Flying Kiwis – May 21

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Abby Erceg – North Carolina Courage vs Katie Bowen – Utah Royals (American National Women’s Soccer League)

The Football Ferns played on Friday afternoon. The North Carolina Courage played the Utah Royals on Monday afternoon. Both in America, mind, but too short a recovery period for the two kiwis involved in both games? Not at all. The word had been that Abby Erceg and Katie Bowen would each leave their NWSL teams for Footy Ferns camp late in the month but how about them bouncing between them in the meantime? That’s some mad commitment there.

The Courage were coming off their first loss in nearly a year while the Royals were coming off their first loss this season. That was the context but the Courage, also ravaged by the absence of most of their international players, still wouldn’t have expected to start as poor as they did. After an early threat, Amy Rodriguez put Utah up inside ten mins when she finished off a move that had begun with an errant Erceg long ball and ended with the keeper misjudging the shot. Erceg must’ve had a bit of international hangover as she saw Katie Bowen in white on the halfway line and lifted it right to her. Bowen then knocked it down for a midfield teammate and the rest was just a beautifully worked goal (apart from the concrete feet of the keeper).

Not that NCC weren’t about to respond. The speed of Lynn Williams gave them a threat in return, plus Erceg had an effort with a looping header that she wasn’t able to get on target in the 24th minute. Bowen’s lot have had a good record against the Courage, not losing to them at all last year, but their standard game in 2019 revolves around scoring once and then holding on and seeing where that gets them. So they did a fair bit of holding on here and they did it pretty well despite not having a single shot in the final hour of the game… but Elizabeth Eddy finally put one away for NCC in the 78th minute after coming off the bench. 1-1 the final score.

As if it wasn’t hard enough baking up from an international game three days earlier already, the heat in North Carolina meant they needed two hydration breaks. But Erceg and Bowen each got through ninety minutes no dramas. Pretty crazy effort that, at a time when all the USA internationals (and both teams have a handful) have been away from the squads for a month now. The Courage’s four American World Cup reps were all there and watching from the stands. Their NZ rep was playing. So there you go.

Up Next: The Royals are home to Orlando at midday on Sunday while the Courage are away to Seattle at 11am on Tuesday… we’ll see if Tom Sermanni has other thoughts though (NZT)

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

Pleasant news here that Mikey Boxall was back in the starting eleven for the Loons this week, just as we really needed him with Flying Kiwis contracting a tad much at the end of the European season. At home in their flash new stadium against Columbus Crew, Boxall was recalled after Ike Opara missed most of the week’s training with a minor injury. Boxall had missed the last four games while sitting unused on the bench but in that time the club chose to trade away captain Francisco Calvo to the Chicago Fire – with the club getting sick of his negativity, apparently, yowza.

No such worries for Boxall though, who stayed ready and stepped up when they needed him in a 1-0 win over Columbus. Keeping that clean sheet, always a bonus. Ethan Finlay scored the winner with twenty minutes to play against his old team. They weren’t up against the toughest team in the comp but for the first time in Minny Utd history they didn’t allow a single shot on target and only four shots in total. They remain undefeated at their new stadium. Good times. And a bit of redemption for Boxall after he’d been dropped following a shocker in Toronto his previous appearance – where he cocked up a bouncing ball for the winning goal at the end.

Michael Boxall: “I first ran to Brent [Kallman] because I don’t know how he got his head on that at the first cross and hit it back across, so I first ran to him. But then yeah, I think any time you score against your old team, especially when they trade you it’s a pretty special feeling. Obviously one that I don’t think I’ll get to experience but I’m so happy for him and yeah so happy for the crowd tonight that’s something special to play in front of.”

Coach Adrian Heath: “[Opara] just didn’t feel 100 percent. So, there’s no point in rushing it. And the good thing is, the performance of [Michael] Boxy as well. I thought he was outstanding. I thought the two center backs were terrific.”

Michael Boxall, again: “Yeah just like I said before, I didn’t want to poop the bed tonight after my last outing so yeah delighted for Vito [Mannone] and the boys that we could get a clean sheet… I think once you step out there you kind of turn this switch on that you have a job to do. In the Toronto game, I probably didn’t do that well enough. But yeah, playing alongside with all those guys around you it just makes it easier. The crowd was so good for us and it just makes you stay focused for 90 minutes… I mean, you want to be playing every game. I think the next three games they didn’t see the goal. I’m delighted for the boys to get three clean sheets after all the work they’ve put in for the year.”

Up Next: A friendly against Hertha on Thursday at midday and then home to Houston Dynamo at midday on Sunday (NZT)

Nikko Boxall – Viborg FF (Danish Division 1)

Two games. Huge implications. Everything to play for at the top of the Division 1 ladder in Denmark with promotion right there for the taking. First off was the big one, Viborg away to Silkeborg in a top of the table clash that would put Viborg in the driver’s seat if they could win it. And quarter of an hour into it with a 2-0 lead it seemed that everything was going right.

But no. A scrappy goal for captain Jeppe Grønning from the mess after a corner kick had been added to by a slippery finish from Mikkel Agger but Silkeborg aren’t top of the pops for nothing. A controversial call late in the first half determined that Ingvar Johnsson had picked up a backpass (dodgy decision there for sure) and Ronnie Schwarz slammed in the strike from the indirect free kick layoff to make it 2-1. That was their way back in and Schwarz made it 2-2 quickly after the second half began with a sharp finish from the edge of the area. Viborg did have one golden chance to win it at the end but Andreas Albers wasn’t able to get a foot on the ball across the face of the goal. 2-2 was the way it ended which kept Silkeborg top with a couple games to go and left Nikko’s VFF crew begging for some dropped points elsewhere.

They did bounce back nicely with a clean sheet and a 1-0 win over Hvidovre though. Jeff Mensah scored the only goal ten minutes into the second half. Unfortunately Silkeborg also scored an 88th winner away to Fremad Amager in a 4-3 result that keeps Viborg second with one game remaining. Viborg cannot finish lower than second. If they can better Silkeborg’s result against Nykøbing on the final day though, they can still get top and automatic promotion. Otherwise they’re in for a playoff with third place. Fremad Amager, their next opponents, are currently third by Lyyngby and Næstved can still catch them.

Also, that win over Hvidovre kept a lifeline out there for FC Helsingør, who Eli Just and Dalton Wilkins are joining next season. Helsingør themselves were involved in a dramatic 3-3 draw away to Nykøbing (they were 2-1 down going into the last minute of regulation time) which means they absolutely have to win their final game and have Hvidovre lose also for them to stay in the second tier.

Up Next: Viborg vs Fremad Amager, 11.45pm on Saturday (NZT)

Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

Not a whole lot to report here, just another solid performance from Bill Tuiloma who is really emerging as an important player for the Timbers lately. Dude had to pay some dues along the way but he’s in a place where he’s thriving at the moment – although we all know football can change quickly. The Timbers are going good as a team as well, having overcome an awful start and if their new striker Brian Fernandez is as good as he flashed off the bench on debut then they might really go some places.

The Houston Dynamo largely took control of the first half and took the lead in the 40th minute as Mauro Manotas headed in at the back post. Somehow left wide open too, the gaffer might have a word to say about that. But keeper Jeff Attinella kept it at one going into the break and after steadying the ship, the Timbers threw on the new fella needing a goal and he delivered. Broke the defensive line and threaded one past the keeper one on one. It ended in a draw and away against a team that had won five out of their first six home games that’s not so bad.

Tui didn’t have his usual comrade Larrys Mabiala next to him. A short turnaround from their game away in Vancouver meant five changes to the starting team with Tuiloma retaining his spot but playing alongside Julio Cascante instead. No worries there.

Head coach Gio Savarese on his defence: “Very well organized. The guys knew how to cover. I think the most important part is in the one-v-one matchups, we did very well and I think that was the key factor today. It was tough because their guys that came in were faster than the ones that were there before. So more credit to the guys who did a fantastic job during the entire game, but especially in the second half.”

Up Next: Sunday at 11.30am away to Philadelphia Union (NZT)

CJ Bott – Vittsjö GIK (Swedish Damallsvenskan)

In their final game before the big old World Cup break, Vittsjö hosted Piteå with the chance to take a five-game unbeaten streak into that break. Which, sure enough, they were able to do… although they must be scratching their heads there trying to figure out how they didn’t win. Specifically a header which was bounced over the bar from Clara Markstedt and then another shot which was somehow cleared off the line after it looked like Tove Almqvist had scored. Then they got lucky as a cross at the other end floated dangerously close to the goal and bounced off the crossbar.

But a 0-0 draw isn’t the worst by any means. It’ll keep them at least fifth on the table during the World Cup hiatus… possibly even as high as second which is where they sit at the time of writing with a few games still to play. CJ Bott, who is one of six players in the Vittsjö squad to have played every minute through seven games, had a quiet game within the highlights but she did pick up a yellow in the second half, her third of the season.

Up Next: Club footy resumes at midnight of 22 July at home to Göteborg (NZT)

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

Two quick games this week to take the Swedish league into a three month break… which is crazy… but okay then. First was a cup game away to Bryne. A lower league opponent and Avaldsnes made quick enough work of them on the way to a 2-0 win. Not a lot of info going around from that game but can tell ya that a few days later they travelled to Røa for their final league game before the break and despite being 2-0 down after half an hour, they managed to claw their way back into it for a 2-2 draw thanks to Rasheedat Ajibade’s 89th minute equaliser. Esson started her third Toppserien game in a row while Rebekah Stott was a key figure as always. Nothing you could blame the keeper for with the goals either – in fact Esson made two fantastic saves to keep the game from getting even further beyond them and make sure that comeback stayed alive.

Up Next: All about that World Cup Fever for the both of them

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

You’re not going to believe this… but the Colorado Rapids won a game.

Jeez, you’d be embarrassed to be Zlatan Ibrahimovic right now, aye? Lucky for him he wasn’t played and lucky for a recalled Tommy Smith as well, who lined up at centre back which allowed Deklan Wynne to slide on over to left back finally.

It took twelve games for the Rapids to finally win one. With Zlatan out suspended it was the perfect time to take on a slumping LAG side and in a game of many chances at both ends it was substitute Andre Shinyashiki who bagged the winner in the 82nd minute. Combine that with Tim Howard’s best game all season and a couple kiwi defenders chipping in on the clean sheet and that’s how you do it. If only Anthony Hudson had figured out the trick.

Rapids boss Conor Casey: “They were great, the entire backline, Timmy [Howard] came up huge for us a couple of times and Tommy [Smith] and Lalas [Abubakar] looked quite comfortable and both Deklan [Wynne] and Keegan [Rosenberry] did a really good job with the speed that they have on their wings, so I was very pleased and encouraged by the performance. First shutout of the year so it's a big step for us.”

Up Next: Sunday at 1pm against Columbus Crew (NZT)

Tyler Boyd – MKE Ankaragücü (Turkish Süper Lig)

Yeah so… yeah. That happened.

And just to give everyone one more glimpse of what he’s got to offer, Tyler Boyd went on ahead and scored in a 3-1 win over Sivasspor which snaps a run of four games without a win and finally confirms them in the top flight for next season with one week to spare. Boyd scored the second of the three goals, with Hadi Sacko and Hector Canteros getting the others. They were 3-0 up after fifty minutes while David Braz pulled one back for consolation in the 61st. That’s a sixth goal for Boyd now. He’s basically taking the piss at this point.

Up Next: Monday at TBD, away to Göztepe (NZT)

James McGarry & Michael Woud – Willem II (Dutch Eredivisie)

After blowing any last chance at Europa League playoffs last week, Willem II had one last game to close it out and it was away to FC Emmen. Timo Wellenreuther was back with the gloves so Woud joined McGarry on the bench and there they each had a great vision of what it looks like when a team has nothing left to play for. Damil Dankerlui game them the lead after quarter of an hour and they were 2-1 up after 48 minutes… fast forward to the end of it and they lost 6-2 with a red card.

Four defeats in a row to close the season, including the KNVB Cup final, and they conceded 16 goals in the process, finishing in tenth place. Woud started four league games and was on the bench in 28 more. Not bad after joining from the Sunderland U23s at the start of the season. James McGarry also joined from non-senior footy as he’d mostly been plugging away for the Wellington Phoenix reserves when he left to sign with Willem II. He played five times, starting two of them, combining for 172 minutes in his debut campaign as a pro in Europe. Also on the bench 19 times. Not huge numbers for either but we’re talking about a couple fellas aged 20 and 21 who are right there ready in a top European league and for a team that made a cup final and pushed for Europe rather than relegation. This is a pretty rare feat for New Zealanders to achieve so soon in their careers.

Up Next: U20 World Cup for Woudy, offseason for McGarry

Ryan de Vries – FC Gifu (Japanese J2-League)

Hey guess who was back to goal scoring ways in Japan this week? You don’t really have to guess, to be fair. Answer’s right there in front of you. But yeah, second goal of the season for RDV. He thought he had a double earlier on but one of them was later recategorised as an own goal and it took him two months to score his next as FC Gifu have kinda struggled this season. In fact dump the kinda because they’re dead last on the ladder after 14 games. RDV’s goal was a 90th minute consolation strike in a 5-0 defeat away to JEF United, after coming off the bench in the 77th min with his team already five down. So… they won 1-0 while De Vries was out there, for what it’s worth.

Skip to 5:45 in this vid for the goal…

Up Next: FC Gifu vs Machida Zelvia at 10pm on Sunday (NZT)

Jeremy Brockie – Mamelodi Sundowns (South African Premier Soccer League)

Rough season just completed for Jezza. That tweet above was actually part of a wider dialogue online which was really quite inspiring (more on that here) and you have to admire the way he’s kept a positive outlook on things even as he’s been pushed to the very fringes of the squad. 742 minutes in 13 games this season in the PSL but only four of those games came in 2019 and he’s played just 43 mins all up in the last four months across all competitions. He took too long to settle, with that extended goal drought, and then never got much of a look in after he was dropped. Now the gaffer’s basically confirmed what we all already knew which is that Jeremy Brockie will not be with the defending champs again next season.

Pitso Mosimane: “Look, JB got chances. Let’s be honest. There are guys who never got chances. I don’t know why he is struggling, and I think it’s not just about him. What killed him is that Lebo Maboe scored eight goals and became the top goal scorer at the club. Was I supposed to change him after scoring? Jeremy got suspended in the CAF Champions League and Lebo came in, and scored. So I went with him. Jeremy also got some niggling injuries, not available and sometimes I played even Thapelo Morena (a defender) up front to find a goal and he did. Where did that put Jeremy? Themba Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi also scored. When I played Jeremy, he wasn’t scoring. I am not saying he is not trying. He tries hard, he is a focused player, never sluggish – but it’s luck.”

The Wellington Phoenix linked themselves to him a month or so ago, though there was always interest from other PSL clubs as well who still remember his Sniper days at SuperSport United. Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates have both been firmly linked in recent days. Should be busy times coming up for Brox.

Up Next: Chat with the agent, chat with the family

Ria Percival – West Ham United (English Super League)

RP, speaking to “For me, West Ham supporters have been one of the best fan groups I've seen at any club I've played at. To have so many supporters - and the numbers have grown over the season as well - I can't thank the fans enough. It's really helped us to get results this season. We've had a really good season. We've made good strides forward and shown we can compete in this league. Overall, we're happy with where we have finished and the growth we have enjoyed as a team. We're in a good position to go away for the summer and then come back ready to do again."

"It's all go for me now. No break; straight into more friendly games next week and then the World Cup in a few weeks. It's going to be a big month. I'm off to America on Monday for two games, and then two games with England and Wales, and then we're over to France for the World Cup. We want to win every game but first, we need to get out of the group and see where that takes us.”

Up Next: Fully focussed on the World Cup

Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (English Super League)

Up Next: All out for the World Cup… and hopefully a podcast or two in the process

Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)

Up Next: Get fit, son

Katie Rood – Lewes (English Championship)

Roodie’s season ended with a bit of a belting at the hands of promoted Manchester United, going down 5-0. But she did manage to score three goals in seven games for Lewes on loan, to add to the goal she scored for Bristol City in the first half of the season. Plenty more to come in the seasons to follow too.

Up Next: A holiday probably wouldn’t go astray

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