Flying Kiwis – May 28

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Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

The Oregonian are always good value with their Timbers coverage but they’ve really outdone themselves with a lovely Billy T feature this week, documenting his journey until his recent rise to prominence over the last couple months. Dude’s one of the major success stories of recent times within Flying Kiwis and this kind of exploration of that success is always a good read.

There’s some great stuff about his family there, and the sacrifices his parents made for his career, as well as some inner context about his rise through the Portland Timbers organisation from starting with a six-month contract and a coach who didn’t exactly sound too buzzed about the signing to impressing as a replacement in the 2018 playoffs to where he is now as a regular starter. One bit that stood out in particular, the role of kiwi general manager Gavin Wilkinson in the process…

“Gavin Wilkinson saw something special in Tuiloma. A New Zealand native and former All Whites defender, Wilkinson had followed Tuiloma’s development for a while before he finally decided to take a chance on the fellow Kiwi back in 2017. Even if Tuiloma, who is one of just three New Zealand natives currently competing in MLS, didn’t play an immediate role for the club, the Timbers General Manager and President of Soccer hoped that he could develop in Portland’s environment and make an impact down the road. Wilkinson’s faith in his fellow countryman wasn’t misplaced.”

Timbers coach Gio Savarese: “We had to give him time to make sure that he developed and that he got to the point that we felt was the right moment for him to play. He showed those moments last year in some games and now, back again, he’s showing even more maturity. I think there’s always been a belief in him from day one when I arrived here, and I’ve been very happy to see the way he’s progressed.”

Teammate Zarek Valentin: “He’s willing to do whatever he needs to for the team and he’s shown that with his patience. A lot of times guys lose their patience very quickly when they don’t necessarily play right way and they can lose their head, but when we’ve called on Bill, he’s been able to step into these big moments.”

Bill Tuiloma: “This is the team for me.”

Good on ya, mate. Next up was the Philadelphia Union on the East Coast and Portland… well, you may have heard they signed this new striker dude? Brian Fernandez? Seems he’s rather good. After scoring off the bench on debut he bagged a double in his first start here. Jeremy Ebobisse is their top scorer with four goals in 12 games… Fernandez scored three in his first 61 minutes for the club.

Thanks to renovations at their home game, this was a twelfth consecutive away game to start the season for Portland, twelfth and final before they return to Providence Park next time out. They got it done in style, Fernandez heading in a lovely cross from Andy Polo after Philly had controlled most of the possession in the opening half hour. Five mins they doubled that lead with Fernandez slotting his second after some gorgeous unselfish play from Diego Chara.

Bill Tuiloma had his French Connection made Larrys Mabiala with him in defence and they were good the first half. There was one moment when Tui sorta stepped on a bugger’s foot and the VAR had a peek but he got away with it. However Philly threw more at them in the second half and it was 2-1 after Kacper Przybylko almost accidentally poked one past Steve Clark in goal and it just crept over the line off the post before the keeper could recover.

How exactly the Union didn’t score an equaliser is beyond comprehension. Between some quality saves and a couple bad misses they didn’t though, and Portland finally put it to bed late on with a beauty of a goal from Diego Valeri. 3-1 the final score and that’s exactly what Tui and the lads needed to celebrate their last away game of this brutal stretch. And shout out to Bill Tuiloma, who just started his tenth game in a row, the longest streak he’s had for the club, and he’s the only Timbers player to have played every minute of those ten games.

Last Word On Soccer: “At the beginning of the season, the Timbers were giving up goals as if it was a new hobby. Head coach Giovanni Savarese ended stopped the bleeding not by playing five in the back, which many of us thought would work best. Instead, it was starting Bill Tuiloma at centerback alongside Larrys Mabiala. The two of them have formed quite a partnership that has frustrated forwards. Though they still have yet to keep a clean sheet in 2019, the Timbers went from conceding an average of 2.8 goals a match in their first six games to only allowing one goal in each of the last five. This was against some potent offenses such as Toronto FC and the Dynamo.”

Up Next: Portland Timbers vs LAFC, Sunday at 2.30pm (NZT)

Olivia Chance – Everton (English Super League)

Everton FC: “New Zealand international Olivia Chance is leaving Everton Ladies after more than two years with the Club. Midfielder Chance joined in February 2017 and was part of an Everton squad which claimed the WSL2 Spring Series title later that year. The 25-year-old’s progress was halted by an injury to her anterior cruciate ligament in April 2018, but Chanceis included in her country’s 23-strong squad for this summer’s World Cup in France. Signed following a stint with Icelandic team Breidablik, Chance departs Everton following the conclusion of her contract. Everton would like to thank Olivia for her service and wishes her the very best of luck for the future.”

There’s a stink one then. Having missed almost the entire season recovering from that knee injury, Olivia Chance wasn’t really able to compete for a new contract and with a new manager in charge since last season when she was playing at her best (hence the “transition” bit in her statement), the decision’s been made not to offer her a new deal. That leaves Ali Riley as the only kiwi currently under contract with a WSL team in England… at least as things stand. And there’s the small matter of, you know, the World Cup to focus on in the meantime.

Up Next: Football Ferns vs England at midnight on Saturday/Sunday (NZT)

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

Far be it from Katie Bowen to skip any corners, she played again for the Utah Royals this week as they topped Orlando Pride 2-0 to go top of the NWSL ladder. The American players all left the league for international duty a month ago and Bowen has even played for NZ in that time but she flew back to her club to play (against Abby Erceg, same deal) three days after the defeat against USA, then played another ninety minutes here – missing the closed-door friendly against Mexico in the process. Not sure what the deal is with FIFA windows and whether the Royals are implored to release their international players or not but at this point it seems very weird that Bowen, a likely first eleven player, isn’t already with the Ferns whose World Cup begins in less than two weeks.

Having said that, she’s doing the goods for Utah. Amy Rodriguez gave them the lead after 30 minutes with an excellent penalty before Makenzy Doniak finally sealed the deal late on for the 2-0 win. Yet another clean sheet for Bowen’s defence and, crazily, the first time in 2019 that the Royals have scored multiple goals in a game. The Pride are still winless this season though so even if it was 1-0 for a long time here, it was never too much in doubt. Orlando didn’t have a shot on target in the second half.

RSL Soapbox Player Ratings: “Katie Bowen: 6 - Bowen had a quiet game, not getting involved on the offensive side as much as she normally does. When she did, she did well. She had a solid showing on defense.”

The Royals were able to do this without their top choice CB pairing of Becky Sauerbrunn and Rachel Corsie, who are away with USA and Scotland respectively. And, finally, this was Katie Bowen’s last game before she departs for Ferns duty. So it’s only gonna get tougher for the next month or so with that many players missing. But they’re sitting joint top of the ladder with Washington Spirit after six games each so times are good. Bowen’s played every minute of those six games to date but that’s obviously about to change.

Up Next: Footy Ferns duty with England on the cards at midnight on Saturday/Sunday (NZT)

Nikko Boxall – Viborg FF (Danish Division 1)

A 2-2 draw with Silkeborg a couple games ago meant that first place was out of Viborg’s hands. No matter what they did in their final game, if Silkeborg won then they’d take the lone automatic promotion spot and after scoring early on against Nykøbing they cruised, Ronnie Schwartz’s double taking them to a 2-0 win and the Division 1 title. But simultaneously Viborg were still scrapping out against Fremad Amager just in case. And, honestly, it was barely ever in doubt.

Fremad were also trying to get a result which would keep them in third on the ladder and in that second promotion playoff spot, yet after a nervous beginning from both sides it was Mikkel Agger who slammed in a weird goal which even he looked confused about but whatever, 1-0 up inside twenty mins. Jeff Mensah then made it two with a powerful effort five minutes before the break and Nikko Boxall’s defence did the rest of it. Eventually Agger scored a second inside the last twenty and Morten Beck polished it off right at the end. 4-0 to Viborg, who finished second on the ladder by a single point, and now the real funky stuff begins – a two-legged playoff for a place in the top flight against Hobro, who relegated Vejle from the top flight in their playoff last week and now have one last chance to save their own spot amongst the big dogs.

News not so great for FC Helsingør, where Eli Just and Dalton Wilkins will be playing next season. With ten minutes to go of their game against Lyngby they were up 1-0 and Hvidovre were losing 2-1 in their own game. It was enough to squeeze them to safety on goal difference… but they conceded two late goals to lose while Hvidovre found an equaliser and each of those things on their own was enough to relegate the lads. Just and Wilkins will just have to do it the long way then.

Up Next: Hobro vs Viborg, 4am on Friday, first leg of their promotion/relegation playoff (NZT)

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

The Colorado Rapids are apparently allergic to playing an unchanged defence so once again there were alterations… this time that meant Smithy and Wynnebags partnering up in central defence. Lalas Abubakar was loan-tied so can’t do too much about that, at least. Smith and Wynne have played alongside each other plenty for this club but don’t think they’ve done it at CBs in a back four before. Smith’s second start since being dropped after Anthony Hudson was sacked, Deklan Wynne’s fifth start in a row. Cool cool cool.

Perhaps not as cool as this though…

Typically thumping header and Tommy Smith is back in the goals, being a threat from set pieces just as he was for all of 2018. And that was only the beginning of a thrilling game, in which Columbus Crew twice equalised before Nic Mezquida scored a beauty in the final minute of the ninety to win it 3-2 for the Rapids who have now earned back to back victories after their eleven-game drought at the beginning.

Up Next: Philadelphia Union vs Colorado Rapids on Thursday at 11.30am (NZT)

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

Having been dropped recently and only getting back into the side thanks to an injury to Ike Opara, it was a little concerning when he was named to start in a mostly second string XI against a visiting Hertha Berlin side (the German club won 1-0). But no dramas, Boxy was still picked to start against the Houston Dynamo a few days later… with the Loons reversing that scoreline thanks to a deflected winner and yet another strong defensive showing. Getting rather resurgent all of a sudden.

E Pluribus Loonum: “Though standout centerback Ike Opara was reported to be recovered from a knee injury, he was kept in the bench in favor of Michael Boxall and Brent Kallman, who worked well together in holding the Columbus Crew scoreless and shotless last weekend.”

Look, no need to change a successful formula, right? And with another clean sheet in the bag ol’ Mike’s doing the best he can to keep that role. It was fullback Romain Metanire who scored the only goal. It was obviously meant to be a cross but his marker got a touch on it and the ball floated over the keeper and went in off the far post. Pure luck but you take ‘em how they come and another strong performance from the Loons got the points in front of a rowdy home crowd. Opara was subbed on late as extra defensive cover so you know he was fit too. Good fun.

Michael Boxall: “I don’t really look at the standings. I just look at the next game and we just want to get the three points. Now that you have brought it up maybe I will have a look and see where we are at. Honestly, I am pretty sure Houston was above us. The Western Conference is a tough conference and you need to make sure you win your games at home to make sure you are still in the mix come September.”

Might as well chuck this one up too…

And check who’s dropping lines here. Just a little too late for Comedy Fest…

Up Next: Away to Atlanta United on Thursday at 11am (NZT)

Betsy Hassett - KR Reykjavik (Icelandic Úrvalsdeild kvenna)

Yup, that’s one last Fern polishing off the club stuff – Tom Sermanni’s squad will be at full strength by the time they get settled in London. Although Hassett didn’t actually play the last few games for KR as she nurses that broken arm - which wasn’t expected to keep her out of any games but safety first, you know – with KR able to edge ÍBV with a 2-1 win despite having Laufey Bjornsdottir sent off in the first half with the scores still at 1-0. Having lost their first three games in the league, that was a pretty crucial result to get their tally underway. The Icelandic league doesn’t rest for the World Cup though. Iceland didn’t qualify so not much point. But yeah, Betsy’s off to join the kiwi lasses now.

Up Next: Ferns duty in England then France

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

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* OPEN TRUTH ABOUT MY SEASON • The curtains have come down on another season here in South Africa - @sundownsfc crowned PSL champions for a second consecutive season being the main highlight for myself and the club 🏆🥇 Unfortunately for myself personally I didn’t achieve what I’d hoped for in terms of cementing myself in the starting 11 and being the go to man for goals. Before I joined Sundowns I was consistently playing and scoring and everyone including myself expected this to continue with ease when I made the big move...(which by the way was not for the figure that everyone thinks 💰💰). As you see all over the world, this sometimes happens and there are many factors that contribute to this (I’ll save these for another time). The main struggle for me has been trying to adapt to the Sundowns style of play ⚽️ Growing up as a kid all I wanted to do was play football and score goals. With limited game time (especially in the second half of the season) this has mentally been a massive challenge for me. I’ve had to be strong and not take my work issues home and let it effect my family.... this is sometimes hard when your 4 year old son always asks “why do you not play daddy?” It’s a real heart breaker for me👨‍👦💔 But I’ve tried to keep a brave face and take my mind away from the struggles - whether that’s kicking the ball in the back yard with Oskar, dancing and drawing with Piper and most importantly spending quality time with my love, Jessica. With all this being said I feel I can still offer a lot to South African football on and off the pitch and get back to being the “Sniper” everyone once feared ⚽️🥅 I’m taking a much needed break (mentally) and getting on a plane to Mauritius with my family soon to refresh and come back better and stronger 💪🏼🏖 Thanks to all of those who send the positive messages to me through social media - you also really keep me going!! 👏🏼👏🏼 Until next season...

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Very open and honest words from Jerry. Read those words there in his intended context first. The most interesting bits being that he reckons his reported transfer fee has been way overrated, he hints that there were a variety of reasons why he’s been struggling (though the main one was adapting to a different style of play), and most of all that he still feels he’s got plenty to offer to South African football.

Up Next: ???

Jesse Edge – Lokomotíva Košice (Slovakian 2. Liga)

When Jesse Edge signed with Lokomotiva a couple months ago they were still in a bit of trouble trying to avoid relegation to the third tier in Slovakia. Well they might have had a couple big defeats near the end but a good run of results prior meant they had room to breathe and they ended up avoiding the drop by eight points thanks to a win on the final day. Edge was a pretty regular face in the team after joining post-Winter break and what’s more is that he scored the second goal in the 2-1 win at home to Partizán Bardejov which closed their season, slotting home from the penalty spot for his first goal for the club.

Up Next: Season’s all done and dusted now

Themi Tzimopoulos – PAS Giannina (Greek Superleague)

We’re pretty short on candidates this week with most of the Ferns on international duty and most of the European seasons having recently finished… so how about a catch up with old mate Themi? Last seen doing his thing for PAS Giannina week in and week out in Greece and that season finished a couple weeks ago so let’s just check in and see… oh damn they got relegated. Yeah, a rotten run of just one win in their final ten games saw them slip to fourteenth on the ladder (out of 16) and that’ll see them in the second tier next season. No good for Themi who played 26 of their 30 games and logged the third most minutes for the club. He’s under contract for one more season after this one. Times have really changed since this a year ago…

Up Next: Season actually ended back in early May so nothing much

Clayton Lewis – Scunthorpe United (English League Two)

Grimsby Telegraph, Keep or Sell?: “Clayton Lewis - Has managed to force himself back into the first team reckoning. Will be useful as a back-up option but will he get an awful lot of games considering the players in front of him?  KEEP (POSSIBLE LOAN)”

Up Next: Dunno

The USL Crew

James Musa (Phoenix Rising) – Still struggling for starts having only begun four out of 12 this season, but he does tend to feature off the bench relatively regularly and at least now the Rising are scoring goals and winning games again. Moose came on for the last eight minutes plus stoppage time of a 4-2 win away to Real Monarchs, introduced immediately after the fourth goal.

Elliot Collier (Memphis 901 FC) – A full game for Collier in a 2-2 draw away to Swope Park Rangers. Both goals came from corner kicks so no Collier assists or anything there but always good to see him playing long minutes, getting results, and doing his thing.

Kyle Adams (Rio Grande Valley) – Wasn’t captaining them this time but still another strong ninety for Adams at CB for RGVFC in a 3-1 win over San Antonio in a South Texas Derby. Adams has only missed one game this season, when the team was stacked with MLS loan players, and he’s come off the bench one other time. Otherwise he’s been ever-present.

Sam Brotherton (North Carolina FC) – Second goal of the season for Brotherton! He struck early in an away clash vs NY Red Bulls Reserves, with NC looking good at 2-0 up at HT only for a red card to have them clinging on in the second half with next to no possession and facing shot after shot… but Brotherton’s a decent defender too, you might have heard. NCFC with the 2-1 win.

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