The Week in Women's Football: Nigeria's new coach; NWSL Fall Series wrap-up; USWNT roster examination; | OneFootball
The Week in Women's Football: Nigeria's new coach; NWSL Fall Series wrap-up; USWNT roster examination;
This week, we look at the appointment of Nigeria's new women's national team head coach, who is an American that is well-known for coaching at various levels, including professionally and at the national team level. We also wrap-up the 2020 NWSL Community Shield Fall Series and examine the roster for the U.S. Women's National Team camp this month in Colorado, the first since COVID-19 shut down sports events in March. We close by looking at four new Midwestern teams for United Women's Soccer (UWS) 2021 season.
Randy Waldrum takes over Nigeria Women's National Team Head Coaching Position
On October 5, it was revealed that American Randy Waldrum will add to his duties as the University of Pittsburg Panthers' women's soccer team head coach—where he has coached since 2018—by also simultaneously leading Nigeria's women's national team as head coach. Waldrum previously coached Trinidad and Tobago's national women's team from 2014-2016, while also coaching the Houston Dash of the NWSL at the same time, which tended to leave both team's management and supporters unhappy, particularly when T&T fell to Ecuador 1-0 at home in injury time in the final match of their two game intercontinental playoff for a last CONCACAF WWC berth in Canada while the Dash never reached the playoffs in three-plus seasons under Waldrum. Since Waldrum left T&T in 2016, the team was coached for a short time by Carolina Morace, the former Italian and Canadian women's national team coach who was the runner-up for the Australian national team position, recently bestowed by the Australian Football Federation to Swedish coach Tony Gustavsson, who as U.S. women's national team assistant coach helped the team to the Championship of the last two Women's World Cup tournaments in Canada and France.
If the link between Waldrum and Nigeria sounds familiar, it is because it should be—we reported in 2017 that Waldrum had been the top pick to guide Nigeria, but some contractual issues and waffling by federation officials led him to take the University of Pittsburg job (see: http://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/the-week-in-women-s-football-nigeria-hiring-new-national-team-coach-bayern-munich-wolfsburg-get-new-recruits-indian-women-s-league-ready-for-round-two-4214494). This time, he surpassed 40 initial candidates and emerged victorious from among five finalists.
Waldrum coached for years at the University of Notre Dame (from 1999 through 2013) and guided them to the NCAA Division 1 national championship in 2004 and 2010, winning 292 games and tying 17 in 367 matches. Hyndman Schellas, currently the men's soccer coach at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and formerly with FC Dallas for many years, wrote on social media, "Congratulations Randy. You have always reached for the stars in your coaching career. Nigeria selected the right person to lead the Super Falcons!"
The key here is that the expectation in West Africa is for Waldrum to take Nigeria—who has qualified for every edition of the Women's World Cup—to the next level, which means at least a quarterfinals berth. They did well in France, advancing from the group stage for only the second time (after 1999) led by Swedish coach Thomas Dennerby, who is now the women's U-17 national team coach of India. The talent is there to achieve some significant results on the world stage plus Waldrum can draw on a large Nigerian diaspora community in America and England in particular. The NFF stated that Waldrum's assistants will be former Super Falcons' goalkeeper and Captain Ann Chiejine (who is the first Assistant Coach), while Wemimo Mathew Olanrewaju will serve as the second Assistant Coach and Auwar Bashir Makwalla will be the goalkeepers' coach.
TribalFootball.com reached out to Coach Waldrum and he agreed to an interview with us as soon as all the contract details are finalized. We will discuss the strong base of players that he inherits and the difficulty of managing two teams at one time. He has stated to the immediate that he has a ten-year plan for the Falcons side, through the next three Women's World Cups. He explained that, "Our stars for the 2027 and 2031 World Cups are between 10-12 years old currently so let's get them in the proper environment now." This seems ambitious for a 'part-time national team head coach' but it will be interesting to hear his long range plans for Nigeria.
Note: When I wrote my book on the global women's game, Beyond Bend It Like Beckham, some years back, Ana Chiejine spent significant time with me in China at the 2007 Women's World Cup and when she returned home, discussing the women's game in her country and her long relationship with the sport, since she was on the very first Women's World Cup team for Nigeria in 1991.
NWSL Community Shield Fall Series Wrap-up
The Portland Thorns won the NWSL's Verizon Community Shield Fall Series title with an undefeated record of 3-1-0 (W-D-L) for 10 points in their regional pod group along with OL Reign and the Utah Royals. Canadian international star forward Christine Sinclair led the Fall Series in scoring with 6 goals (3 from the penalty spot including two in 2-1 road victory on October 10 over OL Reign in Tacoma). The Houston Dash won 3 games and lost 1 against Orlando and North Carolina to finish second. The Washington Spirit finished third with a 2-1-1 record for 7 points. The 3 top teams won prize money that they could donate to a preferred charity.
Portland's choice was Mimi's Fresh Tees, which is a Portland-based t-shirt company that amplifies tough social justice conversations and allows people to wear their truth. Motivated by systemic racism her Black son experienced in the education system, owner and designer Kamelah Adams wanted to create a product that brought conversations around discrimination out into the open, in a quick and straightforward way. She started designing t-shirts as a way for people to take a stand, break the silence and start a dialogue by wearing their feelings on their chest.
The Houston Dash gave their $15,000 winnings to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the country, which strives to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.
The Spirit's selection with their $10,000 from Verizon was for DC SCORES, which utilizes a unique combination of soccer, poetry, and service-learning to create neighborhood teams that give 3,000 kids in need the confidence and skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom, and in life. The Spirit and DC SCORES became official community partners in April of 2020.
The Dash led the Fall Series in total goals scored with 12, followed by Portland on 10 with North Carolina third on 8 goals.Utah was at the bottom of the team goalscorers chart with only 3 goals. Portland had the best defense in the league with 3 goals allowed followed by Washington with 4. North Carolina allowed the most goals with 10 in their 4 games.
Behind Sinclair, the Courage's Brazilian sensation Debinha had four goals. Tied for third with three goals during the Fall Series were Sinclair's fellow Canadian national team midfielder Sophie Schmidt of Houston, along with two of Schmidt's Dash teammates in Americans Veronica Latsko and Shea Groom, as well as the Courage's Lynn Williams and Ifeoma Onumonu of Sky Blue FC. Groom used her excellent play in 2020—which included being named Challenge Cup Championship Game MVP this summer in Utah—to propel herself to a spot in the October U.S. national team camp (see below). Onumanu, who spent her first three seasons in the league with three different sides (Boston, Portland and Tacoma/Seattle Reign) led the frontline for her New Jersey side that finished a credible fourth in the standings and—with their semifinal spot last summer—offer strong optimism for 2021, particularly since second year pro Paige Monahan (from Butler University in Indiana) contributed 2 goals and one assist as well. Sky Blue FC was in a pod with Chicago and Washington. The Dash's Kristie Mewis, who was also called into the October national team camp (see below), led the league in assists with 5 while adding 2 goals. 2019 WWC winner Lindsey Horan of Portland was second with 3 assists.
The Dash finished the Fall Series with a 2-1 away win over Orlando on October 5 with early goals from Groom and Latsko (both assisted by Kristie Mewis) while U.S. international Sydney Leroux scored just after halftime for the Pride. Dash head coach James Clarkson said about the win, "I think we created a standard for ourselves this year, and we didn't consistently reach those standards tonight, but the players have shown a great amount of character and fight to compete. They could've scored more goals, but we didn't. To come out and get a win on the road after a quick turnaround [after a 4-1 home win over the Courage 5 days earlier], at the end of it, we're right at the end of the season and it's been an interesting year for them. To come out and find ways to win is very pleasing."
The Dash certainly is the NWSL's team of the year after their Challenge Cup win this summer and finishing second in the Fall Series. No one embodies this season more than Shea Groom (who joined the team this February after a trade from OL Reign) and she talked about her recent call-up to the full national team camp (see more below), "Obviously it's pretty exciting. I've been really open in some interviews, saying that that's the next step for me and one of my goals. My goal this year was to be consistent enough to be called in to the national team, and to leave no doubt. It was definitely an exciting moment for me, but just the first step of many. It's something I'm looking forward to, but again, it's just the start." When asked to reflect on the team's success in 2020, Groom said, "I'm not sure there's a word for 2020 or for the NWSL in 2020. We've obviously had so much start-and-stop, players having to be flexible, adaptable, resilient in so many capacities, so I'm really proud of our team and proud of our organization because I think we stepped up at every opportunity. When there was a moment to play, when there was a moment to train, we turned it on, and I think that's why we were so successful; it was such a collective effort. I'm so proud of this organization and everybody that's been a part of it. For the fans, moving forward, this is a new chapter for the Dash and we have no intention of being comfortable and being satisfied. Again, this is just the starting point. This is just the beginning and we want to keep building on this and create a legacy where people want to come here and people don't want to play against us. So I think that's what you're going to see in the future from the Dash is some really energized players with a lot of passion and a lot of hunger to win."
Note: As we previewed last week, the North Carolina Courage faced the Washington Spirit in a closed-door scrimmage on October 10. The Courage won 4-3 with two goals by Lynn Williams and one by Brazilian international Debinha. The Brazilian did the double again the next weekend in the Courage's final game against Orlando, in which the Pride fought back from 3-0 down at the half in a thrilling game in Cary, North Carolina All-in-all, the Courage did not perform as expected in 2020, losing in the quarterfinals in Utah to Portland (1-0) and finishing the Fall Series in fifth place. They have a number of players on loan abroad and mixed with some new signings, we expect the Courage to roar again in 2021—never count out a Paul Riley-coached side.
2020 NWSL Community Shield Fall Series Final Standings
U.S. Women's National Team Holds First Training Camp Since March
U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski called in 27 players to the team's first training campin seven months (since they met for the 2020 SheBelieves Cup in March after winning the CONCACAF Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in early February in Los Angeles). The U.S. women's team is the first U.S. national soccer team (men's or women's at any level) to reconvene after COVID-19 shut down sports in mid-March. The U.S. women were also the last U.S. national team to play a game, winning 3-1 over Japan on March 11 in the SheBelieves Cup, the night the NBA shut down following a positive COVID test for a Utah Jazz player. The U.S. U-23 men were training in Mexico for the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, but that tournament was suspended on March 12. The training camp will be held in Commerce City, Colorado (where the Colorado Rapids of MLS are based), from October 18 through 28. Players will be sequestered in a hotel, much as they were during the NWSL Challenge Cup this summer in Utah, in a 'bubble environment' with frequent COVID-19 testing.
USWNT October Training Camp Roster (Club/College; Caps/Goals)GOALKEEPERS (4): Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit; 0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 3), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 25), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 63)DEFENDERS (10): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 61/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 26/1), Crystal Dunn (NC Courage; 104/24), Naomi Girma (Stanford; 0/0), Sarah Gorden (Chicago Red Stars; 0/0) Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride; 107/1), Kelley O'Hara (Utah Royals FC; 131/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 1/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 177/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 32/0)MIDFIELDERS (7): Shea Groom (Houston Dash; 0/0), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 86/19), Morgan (Brian) Gautrat (Chicago Red Stars; 87/8), Jaelin Howell (Florida State; 0/0), Catarina Macario (Stanford; 0/0), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 15/1), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 0/0)FORWARDS (6): Bethany Balcer (OL Reign; 0/0), Mia Fishel (UCLA; 0/0), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0), Kealia Watt (Chicago Red Stars; 3/1), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 28/9)
Of Andonovski's 27 player roster, 23 are playing in the NWSL, with Sarah Gorden of the Red Stars and Shea Groom of the Dash—the latter who Vlatko used to coach in Kansas City in the NWSL—both uncapped. Gorden is the only player on the roster who never attended a U.S. Youth National Team camp. The other four selectees are still with college sides—three with Pac-12 clubs that have not played this fall and are tentatively planning on holding a spring season, when the NCAA will hold the delayed 2019 season playoffs and the College Cup final four.
The roster consists of nine players who saw action during the Olympic Qualifying and/or the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year. It also includes quite a few players who have some National Team experience and/or extensive time with the U.S. Youth National Teams. Many of the players called up performed well during the NWSL Challenge Cup and the NWSL Fall Series. Twenty of the players on the roster competed in the NWSL Challenge Cup and 20 have seen action in the NWSL Fall Series, which ended just before the camp begins.
None of the national team players currently in England, including Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis (both Manchester City), Tobin Heath, Christen Press (both Manchester United) and Alex Morgan (Tottenham Hotspur), were called into the camp. Andonovski explained, "For this camp, it just did not make sense for the players in Europe to leave their club environments, where they are getting quality training games, as they are just starting to get settled. But this opens up the important opportunity for other players to step up and show if they can contribute to the National Team during our run to the Olympics [next summer]." Since the Americans did not have an international match scheduled during the camp, the European clubs were not obligated to release their players in any case, though the camp did fall during a FIFA international window. Five other regular national team members and 2019 WWC Champions will not be in the Colorado camp including forwards Carli Lloyd, Mallory Pugh and goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, who are all recovering from injuries. Midfielder Julie Ertz will not attend camp due to a family commitment and forward Megan Rapinoe also opted out to due injury concerns.
The roster features nine players who attended the USWNT Identification Camp last December, including 2019 NWSL Rookie of the Year Bethany Balcer, goalkeeper Jane Campbell, Gorden, forward Ashley Hatch, Jaelin Howell, midfielder Kristie Mewis, defender Margaret Purce, Ashley Sanchez and Sophia Smith, plus one player who was called into that ID camp—Naomi Girma—but who couldn't attend at the time due to injury.
Girma, Howell, Sanchez, Smith, Mewis, and Purce have all represented the USA at one or more FIFA Youth World Cup. Seventeen total players in camp have appeared at a FIFA Youth World Cup. Three players on the roster—Smith, Mia Fishel and Girma—are still age-eligible for the U-20 USWNT and all helped the USA qualify for the next FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup, which has been moved to early 2021, by winning the CONCACAF Women's U-20 Championship last February/March. Fishel led the tournament's scoring with 13 goals in six games, including two in the 4-1 championship game victory over Mexico. Girma started all six games in the tournament while Smith saw limited action due to an injury.
Kristie Mewis, the older sister of U.S. World Cup star Samantha Mewis, has 15 career caps and one goal but has not played for the USWNT since March of 2015. She has had a stellar 2020 with the Houston Dash, helping them win the 2020 Challenge Cup this summer and second in the Fall Series.
Kealia Watt (formerly Ohai) earned her three USWNT caps in 2016, the first of which saw her break the record for fastest goal in a debut when she scored 48 seconds after entering the match against Switzerland on Oct. 23 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Catarine Macario of Stanford, Brazilian-born but who played youth soccer in Southern California since emigrating 9 years ago, was also called into the national team camp for the first time. She is a two-time winner of the MAC Hermann Trophy as College Player of the Year, had 32 goals and 23 assists last year. She has 63 goals and 47 assists in 68 college games and helped Stanford to the College Cup title in 2019. (We discussed her efforts to gain U.S. citizenship earlier this summer, a process that had been delayed because of COVID-19, see:
https://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/the-week-in-women-s-football-nwsl-returns-college-football-suspended-for-2020-uws-moves-abroad-4338896). She finally received her U.S. citizenship the first week in October and though called into her first full national team camp, cannot yet appear in an international match as U.S. Soccer is still petitioning FIFA to allow her to play. FIFA had a rule that a player had to live in a country for 5 years after their 18th birthday to be eligible. The rule now stipulates that it is 5 years after a player arrives in the country. Vlatko said about Macario, "Anyone who has seen Catarina play in college can tell that she's a special talent. She's incredibly skillful can score in many different ways, and it's just fun to watch. She's got a flair."
Next season, the USWNT will have a three week camp in January, typically in California, and then a camp and host the annual SheBelieves Cup tournament in mid-to-late February. Domestic camps will be held in early April and early June, with an end of June Olympic Training camp
The NWSL has not yet announced its 2021 schedule but pre-season camps could start anywhere from January through March, according to multiple sources, including league coaches.
UWS League adds four teams in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri for 2021.
United Women's Soccer (UWS) announced four charter members of a new Central Conference for 2021 with teams from Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. The four clubs in the new conference are: Gretna Elite Academy (Omaha, NE), KC Courage (Overland Park, KS), St. Louis Scott Gallagher (St. Louis, MO), and Springfield Demize (Springfield, MO). Additional Central Conference teams are expected to be added prior to the 2021 summer season. The teams are:
Gretna Elite Academy (GEA) of Greater Omaha (Gretna, Nebraska), which captured a Heartland Conference crown in the WPSL last season with an 8-1-1 record. The Gretna, Nebraska-based U-23 team was formed in 2018 and acts as the culmination of an extremely deep academy system, which begins at U-4 and continues through collegiate years.
The Kansas-based team, KC Courage, moves to UWS after seven seasons in the WPSL. Founded in 2014, the KC Courage is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization promoting and developing the character of young women through the sport of soccer. To this end, the KC Courage provides a high school soccer alternative training program in the spring and an amateur women's team. The KC Courage prides itself in the role models that their players perform in the community. Also, eight of their players have gone on to play professionally overseas. The team has a core group of 14-15 players post-college that return every year.
St. Louis Scott Gallagher (SLSG), a traditional youth power, will have their inaugural women's team compete in the newly-formed UWS conference in 2021. The women's team will showcase the culmination of a large, vertically-integrated youth system that encompasses parts of both Missouri and Illinois. The SLSG family also includes the Saint Louis FC Academy, which is designed as a professional pathway spanning the U-12 through U-19 age groups. The addition of a women's team fills out the ideals of the Academy, continuing the club's ability to field a full youth to professional Academy pathway for all players.
The Springfield Demize, formerly "SFG Lady Demize" joins UWS after completing their second season in the WPSL. The Demize soccer organization has been committed to developing the highest level of soccer at all ages and genders in Springfield, Missouri since 2003. The Demize youth academy recently merged with Sporting Springfield and will have a subsequent developmental partnership with Sporting Springfield and the Demize senior teams. As a result of the merger, their organization has decided to reintroduce the Springfield Demize branding to showcase the direct relationship with Sporting Springfield, a youth soccer affiliate of Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer. This partnership includes access to the new state of the art sports complex that is under construction and sharing the foundation of the youth program's core values with the senior teams. Springfield Demize's UWS team sits as a female counterpart to the men's side, which competes in the men's NPSL & PASL [amateur leagues].Chris Hanlon, the Demize Director of Soccer Operations stated, "The United Women's Soccer league was the platform that we felt best aligned with how we want to continue to develop both youth, collegiate, and post collegiate players in Southwest Missouri. We are looking forward to the next chapter of women's soccer in Springfield."
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey