Flying Kiwis – October 8

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Ryan Thomas – PSV Eindhoven (Dutch Eredivisie)

With five minutes to go in a routine 4-1 win over VVV-Venlo, something substantial happened. It was just before they scored the fourth goal but the win was already in the bag and coach Mark van Bommel made his third and final substitution, replacing midfielder Erick Gutiérrez with some guy called Ryan Thomas.

Yep, after all this time ol’ Thommo has finally made his debut. It was all the way back on 10 August 2018 that he was officially announced as a PSV player but an injury in one of his first training sessions kept him out for 14 months and now he’s taken the field for the Dutch icons in a proper game for the first time. He played five minutes plus a couple more of injury time. Nothing else to really mention about a tidy but minimal cameo but its significance as a milestone is pretty huge. It’s been a long time coming… so long that we’ve probably forgotten what a big deal this is having a kiwi at a club like PSV Eindhoven.

The lad had already featured on the bench in three Eredivisie games (no matchday squads yet in the Europa League, where squad sizes are more limited) but this was the first time he’d been called upon to actually play. He came on in a midfield duo alongside Pablo Rosario though he has mentioned the possibility of playing further forward for this team as well. In terms of where he fits in though, that deeper role competing with Rosario and Gutiérrez is the most competitive one for him. Just gotta get some more minutes under the belt until he’s challenging for starts as well.

Ryan Thomas: "Great, I feel very good. Finally. It was a very difficult period, but it's so beautiful to be back with the boys. Of course I have been training with the group in recent weeks and I have also traveled with the boys to competitions. That was the moment that I felt like a PSV player again. This really makes it even better.”

As for the game itself? It was still 0-0 with an hour played. PSV had endured some nervous moments in the early stages but had settled into a dominant control of possession and it was a matter of whether they could find the creativity in attack (and dodge a few counters coming back the other way). Well, Steven Bergwijn figured that one out as he cut inside from the right, slashed his marker a couple times, and hoofed in the opener. A couple minutes later fullback Denzel Dumfries headed in at the far post after a corner wasn’t quite cleared. Then completing a ten minute smash and grab was Donyell Malen who broke the offside trap to make it 3-0. VVV pulled one back through Tobias Pachonik’s thumping volley but Malen got his second almost immediately after Thommo came on and there ya go. The win means PSV keep pace with Ajax, the two giants level on 23 points after nine games each. Neither has been beaten in the league yet.

Up Next: Utrecht vs PSV Eindhoven, Sunday 20 October at 7.45am (NZT)

Chris Wood - Burnley FC (English Premier League)

Did Burnley play well at home against Everton this week? Not really. Definitely not as well as they’ve played in a few other games recently. Did Chris Wood score for the third game in a row? Nah that didn’t happen either, annoyingly. But did they win? Hells yeah they did.

Jeff Hendrick scored the winner with a sharp volley in the 72nd minute, after Everton had already been reduced to ten men following a naughty challenge from Seamus Coleman on Dwight McNeil. Everton had arguably had the best of it up until the red card but once Burnley took the lead they were too experienced to let it slip. It was a win that had Burnley briefly as high as fourth and they’re still sitting pretty in seventh going into the international break.

A quiet one for The Woodsman, to be honest. He and Ashley Barnes toiled away with great enthusiasm but chances were rare for Burnley and they had just three shots between them, all off target. Wood only had one of them despite playing ninety minutes while Barnes was subbed off when the straight after the goal. If you get the win though, nobody’s too worried.  

Burnley Express Player Ratings: Chris Wood - Couldn't add to his recent goal tally, but always asking questions of Everton's defence. Played off the shoulder well, stretched the game and constantly looking to chase the ball in the channels. 7/10”

Up Next: Away to Leicester at 3am on Sunday 20 October (NZT)

Ali Riley – Bayern Munich (German Bundesliga)

October in Germany, y’all know what that means!

It was an international window for the ladies this week, yet another one (naturally New Zealand weren’t included in the festivities) so not a lot of female presence this week – which will be flipped next week when the gents have their own international break. Even the NWSL took a break (except for one catch up game that didn’t include any NZers).

But there is one other bit of news here because the draw for the Champions League round of sixteen was conducted this week and Bayern sure got a good one. They could have drawn the likes of Arsenal or Atletico Madrid but instead they drew qualifiers from Kazakhstan: BIIK-Kazygurt. That lot actually had the second highest UEFA coefficient (which is how the seedings were decided) from the unseeded half of the draw and they knocked out Anderlecht in the previous round so no simple task but Bayern will be big favourites all the same.

Up Next: Midnight on Sunday away to Hoffenheim (NZT)

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

Away to Seattle Sounders, Minnesota’s final game of the regular season was effectively a playoff for second place on the ladder. A win for either side and second place was theirs. A draw and Minnesota’s goal difference would allow them to sneak on in there.

But Seattle’s a tough place to play and after a slow-ish start, the hosts began to take control of the game after 20-odd minutes and it came largely through Jovin Jones on the right hand side. After a couple chances that keeper Vito Mannone was able to deny comfortably enough, it was Jones who curled one in on his left foot that Roman Torres headed in for the lead. Pretty much unmarked. They almost scored again soon after but Mannone managed to tip a shot past the post.

Then, having withstood all that, Minnesota should’ve been level as Ethan Finlay took advantage of an awkward bounce on the astroturf to get in behind the defence but his finish one on one with the keeper hit the post and went wide. Both teams traded headers over the top in the second half and Minnesota did have a little more of the running… but time was fast ticking away and they just couldn’t find the equaliser. 1-0 was the way it ended and Seattle clinch second.

However there was still some good news as Minny Utd old boy Christian Rodriguez scored a double for Houston in their 4-2 win over LA Galaxy, meaning Minnesota will still get a home playoff after all. In fact the Loons, who finish fourth in the regular season Western Conference, will face that very same LA Galaxy team in the first round. The two teams drew in Minnesota and LA Galaxy won in Los Angeles this season but Minny have only lost once at home all year.

By the way, here’s a thing that happened last week. And the goal that led to it.

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MNUFC.com: “Boxall makes the Team of the Week for the first time this season. His 75th minute goal on Sunday tied the game for the Loons as they went on to take a point off the Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC. He also made two key interceptions and a pair of clearances to relieve pressure. The New Zealand international cleaned up the MNUFC penalty area on Wednesday night as well, sweeping away five clearances, including two with his head.”

Up Next: Minnesota United vs LA Galaxy, MLS Playoffs, Monday 21 October at 1.30pm (NZT)

Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

Oh look, that’s nice. Especially since Billy had a couple stints out of the starting eleven as well, one at the beginning of the year before he forced his way in there and then again more recently when he was out injured.

And he’s also gone and forced his way into the MLS playoffs too, just quietly. Needing to at least avoid defeat in a sort of playoff for the playoffs against San Jose Earthquakes, Portland took the lead through Tui’s CB partner Larrys Mabiala, then responded to Chris Wondolowski’s equaliser (Tui tumbling over him as he headed in at the near post) with second half goals to Dairon Asprilla and Sebastian Blanco to win it 3-1 and that was all they needed. Books them in a match away to Real Salt Lake in two weeks’ time as Portland try to go one better than the runners-up they were in 2018.

Up Next: Sunday 20 October at 3pm, away to Real Salt Lake in the MLS Playoffs (NZT)

Tommy Smith – Colorado Rapids (American Major League Soccer)

One last game for the Rapids… who did still technically have a chance at making the playoffs but that would have required them beating LAFC away from home and… yeah nah. They didn’t. Carlos Vela scored a hatty and LAFC won it 3-1, Kei Kamara briefly making it 2-1 before half-time. Even if they had won it wouldn’t have gotten them in there since they needed FC Dallas to lose and instead that lot won 6-0 against Sporting KC. But one last game for Smithy this year, always nice. He got a close up view of history too as the nearest defender for the first couple goals too (nothing more he coulda done about the first, the second maybe but still an impressive finish) as Vela’s three strikes saw him break the MLS goal scoring record as he shifts focus to the playoffs after scoring 31 times in 35 games in 2019 – along with 15 more assists (third in those standings).

Smith completes his season then with 27 games played. Deklan Wynne, who has been out injured since _, also played _ times in 2019 for the Rapids. In fact let’s take a peek at the four kiwis and their stats over the season, bearing in mind that Boxall and Tuiloma still have playoffs games to play.

Tommy Smith (COL) – 27 GP | 2415 MIN | 3 G | 2 A | 3 YC | 1 RC

Deklan Wynne (COL) – 11 GP | 917 MIN | 0 G | 0 A | 0 YC | 0 RC

Bill Tuiloma (POR) – 25 GP | 1919 MIN | 1 G | 0 A | 1 YC | 0 RC

Michael Boxall (MIN) – 29 GP | 2577 MIN | 2 G | 0 A | 3 YC | 0 RC

Smithy has a team option for next season which will be interesting to see if they sign, he’s been one of the more consistent dudes on the roster but he’s also an Anthony Hudson remnant so hard to say which way it goes. Deklan Wynne’s even deeper in that murk as he’s been out injured since the start of June and the team did pretty well without him. Local youngster Sam Vines has kinda made that left back role his own… although Wynne didn’t exactly specialise in one spot in the backline. He’s coming off contract now. Tuiloma and Boxall are also coming up on the end of their current deals but are much more likely to be retained given how they’ve performed.

Up Next: That long, long offseason

Marco Rojas – SønderjyskE (Danish Superliga)

Sonders absolutely bottled an early chance to take the lead away at Esbjerg, with Christian Jakobsen lifting a relatively easy one clean over the bar on the break. The sort of chance you can’t help but feel regretful about the longer you’re stuck scoreless, as Sonders were as this game trickled onwards towards its final third. But then Mart Lieder scored after an errant backpass (Rojas involved in a little high pressing there, though nothing significant) and then Stefan Gartenmann added another soon after, with Sonders surviving a bit of a scramble at the break before clearing the ball out wide left to Marco Rojas who carried it forwards with purpose. He tried to switch the ball to the space on the other side but his pass was a bit mud and got picked off. But no dramas because Sonders recovered it, whipped in a cross to the far post, and Gartenmann buried it.

Esbjerg were gifted the chance to get back into it after 75 minutes when then earned a penalty for a foul by Alexander Bah but Joni Kauko missed it, glancing his shot off the crossbar. That gave Sonders enough room to cling on for the three points. Marco Rojas was subbed off in the 85th minute and although Yuriy Yakovenko did pull one back for the hosts in stoppage time it was too late. 2-1 to Sonders who are sitting seventh currently but are only two points off third.

Up Next: 1am on Monday 21 October at home against Nordsjælland (NZT)

Nikko Boxall – Viborg FF (Danish Division 1)

Dropping down a division and there was good news as Nikko Boxall was back in the starting team after a little spell on the bench. He was subbed off at half-time of a 2-2 draw with Fredericia back in mid-August and had only started once in the league since then. But defeat against Kolding IF seems to have shaken the tree a little and Nikko was recalled for a relatively routine 2-0 win over Roskilde, in which both goals were scored early, and Viborg got three crucial points after losing a little ground in their promotion push. They’re currently third, three points off top.

Up Next: Viborg vs Fremad Amager, Saturday 19 October at 5am (NZT)

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

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How we feel about bye weekends 😕

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Up Next: Last game of the regular season, top spot all locked up, home vs Sky Blue on Sunday at midday (NZT)

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

Morecambe brought the late drama with a two goal comeback last week against Northampton capped in the third minute of injury time for a 2-2 draw. Which they followed up in the Football League Trophy in the midweek against Wolves U21s, an 81st minute goal getting them a 2-2 draw although they went on to lose the extra group stage point by going down on penalties. Steven Old scored his to make it 4-3 to Morecambe with one spottie left each only Michael Howard missed his chance to tie, Wolves scored their next, and Carlos Mendes Gomes missed again for the Shrimps to lose. So a bit of a bummer there.

But not as much of a bummer as the 3-1 defeat they copped away to Port Vale this weekend. A beauty of a goal by John O’Sullivan had them up in the 18th minute but then Jordan Cranston idiotically kicked out at an opponent and was sent off. The Shrimps held onto their lead into the break but then got thumped in the second half, goals to Luke Joyce and a double for Tom Pope capping it off. Steven Old played every minute of these three games (one of only three remaining starters for the EFL Trophy game) but it’s getting ugly for Morecambe who are second to last with 7 points from 12 games and just one win amongst them.

Up Next: Sunday at 3am against Bradford City (NZT)

Sarpreet Singh - Bayern Munich II (German Liga 3)

At home against Eintracht Braunschweig this week and there wasn’t nearly the same level of chill as the previous game. How Bayern weren’t down by multiple goals even just quarter of an hour into this thing was crazy, after a couple bad misses from the Braunschweig attackers (a deflected shot that was saved, a giveaway from the B2 keeper that was put wide, another clear look poked wide). But Bayern II then went one better with a nicely worked move of their own to score through Leon Dajaku - Sarpreet Singh hovering on the edge of the area uninvolved this time.

And having clung on to that scoreline until the end, they saw a header knocked over the top right at the end with Braunie chucking everyone forward including the goalkeeper for a late set piece and with the quick restart Bayern were able to score a second, Dajaku launching one from out wide on halfway with the keeper still dashing back. A defender got there but couldn’t stop it. 2-0 to B2. Quiet one from Sarpreet but another 90 minutes in the bag just doing his thing for a team that’s finding some decent form lately.

Up Next: Zwickau vs BM2, Monday 21 October at midnight (NZT)

Max Mata - Nõmme Kalju FC (Estonian Meistriliiga)

The wins continue to flow for NKFC and Max Mata is getting well in amongst the goals. He’s already threatening to walk away with the club’s golden boot despite signing midseason, scoring nine times in ten league games for the Estonian side. The latest was a 1-0 win away to Paide with Mata scoring the only goal ten minutes into things. Kalju survived a second half red card to hold on and win that one, a crucial game that lifts them ahead of their rivals and into third place with four more league games remaining in the season. Mata himself got a yellow late in the piece and the goal here continues his hot streak since returning from those two games against Aussie for the U23s – he scored in four straight after that one and has six goals in seven games all up after returning with Kalju winning the last six in a row. Things are going alright for him then, it seems.

Up Next: Paide III vs Nomme Kalju, Saturday at 11pm (NZT)

Nik Tzanev – AFC Wimbledon (English League One)

First team games have been hard to come by for Tzanev since West Ham loanee Nathan Trott returned from injury. After that particular injury allowed for Tzanev to start the first two games of the season for the Dons, he’s been on the bench for the subsequent ten league games with Trott playing nine of them and their other keeper Joe McConnell getting a cheeky run out in another. So a London Senior Cup game against the Met Police was a decent opportunity to get a workout in. Despite this not exactly being a prestigious trophy for a Football League team, they still named a half useful eleven, with six players including Tzanev who have League One experience. But some sloppy finishing meant they weren’t able to put anything away and this one ended 0-0, going into penalties. Which allowed Tzanev to be the hero as AFC Wimbledon won it 6-5 on spotties. Here’s some dodgy video of the match.

Up Next: EFL Trophy against Leyton Orient on Wednesday at 7.30am (NZT)

Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)

Manuel Pellegrini: “The problem with Winston is that, two or three times before when he was ready to start, he had another muscle injury. We need to be calm and patient with him. He will start playing with the U23s and, as soon as he’s able to play with the first team, he’ll be involved also.”

That sounds like a valid approach. Nice and patient. Get him ready for that November international window with the All Whites… or not, whatever works. It’s been 17 months since he last played a Premier League game and the chat about the U23s comeback has been around for a couple weeks now. All a matter of patience though.

Up Next: Patience, of course

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