Flying Kiwis – October 9

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Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

Liam Ridgewell got sent off last week for Portland in a nil-all draw at home against FC Dallas. That meant an open spot at centre-back and there’s one dude in this squad who’s made an impressive fist of stepping in as cover in that position: Billy T. Sure enough he got the nod for the trip to Real Salt Lake.

It’s been a weird campaign for the Timbers, whose form has been about as frisky as the many NZ Football employees looking over their shoulders and back again this past week. Bottom line is that, despite all that, they’re still on the brink of the playoffs if they can finish with a bang and here was a chance to reinforce that… a chance they absolutely grasped with both hands. RSL hadn’t lost at home since March, going 14 unbeaten at Rio Tinto Stadium.

They didn’t look like they were going to lose as Portland began deliberately on the back foot, playing deep and inviting pressure. Yet 32 mins into this party it was Jeremy Eboisse who scored against the run of play. Smash and grab, baby. Bill Tuiloma looked steady and convincing at the back as he threw himself around and the Timbers took the lead into HT. Yet even he couldn’t stop Jefferson Savarino from levelling in the 55th after finding some open pasture in the penalty area cutting in on the left. Tui had a header from a corner saved and then he was subbed off in the 68th minute – apparently due to an injury but not sure, they replaced him with another defender and he took about a full minute to walk off.

Yeah and then the fun started. Seb Blanco grabbed a quick-fire double and then Lucas Melano scored a late one to rub it in. 4-1 to the Timbers who surge into the playoff probabilities once again and could still finish as high as second, realistically. They’re fourth at the moment and five points clear of missing out. “Perhaps more important than the formation, though, were the performances. Bill Tuiloma, stepping into the lineup for the suspended Liam Ridgewell, acquitted himself well in his first start since June. David Guzmán, back working in tandem with Chara in front of the team’s defense, delivered his best performance of the year, while Ebobisse opened the night’s scoring with his second MLS goal of the season.”

Up Next: RSL again, this time at home, on Monday 22 October at 10am (NZT)

Stefan Marinovic – Vancouver Whitecaps (American Major League Soccer)

A couple Canadian teams here, Toronto FC vs Vancouver Whitecaps. Both on the outside looking in for the playoffs and Toronto needing a win to stay alive. Three minutes into the game there was a goal… for Vancouver. Bloody lovely stuff, whipping it around and Russell Teibert finished it off.

Perfect start but Stefan Marinovic was always gonna need to make a few stops if the Caps were gonna hold on, ten mins later he made his first crucial stop getting low to parry away a drive from range off the boot of Sebastian Giovinco. That was routine for Big Stef. Two minutes after that he made a much more impressive one to somehow deny Lucas Jansen.

The Caps haven’t kept an MLS clean sheet since April 28 but they were able to keep Toronto scoreless into the break after Marinovic made another quality stop from Michael Bradley’s pile-driver. It was dangerous stuff from Vancouver trying to cling on, the second half beginning the way the first left off. Marinovic had to be sharp again to kick away another attempt before getting some help from his defence to clear. But then a moment of potentially shifting fate as Yordy Reyna was taken down on the edge of the area and Gregory van der Wiel saw a second yellow in his direction.

Yeah… except that Toronto kept at it and won a penalty in the 72nd min when Doneil Henry was adjudged to have blocked a cross with his arm. Which he did, by the way. Clear spottie. Stefan Marinovic is a top notch keeper with good size and superb shot-stopping instincts but his record against penalty kicks isn’t the best. Up stepped Jozy Altidore and Toronto finally got the goal they deserved.

But Toronto were still down to ten men and Kei Kamara quickly popped up and restored the lead with a tap-in off Jordan Mutch’s low cross. And, folks, that was the way it ended. 2-1 to Vancouver who still can’t keep a clean sheet but they did at least keep themselves in with a small chance of playoff football, snapping a three-game losing streak. Win all of their last three and they’ll make it. It helps when Stefan Marinovic is in fabulous form.

Eighty-Six Forever Report Card: “Stefan Marinovic: 8/10 - Had a couple of nervy moments but for the most part was excellent. Made some big stops to keep his team in the game, something that’s been missing from the Whitecaps goalkeepers all year.”

Up Next: Nothing next week but they host Sporting KC on Thursday 18 Oct, 3pm (NZT)

Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (English Super League)

It was an international break this week for most of the top women’s leagues around the world. No Football Ferns game of course, a few others things being dealt with there at the moment, so a week off for a lot of the lasses that usually grace this article with their presence. Including Ferns captain Ali Riley, but she did put out a new poddy so there’s that to enjoy. Next week is a men’s international break so the tables will basically turn.

Up Next: Fingers crossed for a season debut for Ali as Chelsea host Arsenal on Sunday at 2am (NZT)

Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

It should have been three Premier League wins in a row for the Clarets but they couldn’t put Huddersfield away, no matter how they tried. It was Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes up top this time, Chris Wood getting used to his seat on the bench as he hasn’t started in four straight games now. Bit of justification for Sean Dyche on that matter when Vokes gave Burnley the lead with a rugged header (though he’d already missed one great chance). Those were the only two shots Burnley had in the first half, from then on out it was all Huddersfield with 70% of possession for that lot.

Eventually it was all too much to withstand, although not before Chris Wood was chucked on in place of Ashley Barnes to try and halt it. The Woodsman had only touched the ball a couple times when Christopher Schindler glanced in a header past Joe Hart from Chris Lowe’s cross. None of those touches anywhere relevant to the Huddersfield goal.

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It was no more than the Terriers deserved, however not very long after that the goal scorer had his head covered in blood after a stray elbow from Vokes. Schindler stayed on his feet long enough to block a rocket shot from Ash Westwood with his head, somehow, but then needed quite a long bit of treatment before he was taken off (only to inexplicably return, club doctors being what they are). Not something you ever want to see and despite it being fully accidental Sam Vokes might be in trouble now. Which might get Chris Wood back in the starting XI after the international break. Again, not the way you want things to happen but that’s football.

Neither team was able to score a winner, even if Huddersfield felt more likely. Chris Wood didn’t get a shot off. He did do some nice work securing possession a couple times, throwing his weight around, but the ball didn’t fall his way in the opposition box like he needed. It was an ugly game and Burnley were a tad fortunate to get a point out of it. Huddersfield are the team that Chris Wood has scored most against in his career (8 goals) so a shame he didn’t get more of an opportunity to add to that.

Oh hey and check it out, Woody was on the BBC’s World Football Podcast this week. Talking about getting bullied as a young footy player back in rugby-lovin’ Aotearoa. Very interesting perspective here.

Up Next: Back after the break with a trip to Man City, Sunday 21 Oct at 3am (NZT)

Tyler Boyd – Vitória de Guimarães (Portuguese Primeira Liga)

Three starts in the first three games but Tyler didn’t quite hammer home his permanence in that side and he has since slipped back to the bench. Needed to put away a few of his chances, pretty much. Vitória have had an oddly stretched out fixture list over the last month and a half too which hasn’t helped him however Boyd made late cameos in each of the team’s last couple games. He came on with the side 1-0 against Vitória Setúbal but they weren’t able to hold it, Nuno Valente scoring right at the end for a 1-1 draw. Then he came on with the side 2-0 up away to Marítimo and this time they banked it for a 3-1 win.

Another solid result for VSC there. Defeat in their first three games of the season, including in the League Cup against Tyler’s old loan team Tondela, made for an anxious beginning but they’ve only lost once since then in six games. Currently they sit seventh in Portugal with 10 points from seven games. Boyd has featured in six of those games with three starts and three off the bench.

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Sweet as for him then but it’s actually been a frustrating time for a few of our usual Flying Kiwis fixtures. Jeremy Brockie didn’t even make the squad for the Sundowns’ last two games, not sure if that was injury related or not but he hasn’t really been playing much recently anyway with his last start in late August. Then there’s Marco Rojas whose last league appearance (and his only one this season) came on 10 August. James McGarry is back from injury and was on the bench next to Michael Woud this week as Willem II scored late to draw 1-1 with Feyenoord, excellent result there, but no action for that pair. Ryan Thomas and Winston Reid remain out injured. Jake Gleeson’s out for the year. But we track on as always.

Up Next: Home to Sporting Braga at 9.15am on Saturday 27 October (NZT)

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

With three games still to play Minnesota United are now officially out of the playoff race and they bowed out in particularly ugly fashion, going down 5-1 to Philadelphia Union. Philly clinched their own spot in the playoffs in the process. Honestly, only one team bothered to turn up to this one. Philly looked like they could score at any moment early on. Cory Burke should’ve put one away in the fifth minute but he kept at it and it was he who bowled Mike Boxall over on the end of a bouncing ball and then drove one from outside the box under the dive of Minny’s keeper Shuttleworth. Could definitely argue Boxall was fouled in the challenge – it’s not too often you see him outmuscled – but the ref said play on and the shot still should’ve been saved.

Seventeenth minute and the keeper got caught out again. Bobby Shuttleworth beaten at his near post by Alejandro Bedoya after a low cross. Usually an excellent keeper at this level but not his best day at the office. Seven minutes later it was three, Boxall rushing out of defence to cover for an absent midfield and seeing a gorgeous ball threaded in behind him which Fafa Picault polished off despite Bobby Shutts getting a foot to it.

That all but killed this thing off inside twenty-five minutes but Picault did add another one before HT. Boxall looked filthy at the lack of marking going on with their right edge of the defensive line. He’s had a very good season, ol’ Mikey, but the Loons have an overall terrible defence. With this hiding they’ve now conceded one goal more than even the Colorado Rapids (although San Jose still have the worst defence). Darwin Quintero pulled one back after the break but then Ilsinho stuck another knife in the corpse with a little over ten minutes to go. A cracker from distance too.

Zone Coverage Player Ratings: “CB Michael Boxall, 2 — Him getting brushed aside in a physical tussle (normally his strong suit) for the first goal was a killer.”

Up Next: Minnesota Utd vs Colorado Rapids, Sunday 7am (NZT)

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

A couple 2-1 wins, one home to Macclesfield and one away to Grimsby Town, have pushed the Shrimps’ horrid start to the season back into the past where it belongs and leaped them out of the drop zone finally. Both times it was second half goals that did it for Steven Old and the lads so shout for the resilience.

On Thursday morning they were minutes away from making it three 2-1’s in a row but it wasn’t to be. They’d already lost a handful of starters to injury, leading to three changes from the Grimsby game. That injury toll didn’t stop them from taking the lead against Cheltenham however it soon got worse with their kiwi international defender forced off in the first half. “Despite the lack of numbers Morecambe always looked a threat and took the lead in the 31st minutes through Jordan Cranston. The former Cheltenham defender collected the ball on the left hand side of the box and from an acute angle let fly with a low shot that beat home keeper Scott Flinders to his left. Unfortunately for the Shrimps they lost defender Steven Old to injury moments later and the home side took advantage with a goal before the break.”

Guuuts, bro. Morecambe did regain the lead in the second half but Luke Varney snatched a point for the home team right at the death. Literally the fourth minute of injury time he struck, following a cross to the far post which the Shrimps weren’t able to clear.

There was hope that Oldie might recover in time for the weekend’s game against Tranmere Rovers but alas he didn’t make the matchday squad. Pity that, they could’ve used his defensive capabilities. 55 minutes into the game they were 3-1 down and even after they dragged it back to even stevens with ten minutes to play they leaked one to Harvey Gilmore in the 89th minute to go down 4-3. A second late goal costing them points in a week.

Up Next: Weds in the EFL Trophy at home to Stoke City U21s at 7.45am (NZT)

Erin Nayler – Girondins Bordeaux (French Division 1 Féminine)

Up Next: As she says, at home against Guingamp on Sunday at 1.30am (NZT)

Tommy Smith – Colorado Rapids (American Major League Soccer)

At this point you’re a masochist if you haven’t given up on the Rapids yet. Plenty of the players look like they already have. They’ve no chance of making the playoffs and recently it’s been one horror loss after another. Against LAFC it took less than five minutes before Diego Rossi was finding huge spaces in the middle of the Colorado defence although he hit the side-netting.

No dramas, Colorado don’t score goals or keep possession so it was constant pressure. Walter Zimmerman scored with a powerful header from a corner which went through Tim Howard and late in the half Adama Diomande found some space in the box to make it two and he added his second soon after half-time. LAFC booked their place in the playoffs in their first season in the MLS with this win – the only surprise was that it wasn’t more than 3-0, with Rossi in particular capable of scoring a hatty here with some better finishing.

Deklan Wynne was back to being an unused sub here as Anthony Hudson switched to a back four to get an extra man in the midfield. It didn’t help, sadly. Tommy Smith had some poor moments and he’ll cop some blame but it’s hard to be too critical of him standing off attackers as they sprint directly at him considering the three midfielders did almost zero protecting him. Poor Huddo shoulda signed Mike McGlinchey after all, aye?

Up Next: Tommy Smith vs Michael Boxall as the Rapids travel to Minnesota, that one’s 7am on Sunday (NZT)

Tyler Lissette – IFK Värnamo (Swedish Superettan)

There are always plenty of NZers doing their thing in Sweden. The most notable being Ali Riley’s stint with Rosengård but the male player at the highest level there right now isn’t Dan Keat as in days of old or Francis De Vries or Joel Stevens either… it’s Tyler Lissette. Yet to get a go for the All Whites but so it goes.

The 27 year old has been a regular at fullback for Värnamo as they try and stay in the Swedish second tier this season, just as he was last season too. Although recent times have seen him slip out of the team and he only played one league game in July and one more in August (both off the bench), not playing at all in September before getting back in there for his 15th start of the season a week ago in a 0-0 draw against Eskilstuna. An important result after a couple defeats for Varny. He was then back on the bench as Värnamo stunningly upset fourth-placed Halmstad 3-0, getting them within a win of bouncing out of the relegation playoff spots. With four more games to go in the season it’s all on the line.

Up Next: Värnamo vs Gefle at 6am on Tuesday 23 Oct (NZT)

Moses Dyer – Florø SK (Norwegian Division 1)

When Moses signed in Norway back in July he went straight into the team, subbed on at half-time for his debut in a 1-0 win over Tromsdalen (breaking a four-game losing streak, by the way). It was then almost a month before he got out on the park again and even then it was just a six-minute cameo. Following that it was same old, having to wait four more weeks for a 15 min spell off the bench. Dunno if injuries were involved or it was just a matter of settling in or what.

But he must’ve done something right in that third appearance because Moses has started the last two games in a row. A 3-2 win at home over Vikings and a 2-0 defeat away to Strømmen. The latter was a bit of a bugger against a team not that far ahead of them but with four more games to play it’s all on the line. Yeah, fair bit in common with the fella above him on this list. Florø are six points off safety but they are just two points off a relegation playoff instead of the automatic drop. Again, all to play for. And hopefully Moses can hold that spot amongst the starters and have a lot to do with those prospects.

Up Next: Away to Levanger at 5am on Monday 22 Oct (NZT)

James Musa – Phoenix Rising (American United Soccer League)

Gotta be The Moose, right? He’s had a superb season since joining Phoenix after being released from MLS duties with Sporting Kansas City. And he wasted no time in getting straight back into his usual defensive midfield dominance. A spell of clean sheets in a row during June had him nominated for USL Player of the Month and while the heights haven’t been as high since he’s still been steadily grinding the performances out. Musa was subbed out in a 0-0 draw against Reno 1868 as the team pressed for a winner (they had 26 shots with only four on target) but with two games left the Rising are only three points off the top of the conference with a game in hand on Orange County. Remember he was part of the Swope Park Rangers side that were runners up in this competition in 2017 so he’s got the pedigree.

Both those remaining games are this week with the USL about to hit its playoff portion. The good stuff, in other words. Also in contention for those playoffs amongst the Flying Kiwis are the Simon Elliot-coached Sacramento Republic who are just one point behind Phoenix in the Western Conference while the Cam Knowles-coached Portland Timbers 2 (for whom Bill Tuiloma’s featured a few times) are in sixth and guaranteed to qualify (which is a relief because they play Phoenix in their last regular season game). Elliot Collier’s Indy Eleven will make it in the East too with a positive result against Louisville on the weekend. Collier’s starting to get some serious minutes for them too. He scored his first goal a couple weeks back and got all ninety on the weekend in a 1-1 draw with Bethlehem Steel.

The tea leaves aren’t so generous for the rest of them though. Myer Bevan set up a goal for Fresno this week but they’re already eliminated. Monty Patterson’s been out of the OKC Energy team for ages and they’re out. Kyle Adams’ RGV Toros? Some nice recent form from them but all too late. Still, a few options to cheer for in those playoffs when they roll around in two weeks.

Up Next: Las Vegas Lights vs Phoenix Rising, Thursday at 4pm (NZT)

Nikko Boxall – Viborg FF (Danish Division 1)

Viborg won this week. They were down 1-0 at half-time against HB Køge but they scored three times in the second half, including a double from Jakob Jensen, and took a 3-1 victory into the international break. It’s not a rare result for Nikko’s lot. They’ve won three of their last four since being knocked out of the Cup on penalties, after all. But this result was their most important all year. It’s revenge against the only team that’s beaten then this season and it’s enough to put them back ahead of their most recent opponents and into first place in the Danish second tier.

There’s a long way to go yet but twelve games into a 33-game season they’re sitting first by two points and looking favourites for promotion. Nikko Boxall’s not kept a clean sheet in over a month but that doesn’t matter with the goals they’re scoring at the other end. And Nikko’s played every game but one, that one being down to suspension after a red card in the 1-0 defeat against HB Køge at the start of things. So far so good then.

Up Next: 12.45 am on Monday 22 Oct at home to Silkeborg (NZT)

Meikayla Moore – MSV Duisburg (German Frauen-Bundesliga)

Up Next: Monday at 1am away to Freiburg (NZT)

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