for Chicago Red Stars and was league MVP for the Philadelphia Independence in WPS, scored an injury time goal in the second leg in Madrid to give Spain a 3-2 win (4-3 on aggregate) and the Euros berth. Two goals in Spain from Emma Mitchell (set to play for SGS Essen-Schonebeck in Germany) and midfielder Kim Little (Arsenal) would have given Scotland the UEFA Finals spot with the tie on the away goals rule after a 1-1 first leg draw at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Other foreign based players on their American tour included midfielder Hayley Lauder of Mallbackens IF and Jane Ross of Vittsjo in Sweden as well as Lisa Evans of FFC Turbine Potsdam in Germany. England-based players include defender Jennifer Beattie of Arsenal, Little of Arsenal and forward Suzanne Grant of Keynshaw Town in England’s FA Women’s Premier Women’s Southern Division (a third tier league in England). Other Americans on the Keynshaw Town roster include defender Danielle Collins (formerly of William and Mary), midfielder Ashley Reinecke (ex-Seton Hall University) and midfielder Brianna Oeser (ex-University of West Florida).
Scotland’s defender Rhonda Jones, who plays at home with Celtic, played collegiately at Florida Atlantic University.
Goalkeeper Gemma Fay, who also plays for Celtic, is Scotland’s all-time leader in caps with 150. She played her first international in 1998.
Six NWSL Players are on the U.S. U-23 Side Bound for Spain
Six players who are on NWSL rosters for 2013 were named to the U.S. U-23 team that will play in La Manga, Spain from February 22 thru March 5. They will match up against three other U-23 teams from England, Norway and Sweden. The six NWSL committed players (five from the college draft and one from the supplemental draft) include the first overall pick in the college draft: Zakiya Bywaters (Chicago Red Stars from UCLA). Other NWSL college draft picks were Lindsi Lisonbee (Sky Blue FC from BYU), Casey Short (Boston Breakers from Florida State), Kristin Mewis (FC Kansas City from Boston College), Tiffany McCarty (Washington Spirit from Florida State) and Stephanie Ochs (Washington Spirit from the University of San Diego and Western New York Flash of WPSL Elite). Ochs was the first overall pick in the recently completed supplemental draft.
In addition, two players will join from foreign sides—defenders Cami Levin (Gothenburg of Sweden who played at Stanford) and Toni Pressley (Ryazan of Russia, formerly of Florida State.) The rest are all still in college. The full roster, selected by head coach Randy Waldrum of Notre Dame is:
U.S. U-23 Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Jami Kranich (Villanova), Abby Smith (Texas)
DEFENDERS (8): Natasha Anasi (Duke); Julie Johnston (Santa Clara), Kassey Kallman (Florida State), Camille Levin (Gothenburg FC/SWE), Lindsi Lisonbee (Sky Blue FC), Toni Pressley (Ryazan VDV/RUS), Casey Short (Boston Breakers), Courtney Verloo (Stanford)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Virginia), Zakiya Bywaters (Chicago Red Stars), Vanessa DiBernardo (Illinois), Sarah Killion (UCLA), Kristie Mewis (FC Kansas City), Samantha Mewis (UCLA)
FORWARDS (4): Morgan Marlborough (Santa Clara), Tiffany McCarty (Washington Spirit), Stephanie Ochs (Washington Spirit), Havana Solaun (Florida)
Tim Grainey is a regular contributor to Soccer365. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham was released earlier this month. Get your copy today.
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