Chris Wood – Leeds United (English Championship)
It’s been an offseason of change in Leeds, with Garry Monk buggering off and Thomas Christiansen replacing him, not to mention a fair bit of overhaul in the playing squad too. Ah but one thing never changes: Chris Wood ALWAYS scores goals.
Three debutants in the starting XI for the opener: Wiedwald, Pennington and Alioski. Slightly stink on Rob Green after some strong form last time but Wiedwald is a gun too. Meanwhile Pennington replaces Kyle Bartley who returned to Swansea when his loan expired and Alioski just jumped in there on the wing. Curiously Stuart Dallas, Ronaldo Vieira and Liam Bridcutt were all omitted from the squad despite being regulars last season. Woody started up top like the champ he is.
There was no way to know how Leeds would respond after the collapse they had to finish the last Championship season. Should’ve been in the playoffs but no. Then all the ch-ch-ch-changes… but it took them a mere seven minutes before Kalvin Phillips had the ball in the back of the net on the end of a Pablo Hernandez corner kick. Then the moment we were waiting for. Woody doesn’t always get a lot of chances but when the service does arrive, he knows what to do with it.
Yorkshire Evening Press: “Bolton offered little apart from an aerial threat at corners and United doubled their lead through a fine goal converted by Wood after half an hour. Kemar Roofe raced to the byline and produced an inviting cross which was nodded on by Alioski to Wood who produced a clinical finish in off the bar.”
Having scored almost all their goals last season, Leeds needed to widen their attacking threats. So it must’ve been fun to see Phillips celebrating his new contract with a double. Bolton had pulled one back to make it 2-1 and three minutes later Wood was bursting through the defence, narrowly snapping the offside trap, and feeding Phillips for an easy double. Meaning Woody’s not their top scorer right now. Also meaning he has both a goal and an assist to his name, spreading them wings.
Alioski missed a sitter before the break. Gaetano Berardi and Matthew Pennington both went off with bad looking injuries. The dude who replaced Everton loanee Pennington (Connor O’Shaughnessy) gave away a penalty which Bolton scored. Pablo Hernandez hit the crossbar from range… Leeds ended up winning an entertaining one 3-2.
YEP Player Ratings: “Chris Wood - Typical of Wood. Didn’t see many chances but when his first one came to him, he put it away with a clinical header. Up and running. 7/10”
Meanwhile there’s been some idle chatter about Woody in the transfer pages once again. Best let his new boss handle this one with a… surprisingly philosophical take on it all.
Thomas Christiansen: “He’s our player. There’s only one thing that I know 100 per cent and that is that we will all pass away. But in football nothing is guaranteed. In Neymar, you believe you have a player for many years, you renew (his contract), he takes a lot of money in the negotiation and after a short time you break it, because you can break it. Who would have said that someone would pay so much money? So in the case of Chris Wood, he will stay and I want him to stay, but you never know.”
Up Next: Wood’ll probably be rested but they’re playing Port Vale in the EFL Cup on Thursday morning at 6.45 (NZT)
Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)
Back in the All Whites squad, back on the park for West Ham in preseason, celebrating an anniversary… times seem good for Winston. He got himself a red in one friendly (a second yellow for sarcastically clapping the ref) but played again in a close-door match against Spurs for the U23s and coming from offseason surgery, that’s a decent sign of positivity. Gotta get those minutes in the legs.
Winnie will be guaranteed starting XI when he’s available but with the dramas they had last time at the back they need that to be more often than not. He hasn’t really had much of a preseason though and that’s a slight worry. With the athletics world champs going on in their home stadium right now, that also means the Hammers won’t be playing at home until after the international window. Point being it’ll be a curious start to the season here. Manchester United, Southampton and then Newcastle – it all kicks off next weekend.
Up Next: Away to Man United, 3.00am on Monday (NZT)
Ryan Thomas – PEC Zwolle (Dutch Eredivisie)
It’s only a friendly – the Eredivisie starts next weekend – but get a load of this cracker over here!
That’s what we wanna see from Thommo, he’s got a bit of pressure on him now since he’s no longer the only kiwi in the Dutch top flight as Marco Rojas rolls into town. Speaking of Lil Marco, he had some words to say to FourFourTwo about his new move the other day.
Marco Rojas: “It's definitely a different scenario to my last trip to Europe. Past experience has made me a better player and better equipped to deal with whatever happens this time. Only wish to look at the present and my only thoughts are on doing well here. I'm happy with the decision. I think that this will be a good club for me to continue to improve as a footballer. This was not a knee jerk decision. It was carefully thought out with every scenario taken into consideration.”
Up Next: Thommo starts at home to Roda (10.30pm Sunday) and Marco away to Groningen (2.45am Monday) (NZT)
Tommy Smith – Ipswich Town (English Championship)
There was reason to think that Ipswich were in for a rather terrible season coming up. They’d been poor last time out, stumbling to a sixteenth place finish in which they barely scored a goal a game. At one point they drew six consecutive matches. Coming into this new campaign things looked even sloppier with Christophe Berra – their first choice centre back for years – leaving by mutual consent to return to Scotland. Then a 6-1 defeat to Charlton to close out their preseason campaign had some fans calling for Mick McCarthy’s head before the season had even begun.
They still might be terrible but despite all the bad faith they went and started in the ideal way: with a happy victory at home against Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham. Joe Garner scored the only goal, the new signing from Rangers finding the net in his first game soon after half time and that was the decisive moment.
Brum only just avoided relegation last time so they’re hardly powerhouses in the Championship. Still, Ipswich were without a number of players too. New signings Tom Adeyemi and Emyr Huws were both unfit to play, as were Teddy Bishop and Luke Hyam. Meanwhile Dave McGoldrick, Adam Webster and Manchester City loanee Bersant Celina were all only fit enough for the bench. Then that mini-crisis got worse when Andre Dozzell went off on a stretcher with the oxygen tank on late in the first spell – he was arguably the best player on the field while he was there and coming off a prominent role in England’s U19 Euros title he’s definitely poised for something good. Might have to wait a while for that knee to heal now though.
If anyone deserved a goal in the first 45, it was Birmingham. If anyone deserved anything in the first few minutes after the break it was probably Jordan Spence deserving a red card for breaking up a Clayton Donaldson run through on goal. But the ref let it slide and a couple minutes later Jonas Knudsen whipped in a beaut of a cross and Joe Garner’s run was perfectly timed after the ball beat the first defender.
And you know what else? With Berra leaving and Webster on the bench, that meant Smithy was back in the starting XI, playing on the left side of a back three (as he did for the All Whites at the Confeds, hooray). If you recall, he had a bloody tough time getting back on the park after his back injury last season and so to see him back fully fit and playing the whole 90 minutes in the season opener was nice. Luke Chambers, who has often been pushed out to fullback in McCarthy’s formation despite being the club captain, led from the back as the main central defender and then Spence played RCB with a couple wingbacks there for width. Good fun, looks like this 5-3-2 formation is gonna be the go from here on after they flirted with it last term.
Wouldn’t say Smith was at his best or anything. Looked kinda shaky at first although he’d still log three interceptions and 11 clearances for the match. Had a shot off target as well. Plus he moved the ball around well… though them long balls could use some work. It was his clearing header that started the counter attack for the goal.
EADT Player Ratings: “TOMMY SMITH – 6: Caught out with a couple of high balls in the first half, but recovered well and got better as the game wore on.”
Up Next: EFL Cup tie away at Luton Town, Wednesday at 6.45am (NZT)
Rosie White – Boston Breakers (American National Women’s Soccer League)
If there’s one thing that always lights up one of these things it’s a screamer of a goal but Rosie White didn’t score one of those… SHE SCORED TWO.
One off the left foot, one off the right foot. Brilliant.
This is Rosie’s first season in America after previously been on the books at Liverpool in England. It’s not been the best run for Boston but that draw keeps them off the bottom up of the table and steady in eighth – they’ve only won once in their last 13 games. Playing largely as a midfielder, White had only scored once before this latest match but damn it was worth the wait. Only a shame they couldn’t hold on for the victory although perhaps it’s for the best because they were playing Katie Bowen’s Kansas City team and they also needed the point.
BB coach Matt Beard: “[Rosie’s] a very good player. Technically, she is very gifted. She has a good brain on her. The one thing that we’ve been thinking and working about specifically was getting into scoring positions and she did that. It’s great for her to get the two goals.”
Funny thing is the other two Footy Ferns that play in the NWSL also went head to head over the weekend. Abby Erceg’s North Carolina Courage vs Rebekah Stott’s Seattle Reign…
And Erceg’s lot won it thanks to a Lynn Williams pile-driver midway through the first half and with another clean sheet in the bag that moved the Courage back up to the top of the ladder. The Courage can’t call themselves defending champs but they more or less are – the Western NY team that Erceg led to the 2016 title was sold and relocated to NC. No worries, they’ll just have to win it again then.
Up Next: Okay, here goes… Bowen/Kansas City play Erceg/North Caro at 12.00pm Friday while White/Boston are away to Washington Spirit at 7.30am Saturday and then Bowen/KC play Houston Dash in Texas at 12.30pm Monday right as Stott/Seattle host Erceg/NCC at 1.00pm on the same day. (All NZT)
Jake Gleeson & Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)
Picking right up where he leaves off every week then. While Flying Kiwis took its yearly break Jake was joined by Bill Tuiloma in Portland, although it doesn’t sound like he’s exactly about to walk into the first team yet. Gotta pay them dues first and Tui played his first game for the club on the weekend, picking up a yellow card in a 4-1 defeat with the Timbers 2 side. Not the best beginning. He played defensive mid but doesn’t sound like he really did much.
Gleeson, on the other hand (appropriate metaphor)…
His Timbers were in top form as they took care of LA Galaxy 3-1, Diego Valeri’s goal in particular was a stunner. It’s a result that keeps them up in the playoff spots having taken seven points from their last possible nine and right now it’s only goal difference keeping them out of second place – them and the other three teams all tied on 34 points.
It could’ve been a different game in the eleventh minute had LA’s goal stood to make it 2-1. But with the Video Assistant Referee in effect for the first ever round in the MLS the goal was overturned for a handball and then Valeri scored his ripper and she was all business from that point on.
Jake Gleeson: “In this part of the season, it's important to put points in the bank. It's the final stretch and when we play at home, the expectation is nothing less than three points. We took care of business today.”
Up Next: Travelling to Toronto FC at 10.00am on Sunday (NZT)
Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)
That whole list of All Whites signing with MLS clubs and everything… but only one of them has joined Jake Gleeson in playing week in and week out in the Major League stuff and it’s Mike Boxall. His Minny United are a bit crap, sitting second to bottom in their conference although to be fair it’s their first season in the league.
Boxall’s case was helped by a few injuries but the dude still went straight in there once he was cleared and available. Debut match? A 3-0 defeat at home to New York Red Bulls. Hey but a week later they bounced back in style with a 4-0 win over DC United. Only… only to lose 4-0 this week against Seattle Sounders.
They were missing their top scorer Christian Ramirez (11 goals in 22 games) and with the weather conditions about as bad as you’d expect for a Minnesota vs Seattle game, Clint Dempsey scored a double. Minny had a fair few chances but they were already well behind and, yeah. You know how that goes. They don’t have a game next week thanks to a rescheduling so there’s plenty of time to figure out what’s up with the crazy swings in form – they haven’t won back to back games all season.
Michael Boxall: “With the next two weeks preparing, I think we just need to learn with our attacking shape. They’re very dangerous on the counterattack. I mean, that’s where most of their chances came from. When we’re back and organized, it’s tough to break us down.”
That wasn’t all he said either. Careful, bro. The Yanks really like old mate Dempsey. Having said that, you can hardly blame him for going Ronaldo > Dempsey, can ya?
Up Next: Seattle Sounders (again) vs Minnesota United, 1.30pm on Monday 21st (NZT)
Stefan Marinovic, Deklan Wynne, Myer Bevan & Francis de Vries – Vancouver Whitecaps (American Major League Soccer)
If you’re fresh to Flying Kiwis for the new season then know that we don’t necessarily touch on every player every week – the focus is on trying to do something beyond a quick google. We wanna bring you some in depth stuff on the highest achieving kiwi footy players. As such you’ll hear about Winnie and Woody every damn week and Jake Gleeson will be there most times. But the Vancouver All White-caps won’t necessarily, not while three of them are playing for the seconds and the other sitting on the bench.
However Stefan Marinovic sitting on the bench is relevant right now because, you know, he’s only just signed. Straight into the matchday squads, now it’s a matter of edging out David Ousted. Or if he doesn’t then hoping the Danish bloke doesn’t extend his expiring contract at the end of the season. Marinovic has some time on his hands here. He’s signed two-thirds through the term and this is all kinda an extended preseason for him in a way. At least we hope so. Jake Gleeson got his break for the Timbers coming in from the seconds as cover and then getting thrust into the team for a game in the playoffs. Next season he came in again with the main keeper injured and he still hasn’t lost that spot.
The Whitecaps win their share of matches. As things stand a 2-2 draw in Colorado leaves them a point outside the playoff places but they have games in hand and barring a big cock up they should at least push it to the Kenny Loggins limit here. All it’ll take is one bad curry and Stefan will be to in there show what he’s got.
As for the other trio, since we’re here, they’ve all three become regulars for the VW2 side and with those games all streamed on YouTube that’s rather cool if you’re having Myer Bevan withdrawals since the U20 World Cup. Not only are all three playing on the regular but Francis de Vries is captaining the seconds lately, Deklan Wynne has played a match for the first team in the cup already and Myer Bevan simply does not stop scoring goals. This one came on the same day he was called up to the All Whites for the first time.
All three played again once since that but VW2 went down 1-0 away to Sacramento Republic – which has them with only four wins from 21 games.
Up Next: New England Revolution vs VW, Sunday 12.00pm (NZT)
Michael den Heijer - NEC Nijmegen (Dutch Eerste Divisie)
Who wants an MDH jersey?
This was all part of the Nijmegen open day, marking the kick off of their new season after they played their last proper friendly before the serious stuff begins in two weeks. Nice to see their resident kiwi involved in the festivities too after he was pretty much there on trial the last month or two. Nijmegen got relegated last campaign so that’s opened up a hole or two in the squad for Mike to target and he’s been a feature during their practice games (lately on the bench as they pivot towards their best XI).
C.J. Bott - USV Jena (German Frauen-Bundesliga)
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