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Debuts for All Whites as Ferns kick off in States

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

It’s been an exciting period for many of New Zealand’s overseas-based players with several making their debuts for the All Whites while the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) kicked off in the United States.

For his first camp in charge, new All Whites coach Fritz Schmid picked an experimental squad to take on Canada in Spain with many frontline players allowed to remain with their clubs. Among the newcomers were the England-based pair of Adam Mitchell and goalkeeper Nik Tzanev, who play for Bolton Wanderers and AFC Wimbledon respectively, while Nikko Boxall - who recently moved from Finland to Denmark - and Niko Kirwan from the lower divisions in Italy. Of that quartet, only Mitchell started but it proved to be a disappointing debut for the centre back, who was forced to limp off with an injury in the first 15 minutes. He was replaced by promising Brisbane Roar youngster Dane Ingham while fellow overseas-based Kiwis Max Crocombe, Sam Brotherton, Michael Boxall, Jeremy Brockie, Marco Rojas and Clayton Lewis all started. It was a special moment for Crocombe, who joined Mitchell in making his debut while Andre de Jong and Sarpreet Singh did likewise off the bench. Myer Bevan was also introduced for the final half an hour but couldn’t find an equaliser as the All Whites fell to a 1-0 loss.

Several of Bevan’s fellow United States-based players were excused international duties as they were left to focus on their club careers. At least one will be glad he did as Bill Tuiloma was able to make his Major Soccer League (MLS) debut for the Portland Timbers, helping them to a 1-1 draw against FC Dallas. Tuiloma benefitted from the dropping of former English Premier League defender Liam Ridgewell and grabbed his opportunity with both hands, lining up in central defence and putting in a performance of such quality that he was named in the MLS Team of the Week. It was a great way for Tuiloma to celebrate his birthday, the 24-cap All White blowing out the candles on his 23rd birthday cake just a couple of days later. Fellow Kiwi Jake Gleeson also took full part for Portland and played a key role in securing the point, pulling off a good save just before the hour to keep the score at 1-1. There will be even more of a Kiwi flavour in Portland’s next fixture as they are set to face Elliot Collier’s Chicago Fire.

The Fire weren’t in action as they had a bye but there were plenty of other Kiwis taking the field across the United States. Tommy Smith and Deklan Wynne both started for the Colorado Rapids in a 2-2 draw with Sporting Kansas City as former All Whites boss Anthony Hudson still searches for his first win with his new club. Smith had a big hand in the second goal, picking out Joe Mason with a pin-point long pass for the striker to run through and finish. With Crocombe deputising for him against Canada, All Whites goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic was free to take his usual place between the sticks for the Vancouver Whitecaps and was able to keep his first clean sheet of the season. Ironically though, it was a quiet match for the big Kiwi, who was only called on to make one save but had the honour of taking the captain’s armband in the second half. Aside from his save, he did well early in the second period to charge off his line and narrow the angle for Emmanuel Boateng to fire wide. "Those are the toughest type of games for a ‘keeper," he said. "You’re doing nothing for 80 minutes and then, all of a sudden, I had to do something. It was a one-v-one and I had to get my angles right."

Outside of the MLS, James Musa has recently signed for United Soccer League (USL) outfit Phoenix Rising but is currently sidelined through injury, joining the legendary Didier Drogba in the Phoenix treatment room. Once he returns to full fitness, Musa won’t be the only Kiwi strutting his stuff in the USL with Cory Brown - part of the New Zealand squad at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup - having put pen to paper on a deal with Fresno FC. The California-based franchise are an affiliate of the Vancouver Whitecaps, who picked up Brown in the draft and will hope he can turn into a player of MLS quality. Fresno general manager Frank Yallop certainly seems to think his new signing can reach that level. "Cory has demonstrated himself as a talented footballer who has excelled consistently at the collegiate level here in the states," he said. "He’s a strong centre back who will add more depth to our spine. He was drafted by our MLS affiliate because they believe he can excel at the professional level and we’re thrilled to be a part of the next stage in his career."

In the women’s game in America, Football Ferns midfielder Katie Bowen was part of a piece of history when playing 90 minutes for the Utah Royals’ in their first ever NWSL match. The newly-formed Royals took on Orlando Pride on the road in front of over 9,000 fans and went ahead early on but were eventually pegged back to draw 1-1. Fresh from making her return to the international arena, Abby Erceg overcame an injury to line up at the heart of the North Carolina Courage defence for their season opener against Portland Thorns. The fixture was a repeat of last year’s final but with an opposing outcome, North Carolina running out as 1-0 winners over the defending champions. The other pair of Football Ferns in the NWSL were not in action, Rebekah Stott needing to wait to make her debut for Sky Blue FC as they sat out the first round with the bye while Rosie White is currently recovering from injury. In her absence, the Chicago Red Stars started in positive fashion with an away point at the Houston Dash. Stott and Erceg are set to come up against each other this weekend as the Courage host Sky Blue on Saturday.

Across the Atlantic in England, Chris Wood’s run of net-finding form for Burnley was rudely interrupted by the international window while Winston Reid will not be seen in West Ham United colours again this season as he battles his way back from injury. Reid was obviously unavailable for Schmid’s first match in charge of the All Whites while Wood was granted leave so should have plenty of energy to face former club West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. He is yet to start for Burnley since his return from injury but has made a huge impact off the bench, scoring three goals and notching an assist in just 74 minutes of play. With Lewis and Crocombe with the All Whites, the only other Kiwi man in action in English first-team football was Steven Old, who played the full 90 minutes and helped keep a clean sheet as Morecambe had a scoreless stalemate with Lincoln City in League Two. Nearby in Wales, former All White and Wellington Phoenix striker Greg Draper had double reason to celebrate. Defending champions The New Saints had all but confirmed a seventh consecutive Welsh Premier League title a week earlier with a 3-0 win over Bala Town and were able to complete the job before kicking a ball again when Bala lost on the weekend. That made their later match against Cefn Druids a formality but they put on a performance worthy of champions anyway, Draper bagging a remarkable four-goal haul in a 5-1 win. His first strike allowed Draper to finally break the 100-goal barrier in the competition after being stranded on 99 for some time. "Being stuck on 99 was starting to get to me a little bit so it was nice to get an early one," he said. "It was a bit of luck because it took a deflection off the defender but I would’ve taken anything. It was nice to get three more and the main thing was that we put on a good performance to win the trophy."

There was further Kiwi representation in the Women’s FA Cup as Olivia Chance was heavily involved in Everton’s impressive 6-1 victory over Durham in the quarter-finals. After being on the fringes of the starting line-up last season, Chance has now firmly established herself in the side and is becoming an important player for coach Andy Spence. It was the Football Ferns midfielder that set the ball rolling against Durham, her rasping low drive stinging the hands of the goalkeeper before Courtney Sweetman-Kirk followed up to score on the rebound. Chance had a goal for herself soon after, pouncing on a deflected cross to rocket it high into the net from just inside the area. The 24-year-old went on to play for over an hour before coming off with Everton 4-0 up. She seems to save her best for the FA Cup, having also notched a double against Bristol City earlier in the competition. The Toffees’ reward for their big win is a semi-final against the mighty Arsenal next month. The other Football Fern based in England, Anna Green, was part of the match day squad for Reading on their trip to Chelsea but was an unused substitute in a 2-2 draw.

Chance isn’t the only Kiwi relishing a cup run with Katie Rood doing likewise at Juventus in Italy. The Football Ferns striker has been used mainly off the bench in league action - in which Juve have won all 16 of their matches to top the table - but has made an impact in the Italian Women’s Cup, scoring a double earlier in the competition before adding a further two strikes in the latest round. Rood and co came up against second-tier Novese and eased to an 8-0 win to keep their hopes of a league and cup double alive. The former Glenfield Rovers star fired in her first with a right-footed shot from inside the area and rounded off the scoring with a well-placed header late on. Her Ferns team mates over in Germany did not have the same success as CJ Bott, Amber Hearn and Meikayla Moore all fell to defeats. The latter pair both played 90 minutes for FC Koln against SC Freiburg but will probably wish they hadn’t after being on the wrong end of a 6-0 scoreline. Bott was in the same boat as USV Jena suffered a 4-2 loss to Frankfurt and both clubs featuring Kiwis remain in danger of being relegated from the Frauen Bundesliga. Jana Radosavljevic was also on the losing end in the second division, playing the first hour of BV Cloppenburg’s 2-1 defeat to USV Jena II, while former Football Fern Kirsty Yallop suffered a defeat by the same scoreline for Klepp against Arna-Bjornar in Norway. Meanwhile, Aimee Phillips has been settling into her new life in Serbia but has had to wait a while to make her league debut for new club Spartak Subotica due to the competition breaking for the freezing winter weeks. She finally played her first match in a professional European league against ZFK Rad Beograd and took part for nearly an hour of the emphatic 9-0 win. The same sides had met just a fortnight ago in the Serbian Cup with Phillips playing the entire second half in a 10-0 triumph. Spartak Subotica are yet to be beaten all season and have not even conceded a goal in the league.

In Japan, Ryan De Vries earned a start for FC Gifu in the J2 League and featured for just over an hour as his side accounted for Ehime FC 3-1. Closer to home in Australia, Kosta Barbarouses and his Melbourne Victory team mates had a frustrating evening at Perth Glory on Sunday, losing 1-0 to bring their unbeaten run of five games to an end. The All Whites winger came close to opening the scoring mid-way through the first half when he latched onto a shot that have been tipped onto the crossbar but his follow up effort was blocked. Elsewhere in the A-League, goalkeeper Glen Moss was an unused substitute for the Newcastle Jets against Adelaide United but the Jets could have done with his safe hands and steadying influence as they stumbled to a 5-2 humbling. The Wellington Phoenix meanwhile fielded a side with a healthy sprinkling of young Kiwi talent against the Brisbane Roar. Logan Rogerson, Monty Patterson, Liberato Cacace and goalkeeper Oliver Sail all started, along with recently-retired All White Andrew Durante, while Willem Ebbinge and Sam Philip were named on the bench by interim boss Chris Greenacre. Patterson had to leave the fray just before half-time after picking up an injury but fellow youngster Rogerson made a key contribution on 65 minutes, heading home a Nathan Burns cross to put his side 2-1 up. It was a lead the Phoenix couldn’t sustain as the Roar hit back almost immediately to eventually draw 2-2.

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