Flying Kiwis – July 16

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Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)

It’s been fourteen long months since he was stretchered off injured against Swansea in the Premier League but Winnie finally got back on the field this week in preseason action for West Ham. He played the second half of a 3-2 win over SCR Altach in Austria, one of eight changes at half-time of that one.

Winston Reid: “It’s been a long time – 14 months – since I was out on the pitch in a game, and I feel pretty good. I don’t have any pain or anything, which is was obviously the main concern when you’ve been out for a long time, as it takes time for your body to get back into rhythm, I guess, and get used to doing football movements. There is only so much gym work and running and drills you can do. You have to go out and train every day and take it slow. I never lost faith that I would come back, but it was a long and, at times, difficult rehab.”

This is obviously a huge milestone for the fella and to come through feeling “pretty good” is a huge relief. West Ham continue their preseason in China next up and Reidy, who is now the second longest serving player at the Hammers after Mark Noble, will be looking to keep easing his way back. That starting centreback spot has long since been mopped up by Fabian Balbuena and Issa Diop (and Angelo Ogbonna is still around) so he’ll have to earn his minutes, that’s for sure.

Up Next: They miiiiight be playing Man City on Thursday at 12.30am in Shanghai… if that game goes ahead (NZT)

Tyler Boyd – Besiktas (Turkish Süper Lig)

Told ya a couple weeks back that this was on the cards, Beşiktaş had cleared the cash and were just waiting for the Gold Cup to finish before confirming the last few details. Well, the Gold Cup ended with the USA losing 1-0 to Mexico thanks to a Giovanni Dos Santos goal in the 73rd minute. Tyler Boyd, who had such a great start to the tournament, was subbed off after an hour of the quarter-final win over Curaçao and he didn’t feature again in the rest of the thing – an unused sub in both semi and final. But that’s all done with now and we’re back into the club stuff.

Beşiktaş are one of the glamour clubs in Turkey, finishing third last season and qualifying for the Europa League group stages (and having played Champions League as recently as 2017-18). Boyd did have one year left on his contract in Portugal with Vitoria SC but given what a splash he made in the Turkish Süper Lig over the last half of last season, and given that the team he was on loan at previously (Ankaragucu) likely didn’t have the finances to make a deal happen, this just makes sense. He looked at home with this style of footy from day one and it oughta be funky to see how the ex-All White goes at a top side who’ll maybe be a little more demanding of him but will also provide him with more opportunities to attack and play positive footy. Boyd’s agreed a four year contract that’ll keep him there until 2023.

Up Next: Bit of cheeky preseason, surely

Sarpreet Singh - Bayern Munich II (German 3.Liga)

Things are going pretty sweet for Sarpreet these days. After setting up a goal in his first preseason game for the Bayern ressies, he then got a brief cameo off the bench in his second game (the very next day, hence mass rotation), before this weekend playing his third – and the team’s final – preseason effort. Singh got a little under half an hour as he was subbed on in the 63rd minute against Dukla Prague and our lad wasted little time in popping one in from twenty metres out. His first goal for the club, albeit an unofficial one. That goal put Bayern II up 3-0 against the Czech second tier side, which they’d extend to 4-0 when fellow substitute Joshua Zirkee scored a minute later (Oliver Batista-Meier and Kwasi Okyere Wriedt with the first half strikes). Dukla then scored a couple goals in the last five minutes as the young Bayern fellas eased off at the end for a 4-2 result.

This comes just a week out from Bayern II’s first 3.Liga game although Sarpreet Singh ain’t gonna be there on account of the small matter of being called up into Bayern’s senior squad for their brief tour to America. It’s a big travelling squad with 27 players involved so minutes won’t necessarily be on the cards, but just being involved with the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer and the rest of them is amazing coming so soon after his arrival. It’s also a sign of their intentions for him as a first team prospect… and possibly even a sign that their patient approach with him isn’t completely set in concrete if he goes on and does something crazy. But yeah, it’s all about experience at this stage. Settling into the club and getting a taste of the big time that he’s working towards over these next three years. There’s quite a heavy reserve presence in this touring squad, with seven players picked out of the U23s or U19s, Singh included. Bayern plays Arsenal, Real Madrid, and AC Milan over in the States.

Up Next: 3pm on Thursday, it’s Arsenal vs Bayern Munich (NZT)

Elliot Collier – Memphis 901 FC (American USL Championship)

Fresh off a delightful hatty last week, you can’t be too surprised by this little nod but it’s a big deal all the same. USL Player of the Week, what a guy. Here’s what the USL themselves had to say about things…

“Memphis 901 FC forward Elliot Collier has been voted the USL Championship Player of the Week for Week 18 of the 2019 season. Collier scored the first hat trick in 901 FC’s history as he led the side to a 4-1 victory against Hartford Athletic on Saturday night at AutoZone Park, a victory that marked the club’s first home league win in its history. Collier received 76 percent of the poll conducted by a national panel of independent media representing every USL Championship market. Saint Louis FC’s Russell Cicerone finished second on 12 percent after recording a goal and assist in his side’s comeback to earn a 2-2 draw with Loudoun United FC.”

Elliot Collier: “I feel like I’ve been having good performances, but just have been unlucky not to score some goals. On Saturday it all came together and I scored three, so that was great. The support has been great, from everybody here in Memphis and people reaching out in Chicago… They [Chicago] keep an eye on me and keep in contact. “They told me what I needed to do when I first went on loan, which was to get minutes, get game time, experience, confidence, and score goals. That’s what I’m here to do.”

What a fella. Unfortunately no game this week though, their clash with Charleston got postponed thanks to the ol’ favourite ‘inclement weather’. Beats playing a four hour game full of delays like Colorado Rapids did last week, s’pose.

Up Next: Memphis 901 vs Nashville, Thursday at 12.30pm (NZT)

Betsy Hassett - KR Reykjavik (Icelandic Úrvalsdeild kvenna)

No rest for Betsy, none at all. The Icelandic league only missed two weeks during the World Cup and with New Zealand not getting out of the group stage that meant she was free and available a few weeks back when they took on Thór/KA, scrapping on their way to a 2-2 draw. Hassett played ninety minutes literally days after that New Zealand vs Cameroon game. Like, three days later she was playing for her club. That’s some crazy dedication. Anyway, they almost got a second win of the season only to concede the equaliser in the 88th minute.

So a tough start continued for KR and was made tougher when they lost 1-0 away to Selfoss in their subsequent game. Betsy Hassett played the whole thing however Holmfridur Magnúsdóttir’s 20th minute goal was the only one in the contest… and by the time that KR kicked off their latest game they were sitting dead last on the ladder. Not where you want to be after eight games, clearly. Just a single win from the lot of them (remember Hassett missed a bit of time with that broken arm she had pre-WWC).

But up against Stjarnan they finally got what they needed in the form of three lovely points, as Aussie Grace Maher banged in the winner in the 90th minute for some proper drama. Definitely not a game that they had all their own way but they managed to hang on for the clean sheet against a team that has now failed to score in five straight and they finally got the goal they needed just in time. According to the local papers, Hassett was in pretty sweet form too.

Good yarns from a couple weeks back in the Icelandic Women’s Cup too. A goal from Hassett herself, ten minutes into her second game back, gave them a win over second tier club Tindastóll and lifted them into the semi-finals… which will be played next week. Sitting still just one point off the bottom and with a relegation battle likely on their hands, having a trophy to play for here is a big deal.

Up Next: KR vs Thór/KA, Icelandic Women’s Cup semis, Sunday at 4am (NZT)

Marco Rojas – SønderjyskE (Danish Superliga)

The new season has begun in Denmark and Marco Rojas had a fair bit of momentum coming out of a solid preseason, looking to hit the ground running in his first full season with Sonders. And what did he do in the season opener against Randers? Only went and scored the winner, mate.

Named in the middle line of a 4-3-3 this was a very attacking line-up from Sonders and they capitalised after half an hour when Christian Jakobsen slammed home from the edge of the area. It was a lead that they held into the break but Marvin Egho broke free and equalised in the 52nd minute – picking up where he left off after a hatty in the second leg between these two teams in Europa qualifying last season. But 65th minute and Marco Rojas got his new campaign up and running with a bang, a messy one but Marco popped up in the right place to slam it home and end the suspense. Nice find from Jonas Absalonsen too.

Rojas was then subbed off almost immediately, which you’d guess was a defensive move. It worked too. Sonders stuck in there and held on for a 2-1 victory to begin the new term on a wonderful note – by beating the team that ended their previous season.

And another angle:

Decent start to things there, then. Nikko Boxall’s first division Viborg begin their new season in two weeks at home to Roskilde, looking to bounce back after failing to earn promotion in 2018-19 if you were wondering, while a division below that we’ve got Eli Just and Dalton Wilkins at Helsingor, who don’t begin their new season until August 4. Denmark’s the place to be these days, aye?

Up Next: Away to AaB at midnight on Monday (NZT)

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

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She missed their last game with a minor injury niggle picked up in warmups but Abby Erceg made her belated return to the Courage this week and pretty much just picked up where she left off with a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Seattle Reign. Lynn Williams scored in the first half and Debinha scored in the second half as the Courage had a pretty vintage performance, with 10 shots on target compared to just one from their guests. Both teams hit the frame of the goal with the score at 1-0 though so certainly not one way traffic.

Erceg was pretty solid, slipping in naturally to her standard position. She’s still without regular CB partner and USA World Cup winner (and starter) Abby Dahlkemper so there were a few moments of sketchiness there, particularly in a frantic last few minutes of the first half. But keeping clean sheets is the natural habitat of this team. Dahlkemper and fellow USWNT squadies Sam Mewis and Jessica McDonald were all in the stands watching amongst what was the biggest crowd the Courage have had all season (Crystal Dunn was also in the American squad but wasn’t in attendance). The win makes it five games unbeaten for NCC and puts them back top of the table (finally)… ahead of the Portland Thorns on goal difference.

MLS Multiplex: “After a month away at the World Cup, defender Abby Erceg and goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé were back in action in the starting line-up against Reign FC. Their arrival couldn’t have come at a better time following a defensive lapse last week against Houston. The defense wasn’t perfect by any means; Reign FC still produced chances resulting from errors in position and communication, but it was a much better performance than what fans had seen previously.”

There was also a little ceremony after the game where they acknowledged all the team’s World Cup representatives, including Abby Erceg of course. Along with the three Americans, Brazilian forward Debinha and Canadian goalie Stephanie Labbé were the others. It was a good day all around, basically.

Meanwhile… who’s keen on some inspiration?

Up Next: Big test away to Sam Kerr and the Chicago Red Stars on Monday at 10am (NZT)

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

Also back in action as Katie Bowen with the Utah Royals, who finally welcomed their World Cup stars back following a 2-0 defeat to Seattle Reign and then a bye week, which kinda burst the bubble they’d been in – siting top of the ladder previously. Just in time with the reinforcements then, as New Zealand’s Katie Bowen, Canada’s Desiree Scott, and Scotland’s Rachel Corsie all leapt back into the eleven for the Royals against Sky Blue. None of their three USA internationals were playing, of course, but Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press (who have each only played twice for Utah in 2019 thanks to international commitments) should all be back next week. Same deal with Spain’s Vero Boquete.

Sky Blue might be bottom of the table however they aren’t the pushovers that they were a year ago. And Utah have mostly made a habit of keeping games close and scoring the odd goal to make the difference but in recent times, with understrength teams, that creativity’s come under even more pressure. Sky Blue started strongly but Utah responded with Amy Rodriguez hitting the post in a scoreless first half. The second spell had a similar dynamic too as Sky Blue piled on the pressure, Utah withheld it as best they could, then Utah tried to finish strongly as their opponents tired. It’s been a solid formula for them… but it didn’t work out here. Jen Hoy cut inside in stoppage time to fire in the winner, her second game-winner in a row, and Utah have now lost two in a row. Still well in the hunt for playoffs but let’s just say that they could really use those three USA players back about now.

Bowen had a pretty busy game at right back, with a fair bit of defending to be done. The goal came down her side too though not really her fault, just an overlap after a poor clearing kick from the keeper. Things should get more comfortable when the reinforcements arrive.

Katie Bowen, on the World Cup journey: “It was a disappointing experience. It was fun at the same time, but tough. Obviously playing in a World Cup is always going to be a privilege. A lot of people would kind of kill to be there, so I don’t take that lightly. Unfortunately we didn’t get the results that we wanted.”

Up Next: Utah vs Portland, Saturday at 2pm (NZT)

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

In the US Open Cup quarter-final, Minnesota versus USL standouts New Mexico United, Michael Boxall made his presence known immediately as he stepped up and unleashed a monster header that travelled about thirty metres in the air from a long ball forwards. But he and CB mate Ike Opara wouldn’t hardly have to do much defence at all in this one. It would have helped if they’d done a little more when Santi Moar slammed in the early goal for the underdogs from the edge of the area… yet that was merely a blip along the way.

That goal came in the sixth minute, by the twenty-fifth minute it was 4-1 to Minnesota. An absolute blitzkrieg of football, Angelo Rodriguez went on to score a half-time hatty while Darwin Quintero, Jan Gregus, and Miguel Ibarra also got on the scoresheet, the game ending up 6-1 in a crazy one. New Mexico United knocked Colorado out of the cup, remember. Minnesota will now play Portland in the semis – which means that either Mike Boxall or Bill Tuiloma should be playing in the final. James Musa was on the bench as Sporting Kansas City won this thing a couple years ago.

Skipping ahead a few days and Boxall and Opara started again as the Loons travelled to FC Dallas in much more competitive contest. It was only scrambling defence that denied Minnesota from taking an early lead however Dallas soon settled into some control and this thing fast became a midfield battle. Breaking up the arm wrestle were a couple magical saves from MU goalie Vito Mannone which kept things level all the way into stoppage time… where Mason Toye scored on the follow up to give the Loons a dramatic late winner.

But it almost wasn’t enough. Rushing off his line, Mannone put a hand on an attacker which, after a review, was determined to be a penalty kick. Eight minutes of stoppage time had passed by the time Reto Ziegler stepped up to take it but you know what? Mannone saved it. The clear and obvious bit was a controversy with the goal but there was a clear and obvious man of the match here: Mr Mannone. A huge win for Minnesota too, whose home form has been immense (since they started playing home games) and three points here lifts them up to fourth in the West. Playoffs a definite target from here with 14 games remaining.

Up Next: There’s a friendly vs Aston Villa on Thursday at midday, before they face Real Salt Lake on Sunday at 2pm (NZT)

Greg Draper – The New Saints (Welsh Premier League)

Some of these jokers are still in preseason but Drapes and TNS, friends, they’re hard at work in the Champions League already. As discussed a week ago they began their qualifying campaign against Feronikeli (Kosovo) with a tie against Danish champs FC Copenhagen on the lines for the winner. First leg was the home leg and of course Greg Draper got himself on the scoresheet. Of course he did. TNS had started stronger but had to cop a scare or two as the visitors grew into the game, scores still level at the break. Then, right as they needed a boost, Draper was chopped down in the box and he stepped up to nail the penalty himself for the lead. Aeron Edwards popped one in with quarter of an hour left (a couple mins after Draper was subbed off) and it was looking like a perfect European night or The New Saints.

Aaaand then the wheels came off. Feronikeli had always looked likely to do something, creating chances throughout the game, but TNS were so close to a first leg lead when Mevlan Zeka rose high at the near post to nod one in in the 89th minute before a long ball into the box caught Simon Spender’s arm and the ref had no choice but to point to the spot. Astrit Fezliu buried that sucker in the third minute of stoppage time for another cheeky away goal and a 2-2 draw. “With the deadlock still intact at the break, whatever Scott Ruscoe said to the players in the dressing room worked, because it was 1-0 within four minutes of the second period getting underway. Looking to get on the end of a ball played in from the right by Aeron Edwards, Greg Draper was bundled over from behind. Back on his feet, the JD Welsh Premier League’s Golden Boot for the last two campaigns dusted himself down and smashed the ball home from the spot. Continuing from where he left off last season as far as goals are concerned, Greg has the honour of scoring TNS FC’s first competitive strike of the 2019/2020 season.”

The New Saints have won eight titles in a row in Wales therefore sneaking into this qualifying round eight times… but they’ve only three times made it through the first round and never beyond the second. Their plan is to target a Europa League group stage appearance which they’ll fall into the next qualifying round for even if they lose in the next round to FC Copenhagen… but gotta get there first and now they need to either win or score at least twice in Kosovo… no easy task.

Up Next: Wednesday at 6.45am, second leg in Kosovo vs Feronikeli (NZT)

Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

The big man doing what he does best and finding the back of the net. This one from the penalty spot in a friendly against Fulham over in Portugal in a behind-closed-doors game. Woody stepped up after Ben Gibson was fouled in the box twenty mins from time – he played the full second half as gaffer Sean Dyche played two separate elevens for this one with a mix of first and second choice fellas in each.

Wood came in with old mate Ash Barnes up front after new signing Jay Rodriguez had done a few things in the first spell. Rodriguez has been a long time Burnley target and he finally got his move to his home town club, pretty much to pick up where Sam Vokes left off when he was sold in January. A bit of extra striker depth is always a good thing – Peter Crouch has retired as well of course – something to keep The Woodsman on his toes.

Up Next: Plenty more friendlies where that one came from, with the Premier League season not starting for another month

Andre De Jong – AmaZulu FC (South African Premier Soccer League)

Up Next: The fun stuff

Themi Tzimopoulos – Korona Kielce (Polish Ekstraklasa)

A sneaky one that almost escaped focus here, Big Themi’s on the move to Poland! After nine seasons with PAS Giannina in Greece, they were relegated this last time and with that the 33 year old’s taken the opportunity to explore the wider world. He’s joined Polish second division side Korona Kielce on a two year contract.

Translation: “After 9 wonderful years it was time to bid farewell to this group, the city and the fans. It was a terrible feeling for me. We spent many beautiful but difficult moments that will stay with me forever. The team has evolved so much over the years. I would like to thank all those who have worked together over the years, especially Mr Christopoulos and Mr Nirhakos. I hope that the team will soon recover from this position and find itself back where it belongs.”

So… Themi, mate… why’d you choose Poland, why’d you choose Korona Kielce, and how are you finding it so far?

Themi Tzimopoulos: “I've reached out for chats with several friends who have played in Poland to find out what conditions are in terms of the league and infrastructure. They told me that there are cool stadiums here, and the teams are constantly trying to develop in terms of the sports and organizational level, which is why I had no worries about the future… The club is well organized, the team welcomed me warmly. Getting acclimatized is going smoothly because I’ve lived in regions where temperatures and weather are similar to those in Poland. Unfortunately, I have not experienced Kielce (the city) yet because I have only been here for a short time and spent most of my time in trainings and in a hotel.”

Sounds legit. Apparently they’re calling him ‘Greek’ on account of how tough his name is to pronounce (weird one coming from Polish folks but okay), plus obviously, you know, he’s Greek. And also kiwi… that Greek nickname might go well in All Whites camps if he’s still in the mix come Novemeber, so long as Kosta Barbarouses doesn’t take offence. Themi reckons the target for this upcoming season is promotion so there you go. This is the same division that Myer Bevan trialled at six or so months back.

Up Next: Ekstraklasa season begins on 21 July at 1am, Rakow vs Kielce (NZT)

Michael den Heijer – Unattached

KLIK News: “There are currently five players on trial in Oss. Liban Abdulahi and Karim Loukili have been training for a while and hope to enforce a contract. Last Friday, New Zealander Michael den Heijer (formerly N.E.C.) and the Belgian Milan Vanacker from Club Brugge came for a test. Levi Opdam also trains. The right back has a history with Paris Saint-German and AZ. This coming TOP Oss will play against Willem II in Oisterwijk.”

Ah so there you go. Mike den Heijer had been released by NEC Nijmegen at the end of last month, finishing up what had at times been a really promising stint without actually playing first team footy as the upheaval of relegation (and failing to get promotion again) saw coaches sacked and players come and go. He’s now apparently trying his luck on trial with TOP Oss, another second tier Dutch club… and a team that finished four points above NEC last season. Best of luck to Mikey there… note that they’ve got a friendly coming up against Michael Woud & James McGarry’s Willem II.

Up Next: Impress the folks that matter

Tommy Smith – Colorado Rapids (American Major League Soccer)

It was Colorado Rapids versus Portland Timbers in the MLS, about as tasty a Flying Kiwis Derby as you could get… but with Bill Tuiloma and Deklan Wynne both still out injured it wasn’t what it could have been. Nothing’s changed with Wynne who is still listed as OUT with his foot injury, though Tuiloma made his return for the Portland Timbers 2 side in the USL… up against the Simon Elliott coached Sacramento Republic. Great sign for Tui and hopefully that means he’s in the mix for the MLS team in the next week or two. He played 45 minutes of that game, getting a yellow card. Sacramento won 1-0.

So it was just Tommy Smith in this one and he played his part in a real entertaining 2-2 draw. His part being an off-balance header in the 26th minute off a Timbers corner which thundered in for an own goal and the opening strike of the game. There were a few more where that one game from though, Johnathon Lewis smacked in an equaliser within about a minute of the restart. Steve Clark made a couple incredible saves in a row to deny the Rapids going into half-time.

The Timbers are gonna need Billy T back sooner rather than later too because Julio Cascante came out and got himself a straight red card for a silly challenge in the 55th minute. A suspended centreback right there, yikes. You’d thank that’d give the Rapids the ascendency… but these are the Rapids of course and they conceded a penalty from a handball off a long ball with Lalas Abubakar dangling his arm out there. Diego Valeri scored from the spot… but then Sam Nicholson scored a blinder after 75 mins to complete the scoring. Good fun. Maybe not for Smithy though, whose recent resurgence (post-Huddo, naturally) takes a hit with the oggie. Colorado also played Arsenal in a midweek friendly, the Gunners on their preseason tour, but neither Smith nor Wynne was around as Colorado called up a half-dozen reserves player with another league game on the weekend.

Up Next: Colorado vs NYCFC, Sunday at 1pm (NZT)

Kyle Adams - Rio Grande Valley vs James Musa - Phoenix Rising (American USL Championship)

Flying Kiwis Derby! Kyle Adams versus James Musa! Both of them played full games, with Moose getting a yellow card, as the Rising won it 1-0 thanks to Adam Jahn’s second half goal. That makes it nine wins in a row for the absolutely sizzling Phoenix side while RGV remain six points adrift of the last playoff spot. It’ll be interesting to see if The Moose can hold his spot from next week though as Jamaican midfielder Kevon Lambert returns from the Gold Cup – Lambert had kept Musa on the bench for a lot of the early stages of the season and JM has enjoyed a lovely run of form and minutes while Lambert was absent. Lambert was a second half sub in this his first game back. (Sam Brotherton also played ninety for North Carolina as they lost 1-0 away to Birmingham Legion, in case you were wondering).

Up Next: Phoenix try to keep the streak alive against Austin Bold on Saturday at 2.30pm while RGV host Simon Elliott’s Sacramento at 12.30pm on Sunday (NZT)

Katie Rood – Lewes (English Championship)

And to finish off, just a few more examples of Katie Rood being a quality human being.

Up Next: Lewes open up their new Championship season at home to Blackburn on August 19 (NZT)

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