Flying Kiwis – May 1

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Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

The Kiwi x MLS scene has been a bit of a bummer these last two years. The ongoing rubbishness of the Colorado Rapids has sucked in a few soldiers, with Kip Colvey even retiring. Jake Gleeson and Stefan Marinovic have both slipped out of the league. James Musa, Elliot Collier, and Myer Bevan all got MLS deals but have found their current homes either in the USL or, in Bevan’s case, back home at Western Springs. Even the one dude who’d been keeping it steady in Michael Boxall is now on the downswing all of a sudden (more on him later).

But the one dude who has bucked the trend has been Bill Tuiloma, as he’s constantly planted one foot in front of the other and made strides ever since joining the Timbers. First it was establishing himself with the reserves at USL level. Then it was working in as a defensive option on the bench for the MLS team. Then it was a couple of impressive starting efforts in the playoffs last season when injury/suspension struck the squad. And this time around he started on the bench but has since edged his way into first eleven status and there’s not a soul doubting that concept after this moment…

Theeee man. Billy T with the spanking finish, he’s proved to be a threat from set pieces ever since he arrived in the States but usually that’s meant getting up there with a few powerful headers. Didn’t exactly see this coming from the lad but jeez what a strike!

Bill Tuiloma: “We knew they had zonal players and they have like three marking and I saw Larrys [Mabiala] go near post, so I waited for the right time to go and it went just over Larrys head and I was there to clean it up and put it in the goal. Yeah it was crazy.”

This was two minutes after they’d fallen behind on the road up in Canada. Away to Toronto FC. Eriq Zavaleta had beaten Tuiloma to a header from a corner and the thing bounced around a little before Jonathan Osorio stabbed it home. But getting on the attack, Tui made immediate amends and a strong defensive performance allowed the Timbers the platform to throw guys forwards on the attack and in the 70th minute they finally got the reward as Jeremy Ebobisse, once a teammate of Tui’s in the reserves soon after Bill first signed with the club, got his head on one and despite a fair spell of desperate pressure from the home side the Timbers held on for their second win of the season. 2-1 the final.

Tuiloma started in a back four with Larrys Mabiala the other CB. Those two are pretty good mates off the pitch and have been dubbed The French Connection with Mabiala hailing from the land of wine and baguettes while Tuiloma obviously played there a couple years with Marseille and is a French speaker. They’ve each had to battle for their chances here but after the last two weeks, with Mabiala scoring in the win over Columbus last week, it looks like they’ve now emerged in the preferred backline along with Zarek Valentin on the left and Jorge Moreira on the right. That quartet has started twice in a row and they’ve won twice in a row. Sorted. 

Timbers.com: “With his goal, Bill Tuiloma became the third different defender to score for the Timbers this season, joining Jorge Moreira and Larrys Mabiala. Portland is the only MLS club with three defenders on the scoresheet this season.”

Bill Tuiloma: “It feels good. It feels great. It’s awesome. The team battled until the end. We gave it our all. Everyone knew what we need to do on the field and we knew what Toronto was going to give us and it was a great team effort.”

Up Next: Sunday at 1pm away to Real Salt Lake (NZT)

Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

A lot of kiwi Liverpool fans will have sacrificed a little extra sleep to see Chris Wood do his bit to try and stop Manchester City from winning the Premier League title. His missus does play for Liverpool after all, don’t forget that. But this title race has been like one big staring contest and so far nobody has blinked. A second half Sergio Aguero strike, which only crossed the line by 29 millimetres, was the only goal in the game, City winning it 1-0 and the staring continues.

The Woodsman had one brilliant chance in the first half but a poor touch allowed keeper Ederson to skip out and smother the ball. It was the kind of moment which you simply have to take against City and with that poor touch, the outside of his right boot letting him down, he missed his chance to potentially have a major say in that title race. So it goes.

Burnley only had two shots in the entire game, with neither on target. Safe to say that City absolutely dominated, although that Burnley defence hung in there. They frustrated the defending champs, Tom Heaton in particular. They held them out for a full hour and perhaps another ten minutes and it would have really gotten frisky. But Aguero’s awkward finish in the 63rd minute eased the tension. Still, as the game wound to a close it was City looking to waste time and subbing on a couple extra defenders. Sean Dyche chose to take it as a compliment, as he should.

Sean Dyche: “We didn’t find the effectiveness in the front third, which is difficult against these sides, but we had the big moment with Woody in the first half, and we’ve kept at it, defended fantastically well, and you end up close to getting something from the game but obviously they’ve got some great players, really talented players, so we’re not disappointed with the performance, but disappointed not to get something from the game."

Also, Cardiff’s defeat to Fulham the day before officially confirmed what already seemed inevitable: Burnley will be playing Premier League football again next season. They had a rocky start but 2019 has been good to them and they’ve earned this.

Speaking of earning things, go and vote for The Woodsman for Player of the Month!

Up Next: Everton vs Burnley, 7am on Saturday (NZT)

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

Erceg ain’t only the best defender in the NWSL, she’s also a constant threat with those attacking headers from corners and she got some decent contact on one early against the Houston Dash, though not enough to beat the defence as it was hacked away on the bounce. Not that Abby Erceg really needs to add much to an excellent Courage attack. Half an hour in they had a penalty when McDonald was tripped in the box, only Lynn Williams’ attempt was saved. She made amends in first half stoppage time though, nodding in from close range for the opening goal.

Houston had a couple chances when they were able to bring a bit of pressing and counter attacking to the table but were a little wasteful and you can’t do that against NCC. Crystal Dunn made it two with a cross that floated into the far top corner, then Debinha added smashed in a third before Leah Pruitt got her first NWSL goal with a nice header. Rachel Daly did curl one in late on after turning Abby Erceg in defence but 4-1 was a pretty comprehensive win.

Best defence in the league, lock it in…

Up Next: Sunday at 11am home to Sky Blue (NZT)

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

It’s two wins from two for the Royals, who followed up a 1-0 win against Washington Spirit with a 1-0 win away to Orlando Pride. Very good result against a team with Alex Morgan, Marta, Alanna Kennedy, and Emily van Egmond all in their ranks. Christine Press scored in the 19th minute, taking a lovely first touch before sneaking her shot past the keeper from the edge of the area.

Both Amy Rodriguez, with a one on one, and Press, with a stinging second half volley, had chances to add a second for insurance but neither strike could beat the keeper and Orlando rallied for a big finish. A couple close ones were escaped before Katie Bowen, three mins left, got whistled up for a high boot in shielding Morgan away from a long ball. For a sneaky moment it looked like a penalty was gonna follow but in the end just a free kick on the edge of the area… which Marta lifted narrowly over the bar. Utah survived for a second win to nil.

Bowen’s a marauding right back in this formation, swinging in a few deep crosses but especially expected to hold things down in defence. To be fair there’s plenty of help in the middle there, with centre backs Rachel Corsie and Becky Sauerbrunn captaining Scotland and USA respectively. Gonna be a tricky task when they’re all away at the World Cup.

RSL Soapbox Player Ratings: “Katie Bowen: 6 - Bowen was involved both in the attack and on the defensive side but didn’t stand out.”

Up Next: Utah vs Chicago Red Stars, Saturday at 1.30pm (NZT)

Michael Woud – Willem II (Dutch Eredivisie)

Midweek against PSV Eindhoven and the quick turnaround was too much for Timon Wellenreuther so slap those gloves back on, Mikey, you’re starting again. Third Eredivisie game. Easily the biggest one he’s played too with PSV hot in the middle of a title race with Ajax (as per usual). Also obviously the club of Ryan Thomas, though he’s not going to play this season. There’s optimism that he’ll be a big part of things next season however, with a number of their top players expected to depart to top leagues around Europe (Steven Bergwijn and Hirving Lozano especially).

Yeah so PSV are extremely good and this game was rarely a proper contest, with Willem only managing three total shots with none on target. Donyell Malen skipped through the defence after half an hour to score, Woudy getting a touch on it but there wasn’t much more he could do. Not so much with the second one where he rushed out on a cross from a free kick but slipped as his left foot got caught in the mud around the goalmouth and that allowed Luuk De Jong’s flick to glide past him. Maybe it would’ve anyway but the slip wasn’t a good look.

He did better in the second half, rushing out nicely to stop Bergwijn one time as well as denying him a little awkwardly from a long range thunderbolt. But Bergwijn combined with Malen after 64 mins to slice the defence apart and there was nothing at all to be done as Woud closed down Malen only for the ball to be slid across for an open Bergwijn goal. There was another sharp save off a deflected effort from Denzel Dunfries. Then another at the end tipping a shot onto the post and then gathering the rebound.

Not the most confident at this stage and even a few of his better stops looked unconvincing but Woud’s still an extremely young keeper at 20 years old. Even if this level is a stretch for him at this point in time, they have great belief in him at Willem II and this experience at this relative age, so soon after signing with the club, is immense for his development. 3-0 was the final score here.

Having a Thursday night game was a bit of a bonus for Woudy, giving him the chance to back up as starter on a short recovery. He’d have been a good bet to start on the weekend too had there only been a game to play. But with Ajax’s game being postponed by the league to help them prepare for their Champions League semi with Tottenham a couple days later, it was decided to then postpone all Eredivisie games this weekend so that Ajax don’t get to play this game after all other fixtures have been completed where it might compromise the competitive aspect of the whole thing. Some funky Dutch thinking there. PSV weren’t happy but the other 17 clubs were all sweet.

Speaking of Ajax, they’re next up for Willem II as the two teams meet in the KNVB Cup final. That one’s on Monday morning so Wellenreuther is on a race against time to be fit. There’s a fair bit of synchronicity about that game because it was a brace in the KNVB Cup final that announced Ryan Thomas to Dutch football a few years ago and who did he play (and beat) that day? Ajax, of course. As it stands, Wellenreuther is still a big doubt with that hip injury.

Adrie Koster, W2 manager: “[TW] is the only question mark. In the coming days we will see how big that question mark is, when and whether he can train with the group.”

Up Next: Home to Ajax in the KNVB Cup Final, Monday at 4am (NT)

Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (English Super League)

There are certain perks to playing for Chelsea. Certain struggles too, like when your team is up in the Champions League semi-finals but you don’t make the matchday squad for either leg. That was a bummer. Chelsea had gotten back into the tie with a late goal in the first game, losing 2-1, but even after Ji So-yun cancelled out Eugenie Le Sommer’s goal for Lyon, putting Chelsea a goal away from extra time, they weren’t able to create the chances to make it happen. A 1-1 draw meant Lyon progressed to the final with a 3-2 aggregate win.

But back to the perks, players from both the men’s and women’s teams at Chelsea all partied hard on Tuesday night in London for David Luiz’s 32nd birthday (Luiz is one of a few Chelsea lads to have dropped by the odd women’s game this season), with the popular Brazilian defender getting everyone to go all out on the costumes. Luiz was a rather problematic American Indian. Gonzalo Higuain was Elvis. Olivier Giroud was the mascot from the 1998 World Cup. Fran Kirby, Maren Mjelde, and Maria Thorisdottir went as characters from the film Shrek.

And Ali Riley? She was dressed as Olivia Newton-John from Grease. Here she is hanging out with N’Golo Kante dressed as Batman. The internet was a big fan of Batman Kante.

Up Next: Next Wednesday at 6.45am away to Yeovil Town (NZT)

Tyler Boyd – MKE Ankaragücü (Turkish Süper Lig)

They can’t all be good ones and after three good games without a loss, the Ankers were pumped 4-1 by Besiktas this weekend. Tyler Boyd played a full game but it never really went right. They were 1-0 down inside ten minutes and conceded again early in the second half. A penalty made it 3-0 and Ankers were pretty much heading for defeat from there.

But a handball in the box made, spotted by the VAR, gave them a spottie of their own with a little over ten mins still on the clock, so up stepped Tyler Boyd to take it. Smooth run up and… it was saved. Then his follow up attempt was blocked by a sliding challenge and a teammate inexplicably sliced it wide with an open goal in front of him. Not the best passage of play, that’s for sure. Nice that Boyd was the man called upon to take it but doubt he gets the next one now. In fact he already didn’t, because the penalty was ordered to be retaken because of encroachment and Hadi Sacko took it instead, scoring to give his team a lifeline. Which they didn’t use, leaking one to complete the scoring here.

With four games left, it’s highly unlikely that Ankaragücü get relegated. They may only have one win in their last six but they’re six points clear of the drop zone, so should be sweet. Which is cool because there’s been talk in the last month of Tyler Boyd moving to Turkey permanently. No doubt that he’s had a brilliant couple months there. Might as well see what’s up.

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Up Next: Home vs Rizespor on Sunday at 1am (NZT)

Stefan Marinovic - Bristol City (English Championship)

Bit of bad news here as Stefan Marinovic missed out on another matchday squad this weekend and this time it wasn’t a whim from the gaffer. Regular number one for BCFC, Niki Maenpaa, has recovered from the injury that’s kept him out for two months and that’s pretty much nudged Stefan Marinovic out of contention as the third stringer. Max O’Leary dropped to the bench and Maenpaa started in a crucial game against Derby County… but goals to Tom Lawrence and Jayden Bogle condemned them to a 2-0 defeat anyway, continuing on their rank form and all but knocking them out of contention for promotion.

Bristol City did give themselves a chance in the midweek with a comeback 2-1 win away against Millwall. Max O’Leary started that one to protect Maenpaa from backing up on the quick turnaround but neither Stef nor Niki were included on the bench with no reserve keeper selected… again. So long as Derby County don’t beat Swansea tomorrow then that means a win in BCFC’s last game might yet sneak them into sixth. Probably not though.

Marinovic is only on a short term deal and signed as an injury replacement so it was always likely that he’d leave at the end of the season. Niki Maenpaa and fellow injured keeper Frank Fielding are both also on expiring contracts so decisions are to be made by the club but Marinovic probably isn’t at the top of the list at the moment. There’ll be other clubs. He’s at least got a foot in at this level now.

Up Next: Away to Hull City at 11.30pm on Sunday but who cares (NZT)

Clayton Lewis – Scunthorpe United (English League One)

Clayton Lewis: “It's been a long time coming, I've been waiting for my opportunity and even though the result didn't go our way, we can take positives from it. I was glad to start and hopefully I can add to what the team has already got and I hope it can help us get over the line to keep us in the division for next season. For me, it's not really about myself at the moment, we're not safe, so it's about the team and if I can add anything to help them out, then I'm willing to do so. I want to put my best performances in and show not only the fans and the club what I'm about, but myself too. I want to show that I do deserve to play, but overall, it's about the team and we're all focused on Saturday.”

You already read about that Charlton game last week, it was a 4-0 defeat and did absolutely nothing good for their hopes of staying up in League One. Well pleasantly he was named to start again as the Iron hosted Bradford City, partnering Funso Ojo in the midfield and, for the first time in his Scunthorpe career… playing all ninety minutes in a league game. Only other two time he’d had full games were in EFL Trophy games in late 2017.

But despite desperately needing to get something out one of their last two games, Scunthorpe came out looking nothing short of dire. A deflection was responsible for them going behind in the second minute but that doesn’t explain how they found themselves 3-0 down after quarter of an hour.

Scunthorpe recovered their senses to make a real go of it in the second half. Lewis had a crack from range to no luck, before Kyle Wootton popped in a header for some hope and then Lee Novak scored with ten to play to make it 3-2. Down to the last kick of the game they were pressing for an equaliser… but it wasn’t to be. Ball cleared off the line and Scunny fell 3-2.

It was a devastating result for Scunthorpe who have taken just two points from their last eight games. Bradford City are the bottom team on the ladder and already relegated so that gives you some indication of how bad this team have been. Interim manager Andy Dawson still doesn’t have a win to his name and his side have now slid into the relegation zone. The one relief is that it’s still not over. If they can beat Plymouth next week in their final match then they’ll overtake them and then it’s a matter of praying that Southern loses to or draws with Sunderland and Walsall loses to or draws with Shrewsbury Town away. Basically, it’s all set up for Clayton Lewis to score a hatty and be the hero.

Grimsby Live Player Ratings: “Clayton Lewis - Impressed with his performance today. He's not a central midfielder, but he battled in the middle, won a few challenges and tried to link up play. Kept going and looked to create whenever he could. Could have a big role next season - 7”

Up Next: 4.30am on Sunday away to Plymouth Argyle (NZT)

CJ Bott – Vittsjö GIK (Swedish Damallsvenskan)

It’s been a wonderful start for Vittsjö. They lost their first game but a 3-0 win over Kungsbacka was followed this weekend by a 2-0 win at home against perennial title contenders Linköping (who only finished fifth last season but had won both their previous games in 2019) and while it’s way too early to be looking at the table, six points has them third right now… this is a team that’s scraped to avoid relegation the last couple seasons.

Playing in her regular (for club) left back role, CJ was apparently excellent, proving a physical presence at the back and getting forward a few times too. Michelle De Jongh was the star though. Getting on the end of a pass from Clara Markstedt, she poked in the opener in the 35th minute. Linköping normally play on turf so they didn’t seem to cope too well with the mud on a wet Swedish afternoon and it really felt like Vittsjö would be the team to score next. Bott nearly floated a cross into the top corner in the second half, but in the 77th minute the ball fell to her after a De Jongh corner and after a little scrambling there was a simple finish there for the kiwi at the near post.

This was CJ’s first goal for the club and enough to secure a fantastic 2-0 win for the team. The coach afterwards called it their best performance for years. Bott also picked up a yellow early in the second half because of course she did.

Up Next: Away to Växjö on Friday at 5am (NZT)

Erin Nayler – Girondins Bordeaux (French Division 1 Féminine)

Righty so that one didn’t go as hoped. Not a lot you can do as a goalkeeper when you’re playing behind from the eleventh minute against one of the two standout teams in the country after your defence gives the ball away on the edge of the area, leading to a one on one situation and Marie-Antoinette Katoto wasn’t gonna miss from there. Nayler might have done better for Katoto’s second but again it came from a giveaway deep in defence. Then Kadidiatou Diani lashed one into the bottom corner and Bordeaux were 3-0 down after twenty minutes. No but wait because some more stretched defence and Diani had a double and it was 4-0 inside half an hour of football. And it was almost five but for a brilliant outstretched save from Nayler tipping the ball onto the crossbar.

Bordeaux did rally from that point. Carol Rodrigues curled in a beauty just before the break and things settled down. Katoto completed her hatty in the second half with a simple header after a lovely curling ball over the defence but Delphine Chatelin responded near the end with the slightest of touches on a free kick for FCGB’s second. Katoto then bagged a fourth deep in stoppage time, again getting through one on one with the Fernies keeper, and 6-2 was the way it ended.

Combined with Montpellier winning, this does some real damage to Bordeaux’s chances of a third-placed finish with one week remaining. They’re three points back now and need to beat Paris (fifth) to have any chance. Montpellier are at home to Lille, who need to get something out of that game to avoid relegation so no easy task at least. This is the second huge defeat in four games for Bordeaux, who also lost 7-1 to Lyon in March. But if they can avoid defeat against Paris (who beat them 5-0 back in October) then they’ll finish at least fourth and that’s a pretty successful effort for this lot. Last season they were seventh with 22 points. This season they’re already on 33 points with a game to play. Erin Nayler’s missed six games, mostly for international duty, but has five clean sheets in 15 starts in what’s probably been her best season since moving to France.

Up Next: Sunday at 12.30am at home to Paris (NZT)

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

They always talk about consequences and accountability in sports so can’t be too surprised that, after a bit of a shocker last game, Mike Boxall was dropped for the midweek clash with LA Galaxy. Left on the bench where he’d be an unused sub while his team churned out a decent 0-0 draw against the second best team in the conference. The Loons have been pretty good so far but that was only their second clean sheet of the campaign so yeah, not the best signs for Boxy if that defence is functioning without him.

Ike Oparra had been out injured the previous game so he was always likely to come back in. And Boxall might’ve started all seven previous games in 2019 but Brent Kallman had done alright in his spare opportunities and he didn’t let the ball bounce in the box which cost them the game last week so that’s the way it goes.

MU manager Adrian Heath: “We are trying to eradicate individual mistakes. It’s what we’ve spoke about. I don’t think there has been anything wrong with the collective positioning of the group, but individuals are making errors that’s costing us dearly every single game.”

Zone Coverage: “What did function well for Minnesota on the night was the defense. After an appalling performance, Michael Boxall was supplanted by Brent Kallman. Meanwhile, Rasmus Schuller and Eric Miller enter the lineup to replace the suspended Jan Gregus and Francisco Calvo, respectively. This many changes could have been a travesty for United going against a ruthless Galaxy. Instead, though, the Loons looked resolute in the defensive third throughout and managed to shutout a team that laid three on them in their previous encounter.”

You could even say that Minnesota were unlucky not to win this one. Their usually excellent attack just couldn’t hit the target against one of the best defences in the league, winning a bunch of attacking corners but only drawing one save outta the oppo goalie from 12 attempts. They held Zlatan Ibrahimovic in check though.

Michael Boxall then continued to not play as Minny hosted DC United a couple days later and Angelo Rodriguez scored the winner late on for a 1-0 result. Back to back clean sheets with Boxall on the bench… might have to wait for an injury or suspension to get back in now.

Up Next: Minny vs Seattle Sounders, midday on Sunday (NZT)

Meikayla Moore – MSV Duisburg (German Frauen-Bundesliga)

Good news and bad news here, as a 2-2 draw against Hoffenheim kept the points tally ticking over and now Duisburg are four points clear of the drop zone with two games left to play. They equalised twice against a top-half team… but only half an hour in, just after the first equaliser, Moore was subbed off with injury. It didn’t seem to be too bad though, the manager saying that he’d replaced her out of precaution considering that the World Cup’s on the horizon. Which was nice of him.

Up Next: Turbine Potsdam vs MSV Duisburg, Monday morning at midnight (NZT)

Ria Percival – West Ham United (English Super League)

Feel free to breathe a huge sigh of relief because as the team was released on Monday morning for West Harm’s tip to Bristol City, Ria Percival was there amongst the starters… playing in defensive midfield too. She hadn’t played since hurting her ankle for the Football Ferns a month ago but got ninety minutes in here as WHU came from a goal down to win it late on.

Claire Rafferty’s own goal had them in trouble with half an hour remaining yet Leanne Kiernan was able to level it back up in the 75th and then with just a minute of the ninety still on the clock it was Jane Ross who gave the Hammers a win that they probably deserved on the basis of a strong first half and that resilient finish.

It’s a 2-1 win that means West Ham can rise above BCFC to sixth on the ladder if they win their final game against Brighton so useful to have Ria Percival back for that. She’ll likely move back to right back when a few injuries clear up in the squad. But that game is nothing compared to the one they have next: the FA Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley. Ria missed he semi-final with injury but thankfully should be fit for the final – pretty big deal, that one.

Up Next: FA Cup Final. Wembley. 4.30am on Sunday. West Ham vs Manchester City (NZT)

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

Good times for Shrimps fans as they’ve strung together another win, leading most of the way against Cambridge after Aaron Collins’ early goal and then finishing it off with a strike from Jordan Cranston, even though Tom Knowles did pull one back in stoppage time. Another full game at CB from Stevie Old and he should have had a goal too, blasting over from close range at a corner kick. Morecambe are now guaranteed a finish between 17-19th with one game remaining. Comfortably clear of relegation.

Up Next: Morecambe vs Newport County, Sunday at 2am (NZT)

Marco Rojas – SønderjyskE (Danish Superliga)

The Sonders had to win to avoid hitting up the relegation playoffs. Home against Vejle Boldklub. They had to win it and 16 minutes in they were a goal down at home thanks to Vladen Yurchenko. But this game swung massively with five mins until half-time when Viljormur Davidsen blocked a goal-bound shot on the line with his arm, earning a red card and a penalty which was knocked away by Johan Absalonsen to get things going.

And then in the second half it was a walkover. Stefan Gartenmann scored a stunner from outside the box after picking up the ball in midfield and Sonders were in control. Soon afterwards, with 59 minutes played, Marco Rojas was subbed on to get an extra attacker out there and, mate, it worked. Rojas set up the third goal with a lovely swirling corner that was headed in by Christian Jakobsen before he scored one of his own – his first goal for the club, finally – in stoppage time with a bit of trademark Lil Marco footwork.

Beauty of a goal and it means that instead of battling relegation, Sonders go into the Europa League playoff playoffs in Denmark, where they’ll play Randers in their first two-legged tie. 4-1 was the final score against Vejle BK.

Up Next: Monday at midnight, home vs Randers (NZT)

Nikko Boxall – Viborg FF (Danish Division 1)

The Viborg Promotion Train has gotten a fair bit of coverage lately in FKs but it took a blow this week. Nikko and the lads fell 1-0 to an early goal from Jakob Johansson against HB Køge, a team that had previously gone five without a win. Just a mud performance, where they looked creaky at the back (although Boxall did okay, by the looks), and struggled to create the shots they needed to score. Having said that, they nearly did get something out of it when Mikkel Agger cracked one off the crossbar in the second half.

The defeat means they slip to second on the table, although Næstved did them a favour by losing at home and thus keeping Viborg in the second of two automatic promotion spots. First placed Silkeborg only drew as well so the damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

Up Next: Sunday at 11.45pm vs Roskilde (NZT)

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

You don’t really care about this lot. Like, it was cool that for the first time this season both Tommy Smith and Deklan Wynne were named to start in the same game but away to Atlanta United they weren’t up to a whole lot, pretty much left defending for most of the game and they lasted until the 74th minute when Julian Gressel scored for ATL and had no reply. A 1-0 defeat and Anthony Hudson’s team is the worst in the 2019 MLS and it ain’t even close. Zero wins from nine games. The Vancouver Whitecaps have one win and they are the only other team with less than two… guess what, they play each other next week too.

The Rapids weren’t terrible or anything here. They kept the defending champs quiet for most of the game. It’s just that they’re so clearly inferior. They make crucial defensive mistakes and they don’t often look like they know how to score goals. Earlier in the week, Anthony Hudson took the blame for their horrid start to the season upon himself… or rather the ‘responsibility’.

Uncle Tony: “It’s been a combination of things, but I’m the one who’s responsible. I pick the team, I set the team up, so I take responsibility.”

Granted, in his usual slick way he said that directly after saying it was individual mistakes not tactical errors that were costing them and saying the players lack confidence and that if he thought he couldn’t solve these issues then he’d be resigning in a second. This week he came out feisty in his press conference (after a game in which he played five defenders and a CB in midfield), saying it’s the designated players that are beating them every week and making the excuse that the Rapids lack that class in their squad. He also referred to his squad as a “bottom group of players” which probably won’t go down too well in the changing room. It’s not as if he hasn’t had a couple transfer windows to help fix things, aye?

Frank De Boer, ATL manager, post-game: “The game was maybe not the most attractive one because normally you have two sides that want to play and we were the only side that were trying to create something… it’s always very difficult, you know, they parked two buses in front of their own goal.”

It’s tricky because Hudson absolutely needs to be sacked at this point. But if he’s sacked then that does bad things for Tommy Smith and Deklan Wynne’s place in the squad since they’re closely aligned with him after he brought them in having worked with both with the All Whites.

Up Next: Colorado vs Vancouver, Saturday at 1pm (NZT)

The USL Crew

James Musa (Phoenix Rising) – Poor Moose has only started three games this season, despite having been one of the best defensive midfielders in the league the last few years. Phoenix are top quality but results have been slack so far. Musa got five mins off the bench in a 0-0 draw away to Simon Elliott’s Sacramento FC most recently. This was fun though…

Elliot Collier (Memphis 901 FC) – Memphis have been mud, only winning one of their first eight games, but at least Collier has started six of those eight games (he had a little injury in there). Usually on the right wing, despite having played as a striker a couple times at the beginning.

Kyle Adams (Rio Grande Valley) – All of a sudden RGV are scoring goals, winning 5-2 against Las Vegas Lights last week and then drawing 4-4 vs the LA Galaxy reserves in an absolutely insane game where RGV were down 2-0 with fifteen mins left, scored three times in six minutes to take the lead, conceded in the 87th min, scored right as the clock ticked over ninety mins… then conceded again in the sixth minute of stoppage time with a red card in there to Conor Donovan at the same time. Kyle Adams played both games, captaining the side in the first.

Sam Brotherton (North Carolina FC) – Brotherton has settled in immediately to NCFC, playing every minute of their seven games so far and he even scored in the latest. Sammy Boy stabbed one in from a corner (at the second attempt) in first half stoppage time to make it 2-0 against Hartford Athletic, a game they went on to win 4-1. He also picked up a yellow card. Plus he hung out with Abby Erceg’s North Carolina Courage at a community day, which was cool.

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