Flying Kiwis – October 1

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Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

Big Shaq moods at this time of the year? That can only mean one thing: the Loons are going to the playoffs. For the first time in franchise history they’ll be playing postseason footy following a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City. A 90th minute winner from Hassani Dotson doing the trick, booking that famous finish in style. The win put them two points clear of Seattle in second place in the conference with no possibility of dropping out of the top zone.

The game didn’t start great. Minnesota were down 1-0 after six minutes as Botond Barath beat Boxall to a deliciously angled cross after a short corner move. They then had to rely on keeper Vito Mannone to put in another imperious performance, the Reading loanee making seven saves to take his tally for the season up to 122 which is a club record (which is saying something for a team that conceded as many goals as they did in the last two years). The crossbar did its job too.

However the Loons came out stronger in the second half, the gaffer with a bit of a rark up at the break apparently. 70th minute and in swung a corner which Osvaldo Alonso smashed into the net. That was followed by another glance off the crossbar from an SKC attempt. Then Dotson did what he did, a sharp little goal as he cut across and lashed it in off his left, and that was that. Well, almost… there was still enough time for Chase Gasper to concede one of them tactical fouls to break up a counter down the left side and he was walked for a second yellow. But Minny held on for the 2-1 win.

It was a fitting way to do it too because a huge part of the Minnesota boom has been getting Ike Opara in from Sporting KC to play CB next to Boxall. Opara was the 2017 MLS Defender of the Year and is potentially in the mix to win it again in 2019 considering this defence conceded 70 and 71 goals in their first two seasons and is now on pace for something in the mid-40s. From one of the all-time worst to one of the better ones. Boxall isn’t getting much credit for all that as a dude who was around in the dark times… mostly the write-ups are focussing on the acquisitions of Opara and Mannone… but

There was another game to get through this weekend too though. Away to LAFC as the Loons try to maximise their final standings. Two points from their final two games and they’d not only be in the playoffs but their first game would be at home in their fresh new stadium. LAFC meanwhile had already wrapped up first place and were just out there for kicks and maybe to see if Carlos Vela could score another goal to equal the all-time MLS record.

And guess what? He did. In the 70th minute to break through in what had been a closely contested game. Minnesota had the best chances as Angelo Rodriguez twice was unable to score one on one with the keeper and now they were losing at home with twenty minutes to play. Eh, no worries. Cometh the hour, cometh the man…

That, dear friends, is an excellent little guided header. Jan Gregus’ cross ain’t half bad either. One more view, shall we?

Michael Boxall: “I don’t know. It all happened so quickly. I kind of blacked out.”

The Loons weren’t able to rally for a winner but a draw keeps those home finals hopes well alive heading into a trip to Seattle in their final regular season game. Those two teams are tied on 53 points as things stand though Minny have the edge on goal difference. If they lose that one then LA Galaxy could yet overtake them as well.

MU gaffer Adrian Heath: “If you look back, I can probably think of four occasions Boxy’s had the same opportunity and he’s not quite managed to put it in. He’s a big guy, he attacks the ball well and I think Jan’s quality into the box has been excellent over the last few weeks and we’ve got some big guys getting in there. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got big guys, if the ball gets in the right area, the right place and defenders are running towards their own goal, it’s extremely difficult to defend. It was nice to see it go in. I actually thought that we would go on and win the game when we got the goal.”

Pro Soccer USA: “Boxall said Minnesota put in a fair amount of work timing Greguš’ free kicks based off of the midfielder’s arm signals and he wasn’t even sure if the LAFC defensive line had moved at all in response to his run. “That’s the most open I’ve ever been, and might ever be, in the box,” Boxall noted. Announcing Boxall’s goal, public address announcer Tony DeLorenzo called out the defender’s first name, with Allianz Field shouting Boxall’s surname in response. “Oh, I heard that one. That one was very loud and it’s not often it’s my name, so…” the defender said, trailing off laughing.”

Up Next: Seattle Sounders vs Minnesota, Monday at 9am (NZT)

Chris Wood - Burnley FC (English Premier League)

All the Chris Wood stans out there knew all along that with one goal would come a flurry of goals. When it rains it pours with this fella, last season he scored once in the first half of the season as he was in and out of the starting team and then he bagged nine Premier League goals in the back half of things with Burnley surging from relegation danger to safety. After scoring a double in a 2-0 win over Norwich City last week he then chased that with a late equaliser away to Aston Villa, as you do.

The Woodsman could have opened the scoring if he’d been able to get any decent contact on a chance that didn’t quite fall his way early on, though in fairness Aston Villa were the better side for the bulk of this game and after Conor Hourihane and Dwight McNeil traded free kicks that each hit the respective crossbars the Villans thought they’d taken the lead through John McGinn… only for VAR to pick out an offside in the build-up. Hourihane had made his run a tiny fraction too early, which didn’t really have any effect on the play but rules are rules. Anyway, it was only eight minutes later that Anwar El Ghazi picked one out at the near post to put Villa in front for real this time, which is how it remained until the break.

At which point Sean Dyche got funky with a little trick he’d been working on in preseason where Jay Rodriguez came on for Jack Cork (who had a shoulder injury) and the Clarets switched from their usual 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation which allows all three of their strikers to be on the park at once – Chris Wood front and centre with Ashley Barnes on the left of him and Rodriguez on the right.

That led to a quality twenty mins or so until Rodriguez nodded in a cross from Erik Pieters to restore parity… though that only shocked the Villans back into action. McGinn put them back in the lead with a much-deserved goal that actually counted this time, volleying through Nick Pope’s legs. But that lead then only lasted about a minute and a half before Chris Wood leapt highest to score from Matt Lowton’s cross and how about it, mate? Three goals in two games now. Big fella’s on a roll.

Burnley were pretty bloody lucky to get a draw out of this one and they could still have lost it even after Woody’s goals… but if you can keep the points tally ticking over even on the off days then that’s a good sign and the emergence of this new formational trick up the sleeve was a positive one too. As was Jay Rodriguez’s first league goal for Burnley since he re-signed with the club… 2,758 days after he last scored a league goal for the Clarets (he did score in the EFL Cup to be fair).

Jay Rodriguez: “It is healthy competition and everyone has to stay patient and continue to work hard and effect what they can affect. Woody and Barnesy are great lads and great footballers and they have made me feel really welcome. I always want to learn off other players and every striker I play alongside.”

Lancashire Telegraph: “In a bid to get back into the game at Villa Park, Sean Dyche gave a fresh look to his side in the second half. With Jack Cork nursing a shoulder problem the Clarets boss threw on another forward player in Jay Rodriguez rather than a midfielder. He took up post on the right of a front three with Ashley Barnes playing from the left and Chris Wood through the middle. Dwight McNeil and Jeff Hendrick also moved in from their wide positions to support Ashley Westwood and Burnley, by and large, looked a different proposition. It resulted in goals for Rodriguez and Wood and it will now be interesting to see if it’s back to 4-4-2 against Everton or a continuation with this new look, only before seen briefly in pre-season.”

Lancashire Telegraph Player Ratings: Chris Wood 7 - One first half chance came and went when he failed to make proper contact with a header but made no mistake late on for third goal in two games.”

And now some more plaudits from last week’s brace against Norwich…

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Up Next: Sunday at 3am against Everton at home (NZT)

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

With the NWSL Shield already secured with two games remaining, this game against the Washington Spirit in NCC’s final away game of the year was a perfect opportunity to maybe rotate a few key players out and protect them for the finals. That didn’t happen - instead a full-strength team strode out there and proceeded to take the game to their hosts from minute one. NCC had 61% of possession in the first half and 13 shots compared to just two for Washington. But it wasn’t until stoppage time when Lynn Williams finally gave them the lead after some close calls.

Usually once they’re in front, the Courage run away with things but the Spirit, fighting for their playoff lives, weren’t so easily dispatched. Having somehow clung on at 1-0 down, Washington levelled up on the counter attack with fifteen minutes left through Malory Pugh with a deflected effort. And then, five mins from time, Rose Lavelle skipped past Abby Dahlkemper and evaded Abby Erceg’s sliding attempt at a block and scored what proved to be the winner for the Spirit. The Courage absolutely bossed this thing for 75 minutes, only scored once, hit the frame of the goal twice and had a shot cleared off the line, and then conceded two late ones to lose. It doesn’t matter much in the overall scheme of things but a result where you can’t help but think maybe NCC are a little impatient for the playoffs at this point.

Abby Erceg had one shot on target, a header from a corner in the second minute which was saved. She also picked up a yellow card late on for a bit of a rough foul a little after the second goal was conceded – kind of incredibly that’s her first yellow card of the entire season there.

Also… anyone for coffee?

Up Next: NCC vs Sky Blue, Sunday at midday (NZT)

Charles Spragg – Palamós CF (Spanish Tercera División)

Here’s something different. NZ youth international and Eastern Suburbs prospect Charles Spragg has leapt on into the professional ranks in lovely Catalonia after signing a first team contract with Palamós CF – who compete in the fourth tier of Spanish football. The club was founded all the way back in 1898 and was a second tier club for six solid years in the early nineties though is pretty stable amidst the vastness of that Tercera division these days – the fourth tier (it goes Primera (aka La Liga), Segunda, Segunda B, and then Tercera) features 360 clubs split across 18 regionalised groups.

So not the highest possible standard but along with getting to try establish himself in the Spanish footy pyramid, the 19 year old also now gets to live in a gorgeous coastal town in Catalonia. Whilst playing football for a living. Palamós began this season just hoping to stay in this division but a few early wins have them dreaming of something a little tastier than that. Not sure how long Spragg’s contract is for but it comes after a successful trial period. And while there’s a fair bit of competition for the attacking spots on this team he should be straight in with the first team so that’s sweet.

Up Next: Away to Grama on Saturday at 9.45pm (NZT)

Marco Rojas – SønderjyskE (Danish Superliga)

A double gameweek saw Sonders first take on lower division Hvidovre in the cup followed by a home game against Brondby back in the ol’ league action. That cup game proved tricky though, not the walkover it might have been despite Sonders getting off to a smooth start in that first half. Marco Rojas did his thing in the 33rd minute, sneaking through the backline to slip one in under the keeper and double the lead they’d earned ten mins earlier as Christian Jakobsen scored a very similar goal. But somewhere along the way Hvidovre, who are currently in the relegation zone of the first division, bagged a couple of their own to take it into extra time. But goals late in each bonus stanza got Sonders into the fourth round – Johan Absalonsen and Mart Lieder with the strikes. 4-2 was the score.

Which means another goal for Marco Rojas, tack that on to the two he’s scored in the league this season. Speaking of which, Brondby coming to town was a sneaky important game between two teams likely to be on the fringes of the top six/bottom six, but Sonders have been in some useful form lately. That cup win made it five games unbeaten in all comps and they’re starting to turn those draws into wins and defeats into draws. No need for the latter here. Jakobsen smashed one in in the 33rd minute for the lead, before Lieder hit the post with a header. Rojas could have had an assist with a gorgeous curling free kick but it was headed wide of an open goal. Sonders largely dealt with what Brondby had to offer finally added a second through Patrick Jensen Banggaard with ten to play (a tap in after a keeper error) and a late free kick for the visitors proved only consolation. 2-1 to Sonders… and a rare gift here too as Marco Rojas played the entire ninety minutes in his eight starts (and two subs appearances) this season.

Up Next: 11pm on Sunday away to Esbjerg (NZT)

CJ Bott – Vittsjö GIK (Swedish Damallsvenskan)

That was from two weeks ago, but we missed it so there you go. A bit more context to how well CJ’s been playing.

It’s all on the line for Vittsjö over these last few weeks of the season but with a fixture list as tough as this, basically having to play all the other top teams in a row as they all challenge for that second Champions League spot, it’s a tough task. And it’s tougher now for losing 2-1 to Göteborg.

Honestly, it was a bit of a disaster to start. Rebekah Blomqvist ran onto a looping long ball after quarter of an hour which was misplayed by the centre-back and bang 1-0, perfect finish into the bottom corner. Then in the 24th Filippa Curmark picked up the ball outside the area, cut back onto her right foot, and curled one agonisingly past the Vittsjö keeper who got a hand to it but was too slow to react initially to be able to stop it.

This isn’t a team that scores a lot of goals so a comeback was not too likely. Still they threw all they had at it, devastated to see Ebba Hed’s attempt bounce away off the crossbar – same treatment as Michele De Jongh’s chipped free kick got a while later, although that one never really looked like it was heading in. Bott was subbed off in the 83rd minute, the final roll of the dice from the bench, and the Vitters did get one back from an Alexandra Benediktsson header with two minutes left… but it was too little too late. 2-1 to Göteborg and they jump up ahead of Vittsjö into second on the table now. Vittsjö hold onto third place thanks to Kristianstad only drawing at home against Piteå. With three games left for everyone, Rosengård need just one more win to lift the title, while there are three teams within three points going for second (and another two within six).

Highlights are available here.

Up Next: Vittsjö vs Kristianstad, 1am on Monday (NZT)

Erin Nayler – Girondins Bordeaux (French Division 1 Féminine)

Ah well it wasn’t gonna last forever. PSG away was a bonus game for Bordeaux, who might have beaten their closest rivals for third last time out but nobody expects them to be able to crack the premier duo of Lyon and PSG – the two powerhouses of French women’s footy (both on the field and at the banks).

Having said that, they did have a couple early chances to take the lead – Khadija Shaw smashing one into the side-netting from distance and then picking out the frame of the goal on another one having beaten the offside trap. But with the safety of the half-time whistle within sight, Marie-Antoinette Katoto finished flawlessly after Nadia Nadim had found space to march into the box and cross. And no sooner had they conceded one than they let in another. 42nd minute and then 44th. This time a misplaced header in the midfield caught the Bordeaux defence napping and even though it looked like Erin Nayler had gotten her angles pretty right, Onema Grace Geyoro’s finish was even tidier than Katoto’s, sliding an unstoppable one off the inside of the post.

PSG then turned on the style in the second half with the match under their control. Nayler made a sharp save at the near post before another shot came swooping up off the crossbar… which she miiiight also have gotten a fingertip or two on (the PSG forwards were demanding a corner kick so that’s usually a decent tell). Brazilian defender Kathellen Sousa then gave up a penalty after being beaten for pace by Katoto. That allowed Nadia Nadim to step up and complete the scoring with twenty left to play. Nayler went the right way but the spot kick was too good, as were PSG. 3-0 the final score.

Up Next: Bordeaux vs Giungamp, Monday 14 October at 1.45am (NZT)

Sarpreet Singh - Bayern Munich II (German Liga 3)

Nothing too drastic here. Just another assist, storming into the attacking third and slipping a ball through for Kwasi OKyere Wreidt to score the first of his three goals for the afternoon. Bayern 2 were away to Preußen Münster and when Singh then threaded through another lovely ball from midfield, this time picking out the run of Leon Dejaku on the right and his cross was put away by Oliver Batista Meier – Bayern 2 already up by two after just a dozen minutes and Sarpreet Singh was influential in both goals.

Twenty minutes later it was 3-0 and again Singh was involved. Shaped up on two defenders out on the right, he poked the ball between them to find Wreidt who let the ball roll across himself before thumping it low into the net. And that bloke had a hatty before the half-time break, effectively killing the game off there and then. Sarpreet Singh didn’t set him up but he did again play the pass before the pass, picking out Maximilian Welzmüller whose first time ball put Wreidt through to score. Singh was replaced with ten minutes left and Münster pulled one back soon after but 4-1 was still a commanding win – one which lifts Bayern 2 all the way up to the top half of the table.

(Which is a lot better than Tom Doyle’s Chemnitzer are managing these days, they lost 2-0 to SG this week with a red card late on which leaves them second to late – although at least Doyle’s getting some games these days, he’s started their last three games in a row).

Up Next: Midnight on Monday against Eintracht Braunschweig (NZT)

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

It was supposed to be a Flying Kiwis Derby of almighty potential, with Katie Bowen against Rosie White with a place in the top four pretty much on the line. Except that then the lineups were announced for this midweek fixture and both the Footy Ferns were on the respective benches. For White it was a matter of Reign FC having so many options in those positions while for Bowen it was a tactical gamble, Gunny Jonsdottir starting instead of her presumably for some super duper extra attacking push.

Bethany Balcer scored the opener for Seattle, squeezing one past Nicole Barnhart in goal (who had already coughed up a couple passes out from the back, giving the away bench a pair of cardiac crises). Katie Stengel levelled up for Utah in the second half… however English international Jodie Taylor volleyed in a winner in the 86th minute to leave Utah’s finals hopes in tatters. Katie Bowen was subbed on just before the goal was scored while Rosie White watched on from the bench the whole time.

Bowen again on the bench a few days later away to Chicago Red Stars and this time that tactic worked a little better as Jonsdottir actually set up Utah’s goal, Christen Press cancelling out Vanessia DiBernardo’s strike within two minutes of it going in, those two coming late in the first half. But late in the second half came another. Yuki Nagasato with the winner to officially rule Utah out of contention for the top four. Katie Bowen was an unused sub for the only time this season. She’d started the first 17 games that she was available for (the World Cup obviously ruling her out of a few as well).

Which at least is a pleasant bonus for Rosie White’s Seattle Reign, who are now assured of at least fourth spot and a semi-final place after beating Portland Thorns 2-0 on the weekend and they travel to bottom-placed Orlando in the final week to try and edge up to third (which they can do with a win and a Portland loss vs Washington). However Rosie White was again an unused sub in that Portland win. Too many options coming back to form and fitness all at once, basically.

Up Next: Utah vs Houston, 2pm on Sunday (NZT)

Ali Riley – Bayern Munich (German Bundesliga)

Ali Riley didn’t feature as Bayern romped to a 4-0 win over Duisburg in the Bundesliga this weekend. Lina Magull scored a double and Jovana Damnjanovic and Nicole Rolser scored the other two, three of them coming in the second half. But that’s because Ali Riley had already done her thing for the week in the Champions League second leg tie against Göteborg. Riley started that one and played the first half before being replaced with Bayern a little nervous sitting on that 2-1 lead from the first leg. Riley went close to setting up a goal for Damnjanovic but after sending the ball long into the penalty area, JD’s attempt came back off the post. Rebecka Blomqvist would score against CJ Bott’s Vittsjö a few days later in a devastating result for them. She scored here in the 80th minute to put Bayern on notice for a devastating result for another Flying Kiwi… however Göteborg weren’t able to find the second goal that they needed. A 1-0 defeat for Bayern but they advance on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate scoreline. Phew.

Up Next: There’s an international break before Bayern takes on Hoffenheim away on Sunday 13 October at midnight (NZT)

Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

Two games. Two points. 180 minutes of action for Bill Tuiloma. Two different CB partners for him. All sorts of madness going on around him. Against the New England Revolution, Tui was paired with his buddy Larrys Mabiala and when Jeremy Ebobisse scored his second of the day (a complete fluke btw, he managed somehow to kick the ball in with his heel whilst diving for a header) in the 81st minute to make it 2-0, things were looking sweet. Portland were on their way to three points… or at least they thought they were.

What happened instead was that Gustavo Bou scored five minutes later to make it 2-1, getting to the near post ahead of Tuiloma to finish. Then a VAR intervention in the sixth minute of injury time led to a penalty being awarded for a bit of shirt-pulling (it was a dive but the shirt-pulling was for real so it goes) and Carles Gil buried it for a dramatic late equaliser.

Safe to say it was dramatic but then a few days later there was even more of that away to Sporting Kansas City. Portland were leading 1-0 thanks to a Seb Blanco finish off the crossbar and in before Krisztian Nemeth headed in on half an hour to level things. Then the chirpiness happened. Brian Fernandez was chopped down by Felipe Gutiérrez down the sideline and both players were booked as tempers flared. Fernandez didn’t calm down though and the ref changed his mind and gave him a red instead. But just to keep it even, the VAR spotted that Roger Espinoza had shoved at the throat of a Timbers player and he was sent off too.

All that didn’t stop SKC from taking the lead through Daniel Salloi straight after the break but we weren’t quite done with the cards here. Ilie Sanchez of SKC also saw red deep into this one after he dragged down Ebobisse as the last man. Dairon Asprilla scored to snatch a useful point.

What it all means is that Portland cannot finish lower than eighth and seventh is the cut-off for the playoffs, so a point in their final game against that eighth placed team San Jose Earthquakes would be enough to book their playoff tickets while a win will ensure they end up in sixth and not seventh for a slightly better seeding. Either way there’s a decent chance they face Mike Boxall’s Minnesota United in the first round.

Up Next: Home vs San Jose on Monday at 9am (NZT)

Tommy Smith – Colorado Rapids (American Major League Soccer)

The Rapids, with Tommy Smith a stately figure at the back after his recent heroics, saved one of their best performances of the season for Tim Howard’s final home game in Rapids colours before retirement. Jack Price scored early, Diego Rubio doubled it in first half injury time, then Kei Kamara made sure of it in the second half as Colorado beat FC Dallas 3-0 to keep their slim chances of making the playoffs with a noticeable pulse. Remember when Anthony Hudson was coaching them and they were the worst team in the league? Yup. Ninety mins for Smith along with a ceremonial clean sheet for Timmy’s sake. Lovely stuff.

Up Next: Away to LAFC, Monday at 9am (NZT)

Ria Percival – Tottenham Hotspur (English Super League)

It was a poignant day for Ria Percival, not only playing in front of a big crowd at London Stadium but of course a game against West Ham is a game against her former club. It was also a day for celebrations as Spurs made it back to back wins in the league, running out to a 2-0 victory here. Rianna Dean scored the first with an excellent header from an even more excellent Rosella Ayane cross before Lucy Quinn secured the points in the 83rd minute. In between the Hammers had all sorts of chances and somehow the desperate defence of Spurs was able to deny them. Ria Percival included, she played right back here which is where she mostly played for West Ham last season. Definitely rode their luck at times but that’s a solid win for Spurs.

This is probably one to forget though… do yourself a favour and don’t read the comments from all the knuckle-draggers and bottom-feeders out there on this one (that’s a general rule on the internet).

Up Next: Tottenham vs Man United, Monday 14 Oct at 12.30am (NZT)

Olivia Chance – Bristol City (English Super League)

The good news is that Olivia Chance started and played the full game for Bristol City, already endearing herself to her new team and winning more opportunities. The bad news is that they were at home to Chelsea and got pretty thoroughly picked apart, being down 3-0 after 18 minutes and going on to lose by four. Guro Reiten (2), Jo So-yun, and Sophia Ingle scored the goals. Bristol City had one shot and it was off target… probably best to just move on then.

Up Next: Liverpool vs BC, Monday 14 October at midnight (NZT)

Jeremy Brockie & Dan Morgan – Maritzburg United (South African Premier Soccer League)

It’s been a long time in coming but Brockie finally made his first appearance of the new season, starting for Maritzburg against Chippa United. Even since he went on loan to the Team of Choice it’s still been a long wait, having to sit through bye weeks and being unavailable against his parent club. And when he finally took the field for Maritzburg… well, he was a tad rusty, to be fair.

18 minutes in and Maritzburg won a penalty. Mxolisi Kunene was brought down in the box and the ref said yeah righto then. Up stepped Jeremy Brockie looking for that perfect debut… but his penalty was saved. He then also missed a close ranger, while his teammate William Twala whacked a half-volley into the post. Maritzburg finally scored one through Thabiso Kutumela three minutes before the break. Micah Lea’alafa played the first half but was subbed off at HT, after which Maritzburg continued to waste chances… but they held on to win it 1-0 for their first three-pointer of the season. He might not have been at his best but that’s a 100% record for Jeremy Brockie. Dan Morgan also played the ninety minutes, helping that lot to a clean sheet. Brockie was subbed off as the final change in the 72nd minute, a defender coming on in his place with that slender lead.

In other news, Andre De Jong’s AmaZulu played twice this week but lost both without scoring. 2-0 at home against Kaizer Chiefs and 1-0 away to SuperSport United. The first game the two goals were both scored in the last eight minutes of the game while the second game the goal was a penalty kick. ADJ didn’t play the KC game at all but he started and played 59 minutes of the SSU one.

Up Next: Maritzburg vs Baroka, Thursday at 6.30am (NZT)

Elliot Collier – Memphis 901 FC (American USL Championship)

Back at it with the USL crew this week because damn they were solid. Collier scored the opener in a 5-0 win for Memphis 901. With four games left Memphis are well outside of playoff contention but this was their biggest ever victory as a club.

Up Next: Away to Indy Eleven – his old team – on Sunday at midday (NZT)

Sam Brotherton – North Carolina FC (American USL Championship)

Ah yes, what a growler. Old mate got that one for a man of the match performance in a 3-1 win over Ottawa Fury. NCFC were trailing after just four minutes and Brotherton’s goal tied it up early in the second half before they won it with a couple late strikes, how about it? This was a very useful win in terms of making sure they stay in those playoff spots too.

Speaking of which, James Musa’s been getting a nice run in the team for Phoenix Rising lately and although their 20-game winning streak came to an end (yes, twenty wins in a row, no typo), they’re still way out in front with the best record in the USL and will be big favourites to win the whole thing when those playoffs do begin. Kyle Adams is the other kiwi in the comp and his RGV Toros won’t be cracking that stage. The Simon Elliott-coached Sacramento Republic are clinging on to a spot as things stand while Cameron Knowles’ Portland 2 (which Bill Tuiloma has played a couple times for in 2019) are still mathematically in contention but realistically they won’t be there.

Up Next: NCFC vs NY Red Bulls Reserves, Sunday at midday (NZT)

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