Flying Kiwis – May 15

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Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

The Clarets, on the back of their highest finish up the ladder since 1973–74, had their club awards in the week before their final game. Which was a little odd as far as Chris Wood’s best category went, h and Ashley Barnes shared the Golden Boot with 10 goals each (both with 9 in the Premier League), while keeper Nick Pope got himself the biggest haul of golden with both the Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year gongs.

Injury meant that Barnesy didn’t have the chance to add to his tally, while The Woodsman admits in that video that he only just got the stitches out of his foot from the other week on the day of these awards, though he was optimistic he’d be able to play.

Looked like a sweet party too.

Yeah, nah, Woody was all good to play against Bournemouth. Not only that but he broke the goal scoring stalemate in the most poacher way possible – purposefully deflecting a teammate’s shot into the net to score the goal for himself. Chances are that Jeff Hendrick’s shot was going wide anyway, so no dramas. Goal number eleven for Woody, which is the same as the number on the back of his jersey. Who knew that choice of number was actually a promise?

Wood was subbed off with half an hour to go and a 1-0 lead. The summer came early for the Clarets. They then eased off and conceded twice, first to Josh King in the 74th minute and then to Callum Wilson in injury time. Both were from Burnley errors at the back. So it goes.

Lancashire Telegraph Player Ratings: “Chris Wood 7 - Saved a miss of the season contender by the offside flag. Knew nothing about his goal but they all count.”

The Guardian’s Signings of the Season: Chris Wood (Burnley) - Burnley certainly saw them coming when Watford came knocking for Andre Gray last summer. Gray has scored five goals since leaving for £18m, while Sean Dyche was able to use the money to replace the striker with Chris Wood. The New Zealand international did not come cheap – Leeds United received £15m – but Wood has had a fine season since arriving at Turf Moor. The burly forward marked his debut by scoring a late equaliser against Tottenham and his nine league goals have helped Burnley qualify for Europe for the first time since 1967, proving that there is value in targeting players in the lower leagues.”

Up Next: Just chillin’

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

Sometimes all you need is that single goal. That was the case yet again for the Courage as they won 1-0 for the fourth time in eight games this 2018 season. With that win they remain undefeated and it also means that Abby and her defence have kept five clean sheets already.

This one was up against the Washington Spirit, a team with only one win through the first couple months. So, true to form, NCC were swiftly on top, forcing the issue with a couple close calls at the feet of Crystal Dunn and Debinha – plus a header from a certain Abby Erceg popped narrowly over the top. Washington had their share of threats as well, particularly Tori Huster’s effort on the end of a dangerous free kick early in the second half, with keeper Katelyn Rowland not only saving that one but also Mallory Pugh’s follow up attempt.

In the end it took until the 63rd minute for the decisive moment to arrive. Merritt Mathias won the free kick getting forward down the right. Jaelene Hinkle swung it in and up jumped Abby Erceg in the middle of the box. She put her first header over the top, her second she dropped perfectly into the bottom corner. Get in! That’s a first goal for Erceg since last May, almost a year between pops. 1-0 to the Courage who shut it down from there and held on for the win.

Abby Erceg: “It was good, especially having missed that first one that was sitting right there. I made it a little bit hard for myself. But yeah, it feels good. I scored, and obviously happy that we get the three points.”

While we’re at it, Abby popped up on the Women’s Soccer Zone podcast earlier in the week, chatting about the NWSL season so far as well as the new collective bargaining agreement back in Aotearoa, which Erceg had a fair bit to do with being a rep on the Player’s Association and all that. Very interesting chat, here.

Up Next: It's Rebekah Stott & Sky Blue on Sunday at 11am (NZT)

Marco Rojas – sc Heerenveen (Dutch Eredivisie)

Got them big Europa League playoffs then, starting with the midweek home tie against FC Utrecht. Only thing here is that Marco Rojas was dropped back to the bench for the big one, striker Henk Veerman preferred as a focal point with Reza Ghoochannejhad and Arber Zeneli around him. Veerman hasn’t scored a league goal since December and has pretty much been a bench option for the last few months but matchups are matchups and you’ve gotta pick the team that’ll get the result.

And the first half couldn’t have gone much better. A long ball earned a free kick which Yuki Kobayashi drove low and in after a couple touches along the way, 1-0 up inside ten minutes. Then The Ghooch made it 2-0 quarter of an hour later and Daniel Høegh’s header straight after the break was the stuff of dreams, SCH up 3-0 inside 50 minutes!

Zakaria Labyad took advantage of that dream state to pull one back straight away but then Yassin Ayoub’s second yellow card surely ended this one as a contest… actually, nah. Labyad added another and then a Dave Bulthuis own goal had the ten-men of Utrecht level. Marco Rojas was introduced with 18 minutes left, replacing a midfielder to try salvage this thing. Marco got a bugger booked for a foul and was hanging in there for that ball to the far post a couple times… but when it came it went a lot deeper than him, hitting fullback Denzel Dumfries who slammed in the winner for a thrilling 4-3 win. Rojas had a chance to make it five at the end but blazed off target.

Absolute cracker of a game, though those three away goals weren’t the best for their second leg prospects. By the way, shout out to Heerenveen youngster Jizz Hornkamp who made his debut off the bench late on. Always good to… nope, better not go there.

Ahem, moving on to that second leg then. Still no Marco Rojas in the starting XI and that means we already had an excuse in place, just in case. It was the same front trio tasked with trying to get back a few of those away goals… but Utrecht were a different beast at home. They made a few key changes and grabbed control early on. Heerenveen clung on to their lead until late in the first half when Denzel Dumfries’ clearance fell to Rico Streider and he crunched it past Wouter van der Steen in goal for a beautiful strike.

Van der Steen wasn’t even the starting keeper, he’d had to come on for an injured Martin Hansen within half an hour (he’d fallen awkwardly after claiming a high ball and left on the stretcher) which was possibly a sign that this wasn’t going to be a great day. Heerenveen were now behind on away goals and then Mark van der Maarel’s 58th minute header meant that SCH needed to score twice to go through to the playoff final.

Last chance saloon, better chuck on your secret weapon. On came Marco Rojas in the 72nd minute and, oh, what’s this…?

Another one of those sneaky ones, following the ball and supplying the finishing touch. Just like a couple other goals he’s scored for this team. Get that ball back, bro, we’re on level terms at 5-5 again, one more goal will do it…

That winning goal never came. Dumfries was inches away from being the hero yet again with his late header only this time he put his shot wide and Heerenveen’s 2018-19 season will not include European football. Marco’s played a few Europa qualifiers in the past with FC Thun but Heerenveen woulda been a decent chance at making the group stages. So it goes, once again.

That therefore ends Marco’s first season in Holland. In 22 Eredivisie games he made seven starts and played a combined 820 minutes. Four goals scored. It’s an okay haul for his first year with the team but he’s already said he’s planning on big improvements next time up.

Up Next: Not much, aye

Ali Riley – FC Rosengård (Swedish Damallsvenskan)

Ali Riley’s in there somewhere, celebrating yet another trophy after the Rosies won the Svenska Cupen with a 1-0 victory over rivals Linköping in the final. Every contest between these two perennial title challengers is going to be a close one and just as happened in 2017 it was a lone goal from Sanne Troelsgaard that made the difference. Rosengård had their chances to score a few others but you can’t argue with a trophy, however they come. This is the third time in a row that Rosengård have won the Swedish Cup, beating Linköping in all three of those finals. But Linköping have won the last two league titles so there you go.

In the meantime, eat something healthy courtesy of one of Ali’s recipes…

Healthier Snickers Bars [vegan, gluten free] . @nathalieebjorn introduced me to these Healthier Snickers Bars that will blow your mind! So simple, fast, and crazy good. Using only natural and vegan ingredients, this treat is sweetened with dates and a little bit of honey instead of corn syrup, sugar, and artificial flavorings. I recommend doubling the recipe, since they disappear fast! Adapted from @icasverige. . 1 cup (2.5 dl) roasted and salted peanuts 1/2 cup (1 dl) coconut oil 3/4 cup (1.5 dl) natural peanut butter 20 large soft dates, pitted 4 Tbsp cocoa powder 1 tsp maple syrup 1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp vanilla extract Salt . In a food processor, make the first layer by blending together the peanuts, 10 dates, and 1/4 tsp vanilla until well combined and sticky. If the mixture is too dry, add 1-2 Tbsp water. Press into a small baking dish lined with parchment paper and put in the freezer. Make the second layer by blending the peanut butter, 10 dates, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 tsp vanilla, and a pinch of salt until smooth. Press onto the first layer and put into the freezer. Melt 1/4 cup coconut oil. Add the cocoa and honey. Stir well and pour over the 2nd layer. Tilt the dish around so everything gets covered with the chocolate. Put into the freezer until solid, about 10 minutes. Cut into bars and serve. Optional: sprinkle over a little sea salt. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. . . . #snickers #healthysnickers #nobake #easyrecipe #healthylifestyle #healthytreat #healthydessert #vegansnickers #vegandessert #glutenfree #dairyfree #wholefoods #norefinedsugar #peanutbutter #natural #quickdessert #dessert

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Up Next: Away to Linhamn Bunkeflo at 1.00am on Sunday (NZT)

Katie Rood – Juventus (Italian Serie A)

Still trophy time in Flying Kiwis because Juventus won again, taking care of third-placed Tavagnacco for a 4-0 win with goals from Sofia Cantore, Barbara Bonansea (2) and Valentia Cernoia. Cantore scored the first early on which meant Juve were playing from the front and three goals in the last half hour took care of any worries. That meant that if Brescia simultaneously failed to win against Verona then Juve would be crowned champions of Italy in their inaugural season in the women’s Serie A. But Brescia didn’t panic. They were 3-1 up by half-time and went on to win it 6-3.

Ordinarily that’d give Juve the title given their goal difference is eight strikes better… but the Italians have a much more entertaining idea: A Championship Playoff! Yup, the two top teams in Italy, who between themselves took a combined 114 points out of a possible 120 when playing against anyone other than each other, get to go head to head for the trophy. That’ll be an outrageous amount of fun.  

Katie was an unused sub in this game. She has featured six times off the bench in the team’s league run and will almost certainly be on the bench again in the decider, although whether or not she plays is doubtful. As you can see, she’s starting from the top.

Up Next: Juve vs Brescia, TBD

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

Got a little bit of midweek action here as Minnesota United popped by sunny Los Angeles to take on LAFC and this was a belter of a clash. Within six minutes Mike and the Loons had almost conceded twice, first a free kick from Carlos Vela that was saved by Bobby Shuttleworth, keeping up his form from the previous weekend against Stefan Marinovic, and then it was Diego Rossi hitting the post. But Minny responded right away to crack the post at the other end after some brilliant and elusive work from Darwin Quintero.

But half an hour in the hosts had their lead. Vela threaded in Eduard Atuesta who beat Francisco Calvo with a sumptuous first touch and then slapped it home. Five minutes later a deflected Vela shot caught Boxall ball-watching with Kaye flicking it on to Mark-Anthony Kaye to make it 2-0. Miguel Ibarra almost got one back from a tight angle but his shot was cleared by a trailing defender but then LAFC put the clamps on in the second half for a 2-0 win. By no means an easy one, Minnesota frustrated them a fair bit, but a couple defensive slip ups cost them in the end.

Wasn’t Minny’s best team, to be fair. The manager rotated his midfield and had a couple injuries up front and obviously preferred to target the home game on the weekend against San Jose, whose form’s been a damn lot worse than LAFC lately. He even picked his son for a debut, bloody nepotism.

Zone Coverage Player Ratings: “CB Michael Boxall, 6 — Rarely put a foot wrong and did a good job winning his aerial duels.”

Right, about that San Jose game then. Could have gone a lot better. Like, if you prioritise a game against a team that hadn’t won since the opening round of the season (against yourselves, they beat Minnesota 3-2 that day) then you can do a lot better than conceding a goal from a penalty in the second minute. Took 52 seconds before the whistle went and that includes the ref taking a good long look after Jerome Thiesson left a leg in on Magnus Eriksson and the Swede made no mistake with it.

It was 1-1 in the 26th minute after Christian Ramirez scored an incredible finish, chipping the keeper with his first touch from out wide after picking up an errant pass from the defence. Super stuff. However, five minutes before the break Ramirez hit the crossbar from a position be should’ve scored from after Quintero’s shot had deflected into his path. Turned out to be a pivotal moment. Especially when Danny Hoesen turned one into the net for San Jose after sub Chris Wondolowski had somehow gotten a cross in from a tricky position. Boxall was closest to Hoesen but reacted late as the ball came back across goal.

Then a video review gave San Jose a penalty with quarter of an hour left, Francisco Calvo had made what looked like a brilliant diving block but it struck his arm and VAR did what VAR does. Wondo converted for a 3-1 San Jose win, bit of a stink week for Mike Boxall then.

Safe to say the Loons weren’t so chuffed with the second penalty call. And it wasn’t only that, there were a number of perceived soft calls which led to both the captain and the coach having a right old dig about the ref to the media afterwards.

Adrian Heath, MU manager: “If you look at the 90 minutes, we can’t complain about the energy levels from what we tried to do but have they really had to work really hard for any of their goals? The answer to that would be no. After a minute, a penalty. The second one is probably, I don’t know if his hands are above his head, but I don’t know what players are supposed to do if they’re trying to block a shot. And then the third one, we had two opportunities to clear it, and we won’t. And then we get punished again.”

Up Next: Monday at 6.00am at home to Sporting Kansas City (NZT)

Stefan Marinovic – Vancouver Whitecaps (American Major League Soccer)

The Whitecaps have been through a fair few players already this season, with all the usual excuses to blame. But one position that’s been as stable as anything has been the goalkeeper, with Stefan Marinovic ever present for the ‘Caps so far. Yeah… maybe not anymore. A knee injury sustained in training ruled him out this week, allowing Brian Rowe to make his first appearance for the Vancouver team – Rowe having been signed in the offseason as Marinovic’s new backup, with Big Stef making the jump into the number one spot.

No word on the severity of the injury yet. It’s been reported as a knee strain so hopefully not as bad as first feared, since it sounds like he was in bad shape at the practice facility. Without him it was a 2-2 draw against the Houston Dynamo… which hardly does the game justice. Twice the Whitecaps came from behind to level. They seemed to have lost it right at the end, conceding with a minute remaining, only to score an even later goal in injury time to tie it back up. Brek Shea also hilariously missed a sitter in there somewhere. Dramatic stuff.

Brian Rowe: “It was great, it’s been a while. I’ve been patiently waiting, and I hope Stefan [Marinovic] is alright. The job of being a goalkeeper always requires us to be ready. Awesome for me to step in for a home game, being able to get my first minutes as a Whitecap. It was a rollercoaster of a game, starting behind and then we were all over them, getting a goal right before halftime giving us good momentum into the second half, and unfortunate to concede that one towards the end, but I think we showed a lot of character, a lot of grit pulling that last goal out and getting a point out of it.”

Up Next: Thursday at 2.30pm at home to San Jose Earthquakes (NZT)

Ryan Thomas – PEC Zwolle (Dutch Eredivisie)

No more footy for Thommo, whose season is over with and got the big wrap last week. But we’d better keep an eye on him because, as you know, there’s a transfer on the horizon. Thomas claimed recently that his preferred move at this stage is to a bigger club in Holland. Sounds like his chairman at PEC Zwolle understands that too…

PEC Zwolle chairman Adriaan Visser: “[Thomas] has a one-year contract with us, I suspect he'll leave and we’d allow him that too. He had a fantastic time at Zwolle and is ready for another club.”

He won’t be the only one out the door. Zwolle look to be in for quite the busy summer with Philippe Sandler already signed with Manchester City and Youness Mokhtar and Mustafa Saymak on the verge of departing also. Captain Bran van Polen is likely to leave, apparently to either America or Australia, and the likes of Younes Namli and Kingsley Ehizibue will probably have some fans out there.

Meanwhile Voetbal Primeur have shortlisted Ryan Thomas for their central midfield spot in their team of the season, alongside Jorrit Hendrix (PSV), Fredrik Midtsjø (AZ), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord) & Clint Leemans (VVV-Venlo).

Voetbal Primeur: Ryan Thomas (PEC Zwolle) - After the winter break PEC Zwolle tumbled upon itself like a house of cards and Thomas seemed to lose it every now and then. Rather we’d better focus on the first months of 2017/18: and wasn’t the New Zealand international good! Connoisseurs know for sure, the 23-year-old Thomas is more than good enough for the best clubs in the Netherlands. Will he stay with PEC for another year or is it time for a new adventure?”

Up Next: Answering phone calls

Rosie White – Chicago Red Stars (American National Women’s Soccer League)

Hmm… could it be time for a return to the footy field for Rosie White? Offseason surgery has made for a long spell out of the game, so long that while she’s been out her NWSL team has folded and released all its players to a reassignment draft, hence how Rosie ended up with the Chicago Red Stars. And, sure enough, for the first time this week her name was taken from the injury list and added to the subs list. She didn’t end up playing as Chicago twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw with Houston Dash, but that’s one more step completed on the comeback trail.

Up Next: Seattle Reign vs CRS, Sunday at 2pm (NZT)

Jeremy Brockie – Mamelodi Sundowns (South African Premier Soccer League)

85 solid minutes for Brox. He started his first league game since February, although he wasn’t able to find that elusive first goal for the club. With the title already wrapped up, there wasn’t as much intensity to this one as there might have been and Sundowns seemed fine with a 0-0 draw away to Bloemfontein Celtic. It was the last game of the domestic campaign after all, and the Brazilians had played a few days earlier in the CAF Champions League (a 1-1 draw with Wydad Casablanca, Brockie didn’t feature).

Brockie was one of a number of fringe dudes to get a start in this one. Celtic could’ve still cracked the top six with a win but it wasn’t this game where they blew that. A 0-0 draw seemed appropriate. Anyway, the Brazilians were in full party mode by the end of it because with the final whistle came the trophy presentation.

Sundowns manager Pitso Mosimane: “You don’t break the chemistry of the team. Lebese and Brockie are for next season. We signed them for next season. Zwane, Vila and Percy know each other; they know where the other is on the field. So, you don’t disturb it. Sirino is there, they gel. Why break it? Brockie and Lebese are for next season they play next season - you shouldn’t stress about signing players and having pressure to play them now, and try to put them in.”

Oh and by the way, among the benefits of playing for one of the best teams in your continent? Jeremy Brockie’s gonna get a game against Barcelona… in like two days. For real. The match is taking place in Johannesburg (at the ground that hosted the 2010 World Cup, which Spain famously won) and will be a part of the Nelson Mandela Centenary Celebrations. As good a purpose for a short-notice friendly as you’re going to get. It took a while for the game to get the green light but that didn’t stop them selling out of all 78000 tickets within 72 hours. Barcelona are supposedly bringing their best players and will then jet back to play Real Sociedad in their last Liga game on Monday (NZT).

Barcelona actually played a friendly against Mamelodi Sundowns eleven years ago, after which the players were presented to Nelson Mandela himself. Andres Iniesta is one of the few folks remaining from that team. 

Up Next: Bloody Barcelona, mate. Thursday morning at 4.15am (NZT)

Tommy Smith, Kip Colvey & Deklan Wynne – Colorado Rapids (American Major League Soccer)

Oh damn, the Rapids lost again. 2-1 to New York City this time, which makes it four straight defeats for Anthony Hudson’s team. But of course he’s still proud of the effort and they’re really close and they’re improving every week, right?

Anthony Hudson: “With the scenario we’re in at the moment, I don’t know too many teams who have been on a run like this and yet have been in every game and been strong in every game. Normally, that doesn’t happen. Normally, you get hammered when you’re on a run like this, but we’ve been in every game. We’ve played well and we’re playing good football.”

Yup, that’s right. Thing is, he’s not far wrong. Teams don’t lose four in a row by pure bad luck but the Rapids have been decent. They conceded early in this one, Daniel Royer hitting home in the fifth minute. Smithy got sucked out wide and right back Marlon Hairston, starting in place of the absent Kip Colvey, couldn’t get to the cross before Royer did. The Rapids were arguably the better team after that but they couldn’t manufacture the chances they needed. Yannick Boli missed a great one on the rebound but he was offside anyway.

The offside flag then came to their aid with quarter of an hour left after Derrick Etienne Jr’s goal was disallowed… only for a video review to (controversially) overrule it. Sorta weird that the VAR’s getting involved in 50/50 calls. Jack McBean did pull one back with five minutes left but six minutes of injury time weren’t enough to find an equaliser. Tommy Smith surged forward at the end and potentially should’ve had a penalty… this time neither the ref nor the VAR were interested.

In other news, this was a good week for Flying Kiwis appearing on podcasts…

Up Next: NYC FC away, that’s on Sunday at 5am (NZT)

C.J. Bott - USV Jena / Amber Hearn & Meikayla Moore – FC Köln (German Frauen-Bundesliga)

Yeah, it really doesn’t look like any of the kiwi trio are going to avoid the relegation trap. CJ Bott had a decent game at right back for Jena but they fell 1-0 at home to SC Sand thanks to a 15th minute goal from Verena Aschauer. Just couldn’t find that goal when they needed it and while they’re still only one point behind Werder Bremen (who lost 7-2 to Bayern), MSV Duisburg’s 2-0 win over Hoffenheim probably means that at least one of the kiwis in the Bundesliga is getting relegated.

As for FC Köln, when every game is pretty much a must-win, the last thing you want is to be 2-0 down inside half an hour away to Turbine Potsdam. But of course that’s what happened. Köln had only scored six times in 19 games previous to this one so you’d be forgiven for writing them off at that but having the Football Ferns’ record goal scorer in your ranks counts for something and Amber Hearn struck in the 62nd minute to get them back into it. Unfortunately Felicitas Rauch then made it 3-1 five mins later… but a couple minutes after that Lidija Kuliš dragged it back to 3-2. Fascinating last twenty minutes on the way… until Lara Prasnikar killed it off in the last minute. Potsdam won 4-2. FC Köln remain last with two games left.

A fourth goal for Amber Hearn though, which is exactly half of her team’s tally. Four goals in 20 games isn’t her best haul ever but under the circumstances it’s pretty impressive.  Also Meikayla Moore got ninety minutes in the Potsdam game at centre-back so that’s something positive.

Jena’s remaining games are at home to Freiburg before they travel to play Duisburg, the latter a much more winnable prospect, while Köln have a huge one next week at home to Werder Bremen and then close away to champions Wolfsburg.

Up Next: As above, chieftain

Rebekah Stott – Sky Blue FC (American National Women’s Soccer League)

Another game and another defeat for Sky Blue, who are still yet to gather in that first three pointer. They were comfortably beaten 4-1 by Seattle Reign. Megan Rapinoe was back for Seattle and she put in a top class performance as Stott’s lot were never really in the game. They conceded in the fifth minute and trailed the entire rest of the way. Full game at centre back for Stott yet again but that’s about all there is to dwell on.

Up Next: Home to Abby Erceg’s North Carolina Courage on Sunday at 11am (NZT)

Jake Gleeson & Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

There’s at least one rock in Portland that they’d better learn about… that Kiwi-Samoan bloke who plays centre-back for the Timbers, hey-oh!

Not that he played this week. Tui once again lined up for the T2 side, keeping him busy while the Timbers ride with the same XI that kept a clean sheet last game. There were plenty of friendly jabs between Portland and Seattle as the two north-western clubs did battle for the 100th time. There were even more after Seb Blanco scored late on to give Portland a 1-0 win. That’s three clean sheets in a row since Jake Gleeson and Bill Tuiloma got dropped/injured. Surely just a coincidence.

For some reason Blanco celebrated by putting on a Chucky mask. They called him that when he played in Argentina on account of being short but ruthless but this is still a weird one to comprehend. Gotta love the characters in the game, aye.

Gleeson watched from the bench as the Timbers won their third in a row. Tuiloma was still recovering after helping the T2 side do the Sounders reserves in the same way. Tui put a second half free kick narrowly over the bar but Eryk Williamson’s injury time winner did the trick, 1-0 to Portland in the MLS and the USL both.

Up Next: Portland vs LAFC, 7am on Sunday (NZT)

Katie Bowen – Utah Royals (American National Women’s Soccer League)

Little midweek clash against Orlando Pride here, with the Royals snatching a point off a solid Pride side. In fact the Royals were the better side for most of it, especially in the second half, they just couldn’t find the goal that’d win it for them. Only one of their 13 shots were on target. Katie Bowen was an unused sub so what did they expect?

Up Next: Home to Houston Dash on Sunday at 7.30am (NZT)

Tyler Boyd – CD Tondela (Portuguese Primeira Liga)

Tondela lost 1-0 away to Setúbal and with that ends both their season and also Tyler Boyd’s loan period. Boyd got a good ninety minutes in his final dig, playing on his usual right wing, but André Pereira’s first half goal was the difference between the two sides. Boyd came close to setting up Bruno Monteiro with a cross late in the first half though otherwise it was a pretty quiet game, CDT with little left to play for while Setúbal needed this win to avoid relegation and weren’t about to bugger that up. Tondela’s plans were also to avoid relegation and not only did they manage with weeks to spare, they ended up finishing all the way up in tenth, with 38 points from their 34 games.

27 games for Boyd with five goals. 14 of those games were starts and he played a total of 1434 minutes. Plus there was another 90-min effort in the cup to tack onto that. Notably, 13 of his league starts and three of his goals came after the winter break when he was really carving it up.

Boyd was on fire the last half of the season and the word is that he’ll return to Vitoria SC for the final year of his contract and be given the opportunity to impress in preseason. He was a regular goal scorer for the reserves there but first team chances were limited, leading to his loan out for this term. But he’s passed that test and if he passes the next one, winning a regular place for Vitoria SC, then a new contract should be on the table too for the 23 year old.

Up Next: The usual.

Nik Tzanev – AFC Wimbledon (English League One)

No sooner does one season end than the next one begins. At least the planning for it does. AFC Wimbledon managed to tick over the points tally just enough over the last month or two with a run of draws at the end there to ensure that they stayed up in League One (while rivals MK Dons got relegated, btw). Nik Tzanev didn’t see any first team action as the third choice keeper on the list but top choice George Long, who started 45 out of 46 games in League One, was on loan from Sheffield United and has returned to his parent club ahead of their next campaign. Meanwhile his backups, Nik Tzanev and Joe McDonell, have each been offered new contracts.

Up Next: Putting pen to paper

Elliot Collier – Chicago Fire (American Major League Soccer)

That’s the Chicago Fire getting a valuable clean sheet in the books with a 1-0 win over Montreal Impact. But Collier only played off the bench, coming on for the last half hour. First man off the bench though, that’s something.

A few days later they were at it again away to Columbus Crew and Collier was back amongst the starters. And, hey, maybe if Elliot had buried this one instead of rocking that framework then it might have been another happy day. But he didn’t. And a dodgy penalty had them down 1-0 at the break instead.

The second half did not get better. The Fire looked a bit tired and went on to lose 3-0. Collier got a full game in for only the third time, however that finishing still needs some refinement if he’s going to keep adding to that tally of starts. It’s not his job to score all the goals but he also can’t be missing efforts as wildly as he has been. That’s a normal thing for an inexperienced player though, so we’ll see how it goes if the Fire make a few mid-season signings later on in the campaign.

Shout out to mum.

Up Next: Chicago vs Houston Dynamo at 8.00am on Monday (NZT)

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