Flying Kiwis – March 26

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

Happy birthday Deklan… his present was to be dropped to the bench because his compatriot Tommy Smith was fit to play again, taking his place alongside Axel Sjöberg. Wynne started the first three games of the season but will probably settle into being a deeper squad player with a back four now preferred and a lot of defensive options already in the team.

The Rapids were the only of the kiwi MLS teams to play this week, with Portland and Minnesota both getting a week off. International break and all that jazz. Away to FC Dallas, it only took three minutes before Dominique Badji – who Anthony Hudson traded away last season – got completely unmarked from a corner routine and smacked one off the post. Dallas kept up the pressure but it took until 34 minutes gone before Michael Barrios finally put them in front.

Dallas continued to boss this thing but credit to Smithy and the lads because they hung in there. Then with twenty minutes remaining they did exactly what Huddo would have been planning: they levelled it up. A weird goal, sort of bundled in amidst a crowd after Kei Kamara had jumped like five feet into the air to head off the crossbar. The keeper looked to have stopped it on the line but we went to a video referral which proved not only that he didn’t, that the ball had crossed the line, but also that it was Tommy Smith who almost acrobatically managed to nudge it in without using his arms while sliding on his knees. You couldn’t practice it, that’s for sure. First Kiwi MLS goal of 2019.

But then Colorado’s right back forgot how to defend and next thing Dallas’ left back Ryan Hollingshead scored the winner with eight minutes to go. The better team won… but still a brutal time to concede for Colorado. They’re still winless after four games.

Pro Soccer USA: “Centerback Tommy Smith (knee) made his return to the starting XI for the Rapids and had a tangible impact on the game with what would be Colorado’s lone goal of the match in the 69th minute. Defensively, Smith put in a solid effort with six clearances and four recoveries, to go along with a tackle high up the pitch in the 72nd minute. “It’s great to be back out there, but obviously very disappointed with the result of the match,” Smith said of the performance, adding, “I knew the ball was in and I was 99% confident it had crossed the line. To be honest I’d give up any goal that I’ve scored to get three points because it’s so disheartening after. We know we started quite slowly today but in the second half we got on top and when we got the equalizer. It felt like we were going to be the team to go on and win but it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth it didn’t happen for us.””

Up Next: Houston Dynamo at home, Sunday at 2pm (NZT)

Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (English Super League)

Nothing quite like a big Champions League tie and for Chelsea they were tasked with trying to get past PSG for a place in the semi-finals. The French giants (although only the second best team in France these days), against the defending English champs (who have next to no chance of retaining that title). But that’s the beauty of the Champions League: it’s the one that matters most. And for Chelsea a little more than usual because unless Arsenal drop a bunch of points over the rest of the season it’s unlikely that Chelsea qualify ahead of them or Manchester City for next season’s edition. So yeah, this is the big time.

Also, Arsenal are the only English club to have won the women’s CL in the past and that was way back in 2007. Most years it’s dominated by French and German clubs but women’s footy in England is on a huge rise these days. It’s only a matter of time.

Ali Riley hasn’t yet established herself as a starting fullback at Chelsea. Hasn’t really had the chance. With the immense quality that they have across the park she’s seen as the backup left-back and an occasional option on the left wing late in games off the bench. Understandable then that she was named on the bench and sorry to say that she wasn’t required as a sub either. No Ali means no need to go hundies on the match recap so suffice to say that Chelsea… drum roll… were absolutely excellent. They won it 2-0 thanks to goals from Hannah Blundell and Erin Cuthbert and crucially avoided conceding an away goal in the process.

The game was close most of the way, with the first half especially tight and short on chances. Both teams feeling the enormity of the occasion. But Chelsea had the secret weapon of Fran Kirby up their sleeves and when she was introduced off the bench she made an immediate difference, opening things up in attack for CFC. Ramona Bachmann then had a similar impact and with less than twenty mins remaining Blundell scored a blinder to open the account, before Cuthbert snuck in to double it with a couple mins remaining. A crucial second goal. Cuthbert’s now suspended for the second leg after one too many yellows but the Blues have something to defend. Ali Riley is also one yellow away from a suspension, by the way.

Up Next: Thursday at 7am, away to PSG in the second leg (NZT)

Stefan Marinovic - Bristol City (English Championship)

The international window meant no proper footy for Bristol City but their goalkeeper situation meant heaps of stuff behind the scenes. They had a closed door friendly set up in order to get both Stefan Marinovic and Max O’Leary half a game each as gaffer Lee Johnson got closer to figuring out his number one going forwards and then Big Stef, short on game time as he is, also got the call to play for the U23s on the weekend. Which was cool… until this happened…

Marinovic hasn’t given himself the best first impression with the fans after a few rusty errors against Cardiff on debut, but that’s the kind of thing that he can overcome with an extended run in the team, should he get that blessing. An injury at this time would be ruthless though. An injury is hard to overcome when time is already a factor on a short term deal. Thing is, we don’t really know if he’s injured at all or if it was only a precaution.

Bristol Live: “Arguably more worrying for Bristol City fans is that the club's official match report and subsequent media made no mention of Marinovic's withdrawal, while the write-up on the game was published after midnight possibly hinting at attempting to limit publicity. One club source suggested last night that the substitution was made as a precautionary measure, with the goalkeeper not taken off for any tactical reason. However, any knock has yet to be confirmed officially by the club, or the extent of the time out.”

That excerpt is hilariously suspicious, but the fact remains that there hasn’t been an update on whether Marinovic was hurt or not and how badly. S’pose we’ll find out soon enough. City have ten games remaining in their season and remain well in the hunt for the playoffs.

Up Next: Sheffield United vs Bristol City at 4am on Sunday (NZT)

Meikayla Moore – MSV Duisburg (German Frauen-Bundesliga)

Put simply, Duisburg’s home game against Bayer Leverkusen was the closest thing to a must-win they’ve had all season. At home against another team well within that relegation battle with games running out in the season… the time for second chances is quickly evaporating. And Duisburg had lost both games since the league resumed, a 5-0 defeat to Werder Bremen and a 6-1 defeat to SC Freiburg. Not the best preparation, especially not with a month between league games either.

But just you settle down easy there because Meikayla Moore, playing at right back on this occasion, and her mates went out and kept just their fourth clean sheet of the campaign and it was made all the more crucial when Dörthe Hoppius scored in the 83rd minute. Good enough to lead the Zebras to victory. A massive, massive 1-0 victory.

It’s a win that lifts Duisburg ahead of Bayer on the ladder and three points clear of the drop zone thanks to Werder Bremen getting thrashed 5-0 by Turbine Potsdam. And next up Duisburg have their rescheduled game in hand against bottom of the table Borussia Mönchengladbach. Win that and they’ll be six clear with five games to play.

Also here’s confirmation of last week’s news that Emma Rolston has left the club…

Up Next: Away to Borussia Mönchengladbach

Jesse Edge – Lokomotíva Košice (Slovakian 2. Liga)

The mystery is solved. After teasing us with a few suggestive tweets and some travels around Europe since being released by Podbrezová in the Slovakia Super Liga, Jesse Edge has found his new club and… he’s back in Slovakia, this time with Lokomotíva Košice. But a division down in the 2. Liga.

Jesse started six games with Podbrezová but fell out of favour late last year, a bit of a bummer having previously been pretty influential with Achilles ’29 in Holland. Lokomotíva Košice should give him more room to play and they need a bit of a defensive mastermind too, sitting bottom of the division as it stands (but with a game in hand). Four teams get relegated in this league though so they’ve got some work to do. Local defender Peter Kavka was also signed at the same time.

Manager Ľuboš Benkovský: “In recent weeks, we haven't concealed that we are working on the arrival of new players. We were mainly looking for football players to strengthen the defensive positions. Finally, we managed to bring this pair. We believe that both players will get to know our playing system and philosophy as quickly as possible, and that we are also putting together a stronger line-up which will save our place in this competition.”

And, hey, if the continuing adventures of kiwi footy players overseas is your thing… and if you’re reading this article then I’ve gotta assume that it probably is… then here’s one for ya:

Up Next: Wednesday at 3am away to Dukla Banska (NZT)

Rebekah Stott & Victoria Esson – Avaldsnes IL (Norwegian Toppserien)

We’re underway in the Norwegian Toppserien, which meant a debut for Rebekah Stott at her new club. Up against Klepp too, which usually means Kirsty Yallop but according to reports over in Norway she’s not playing this season as she’s “uploaded and become top player developer” which is one of those occasions where google translate is just completely weird about it. Presumably that means she’s retired and moved up into the staff as a coach? 

No Kirsty then and Vic Esson will have to wait for her debut as she was named on the bench, the backup keeper behind Danish international Line Johansen. Having two international keepers is a bit of a luxury, tell you what. But Rebekah Stott rocked up for a full game in defence as Avaldsnes fell 1-0 to a first half goal scored by Elisabeth Terland. An expected result based on last season’s finishes for the two clubs. But a close game which should bode well for Avaldsnes going forward.

Up Next: Home to Lillestrøm at 3am on Sunday (NZT)

Erin Nayler – Girondins Bordeaux (French Division 1 Féminine)

No game this weekend, so Bordeaux spent their time over in the States instead playing friendlies as those NWSL teams work through their preseason and doing a little team bonding or whatever as well. There was a conference for the UN Commission on the Status of Women which the team attended. The NZ ambassador to the UN was there too. Photo op!

(That’s Pele’s daughter with them. Yes, that Pele)

They beat Washington Spirit 3-1 to close the mini tour. They also beat St. John's University 3-0 along the way. Rather successful jaunt then, check out all the happenings on these little vids that they made – and the Washington Spirit game was livestreamed on yootoob.

Up Next: Away to Soyaux at 2.30am on Sunday (NZT)

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

Oof, yeah. Don’t even worry about it. Morecambe played away at Swindon Town and they got pummelled 4-0 and Oldie played ninety minutes and was a pest at attacking set pieces but when you conceded four at the other end it really doesn’t matter. Two goals were pretty clearly keeper errors too, which never helps. Morecambe should be safe from the drop at this point, at least.

Up Next: Home to Crawley Town on Sunday at 4am (NZT)

Nik Tzanev – AFC Wimbledon (English League One)

There you go. Nik’s back at Wimbledon now after played about ten games for Potters Bar Town on a short term loan deal. Got some first team experience and is back scrapping away for the U23s with an eye on that first team squad – especially for next season. AFC Wimbledon are currently hot in a relegation scrap, currently second to last with seven games remaining and three points (and a lot of goal difference) away from safety. Sometimes a relegation helps a player break into the first team as others leave, sometimes it has the opposite effect as panic and financial pressures kick in. See how it goes.

Up Next: Up against Clayton’s lot Scunthorpe at 4am on Sunday (NZT)

Nikko Boxall – Viborg FF (Danish Division 1)

Sometimes you think you’re on the way to a handy win after a first half goal to Mikkel Agger and then Pascal Gregor equalises within the final ten minutes for FC Helsingor and you’re stuck with a 1-1 draw. Sometimes that happens… in fact it happened to Nikko Boxall and Viborg just the other day.

Christian Sivebæk, Viborg midfielder: “It was frustrating to throw away it here. Sometimes it’s good enough not to play perfectly, as long as we get the three points in the end. What we showed in the first half was really good but we have to be able to do that for the whole game if we are to hope to keep being at the top of the top where we want to be. The contrast between the first and second half was just too big today.”

The frustration from that fella comes down to Viborg’s promotion campaign and the pressure that leads to. They’re still one point clear at the top after Silkeborg lost to Lyngby… who Viborg play next up. That was a comfortable lead a while back but only four points from their last five games has let the others back into it. There’s a promotion playoff for the second and third teams too but Viborg are only three points clear of fourth at the moment. Gonna be a very fun final ten games.

Up Next: 12.45am on Monday away to Lyngby (NZT)

James Dunn – Woking FC (English National League South)

James Dunn: “After my first experience, I wanted to give it another crack in the UK. I came over in November last year wanting to play football and to further my cultural understanding of the world as obviously I hadn’t travelled too much outside of New Zealand. I came to England believing I could make it as a professional footballer. I arrived with a backpack and some football boots and with an open mind.”

Up Next: Sunday at 4am away to Bath City (NZT)

Clayton Lewis – Scunthorpe United (English League One)

Make of this what you will, but after Lewis was an unused sub in a 3-1 defeat away to Rochdale, Scunthorpe manager Stuart McCall was sacked and replaced by Andy Dawson – who played 227 times as a defender for the Iron. McCall came in after Nick Daws was sacked four games into the season and having hoped to challenge for promotion, Scunthorpe are now just two points clear of the relegation zone so that’s basically why this happened. Clayton Lewis is now onto his fourth full-time manager after only signing in October 2017.

Up Next: Home to AFC Wimbledon, 4am on Sunday (NZT)

The USL Crew

Kyle Adams (Rio Grande Valley) – Doing what needs doing at the back as RGV came from 2-0 down with a dozen minutes left to equalise right at the end for a 2-2 draw away to El Paso. First point of the season for the lads after two defeats.

Elliot Collier (Memphis 901 FC) – The 901 took a 1-0 victory home against Bethlehem Steel thanks to a Rashawn Dally goal. However Collier wasn’t included in the matchday squad and neither was fellow Fire loanee Mo Adams. The Fire had a friendly game during the international break so looks like they might have each gotten a run there instead. At a theory.

James Musa (Phoenix Rising) – Didn’t play this week but if you happen to be in Arizona, see if you can’t get your hands on one of these beauty sponsor integration schemes… player card eggs! There’s a prize if you collect all eleven. Are they free range though?

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