Flying Kiwis – February 26

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Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

The man, the myth. Christopher Grant Wood. They say that if you look closely enough on the Burnley club logo you can actually see his name tattooed into the palm of that random hand thing waving out from inside the shield. Because they knew, they always knew. And now the prophecies have come true.

It was the 57th minute of the game, Burnley versus Tottenham Hotspur at Turf Moor. Spurs had been a little sluggish in the first half after their bus arrived an hour late at the ground, though they were boosted by the return of an old teammate of Chris Wood’s… Harry Hotspur Kane himself. Back in the day when they were on loan at Leicester together with Jamie Vardy, who could have predicted? However Spurs may have had their main lad back but they spent most of the first half passing the ball around without the intensity to break down a resurgent Burnley defence – one which has been back where it used to be basically from the moment Tom Heaton returned and he proved that with a magnificent save to deny Kane from distance early in the second half.

Which brings us to the 57th minute. Burnley had been scrapping away nicely against the back three of Tottenham. They’d just won a corner kick, which defender Jan Vertonghen was not too happy about. He believed the ball had come off midfielder Jeff Hendrick last and replays suggested he had more than a fair point. But a corner kick it was and Dwight McNeil swung it in beautifully, allowing Chris Wood to shrug off the attentions of Juan Foyth and ping it was in off the crossbar. Brilliant cross leading to a brilliant header which even if they’d had a bloke on the post he wouldn’t have had a chance. A sixth goal in eight games for C.Wood.

Harry Kane showed his class nine minutes later when he got on the end of a long throw down the sideling from Danny Rose, held off a defender as he dribbled towards goal, and slipped the ball past Heaton to score an excellent goal. Spurs had finally found some cutting edge having dominated 70-odd percent of possession for minimal clear attempts. That livened the game right up and fair to say things got stroppy. A few cads came flying out – Chris Wood himself needed a bit of medical treatment after getting clattered in a challenge. Then Ashley Barnes scored. 83rd minute and Johann Berg Gudmundsson rolled one to the far post where Barnesy was lurking. Burnley then did their thing and killed off the rest of the clash as well as they could and they had themselves a famous 2-1 victory.

That might just kill Spurs’ title hopes and Mauricio Pochettino wasn’t having it, giving the ref a serve after the final whistle (it was Mike Dean so yeah) presumably because of the corner that led to Woody’s goal. Ah, the drama. A far as Burnley goes though, this was massive. Gets them more than a game clear of the relegation zone with 30 points, and extends their league unbeaten streak to eight games. Heaps of reasons for the turnaround. Tom Heaton has been the main one. The partnership between Mee and Tarkowski as well.

But the strike partnership up top… mate. They didn’t have the most to do when their team only had 30% of the ball but they were both just fantastic. Real physical and decisive on the ball, supporting each other with a complete understanding on how they each play. The two go way back to their Brighton days and it shows. The Clarets have finally stumbled on their best pair of strikers and with Sam Vokes now at Stoke(s) they’re getting regular minutes together and looking great.

Preach it, Gazza!

That’s ten goals for the season now, Woody hitting double figures in each of his two campaigns with the Clarets. Still a fair while to go as well.

Chris Wood: “I’m pleased with double figures and hopefully there’s a lot more to come before the end of the season. I’m sure Barnesy and I will be looking to get as many as we can. We have a good relationship together at the moment and long may it continue. We are on a good run at the moment and we feel we can beat anybody on our day. We’ve climbed up the league again, but still nowhere near where we would like to be. “\We want to get ourselves well away from this relegation zone as soon as possible and if we can get a few more wins of the board we can hopefully look up, rather than down.”

Sean Dyche: “They are doing really well. I spoke to them and said that when they are playing hard and with the quality they have and the movement they have and the pace and the energy they have then they are a handful for anyone. The last game in particular at Brighton I thought they were outstanding, both of them. Every team needs a front and when you have a front to your team it makes you a better team. That is why the centre forwards are worth all the money. They are putting in the work, not just the quality, they are putting in the work now. It is not that they weren’t, there was just little bit more edge to what they are doing. They have been really strong in training again this week and I am enjoying everyone’s performance but them in particular. They have been very, very good.”

There are truly wonderful times.

Up Next: Wednesday at 9am away to Newcastle (NZT)

Tyler Boyd – MKE Ankaragücü (Turkish SuperLig)

That’s the fella. Looks strangely like a goal celebration, right? That is correct. Early second half and Boyd worked his way into the middle of the goal to deliciously flick the low cross from out wide past the keeper for his first goal with his new club.

25th minute of the game, that goal was cancelled out by BŞB Erzurumspor’s Kristian Fardal Opseth just after the second half resumed with a low curling free kick that the keeper probably should’ve done better with. But old mate there turned villain with quarter of an hour left when he was red carded, a second yellow, leaving Boyd’s lot just enough time against ten men to make it count. Dever Orgill, who had set up Boyd’s goal, looked to have scored the winner in the 83rd but a handball by himself in the process ended that dream. No matter, just had to wait until the third minute of injury time to get one that counted. It was Orgill again too. Boyd crossed in from the left, it was nodded back across from the far post, and Orgill struck it on the spin. A heavy deflection allowed the ball to pitch and spin with enough leg spin to get him a crack in the Blackcaps and there it was.

A 2-1 win for MKE Ankaragücü means they move back within four points of the top half of the ladder. Goals were a problem when they made a few midseason signings, Boyd included, and already they’re seeing the benefits of that wisdom.

Getting rowdy in the changing room to celebrate but Tyler, bouncing on the seats on the left, forgot to look at the camera.

Up Next: Saturday at 6.30am away to Antalyaspor (NZT)

Katie Rood – Lewes (English Championship)

Lewes needed a bit of extra attacking expertise for the second half of the season. They’d already brought in a new manager in Fran Alonso and were seeking to alter a pretty drastic downward spiral of results. In came Katie Rood to take care of business (and one or two others, sure). Initially they showed signs of improvement but the results didn’t follow. A 2-0 defeat to London Bees in the league was followed by a 1-0 defeat to Millwall in the FA Cup. That meant five consecutive games where they’d lost without scoring and a run of 13 games with just one win.

Then they went to Crystal Palace and it all clicked. In front of a crowd which included Palace first teamers Mamadou Sakho, Bakary Sako and Wilfried Zaha, Lewes took the lead in the eighth minute as Sarah Kempson converted from the penalty spot. A first goal since December 6 for the entire team. And with the shackles busted they were looking good for a few more. Palace had their chances too, to be fair, however it was Lewes who were able to make the best of them. Katie Rood and the rest of the frontline were looking sharp, busting in behind the defence, beating defenders, all that good stuff. Roodie had a few cracks at goal. She also took a crack to the leg which needed a bit of treatment early in the second half, ice pack out and everything… though she was all good to carry on. By the way, Palace came up big time with a slick live stream of the game on yootoob.

Palace began the first half strongly and were unlucky not to level up when Faye Baker saved Hannah MacKenzie’s shot from distance. Lewes dug through that spell of pressure and then had a shot tipped onto the crossbar from range themselves before Roodie set up the second, beating her defender three times down the left wing before cutting it back to Jess King who thumped it into the roof of the net from the edge of the area.

That pretty much decided this one between a couple sides each desperate for points to move up clear of the lowlands of the table. But there was still time for one more lovely moment to put a final polish on a 3-0 victory…

The FA: “The only thing missing from Rood’s performance was a goal and she finally got on the scoresheet with five minutes remaining. After being brought down in the box she stepped up and slotted the resulting penalty, cool as a cucumber, to cap off a perfect night for the visitors.”

Up Next: Football Ferns play on Friday night, get ready…

Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (English Super League)

Good chat. And good footy from Chelsea too who head into the international break after a comprehensive demolishing of Bristol City, winning it 6-0. Fran Kirby scored a hat-trick and Beth England scored… a hat-trick also. Ali Riley was part of a double sub with twenty minutes left with the score already at 4-0, along with fellow fullback Jess Carter. Riley’s still settling into the Chelsea squad and is pretty much a wider squad player at the moment, with Hannah Blundell and Jonna Andersson the definite starting fullbacks. Hence she’s played on the left wing a few times to get some extra minutes. Get in where you fit in, you know.

Up Next: Liverpool at 8am on Thursday 14 March… once Footy Ferns duty is done (NZT)

Meikayla Moore & Emma Rolston – MSV Duisburg (German Frauen-Bundesliga)

At home to mid-table Freiburg, something pretty cool happened. Both Meikayla Moore and Emma Rolston were named to start for MSV Duisburg.

That’s about where the happiness ends though. The Zebras were 3-0 down within forty minutes and Emma Rolston was subbed off in the 43rd, not sure if that was injury related or a tactical thing with the game getting away from them. Moore played the whole ninety but all that meant was that she got to witness all six goals that they conceded along the way in a 6-1 defeat that leaves Duisburg hovering way too close to the relegation zone to feel comfortable.

This, erm… isn’t the most glowing report ever written: “Above all, the New Zealander Moore caught a completely black day: She made numerous bad passes that the game structure as good as not at all worked. Her countrywoman Emma Rolston, who had come back after a long injury break, was next to the track - symbolic that she was substituted two minutes before the break.”

Weird Google translate aside. Meikayla Moore has been a regular all season though and she’s made a habit her whole career of stepping up to the challenge so expect a booming response. Rollo’s had fewer opportunities so fingers crossed this isn’t too damaging for her prospects – it’s not like anyone covered themselves in glory in a 6-1 defeat.

Up Next: Sunday 17 March at 11pm away to Borussia Munchengladbach (NZT)

Ria Percival – West Ham United (English Super League)

Two goals from Alisha Lehmann and West Ham survived a second half penalty from Fara Williams to beat Reading 2-1 away from home and leap ahead of them into sixth on the ladder. There’s now a couple weeks off with an international break so this was a huge result. Ninety minutes for Ria Percival at right back and her aggressive attacking instinct from the back is becoming a real factor in how West Ham like to break forwards on the counter.

Percy was on corner kick duty a couple times, almost setting up a goal for Brooke Hendrix. Sounds like that penalty was a real shout too. All in all another impressive performance ahead of the Nations Cup with the Footy Ferns and most importantly a crucial result for WHU.

Up Next: West Ham plays next on 14 March against Everton (NZT)

Themi Tzimopoulos – PAS Giannina (Greek Superleague)

Not too much going on here. Just felt like time to check in with Themi. The big fella was a little in and out of the team at the start of things but has since re-established himself as a first teamer for certain and has started 19 of 22 league games. But the wins have been sparse, only getting six of them with their 20 points leaving them in a relegation playoff spot in fourth-to-last on the table. Still eight more games to turn it all around, although they have lost four of their last five games – the latest being a 1-0 defeat away to Panaitolikos, with a late goal to a guy called Arghus the difference. No secret where PAS needs to improve as they’ve only scored 15 goals in 22 games.

Up Next: Home vs Xanthi at 6.30am on Sunday (NZT)

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

Mate, two games in a week and injury to Sam Lavelle means that Oldie got to play 180 minutes, with a couple contrasting results. Away to Oldham it took just four minutes before the Shrimps were in front thanks to Jordan Cranston. A real quick start and they created plenty more chances in that first half… until they felt the pressure coming back the other way. It was still 1-0 at HT but then with quarter of an hour left Jose Baxter got up between Ritchie Sutton and Steven Old in central defence to head in the equaliser. A kinda desperate Morecambe then threw blokes forward. And they got their rewards in the last minute of the normal ninety as Aaron Collins, having come off the bench to score the winner a few days earlier on his club debut, came off the bench to score the winner in his second game too. What a lad.

Not so much to say about the weekend’s game as Morecambe hosted top of the table Lincoln City and fell 2-0 to a Bruno Andrade double, one in each half. It could have been a few more, to be honest – they nearly scored a third when Steven Old gave the ball away cheaply on the edge of his own penalty area. He has been making a few errors lately which doesn’t bode too well for when Lavelle is fit again. Take it as it comes. No dramas, the win on Wednesday night gets them five points clear of the relegation zone with a dozen games to play.

Up Next: Away to Yeovil Town, Sunday at 4am (NZT)

Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)

Green Street Hammers: “Speaking of leadership, Winston Reid’s return is a welcomed voice back in the West Ham locker room. The Kiwi centre-back was thought to be out longterm, missing the entire season, but alas he’s back and training. Realistically, he won’t be back in the team unless there is an injury but there has to be a better feeling with the long-term vice-captain back in training. Reid’s place at West Ham is interesting. This season if he gets game-fit I imagine he’ll be fighting Angelo Ogbonna for a place on the bench as the third-string centre-back. Moving forward, Ogbonna could be off to his native Italy this summer to play out his days in his home country. With Reid extremely injury prone and on contract until 2023, West Ham could opt for him to be their depth defender next season and beyond. I’d imagine the only games Reid gets into this year will be with the U23 team. If he is the long-term contingency plan for Pellegrini at centre-back there is no need to risk his health this season with Ogbonna fully capable to step into the first team. It will also boost Ogbonna’s value should he be moved in the summer.”

Up Next: Let’s not get carried away too quickly – he hasn’t played since March 2018

All The American Major League Soccer Battlers

Good news! The MLS kicks off again next week! A whole new year of soccer and PKs and draft picks and player trades and marquee signings and a weirdly extensive focus on stats… that’s Major League Soccer right there. Every year it gets a little better and once again we’ve got a good chunk of kiwi fellas taking part.

Michael Boxall should be a first XI bloke for Minnesota United again as they hit up their third season in the MLS, hoping to build on the progress they’ve made so far. The Loons have signed up former MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara but Boxall is expected to partner him at the back. Francisco Calvo was his CB partner last time but Captain Calvo is expected to slide over to fullback to accommodate the new fella. Boxall obviously has fullback experience too but it just shows how much of an impression he’s made on his coach Adrian Heath. The wider public, fans and media, haven’t been as glowing of Boxall’s leadership and ability as those within his club – probably because of the sloppy goals the team kept conceding. With a more solid defensive set-up and with plenty of additional talent in the midfield and up top alongside the brilliant Darwin Quintero, things should be sweeter.

MLS Multiplex: “Minnesota will have Michael Boxall line up beside Opara. Boxall is entering his third year in MLS, all three coming in Minnesota. Last season, he started 32 of the team’s 34 matches. Boxall is not more than a league average center-back. However, he should improve beside Opara. Boxall had to play beside error-prone Francisco Calvo last year. With Boxall and Opara, the center will be well defended, especially on crosses into the box. The pairing is certainly better than that of Boxall and Calvo.”

Elliot Collier is about to embark on his second campaign in the MLS, though there is a good chance he ends up back in the USL for the game time and experience. He’s unlikely to be a regular starter for the Chicago Fire. Nemanja Nikolic is the star striker and there are other fellas like CJ Sapong, Diego Campos, Fabian Herbers, and Amando Moreno all vying for places around him. They were pretty rank last season in most ways and there are still huge questions about their defence. Then again, it was assumed that Collier would barely play last season too and he ended up playing 16 MLS games in 2018.

Bill Tuiloma really broke into the Portland Timbers plans during the playoffs last season when he had to step in for an injured Larrys Mabiala and played a couple of his best, most flawless games for the club. Liam Ridgewell has since left the club but they’ve signed Claude Dielna to replace him in the starting lineup. But Tuiloma isn’t about to go out on loan. He’s their main defensive option off the bench and should be in basically every matchday squad ready to cover any injuries or suspensions across the backline or in defensive midfield. A versatile alternative. Which is going to ensure that he gets plenty of games across the 2019 season which, considering how sparse opportunities have been for him across his career, is bloody exciting. Tui has been working through a calf injury lately so he’s questionable for the opener and has missed a bit of preseason, so not ideal, but keep that in mind if he has a slow start to things.

Portland Mercury: “Tuiloma ended last year on a positive note, playing almost all of the Western Conference Championship after Mabiala went down injured. He should compete for minutes at center back, and provide cover if needed at right back and perhaps in central midfield.”

(Billy T turns up around 14 mins in on that above interview)

Which brings us to Anthony Hudson’s Colorado Rapids… yes, Huddo still has that job, although a crap start to the season and who knows. There’s been a huge reshuffle after the dud that was 2018. Lots of incoming transfers, specifically with attacking options as the focus after being absolutely pathetically short on strikers last season (and still trading away their only decent one midseason!). Unfortunately this time Uncle Tony’s betrayed his old mates from Aotearoa by not signing a single New Zealander. And with Kip Colvey retiring to be a physician’s assistant that means that it’s just Tommy Smith and Deklan Wynne hanging around (as well as all the staff/coaches he took with him).

Smithy there’s no dramas there. He played almost every minute last season, only really missing anything because he got himself a sarcastic red card near the end. Smithy has competition at the back there but he outperformed fellow centre-backs Axel Sjorberg and Danny Wilson last term and should be one of the first names on the team sheet. Local CBs Kortne Ford and Sam Vines are quality prospects, especially Ford who should expect to be first XI too, though where the team has really improved has been at the wingback positions. Dillon Serna has been adapted into a left wingback and Keegan Rosenberry should be a stable rightback.

Unfortunately that all means tough yakka for Deklan Wynne to build on his 2018. For the first half of that season he was unexpectedly a regular though he fell more out of favour over the second half as Kortne Ford returned to fitness. Wynne may have been a pretty obvious leftback all his All Whites career but pretty obvious and Anthony Hudson don’t always go together so Wynne ended up playing a whole lot of RCB with mixed results. You can expect him to keep growing and learning as a player of his age will, though he might have to be more used to a spot on the bench this time around. At least the gaffer seems to rate him highly, so he’ll get his shots.

MLS Multiplex: “Deklan Wynne was found out of place far too often last season. His experience with Hudson’s system was supposed to be a positive, but MLS proved a bit more nuanced than New Zealand. As depth and a late-game sub with pace, however, Wynne could excel.”

Up Next: Start off the FKs x MLS 2019 affair with Colorado Rapids vs Portland Timbers at midday on Sunday (NZT)

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