Flying Kiwis – August 20

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

Ain’t that sweet now.

That too.

So the Courage didn’t play an NWSL game this week… because they were a little busy with the International Champions Cup. Back to back games over the weekend and it started with a scrap against Manchester City, who despite being in preseason, named a team full of internationals and it was Georgia Stanway who gave City the lead late in the first half – showing enough pace to avoid a desperate lunging tackle from Abby Erceg. Despite the Courage somehow managing 15 shots in the half they were still trailing at HT. NCC continued to put the pressure on the English club but Ellie Roebuck had a blinder in goal and this one was starting to feel like Man City’s lone goal might be enough to decide this one… and that was when the lightning struck.

The game was delayed in the 76th minute and it was more than an hour before they could resume it. When they did, the Courage stepped it up. McKenzie Meehan knocked in an 84th minute equaliser from a corner kick for her first professional goal (MM: “Abby (Erceg) called for it and went up for it, but I saw that it was a little out of reach so, I was just behind her, settled it and got a shot off as quickly as I could.”) before Jess McDonald scored the winner at the end. City were composed in possession and really well structured but eventually the dynamic approach from the Courage won out (it helps that they’re midseason and MCI are preseason, of course).

Which led to a showdown for the ICC title against Olympique Lyon, the long-time reigning Champions League holders, who had beaten Atletico Madrid 1-0 in the other semi. Both teams played full strength teams despite the friendly status of the game and both teams brought the goods on the paddock too – NCC coach Paul Reilly reckoned these are the two strongest club teams in the world. A year ago it was the Courage who edged this fixture to lift the trophy. This time it was Lyon.

One goal was all it took, with Dzsenifer Marozsán scoring the winner. And what a goal it was as well. A fitting strike to separate the two teams – the best teams on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. Here’s Pro Soccer USA with a bit about what Erceg and the Courage were dealing with…

“On the other end, Labbe saved a pair of shots in the 23rd and 24th minutes, and in the 41st minute, Amel Majri’s attempt hit the crossbar. Lyon’s attack of Ada Hegerberg, Eugénie Le Sommer and Dzsenifer Marozsán kept Labbe and the Courage defense busy. Just before the referee whistled for halftime, Hegerberg made her way into the box, but was dispossessed by Abby Erceg – the reigning NWSL Defender of the Year – before she could get a shot off.

Then, in the 57th minute, the game changed. Lyon broke forward for an attack and Bronze carried the ball at her feet up the right flank. The former UNC Tar Heel made her way past one defender, then laid the ball off to an unmarked Marozsán, making her way towards the box. In stride, Marozsán used just one strike of her right foot to launch what seemed like an un-save-able shot towards the Courage goal. The ball looked to be sailing right, but curled back in and escaped the diving reach of Labbe.”

And some other stuff…

Will say… sketchy on the sketching though…

Up Next: Bit of a Flying Kiwis Derby as Rosie White’s Seattle Reign come to town on Sunday at 11am (NZT)

Marco Rojas – SønderjyskE (Danish Superliga)

Back in the starting eleven after being an unused sub for the first time this season last week, Marco Rojas made his presence count with his second goal of the season and his first ninety minute match. Beauty of a strike too.

That goal had made it 2-2 in the 66th minute and not even five minutes after that one Mart Lieder’s second if the day had Sonders looking good for the win against a Silkeborg side that’s yet to experience a three-pointer this season. But some fella called Ronnie Scwartz emerged again in the 82nd minute to complete his hat-trick and confirm a 3-3 draw between the sides. Sonders still ticking points over but this was a game they will have expected to win, even away from home.

Still, nice goal from Marco.

Up Next: Sonders vs Midtylland, Winston Reid’s old club, at 2am on Monday (NZT)

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

Busy old week for the man called Old. A League Cup game and a league game, with 180 minutes of gruelling footy between the pair. The League Cup first rounder against Mansfield was a day for the ages. Morecambe took the lead through the man himself, Steven Old nodding in his first of the season from… no surprises here: a header from a corner. Too easy. But then soon after the Shrimps were reduced to ten men following an idiotic and dangerous challenge from Luke Conlan.

Mansfield wouldn’t strike back, despite the advantage, until the second half and even when they did the Shrimps rallied almost immediately to retake the lead… and it was Oldie with his second of the evening. This time it was a header from a deep free kick which he was able to contort himself in mid-air to lift over a stumbling goalie. But Omari Sterling-James ensured that this one ended 2-2 and we were off to penalties.

Hey and guess what? Old scored one there too. He took a comprehensive eighth strike with the scores level at five apiece before Ryan Sweeney lifted his response onto the top of the crossbar and there you go, 6-5 to Morecambe on penalties. Steven Old the hero of the day.

Morecambe boss Jim Bentley: “It was an excellent win and I was proud of them It was backs to the wall stuff against a very good side. We had to dig in with being down to 10 men for 70 minutes or so and we did that and got the result… It was a fantastic feeling to win the game like we did and get to the next round. There were some really good performances and I’m delighted that Steven Old got his two goals and then scored a brilliant penalty and really pleased for George Tanner and Tom Brewitt who could be proud of their efforts on their first starts.”

Then they did it all again on the weekend against Cheltenham. Well, not all of it. There were seven changes made for the midweek game (mostly in midfield/attack) and there were a fair few more to get back to this one. There was also no penalty shootout despite a stalemated game and there were no Steven Old goals either, although he had one great chance with a header from a set piece, naturally, late in the first half but he couldn’t get it anywhere close to on target. But he and Sam Lavelle did keep a clean sheet in defence, this one ending 0-0 which means Morecambe are still yet to win a game in ninety minutes this season but then they’ve also only lost one. All a matter of perception.

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

Sarpreet Singh - Bayern Munich (German Bundesliga)

Sitting on the bench for the first Bundesliga game of the season, Sarpreet Singh had a pretty sweet view of what wasn’t a particularly sweet game. Bayern stumbled out of the blocks with a 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin. They had more than 70% of the footy and basically set up siege on the Hertha penalty area but weren’t able to sneak a winner in the final half an hour (after Robert Lewandowski, who had given them the lead in the first half, levelled the game from the penalty spot). Singh was an unused sub with Alphonso Davies and Renato Sanches the only two bench players introduced as Bayern chased the game. Meanwhile Borussia Dortmund won 5-1 so… not ideal for the Bavarians.

But of course the mighty Bayern Munich don’t take setbacks easy so they bookended that game with the signings of Ivan Perisic and Philippe Coutinho (both on loan) to try and give a little more creativity to the side in trying to break down deep defences… which they struggled with here and even struggled a little with it a little in the cup last week too. They’ve also since added young French midfielder Michael Cuisance as well. Club president Uli Hoeness (who confirmed that he’s retiring from that role in a couple months – which could put more pressure on gaffer Niko Kovac, since Hoeness is a big supporter of his and others in the top brass at Bayern might not be so forgiving if things continue as they did against Hertha) has suggested that with two weeks of the transfer window remaining that’s that for Bayern’s summer incoming deals. Squad complete and all that. Though he also hinted they might be active in January… which, combined with the two loan deals for attacking players, is probably a nudge that they’ll be back in for Leroy Sane when he’s fit again.

How does this all affect Sarpreet Singh? Well first off if he was going to play a prominent role then surely he’d have gotten a run in these first three games before the squad was strengthened. The Super Cup, the DFB-Pokal, and the Bundesliga opener. He’s twenty years old, signed from the Wellington Phoenix for the reserves on a three year deal, and any first team time he gets, any at all, would be a bonus for him in this first season. Coutinho can play on the left wing or at number ten which are the two positions Singh excels at (he’s been used almost exclusively as a left winger in preseason). Perisic is more of a wide player which is a different tool than what Singh offers, it’s Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry who have to be the most worried about his inclusion. While Cuisance is a deeper midfielder who’ll be challenging for game time with Corentin Tolisso, Leon Goretzka, and a want-away Renato Sanches.

But Singh does still have certain skills that set him apart from other players in the squad which will keep him interesting. It’ll be pretty telling to see whether he continues to be included in matchday squads on the regular now that there’s more competition for places around. It’s worth mentioning that the bench against Hertha also included 19 year old defender Lars Lukas Mai, 20 year old midfielder Paul Will, and 25 year old reserves striker Kwasi Okyere Wriedt… so it ain’t like Singh is the only vulnerable young’un out there.

But specifically as a left-winger none of this might even affect anything… if Coutinho does indeed play through the middle then the two main challengers to Singh for playing time are Kingsley Coman and Alphonso Davies… who were already there. Either way, Singh’s so far ahead of schedule already that he can afford to be as patient as necessary. He’s living the good life right now. “New Zealand prodigy Sarpreet Singh was signed to Bayern's reserve team, but enjoyed ample playing time with the seniors during pre-season and was among the substitutes against Hertha on the opening weekend. A left-footed No.10 - something of a James Rodriguez-Mesut Özil hybrid - the 20-year-old is unlike any player in the current Bayern squad.”

Up Next: Sunday at 4.30am away to Schalke (NZT)

Ali Riley – Bayern Munich (German Bundesliga)

It was a winning start for the Bayern women, however. A second half double from German international Linda Dallmann earned them a 3-1 win over SC Freiburg and a lovely way to begin things after a strong preseason. Only problem is that you see Ali Riley in her number five jersey in that pic? She’s the one with the bib on after being an unused sub in this game – another thing in common with Sarpreet Singh.

Verena Schweers started on the left of defence again and she’s a German international who played three times at the recent World Cup and someone, it turns out, who had been taking a precautionary approach to an injury during preseason which gave the impression that Riley was more likely to go straight in as a starter than she really was. Another German international (there are a few of those at this club) Carolin Simon can also play there, though she was subbed on in a more attacking position in this game. But that’s all good, something to work towards on a very strong team. After limited opportunities at Chelsea though it would be pretty useful to see a few more minutes for Ali Riley though, you know.

Also Bayern got their draw for the round of 32 of the Champions League the other day and their first up opponents will be… Göteborg. Which means a trip back to Sweden, where Riley hold citizenship after a long spell at Rosengård. Pretty ideal situation for Ali then, and also for another new Bayern signing… Sweden’s Amanda Ilestedt.

Amanda Ilestedt: “I am really happy that we are going to Sweden. It was exactly what Ali Riley and I wanted in the first place. Göteborg is a strong team with talented players playing beautiful attacking football.”

Up Next: 5.15am on Saturday against Frankfurt (NZT)

Paige Satchell – SC Sand (German Frauen-Bundesliga)

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga… guess who made their professional debut as an 87th minute sub against the defending champions Wolfsburg? None other than Paige Satchell, of course. Sand fell 1-0 to a Pernille Harder penalty just after the start of the second half, a hugely impressive defensive performance there considering they lost 9-0 and 7-0 to this team last season. Satchell came in for midfielder Viktoria Pinther as SCS threw numbers forward to try and snatch a valuable draw but it wasn’t to be.

Up Next: Midnight on Monday against SGS Essen (NZT)

Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

It’s not always going to be your day and up against Arsenal it certainly wasn’t Chris Wood’s. The Gunners came out fast and scored early through Alexandre Lacazzette when he snuck the ball through Nick Pope’s legs with a sharp shapshot. Thirteenth minute and they were down at the Emirates. However the Clarets then figured out an age-old struggle for Arsenal and started hauling themselves back into the game through the good old fashioned mixer approach.

Burnley were winning header after header and that meant the Woodsman was always a hypothetical threat even when he wasn’t really involved. They levelled it up too when Dwight McNeil took a whack from deep and Ash Barnes intercepted it after breaking the offside trap and he put it away for his third of the season. It was supposed to be Chris Wood based on preseason form scoring all the goals… but he’ll have to wait. After taking it into the half at even stevens, Arsenal stepped it up in the second half with much more possession in Burnley’s half, with new signing Nicolas Pepe coming on at HT, and Wood was disappointingly subbed off with half an hour still to go. Then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang smashed in the winner (he’s scored seven goals in four games vs Burnley now) pretty much straight after and there you go. Arsenal only won it 2-1 but Burnley weren’t up to much in that second half, they never really threatened in that second stanza.

A bit of a disappointing one for Woody then. He only had 21 touches of the ball in sixty minutes, not registering a single shot and you know something’s not clicking when he doesn’t have a single offside to his name. His link up play was better than last week but once again all the substantial chances fell for Ashley Barnes (who had five shots). Positive from Burnley to see them taking it to a top six team like this and keeping themselves in the contest the full distance but ultimately that’s an eleventh consecutive defeat against Arsenal in all competitions.

Up Next: Wolves vs Burnley, Monday at 3.30am (NZT)

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

Okay now the whole Jeremy Brockie transfer saga had gotten pretty lame recently. Sundowns continue to speak like there’s no transfer interest in him and keep suggesting that Brockie’s still a valued member of the squad while offering him zero opportunities to play. Which is all just posturing as they try and manoeuvre a move away by the end of the transfer window, you’d think… but it got pretty funny this week as Brockie snapped back at the Sundowns official account on Twitter for listing him as injured.

The transfer window is open until the end of the month so keep an eye on if this changes anything up until now Bro had been a picture professional, which both he and the club had taken pride in, but it was clear that he needed to leave if he is going to get any decent footy. The injury listing was probably an innocent mistake but the optics are pretty hilarious given Brockie’s situation and it keeps his name in the headlines at a useful time. Here’s hoping there’s a happy resolution soon – the best bet at the moment seems to be a cash + player transfer to get Khama Billiat back to Sundowns from Kaizer Chiefs, who have already expressed a rumoured interest in Brockie this window.

Without him, Sundowns drew 1-1 with Chippa United thanks to a last minute equaliser from their opponents, then came from behind with three goals in twenty minutes to beat Bloemfontain Celtic 3-1 in the MTN8 Cup.

Up Next: Mamelodi Sundowns v Cape Town City in the PSL at 5.30am on Wednesday (NZT)

Dan Morgan – Maritzburg United & Andre De Jong – AmaZulu FC (South African Premier Soccer League)

Keeping it in the Rainbow Nation, how good’s that? (Neither of them actually played this week because it was MTN8 time, the top eight teams from last season doing their thing in that comp and neither of these two clubs qualified. They’re back at it next week).

Up Next: AmaZulu play on Wednesday at 5.30am vs Orlando Pirates while Maritzburg are next in action on Monday at 1am away to Stellenbosch (NZT)

Niko Kirwan – Reggio Audace (Italian Serie C)

This one came as a little surprise, as it was only two month ago that Reggina were supposed to have offered him a contract extension amidst a pretty big cleanout of players. Playing as a right wing-back, Kirwan played the most minutes of any player in the squad last season as the team lost in the second round of promotion playoffs. But that cleanout has continued with Kirwan now flipping across to fellow Serie C club Reggio Audace.

Reggio Audace FC: “Reggio Audace F.C. makes official the permanent signing on a two year contract of the right-winger Niko Kirwan, born in Auckland (New Zealand) on 4 September 1995. After wearing the Team Wellington jersey (New Zealand Premiership), the player gained his first Italian experience in the 2017/18 season with Mestre in Serie B Group C, making 22 appearances. In the last season with Reggina he made 39 appearances between the Italian Cup, the regular season, and the Play-Offs, scoring the winning goal with Casertana in the third-to-last round of the championship. Welcome to the Reggio family, Niko!”

Niko Kirwan: “The most beautiful image that encompasses my experience in Reggio Calabria. I want to thank the club, the fans, and all the people who have been close to me this year. I wish good luck to my teammates for the championship. A new challenge begins.”

It seems that the extension might have been an automatic clause, which means that if so there was probably a transfer fee involved. That’s cool. You never quite know with some of these lower league Italian clubs though, the financials can get pretty volatile. Kirwan had been playing for Reggina 1914 through preseason and into the early competitive games of the new season (he was sent off in a cup game last week which proved to be his last appearance for the club – rough punishment), so it’d be curious to know what prompted the move. Reggio Audace, also known as Reggiana, not to be confused with Reggina 1914 who he just left, are a revamped version of Associazione Calcio Reggiana 1919 who went bankrupt in 2018 and they’ve earned their place in Serie C this season thanks to a repêchage that stemmed from other clubs disappearing with financial dramas. Volatile, you see.

Up Next: First league game of the season, Sunday at 6.45am against FeralpiSalo (NZT)

Nik Tzanev – AFC Wimbledon (English League One)

There you go, back to the bench for Tzanev as West Ham loanee Nathan Trott is back from injury and he made his club debut against Accrington Stanley in a 1-1 draw on the weekend. Tzanev had started the first three games of the season in his absence and has set himself up nicely as the backup even after Trott’s return, so it’s all good, however it might be a quiet one on this front for the near future.

But before that he had one last swing with the number one gloves and it was one hell of a game. League Cup first round against arch rivals MK Dons too. Didn’t start great. Rushing out on a loose striker in the third minute, Nik chopped him down and conceded a penalty. Wouldn’t be the last he faced that day either. But Conor McGrandles lifted the spottie over the top and we stayed even… however not for long because AFC Wimbledon were up when Scott Wagstaff found himself in the right place at the right time five mins after the penalty miss.

McGrandles made up for the penalty miss with quarter of an hour gone. David Kasumu then scored a blinder in the 50th minute and for the longest time MK Dons were on the verge of advancing. AFC’s Joe Pigott had a penalty saved in the second half… but Luke O’Neill slammed one home in the fourth minute of stoppage time and how about that, we were off to penalties – a goalkeeper’s time to shine. Here’s the Wombles’ website with the rest

“The 2-2 draw at full-time meant that it went to penalties. Though Nik Tzanev saved a spot-kick from Callum Brittain, MK scored the other four to win it 4-2 on penalties after Lee Nicholls saved Callum Reilly’s effort and Joe Pigott fired over from 12 yards. It was a harsh way for Wimbledon to exit the competition, but avoiding defeat for the first time this season in normal time was perhaps a step in the right direction with Accrington Stanley up next on Saturday.”

One save out of five but they were already behind at that point. Two fellas had missed spot kicks in regular time, both took the fourth kicks for their teams with the score at 2-2. McGrandles scored while Piggott ballooned his over the bar. Alex Gilbey then stepped up to win it for MKD.

Up Next: Ipswich vs AFC Wimbledon, Wednesday at 6.45am (NZT)

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

They may have been up against an Orlando Pride team that was brimming with international talent but the Royals have a fair few World Cup stars of their own (USA included) and a 2-0 win has them back in the top four with seven games remaining on the back of three wins in a row. Utah tend to do most of their best stuff down the left hand side through Christen Press so Katie Bowen at right back can be a peripheral figure at times but she’s just out there doing her job amongst what is statistically the best defence in the competition. Another full game for her, though she did get stomped out late in the first half, while the goals were supplied by Press (60’) and Amy Rodriguez (77’) – the usual suspects.

They should really have won by more but 2-0 goes fine on the ladder. It lifts Utah up above Seattle into fourth place and has them only two points off second. With four teams vying for three places between second and fourth it’s going to be a fascinating final couple months – three of those teams have kiwis in ‘em as well so keep those fingers crossed for more Chicago Red Stars defeats like as happened this weekend.

Up Next: Washington Spirit vs Utah Royals, Thursday at 11.30am (NZT)

Rosie White – Seattle Reign (American National Women’s Soccer League)

A goal for Elizabeth Eddy, a goal for Jodie Taylor. A 1-1 draw. That was the gist of it for Sky Blue versus Seattle Reign, with those two dropped points costing Seattle their top four spot as things stand. Rosie White continued to be a menace in the midfield for Seattle and she looks like a goal threat in every game however she couldn’t get one to stick on this occasion. Big game next week now against Abby Erceg’s North Carolina Courage, who should be basically back to full strength then. Seattle are still missing Megan Rapinoe who is injured post-World Cup.

Up Next: North Carolina vs Seattle, Sunday at 11am (NZT)

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

Two games in four days for the Loons made it five games in 18 days all up but somehow Mike Boxall has played every single minute across this stretch. From a key player at the start of the season to getting dropped to bouncing back to be a key player once again.

They had the Colorado Rapids on Thursday arvo NZT which is always a fun one for a variety of reasons. One major one being that this game saw the return from a minor injury of Tommy Smith for the opposition. A couple All Whites going head to head, must be a Flying Kiwis Derby. But Boxall gets the focus because his side is much better.

Sure enough the Loons had a considerable advantage on the stat sheet with more shots, more passes, more better pass accuracy and all that… though they missed a golden chance to take the lead when Danny Wilson nudged a fella out of the way and conceded a penalty which Clint Irwin saved from Darwin Quintero. Never mind, Quintero scored two minutes later to make up for it after breaking Smithy’s offside trap.

Minnesota had a series of great moments to extend that lead, most of them involving leaping headers or speed on the break, but there were saves, there was a crossbar struck, there were bad misses, and they couldn’t make another one count. But that was fine because Colorado were pretty toothless. A 1-0 win in the end. Which took them up to second in the Western Conference and looking great bets to make their first ever playoffs.

A bit of that tiredness seemed to be on display against Orlando City though. Despite bossing the bulk of the game, scoring a goal or two to reflect that was tough work and this game stayed scoreless for way longer than it should have. Then, amidst all that, when a goal was finally scored it was the other fellas who got it. Minnesota fell behind as Nani earned and converted a penalty three-quarters of the way through this thing and it wasn’t until the second minute of stoppage time that Abu Danladi was able to supply the hero’s touch with the equaliser… off the end of a long throw, even (wasn’t Boxy taking it though – he was in there for the header).

There was more late drama as Orlando were awarded another penalty right at the end but the VAR had other ideas and the game ended 1-1. Obviously a game that Minnesota should have won but the point keeps them sitting pretty in second place in the conference standings. Also you know that five game run they just polished off? This was the first of those five games in which Boxall didn’t get a yellow card.

Up Next: Sporting KC vs Minny, 1.30pm on Friday (NZT)

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

One more Colorado game to get to and it was a very typical Rapids contest. Ninety minutes for Smith, sweet as, but his dudes were 2-0 up at the half away to Houston Dynamo with Diego Rubio getting both goals… and they were still 2-0 up with twenty minutes to play. But Mauro Manotas scored a double and the game finished 2-2. Typical Rapids. Smithy got a yellow card along the way and his marking for the first goal conceded was pretty shocking – the second wasn’t his fault at least, that was Jack Price being lazy and dropping off Manotas and you’d better believe Tommy gave him a serving as soon as the ball hit the net.

By the way, no proper update on Deklan Wynne yet again, though this was from a couple weeks ago after Smith had been injured. So he’s at least doing some training.

Up Next: Sunday at 2pm away to Real Salt Lake (NZT)

CJ Bott – Vittsjö GIK (Swedish Damallsvenskan)

Skipping over to Sweden now, where CJ Bott’s Vittsjö copped an agonising 2-1 defeat away to Linköpings. They were lucky not to go behind almost immediately after a poor giveaway at the back but even still it only seven and a half minutes for Linky to score, Linda Hurtig heading in from a cross. Both teams rattled the crossbar as this one continued but finally Vittsjö found an equaliser with quarter of an hour left when a loose ball fell to Tove Almqvist in the area. But it didn’t last. Frida Leonhardsen Maanum lashed in the winner in the 82nd minute. Highlights over here. Full game for CJB in all that, yet that defeat means Vittsjö are now four points back on the Champions League places and in danger of tumbling back down rather quickly if things go astray.

Up Next: Midnight on Monday vs Växjö (NZT)

Betsy Hassett - KR Reykjavik (Icelandic Úrvalsdeild kvenna)

Elsewhere in Scandinavia it was a massive week for KR with a cup final to play and all that. You know, no biggie. They were up against Selfoss and were definitely the underdogs in the final but no kiwi ever minds the underdog tag so Betsy Hassett was all good there. Even better when they took an 18th minute lead thanks to a brilliant strike from Gloria Douglas (Hassett played a little part in it, regathering the loose ball after a corner and sliding it to a teammate). The celebrations were not insignificant.

For almost twenty minutes KR were leading this final, but then a poor loss of possession in midfield in the 36th minute allowed Holmfridur Magnúsdóttir to skip through their defence at speed and her finish was even better than Douglas’. All level once again.

That score lasted until the half, and it lasted for the second half too. This one was off to extra time where finally, in the 101st minute of the game, we had another goal. But sadly it was Thora Jónsdóttir with the shot from outside the box, ensuring that Sefloss would lift the trophy. A tough one to take but what an effort to get that far.

Up Next: Home vs Breidablik at 6am on Thursday (NZT)

Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

Billy T’s had a hard time getting games since coming back from injury lately, even when fixtures congested pretty bad this month he only got the one start. But that lack of defensive rotation looks to have claimed a victim as Tuiloma was needed off the bench in the 35th minute against Chicago Fire after Larrys Mabiala succumbed to a muscle injury. The gaffer said it wasn’t a fatigue based thing – and to be fair Mabiala hadn’t played the week before against Vancouver – and you’d hope their defensive leader isn’t out for any extended stretch of time. Although if he is then Bill Tuiloma’s a handy replacement.

At that time he entered the game the Timbers were already 2-0 up after Jorge Moreira had finished delightfully with the keeper off his line on ten minutes and then after twenty minutes Brian Fernandez scored yet again to have Portland in control. Oh and then Aleksandar Katai got marched after a VAR review for a swinging elbow so Portland were up against ten men. The game ended 3-2 but it wasn’t as close as it sounds with Chicago’s second goal coming extremely late in the contest.

Next up they took on Atlanta United and Tui was out there from the start alongside Julio Cascante. But this one just never had that buzz about it for the home side. Atlanta scored twice in the first half and although Portland were never quite out of it, they were never quite in it either. Here’s Tui nearly giving away a penalty…

Though in fairness he also made a couple of outstanding tackles in this game, ensuring that the defending champs weren’t able to run away with it.

Up Next: Portland vs Seattle, 2pm on Saturday (NZT)

Katie Rood - Lewes FC (English Championship)

Too good. A 5-1 win over Blackburn to start the season and Lewes could hardly have dreamed of a better start. Roodie started and played 82 minutes, she didn’t score but she came close at least once and assisted one of the goals.

Up Next: Charlton on Monday at midnight (NZT)

Nikko Boxall – Viborg FF (Danish Division 1)

Ninety minutes, a clean sheet, and a 2-0 win for Nikko Boxall. Taking care of business… although their keeper did come off injured so that’s a bit of a concern. They’re now second on the ladder with three wins and a draw from four games and safely through to the next round of the cup.

Up Next: Thursday at 4.30am against FC Fredericia (NZT)

Max Mata - Nõmme Kalju FC (Estonian Meistriliiga) & Greg Draper – The New Saints (Welsh Premier League)

So you know how Max Mata’s Estonia club were trying to get into the Europa League group stages after being knocked out of the Champions League qualifying by Celtic? Yeah so that didn’t happen. A Dominik Stolz hatty in the first leg meant they lost 3-1 away to Dudelange (Luxembourg), with Mata subbed on after an hour. Needing to win by two goals to overturn that at home things then weren’t helped by Vladyslav Khomutov getting sent off in the first half and they went on to lose 1-0 and 4-1 on aggregate. Mata was subbed on after 65 minutes this time. No more European footy then for this season and they can focus on the league, where they drew 2-2 at home versus Tuvelik this week with Mata playing the full game.

At least that was still better than Greg Draper’s TNS. The Welsh side drew Ludogorets (Bulgaria) and by the time Greg Draper was subbed on in the 61st minute they were already down 3-0 in the away leg, going on to lose that one 5-0 and pretty much bury themselves before the second leg had even begun. But in case you thought that they still had a chance, the burying continued in Wales where they lost 4-0. They didn’t even bother subbing Draper on for that one. However they did win their opening game of the Welsh Premier League with a 1-0 result over Caernarfon Town. Draper started and played the first 61 minutes of that one, with Ryan Brobbel’s goal the difference.

All of which means that if you’re a fan of Friday morning footy in the Europa League then your kiwi representation is going to have to come from Ryan Thomas at PSV (when he’s fully fit again and if they qualify from the last round) and Tyler Boyd at Besiktas (who are guaranteed in the group stage)… and maybe Sarpreet Singh if Bayern have a shocker in the Champions League.

Up Next: Bit of this, bit of that

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