Flying Kiwis – July 9

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Ria Percival – Tottenham Hotspur (English Super League)

Signing season is always a wonderful time of the year and as we cruise on through the month of July it means that all them European teams are looking to stock up. Sarpreet Singh is going to be the golden signing of this year but don’t sleep on this sneaky nugget as Ria Percival has made the switch from West Ham across town to Tottenham in the English Super League.

The all-time most capped New Zealand international joined WHU a year ago as they stepped up into the top division for their first season in the revamped Super League and now she joins a newly-promoted Spurs as they embark on things up top. Eleven players from the team that finished runners-up to Manchester United in the Championship in 2018-19 have been retained on fully professional contracts while seven more have been signed since, including Percival, with more expected in the coming weeks.

Tottenham Hotspur: “Defender Ria Percival also arrives from West Ham and brings a huge amount of international experience, having won 143 caps for New Zealand to date, making her the record appearance-maker for her country. The most recent of her international appearances came at this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France – the fourth World Cup she’s been involved in. She also formed part of her nation’s squad for the 2008 Olympic Games. Born in Basildon, Ria began her club career at Lynn-Avon United in New Zealand before switching to American side F.C. Indiana. She subsequently played for Ottawa Fury in Canada then headed to Germany where she represented FFC Frankfurt and FF USV Jena. She spent four seasons at the latter side, making 77 appearances, and played for a further two years in Switzerland for FC Basel before joining West Ham in 2018, where she made 25 appearances and started this year’s FA Women’s Cup Final.”

Joining Percival in moving from West Ham to Spurs is keeper Becky Spencer. It’s difficult to predict how well Spurs will settle into the top flight but they’re definitely doing their best. Percival was still under contract so we’re talking about an undisclosed fee here. West Ham have lost a few players recently, seven of them in fact, which means that the side that did so well in making the FA Cup final at Wembley and finishing a steady seventh in the league are going to look very different next season and that’s a big risk in an increasingly competitive competition with easybeats Yeovil Town relegated and Spurs and Man United promoted (expanding things to 12 teams) a team like West Ham could find themselves in serious trouble. Some hyped post-WWC signings would go a long way to easing that but regardless, fair enough for Percival to skip on over to an upward Spurs side.

Up Next: New season, new team

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

Plenty to celebrate in Minnesota these days. With their ongoing US Open Cup run, a flash new stadium, coming off a 7-1 win over Cincinnati last week… plus Michael Boxall is getting some prominent minutes too. He’d play another 180 minutes this weekend as well with a bit of a doubleheader going on but that was just the start of it.

Thursday arvo against San Jose, kiwi time, and the Loons had been leading from the start only to be pegged back in first half stoppage time. Darwin Quintero’s early strike cancelled out by Tommy Thompson... and controversially too as what you’d have to say was a fluke goal from Thompson perhaps should have been ruled out for handball. San Jose were playing most of the footy which is about as expected for one of the form teams in the league but that’s why you have star players for, right? So they can step up in the big moments? Mate, cometh the hour and cometh the Boxall.

Michael Boxall: “Just give me a knife and fork there and I will finish it off. That doesn’t happen often.”

Michael Boxall: “[I was] just telling myself to smash it home. I saw the keeper there, but I think when he sees a big, ugly 6’2 Kiwi running at him, he didn’t want too much of it. So yeah, I got there first.”

Adrian Heath: “If you look back to the second game of the season, [Boxall] had four or five of them in that game when he nearly made it to the penalty area. Sometimes you don't realize how much space you've got. That was my only disappointment at times: we didn't use the fact that they do play man-to-man and if you clear the space and you open big spaces up, you can actually run the length of the field nearly. But he did great and kept going and got himself a goal.”

Michael Boxall: “I got way too high and the air is a lot thinner out there so I wanted to give it to someone who is better on the ball than me and that’s just about everyone on our team. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I was carrying on the run. I think when I’m running at that speed, it takes a little while for me to slow down… I scored and then I ran along the goal line and I remember seeing all the guys in the bibs warming up so I was like ‘Let’s celebrate with them. But then I was like ‘That’s the other team,’ so probably not a good idea.”

Gorgeous stuff – creative too, using the defender for a wall pass, ingenious. And if he wasn’t already the most quotable of the Flying Kiwis then he surely is now after laying down a selection of Steven Adams worthy yarns about the goal. A goal that then compelled San Jose to go even harder and Vito Mannone made a trio of decent saves to keep the Loons on top before Kevin Molino polished things off at the end, a 3-1 win for Minnesota United in what their gaffer had said was their biggest game of the season. Not bad.

Then the lads were at it again away to Montreal Impact on Sunday NZT and Mike Boxall hung out there at centre back though Ike Opara was swapped for Brent Kallman besides him… and Box got himself a little reward for recent efforts in the process…

But that all didn’t start so well when Kallman got waxed for pace and then waxed for skill by Anthony Jackson-Hamel for the early goal. Mason Toye was able to snatch one back for the Loons with a nice little control and volley but then they conceded again from a corner kick, those old set piece woes again, looking clueless as Rudy Camacho finished off the scramble. 13 minutes gone and already 2-1 to Montreal. The game settled down after that until Minnesota hit the sheds level after Ethan Finlay got extremely lucky, buggering up a one on one by tripping over his own feet then running into the keeper… who was ruled to have blocked him off. Maybe that was true… but Finlay shoulda already scored. He did anyway from the penalty spot.

Then almost straight after the restart Toye found himself insanely wide open at the far post with enough time to control the cross before he slid it past the keeper for what would prove to be the winning goal. Only thanks to some solid defending in those last twenty minutes but having gotten all their sloppiness out of the way in the first fifteen minutes that weren’t gonna be a problem. Three wins in a row this one despite a few cheeky alterations to the side in light of the US Open Cup quarterfinal coming up in a few days.

Here’s a thing worth reading… any time you get Mike Boxall in his own words it’s worth reading…

Oh and while we’re at it…

Up Next: Thursday at midday, MU vs New Mexico United, US Open Cup Quarterfinals (NZT)

Elliot Collier – Memphis 901 FC (American USL Championship)

Michael Boxall wasn’t the only one who wore their scoring boots this week though. Elliot Collier was out there balling in the USL himself and he had pretty much his finest day with Memphis 901 as he bagged a fantastic hat-trick that put on full show his speed, skill, and finishing ability. The third one in particular was just a wonderful goal. Up until this game Collier had scored twice in thirteen games (having only scored once in 550 minutes for Indy Eleven in the USL last year) but against Hartford Athletic there was no stopping him as he cut inside from the left over and over again.

Memphis went on to win it 4-1 with Lagos Kunga also hitting the back of the net – the expansion team’s first ever home win and their biggest ever win in the process, not to mention Collier becomes the first fella to score a hatty for the team. He was then subbed off with quarter of an hour left to some lovely cheers from the homers in the crowd.

Elliot Collier: “It feels amazing. We've been so close in so many games. We've had like 12 games decided by a goal, so to go out and put the two away early was great. We were a little upset about the one we gave up, but we came back in the second half and put the game to bed. I'm really happy for all the boys. We've played this opponent two other times, and I've had success dribbling against these guys. They gave me a lot of space. I just took my space and took my opportunities, and I was fortunate to score. To score one goal is great and then the next one comes, you're begging for the hat trick. I'm really happy.”

Up Next: Away to Charleston Battery at 11.30am on Sunday (NZT)

Sarpreet Singh - Bayern Munich II (German Liga 3)

Guess who has already settled in nicely to his new team? Sarpreet Singh played a cheeky 62 minutes for Bayern 2 in a friendly against FC Liefering, a second division Austrian side, with the Bayern lads coming out on top with a 2-1 win. Hey and guess who set up the first goal? Our mate with the deep through ball, serving it up on a platter…

Sarpreet Singh was picked to start in the midfield and was one and played 61 minutes before being replaced. Bayern used eighteen players on the day, with four changes at half-time, two more after an hour with Singh included in that, and another with quarter of an hour to go.

That game was followed immediately the day after by a game with Türkgücü München, but happening less than 24 hours after that previous game it was almost a completely new squad, with only once dude retaining a starting spot. Sarpreet Singh was on the bench. He did get five minutes at the end of that one but it finished 0-0 so not much to report, really. The new Liga 3 season begins in two weeks so he’ll get one or two more chances to hammer home his spot before then – will be curious to see how big a role he has from day one with this team.

Up Next: Wurzburger Kickers vs Bayern Munich II, Sunday 21 July at midnight (NZT)

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

No Abby Erceg this week, who was a late scratch last week after not quite getting through warmups and wasn’t considered this week either. Wasn’t needed this week, in fact, as the Courage ran out to a 5-2 win over Houston Dash with Kristen Hamilton delivering the expensive stuff with four goals, tying an NWSL record held by Sam Kerr for most goals in a game. Hamilton’s also gone second on the golden boot standings despite only having scored in two games – also scoring three against Orlando at the start of June. Lynn Williams scored the other goal. Pretty thorough win there.

As for Erceg… shouldn’t be long. Ought to be ready next week if needed.

Meanwhile Katie Bowen’s Utah Royals had a week off so no return to NWSL footy for her yet, she’ll probably play next week as the team travels to face Sky Blue though.

Up Next: Courage vs Seattle Reign, Sunday at 11am (NZT)

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

Morecambe FC: Steven Old says he is looking forward to equalling his longest spell at any club as he enters his third season with the Shrimps. The popular central defender has spent much of his nomadic career, which has included spells in Sweden and China, on one and two year contracts but says he feels settled with the Shrimps and is delighted to be back.

He said: “I had three years in Scotland early in my career but after that is was mainly one and two year deals which was the life of a lower league footballer in many ways. I am delighted to be back for a third year and I really do feel settled here at a good club and with a good bunch of lads. My family is settled and that means a lot to me and when you feel settled in life it brings the best out of you I think.””

You know you’re a proper journeyman when you’ve never hung around longer than three years at one club, that’s the real deal pro footy veteran right there. Pretty much the like Captain Planet, just bounce around wherever you’re summoned and leave when the job is done. League Two is the place to be this season though, with Clayton Lewis and Max Crocombe also converging on the division for a Flying Kiwis Triple Threat… although there are some rumours about Crocombe perhaps getting some serious interest from Brisbane Roar in the A-League. Crocs has a dual Aussie/NZ passport so he wouldn’t be classed as an import, plus he’s only in line to be a backup for Salford this season. Keep ‘me peeled for news on that situation (hey, we don’t mind tip-offs here at TNC, just saying).

Up Next: A fair bit of club friendly footy, you know the story

Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

Oregon Live: “Portland Timbers defender Bill Tuiloma will be unavailable to play in Sunday’s game against NYCFC, while defender Jorge Villafana and goalkeeper Jeff Attinella’s status for the match remains questionable. Tuiloma is continuing to recover from a hamstring injury that he suffered during the club’s home opener against LAFC on June 1. Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said he was hopeful that Tuiloma would finally be able to return to training next week. “Bill is still not ready to play,” Savarese said. “He’s still not there yet. Hopefully, next week he’ll start practicing fully. He’s getting closer and closer.””

Aaaaand that’s your Billy T update for the week. Still working on that bung hammy and they clearly don’t wanna risk it at this stage of the season, which is fair enough. Without him Portland had a solid 1-0 win away to NYCFC, Seb Blanco with the only goal, which lifts them up the ladder a couple steps – they’re four games out of the playoff spots as it stands with a game in hand on the Houston Dynamo. Here’s hoping that Bill’s fit to play the US Open quarterfinal against LAFC in a few days but it doesn’t seem very likely.

Up Next: LAFC vs Portland Timbers, Thursday at 2.30pm in the US Open Cup (NZT)

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

If you were looking for a Deklan Wynne Injury Update then you’ll have to keep looking because there wasn’t one other than that he was briefly upgraded to questionable during the week before being ruled out anyway. Tommy Smith started his eighth straight game though and he almost got to start his ninth on the same evening because after New England Revlution had taken an early lead through the delightfully named Teal Bunbury (assisted by Rapids old boy Edgar Castillo, shots to Anthony Hudson), well… lightning struck. And not in a metaphorical way either.

The game would be delayed for a total of four hours. They’d already had one of those hours out of the way before kickoff and then stoppages in the 28th and 35th minutes meant that the second half didn’t kickoff until 11.30pm. Good thing it was the Fourth of July, at least there were fireworks… oh no wait those got put off by the rain too. When they finally finished things it was understandably a total mess, seven players had been booked and Kellyn Acosta got himself sent off for backchat in stoppage time. Juan Fernando Caicedo headed New England up 2-0 but Diego Rubio scored before a mostly empty stadium with twenty to play to make it interesting. The Rapids had a good go but couldn’t find an equaliser in a remarkably strange game, losing 2-1.

Why exactly they didn’t just call the game off was weird. They delayed kickoff by an hour. Then had an hour and 34 minute break with pouring rain and a lightning threat in the 28th minute, they came back out to continue the game only to have to delay it again six minutes later for a further 50 mins… oh nah but it’s all good because they shortened the half-time break.

Up Next: Portland vs Colorado, Sunday at 3pm (NZT)

Hannah Wilkinson & CJ Bott – Vittsjö GIK (Swedish Damallsvenskan)

Fancy winning one of Hannah or CJ’s Vittsjö jerseys from last season? Signed and everything. They’re auctioning them off for charity and you’d probably have to pay a chunky shipping fee to get them back to Aotearoa but Bott’s is currently going at $160 NZD while Wilko, who isn’t even contracted with the club at the moment (you never know though, she’s fit again after the World Cup) is all the way up there at $240 NZD. The bidding ends at 10am today (Tuesday) so you’re most likely too late already.

Up Next: The Damallsvenskan gets back under way with Vittsjö vs Göteborg on Monday 22 July at midnight (NZT)

Clayton Lewis – Scunthorpe United (English League Two)

An unfortunate one here as an injury meant Clayton Lewis missed Scunthorpe’s 2-1 friendly win over Dundee United. Coming into such a crucial season for him and his prospects at the club, with a decent chance of being a matchday squad regular if things break right, this was a frustrating way to begin things under the new gaffer Paul Hurst.

Paul Hurst: “Earlier in the week we lost Clayton Lewis and Jacob Bedeau, which was disappointing for those two lads. Jacob has gone back for a knee scan while Clayton’s is more muscular but I don’t expect him to be training next week certainly. We’ll assess them when we get back. Michael (McBride, head of medical services) and Ben Palmer (assistant physiotherapist) will look at them and we’ll get them right as quickly as possible.”

Up Next: Bit of recovery by the sounds

Ryan Thomas – PSV Eindhoven (Dutch Eredivisie)

Similar news here as Ryan Thomas was not amongst the 27-man squad that PSV took to Switzerland for preseason as he’s still building up strength in that knee. It’s been a very long term recovery for Thommo who’d have hoped to be back ready for preseason but the last thing you wanna do is rush back and bust something new. The trip was only for a week anyway, they’re already back in the Netherlands now.

Up Next: Taking it easy, making it count

Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (English Super League)

Up Next: Waiting on that new Super League season

Greg Draper – The New Saints (Welsh Premier League)

BBC Sport Wales: “Greg Draper spent more time on the bench than on the pitch for Welsh Premier League champions The New Saints last season, but still won the Golden Boot. Draper played just 1,032 minutes of his side's 2,880-minute WPL season and finished top scorer with 27 goals. He scored a league goal on average every 38 minutes, a better strike rate than Barcelona's Lionel Messi Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo and last season's Premier League top scorer Mo Salah. The 29-year-old striker acknowledges that the planet's best goal scorers are playing at a much higher level but Draper says that scoring goals is "one of the hardest things to do" whatever level you play.”

It feels like just the other week that TNC polished off their season with a trophy or two but they’re into the next one next week as they begin their Champions League qualifying efforts against Feronikeli from Kosovo. It’s the eighth straight season that they’ve made the UCL, after eight straight title and all that, and the plan is to make the Europa League group stages. In those eight season they’ve only won three Champions League first round qualifying ties and never gone further than the second round. But if they are able to beat their Kosovan rivals over two legs then they’ll face off with Danish champions FC Copenhagen in the next round which is almost certainly a defeat in waiting but losing there would put them into the late stages of Europa League qualifying – which is where they got to last season before losing 5-1 on aggregate to FC Midtjylland two rounds short of the group stage. Won’t be easy… but it’s something to play for.

Greg Draper: “It's probably the one thing that I'm most disappointed about in my time here (at TNS) is my lack of European goals so that's my main aim this year, to score some important goals in Europe and help the team progress. Europe is what we play all year for really. Obviously winning the league is nice, but we make sure that we win the league so that we can have these Champions League nights. That's what makes us come into training and work hard every day and every week, turn up on a Saturday and blow teams away.”

Up Next: Wednesday at 6am at home vs Feronikeli, UCL qualifying first round (NZT)

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