Flying Kiwis – September 12

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Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

There’s really nothing The Woodsman can do wrong right now, is there? He scored in his first Premier League game for Burnley and then grabbed a hatty for the All Whites on international duty. Sean Dyche must’ve liked what he’d seen – as did Aotearoa – because next thing he was named to start for Burnley against Crystal Palace. He’d already played 11 times in the PL but this was his first ever start.

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And guess what? Three minutes in and Lee Chung-yong played a sloppy back-pass which Wood then pounced upon. He beat Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey to the loose ball and smacked it first time with a dash of curl, a deceptively simple yet classy finish from a fair way out. It’s that bloody easy for him right now.

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The Guardian: “Criticised for sideways passing under De Boer, Palace were quick to supply a defence-splitting ball. Sadly for the recalled Lee Chung-yong, the defence he bisected was his own. Brought in to supply Benteke, he instead picked out Chris Wood with a misguided attempt to find the goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey. Burnley’s record signing provided an assured finish to vindicate Dyche, who promoted the £15m forward, the scorer of a late leveller against Tottenham last time out, to the starting 11.”

Palace boss Frank de Boer called it a “very sloppy goal” and he was sacked the following morning. Not because of that quote though, actually because Palace had lost all four league games without even scoring a goal. They’re literally the only club left in the football league without a goal. Chris Wood has already gotten a manager the sack, welcome to the big time, son.

Thing is, Palace weren’t without their chances here. Wood’s goal was a freebie and still it was one of only four shots that Burnley would muster. Meanwhile Palace hacked at 23 of them. It’d be fair to say that only a couple of those chances really tested Burnley goalie Nick Pope – who was subbed on for the injured Tom Heaton in the first half. Instead Burnley defended with huge commitment and while that meant Woody faded out of the game it also meant a clean sheet and three points… eventually. On another day Christian Benteke or Andros Townsend or Scott Dann or whoever would’ve done better with their chances but this was not that day.

Lancashire Telegraph Player Ratings: “Chris Wood 7 - Took his goal really well and started brightly, but saw little off him as the Clarets retreated as the game wore on.”

Chris Wood: “It was fantastic. Hopefully I can go on and do great things here and be a great name in a Burnley shirt and I’m looking forward to doing that together. Normally as a striker you have first instincts and your first thought is the right one, and it was today. It’s one off the back, especially at home. It’s nice that I can tick that off and now I can focus on a lot more things, both for myself and the team. Hopefully I can go onto more and bigger things.”

The Independent: “Dyche's newest recruit collected the stray ball and had the time and space to move closer in on goal. Instead the £15m acquisition from Leeds United took the chance first-time, arcing a delightful finish from range over the on-rushing Wayne Hennessey.”

One other thing…

Up Next: Away to Liverpool is all. He’s played at Anfield before but here we go, 2.00am on Sunday (NZT)

Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)

Always nice when Winston is announced fit again after an injury lay-off – tends to happen three or four times every season at least. Especially good when he’s supposed to be playing Burnley next week and at this rate they’ll need him if they’re gonna stop Chris Wood from scoring.

However first was the game against Huddersfield, which made for West Ham’s long overdue home opener. Three away games to begin added up to three defeats and they’ve probably never wanted to be back at London Stadium more than they did over that long international break sitting bottom of the table.

Sure enough Winston was back in there come kick-off, lining up in a back three alongside Jose Fonte and James Collins. It was also manager Slaven Bilic’s birthday but if he didn’t get a win then he might have been staring at a severance cheque for a present. Yeah, it’s been an ugly season so far and this was a pretty ugly game too. Andy Carroll also started and that meant long balls, mate. Lots of ‘em. And the directness of West Ham’s attack meant that Huddersfield were hogging way more possession.

Which ain’t to say that the Hammers didn’t have the better of things… it was more a matter of whether they could put something away with their confidence as low as it was. Carroll went close a time or tow, Hernandez hit the damn crossbar. In the meantime at the back they were dead solid. Winston had missed their previous two games and having him and Ginge there to clear whatever found its way into the box meant Joe Hart had a relatively comfortable game.

Given what happened to Sadio Mane on the weekend he might have been lucky to get away with this one, to be fair. It’s never a red but those high boots are in a bit of focus right now.

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See, even Gary Neville had an opinion (okay, that’s not so rare – everyone listens to the Neviller).

Eh, whatevs. Slaven got booed when he subbed off Chicharito but right as West Ham started to get proper nervous Pedro Obiang smashed one against Mathias Zanka’s back and the deflection looped up, across and over the keeper to find its lucky way into the top corner. A massive slice of luck but you take them any way you can get them when you’re winless. Five minutes later Andre Ayew slotted a scrappy one from a corner and the Hammers won it 2-0. Ayew was the bloke subbed on for Hernandez and he scored one and set up the other. Shout out to him.

Slaven Bilic: “I told the guys even if we didn’t win, I would have told them well done they gave everything. Top performance from us, not in the sense we played beautiful football, but a top performance in being on the front foot in determination in executing the game plan. By playing the way we did in the first half we stopped them creating anything which gives you confidence and gets them down. A lot of things were happening in the first half in and around their box, crosses and free-kicks, but we didn’t score in that situation. We provoked the luck that goal bought us back in a zone of extra energy and happiness. The boys showed everything that we asked of them. This was a good present to be fair.”

Up Next: West Brom vs West Ham, 2.00am Sunday (NZT)

Katie Rood – Juventus (Italian Serie A)

The inaugural season for the Juve Ladies has started rather well, to say the least. A week and change ago they took on Torino in the first leg of their Coppa Italia tie and smoked them 13-0. Roodie didn’t play in that game (still waiting on international clearance) but she was chucked into the starting line-up for the return clash, which also happened to be the first ever home game for the Juve Women.

Clearly there was nothing on the line – a 13 goal lead is kiiiinda safe. As such it was the perfect chance to mix it up a bit and that meant three more players got their first starts for the club: Cecilia Salvai, Tuija Hyyrynen and Katie Rood. Not only did Rood start but she also bagged two quick goals in the first half. Salvai also got a double and Juve won 8-0. So… 21-0 on aggregate.

Rood’s goals came in the 25th and 26th minutes, bang bang. She now jets off to potentially make her debut for the Football Ferns in the same week as she made her debut for her new club. And when she gets back it’ll almost be time for the start of the league season. Fun times.

Juve manager Rita Guarino: “We went with lots of girls who didn't play in the first leg today and it was a chance for us to put into practice the things we'd tried out in training. I'm pleased because we got a feel for the pitch we'll be playing on at home in the league and had a decent turnout despite the weather. It means people are interested in us – hopefully that interest will keep growing. We're looking forward to getting our league campaign underway on 30 September. It will be an interesting away match.”

Up Next: Football Ferns vs USA, 2pm on Saturday and then 11.30am the following Wednesday (NZT)

Jeremy Brockie – SuperSport United (South African Premier Soccer League)

All that drama about his transfer request was taken care of in last week’s FKs – the window closed with Brockie still around and the only question that remained was how he was gonna respond in his first game since that was all cleared up. Haha, how was he gonna respond? Maaaate.

Times Live: “Jeremy Brockie showed no signs of any sulk after SuperSport United turned down his transfer request and passed a half century of goals for his club as they reached a third successive final by teaching a youthful Maritzburg United a few lessons in their MTN8 semifinal, second leg tie on Saturday night.”

SuperSport had drawn the first leg with Brockie not picked due to the transfer saga but it only took him 14 minutes here to put one away – his 50th for the club. Nothing fancy, just a simple header and he scored a pretty similar one on the verge of the break to help seal a 2-0 win and a 3-1 aggregate victory. It was a result that was probably expected but how good to see Brockie dominating?

Jeremy Brockie: “Since I've been a kid I've dreamt of becoming a professional player. No matter what happens outside of the pitch, when I cross that line I've got a job to do. The coach stuck by me the whole time and the boys, this is for them.”

Up Next: Weds morning at 5.30 they play Platinum Stars (NZT)

Rebekah Stott – Seattle Reign (American National Women’s Soccer League)

That’s always nice, a cheeky personal accolade for the wiki page or whatever. Unfortunately it didn’t come packaged with a win as Seattle had to settle for a 1-1 against Orlando. Seattle’s chances of making the playoffs are now probably done, five points back with two games left. A win here and they would’ve been within two but to be honest they let that dream slip away a few weeks back if anything – only winning three of their last ten.

This game had to be moved up a few days because of the impending hurricane about to hit Florida (as in: Orlando, Florida). They only played Houston a few days earlier too, another game affected by another hurricane. Jeez, what’s say we actually vote for some action on climate issues maybe?

Anyway, the Pride had won five in a row and a sixth would’ve clinched a playoff spot for the first time in their history. Yet despite that it was Seattle, with their own season on the line, who came out stronger, winning a few corners in a row and keeping that ball down in their attacking end. Couldn’t make it count though. Megan Rapinoe was closest when she drew a diving save outta Orlando’s GK with a shot from range but things were level at the break.

Afterwards Orlando began to show more of what has them on the brink of the semis. Jessica Fishlock had a goal disallowed for offside for Seattle but the Pride were finishing the stronger team and they finally got their reward with an injury time strike from Alex Morgan – who’ll be playing against the Football Ferns next week for USA. That should’ve been the decisive moment… only for Fishlock to, incredibly, hit back almost immediately. You go 90 minutes with no goals and suddenly there are two in injury time. Fishlock’s goal at least keeps Seattle’s season mathematically alive with two games remaining… but they need to win both and hope Orlando or Chicago loses both of theirs.

And here’s Sounder At Heart giving Stotty some more honours after the Houston game.

Sounder At Heart, Player Ratings vs HOU: “Rebekah Stott (8; PotM) – Stott often struggles away from home, so I was extremely pleased to see Stott really step up her performance in this match. She was all over the field, registering three shots, including one after a great give-and-go sequence with Naho and Mathias in the 3rd minute. She also had a match-high five tackles and 74 touches. Her defense was solid, with Houston rarely probing forward effectively on her side thanks to well-timed challenges and interceptions. Even with her offensive contributions and the warm, muggy night in Frisco, only once did I note her getting caught up field where Corsie needed to shift over to cover for her. Stott has had some great defensive performances this season, but this match was by far her most solid two-way performance.”

Two strong performances in a row, then. Maybe not a coincidence that Stotty’s played those last two games at right back after a stint in the middle. The Ferns are more likely to need her as a CB so it’ll be interesting to see how Tony Readings juggles that.

Up Next: The Reign play next on Sep 25 at 2pm vs FC Kansas City (NZT)

Ryan Thomas – PEC Zwolle (Dutch Eredivisie)

Zwolle’s sharp start to the season was bound to come to an end sooner rather than later and away to Ajax was about as likely a game as any. So, yeah… they went and lost 3-0 to the defending champs. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored after only six minutes and PEC were left clinging just to keep it at 1-0 in those early stages. Shout out to Hunty, he’s now scored against all 23 Eredivisie teams he’s played against.

Once the game settled down, though, the PECers did pretty well. A team with as flowing an attack as Ajax tends to leave some spaces behind them in the midfield and that happens to be where Thommo tends to find himself these days – Zwolle naming the same starting XI in all four games so far. The Zwolle forwards just couldn’t take advantage, sadly.

Ajax should have doubled the lead on 65 minutes when Hakim Ziyech stepped up to take a penalty kick, given away by Bram van Polen (who was also largely to blame for the first goal), but the Moroccan international saw his spottie saved by Diederik Boer – who was the backup keeper for Ajax last season. What’s more is that his miss came only days after Ziyech had also missed one on international duty… maybe leave them to someone else from now on.

Ziyech made amends when he scored a few minutes later. At 2-0 and having missed a few chances to equalise already, Zwolle faded away towards the end and Huntelaar was able to add another one with a couple ticks to go. Thommo’s own performance continued his strong start to the season as he whipped around quick passes and covered some serious distance – he’s one of seven PEC players to have played every minute so far – the next step is to get a little more going on attack is all. The way he’s going, it’ll happen.

John van’t Schip, PEC boss: “In stages we played well but at decisive moments we gave it away. We have to do more with our opportunities. We are not burying them. Attackingly we missed that thrust.”

Up Next: PEC Zwolle vs Heracles, 6.45am Sunday (NZT)

Marco Rojas – SC Heerenveen (Dutch Eredivisie)

Marco was injured before the international break and he’s still waiting for his first start with his new Dutch club. So no dramas he was left on the bench for their fourth match of the season. Might take an effort to crack the XI as well because they only went and toppled PSV Eindhoven this week. Arber Zeneli and Reza Ghoochannejhad scored the goals in a 2-0 win and what’s more is that both of them came within the first six minutes.

Zeneli’s goal in particular was a beauty and while the early strikes definitely woke the beast, PSV’s options took a big drop when Hirving Lozano went in late on Denzel Dumfries and out came the red card. Lozano and Rojas played against each other at the Confederations Cup when NZ took on Mexico. They never shared the field in this one, however. Lozano got marched in the 37th minute and it wouldn’t be until the 77th that Rojas was introduced – the second man off the bench. By then the points were in the bag. Heerenveen were in control in the second half and looked the more likely to score again. They should’ve too – old mate Reza missed a penalty about two minutes before Rojas came on.

Rojas replaced Martin Odegaard, which is something crazy. Odegaard’s that wonder kid from Norway who Real Madrid signed a year or two back. He’s still only 18 years old and yet some people think his career is stalling because he hasn’t edged Ronaldo out of the Madrid team yet. With SCH playing a 4-3-3, Rojas’ best shot in the XI is out wide up front, maybe striker but only at a stretch. Which means he’s gunning for either Young Marty from Norway’s spot, buddy Zeneli from Kosovo’s spot or the hombre Reza from Iran to make way for Marco from New Zealand via Chile. Most of the dudes in this team are Dutch but those attacking stocks are wonderfully global.

As for his injury, here are some quotes from the dude after training on the Friday.

Marco Rojas: “I had a slight injury. It wouldn’t have been a problem if I had played for a national team in Europe, but the fact that I had to travel almost a day to get to New Zealand was a risk we did not want to take. I started training with the group again on Tuesday, so I wasn’t ready for one of those games in time. Whether I'm going to play? I don’t know yet. That’s not my decision, I think it will be more or less like it was in the first matches.”

Which, indeed, it was. Rojas now has 62 minutes of football over three substitute appearances.

Marco: “I do what I can: make sure I'm fit, work hard in training and show me well when I get into the field. Hopefully this will lead to more playing time in the future.”

Up Next: Excelsior vs Heerenveen, 4.30am Sunday (NZT)

Abby Erceg – North Carolina Courage (American National Women’s Soccer League)

Rebekah Stott’s lot probably won’t make the semis and Rosie White and Katie Bowen’s teams were eliminated a while back (White’s Breakers are last). However the North Carolina Courage booked their ticked a few weeks ago and should clinch top spot with a few more results in their last three matches. They’re currently two points clear of Portland with a game in hand.

That’s after Erceg captained them to a 1-0 win over Houston, a win that guarantees them a home semi-final. It was another typically courageous Courage performance too. Nothing flashy, although they had their share of chances. Abby Erceg flicked on an attacking throw-in in the 26th minute and Kristen Hamilton put it in the net for the only goal of the game – count it as an assist – and then they ground it out from there with an assured defensive effort. Bloody marvellous, here’s the goal:

And here’s something else:

Growler of the Game? Haha, Americans…

Up Next: No Ferns duty, sadly, but they play Sky Blue at 11.00am on Monday Sep 25 (NZT)

Rosie White – Boston Breakers (American National Women’s Soccer League)

About the only thing left to play for here is getting off the foot of the standings and the Breakers came up against Portland Thorns who were scrapping for first place and a home semi. Not the most promising fixture then, but the Breakers turned up alright.

They dominated possession from the very start and kept a constant siege on that Thorns goal. 17 shots against only 3, that about sums it up. The only problem was that they couldn’t find a way to score with all those opportunities. Rosie had herself a decent lash only to push her shot past the post in the first half when Boston were at their best and she went close late in the game as well but again and again there was no reward. Then eventually they conceded mid-way through the second half and ended up losing 1-0. That’s the way it goes when you’re having one of them seasons. Bugger.

What do you reckon here… fake or legit? Nah jokes, nothing with editing that dodgy could possibly be anything but completely legit. At least they didn’t use a different coloured ball for the cut-away.

Up Next: Nothing ‘til after the international break, when BB takes on Washington at 12pm on Sunday 24th (NZT)

Katie Bowen – Kansas City (American National Women’s Soccer League)

Ouch.

FCKC’s season is done, their last remaining mathematical possibility of making the playoffs rested on getting a win against Chicago and the best they could do was a scoreless draw. In all honesty it wasn’t a great game and the 0-0 was probably fair enough. Bowen started but was subbed off early in the second half. Now it’s all focus on the Footy Ferns for a couple weeks.

Up Next: See Rebekah Stott’s spot – it’s an FK Derby!

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

Right then, how would you assess that little passage of play? Because here’s how the Video Assistant Referee saw it…

Star Tribune: “The Loons had to weather a rather dramatic twist with about 20 minutes to play, as United appeared to earn a penalty kick and a man-advantage after Philadelphia defender Oguchi Onyewu committed a handball in the box off a corner kick while he was already on a yellow card from earlier in the match. But United endured its first Video Assistant Referee overturn, as after the replay, the officials determined United center-back Michael Boxall pushed Onyewu before the handball.”

Yo, that artificial pitch with the ‘MINNESOTA’ scribbled across the penalty area? Absolutely disgusting, seriously. And that call was pretty weak. The handball comes as he launches himself in the opposite direction to where Boxall supposedly pushed him. There was definitely a push but it wasn’t much and the push wasn’t why he handballed it either. Boxie can probably be a bit pissed at that.

Other than that it was a decent enough 1-1 draw for ‘The Loons’, who can use every point they can get at this stage. They fell behind within five minutes as the entire defence seemed to slack off as Fabrice-Jean Picault slid one across goal to the far post where C.J. Sapong had a sitter. Minnesota had all sorts of chances to equalise and eventually it was Ethan Finlay who put one away for his second goal along with two assists in only three games since getting traded to his home state team. Good get, clearly.

Hey next up the Minny lads take on the Vancouver Whitecaps. Here’s hoping we get a kiwi or two on the other side of that one – Marinovic was on the bench for the Caps as they beat Real Salt Lake 3-2 but David Ousted wasn’t exactly at his best.

Up Next: Away to Vancouver at 2pm on Thursday (NZT)

Tyler Boyd – CD Tondela (Portuguese Primeira Liga)

That there is Tyler Boyd coming on with quarter of an hour to go in Tondela’s latest. It was 2-0 when he came on and they immediately conceded. Then Boyd had a crack from range which missed the target. Then, in stoppage time, they conceded again. Then Boyd got booked. Not the best day at the office, frankly.

But he did score a couple in a friendly during the international window the other week:

Up Next: Away to Sporting Lisbon (yikes) at 7.30am on Sunday (NZT)

Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers 2 (American United Soccer League)

The T2 side ran a promotion called ‘Bark in the Park’ for their match against Real Monarchs. Which basically meant people brought their dogs to the game. Not much else to say on that it was just an interesting note is all.

The game itself, now there might be a few things to mention from that. Like the fact that Bill Tuiloma started at centre back again. Or the fact that he helped them keep a clean sheet in the process. Or the fact that they’re now three games unbeaten. Or that it all came against the top team on the ladder. Or the fact that he captained the team.

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That last one seems relevant – if you’re wondering how he’s settling in with an eye on getting into that senior team then that’s as good an indication as any: the coach strapped that armband on him. Then again, there weren’t too many other options with a really inexperienced side featuring a pair of teenaged strikers and perhaps with a few more games under the belt they each might have scored a goal or two. Tui had a chance too, headering a free kick past the post in the first half. No dramas, a point is a good result for these guys – that’s just their third clean sheet of the season.

T2 boss Andy Gregor: “I thought the first half was obviously pretty even. They’re obviously a good team – they’re a lot older than us. There was a lot of experience out there and quite a few guys have played in MLS. They’re top of the league for a reason. It was quite even in the first half and it was a good game. The boys came out in the second half and did a really good job. They had plenty of opportunities to go ahead and win the game. Their goalkeeper was outstanding tonight. [Connor] Sparrow made some big saves for them. A couple of their defenders made some big-time blocks.”

Up Next: A week off, actually

Stefan Marinovic, Deklan Wynne, Myer Bevan & Francis de Vries – Vancouver Whitecaps (American Major League Soccer)

Already mentioned Marinovic (with a viewing hint towards the midweek) so this is more about the All-Whitecaps in the USL. Two games for those jerries and one game for each of the kiwi lads. First off they lost 3-1 to Tulsa Roughnecks. It was too early for either Myer or Deklan to get back into things after the international break but Francis de Vries was there with the captain’s armband. He was also one of only three starters on the day who didn’t come through the Whitecaps academy.

A pretty entertaining game saw the Whitecaps launch 22 shots at goal but their finishing was a bit crap and the Roughnecks were much better with fewer chances. The one goal Vancouver did score came from the penalty spot and while that tied things up early in the second half, they then leaked two in two minutes to go down at home. Francis de Vries’ most relevant moment was a late foul which earned him a yellow. Looked like a fair challenge but whatever.

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Then on the weekend they travelled to Oklahoma to meet OKC Energy FC and while Wynne and Bevan went straight back into the lineup, there was no sign of Francis – not even on the bench. You know why? Too many bloody yellow cards was his problem. The one against Tulsa was his fifth of the season meaning a one-match suspension.

They coulda used him too although they still got the clean sheet. This was not a game where the kiwis got to shine – OKC spent damn near all of it on attack, leaving Bevan fairly isolated, while Wynne was subbed off early in the 2H as the coach tried to find something that’d work.

Bevan did have one great chance late in the first half. Ghosted to that back post as the cross came in from the left but while he got good contact on that side-foot volley it was just a little too close to the keeper to be able to guide it past him. Seemed to take a hit in the process too. Big cross from Deklan Wynne too, guts.

But nah, they can credit their keeper Sean Melvin for a point gained in Oklahoma. He’s a young fella expected to maybe challenge Marinovic for top team duties next season and some of the saves he made here he very well might. Seven of them he made. Compared to VW2 who only had seven shots in total. OKC had 15 corners to 1, they had 25 shots to 7… call this one a hard-earned point.

Up Next: The first team plays Minnesota on Sep 14 at 2pm – fingers crossed on a few call-ups (NZT)

A Few Other Jokers…

Throw some love Max Crocombe’s way too. He’s hardly playing at the best level but his Salford City team are at good odds to get promoted and he’s their numero uno. After unexpectedly losing at home to Darlington in their first game they’ve since gone nine unbeaten and Crocombe kept his fourth clean sheet of the season with their latest win over Brackley Town. One to keep an eye out for on the fringes.

And, uh, yeah. Have a watch of this, why not? The 49ers are a terrible team this season and they lost their opener 23-3 after this. But Colvey’s doing okay, he’s been on the bench for the Earthquakes a couple times – getting closer and closer.


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