Ferns face off in USA

The footballing attention of the New Zealand public may currently be focused on the All Whites’ exploits at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia but there are still plenty of Kiwis in action for their clubs in other parts of the world, including several Football Ferns coming up against each other.

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The four New Zealanders involved in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) all faced one of their fellow countrywoman as the United States leading women’s competition returned after a break over the FIFA international window. Former Football Ferns captain Abby Erceg was the best-placed of the New Zealanders going into that brief hiatus as the North Carolina Courage side she is captain of were leading the table after a strong start to the season. They still hold that honour after coming up against Rosie White’s Boston Breakers, who could not halt the Courage’s progress in falling to a 3-1 defeat. Both Kiwis took full part in the match and Erceg played a prominent role in one of the goals, heading a corner onto the post which then bounced back into play for Kristen Hamilton to volley home and put the Courage two-nil up early on. After the shock of conceding those early goals, the Breakers looked to get back into the contest and White nearly got on the scoresheet just before half-time but headed a Natasha Dowie cross narrowly wide. She did get into the referee’s notebook by the final whistle but not in the desired manner, receiving a yellow card with 10 minutes remaining. While the result keeps North Carolina at the summit, the Breakers are now second-to-last on the 10-team table.

In contrast, Rebekah Stott’s Seattle Reign are faring much better after a 2-2 draw with Kansas City solidified fifth spot. It was potentially again a case of two Kiwis coming up against each other as Stott’s Ferns team mate Katie Bowen plays for Kansas but the midfielder was left sidelined by an injury she suffered in a loss to Erceg’s Courage before the international break. Stott again lined up at right fullback for the Reign and played the full 90 minutes of an entertaining draw that means Kansas remain a point behind Seattle in seventh. Reign coach Laura Harvey has been impressed with the recent efforts of Stott, who celebrated her 24th birthday on Saturday. “She’s an experienced player who has played at the international level for a while now even though she’s still quite young,” Harvey says. “Her ability on the ball has enabled us to have a little bit of a different dynamic.”

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In the men’s game in the United States, Jake Gleeson continues to prove a commanding presence for the Portland Timbers in Major League Soccer (MLS) action. The big Kiwi custodian was tasked with keeping out the Colorado Rapids and couldn’t quite do so in a 2-1 loss but did pull off some outstanding saves to keep his side in the game. The highlight was when his lightning-quick reactions allowed him to palm away a point-blank header from former English Premier League player Kevin Doyle on the hour. Gleeson wasn’t the only accomplished goalkeeper on the pitch with former Manchester United, Everton and United States hero Tim Howard between the sticks at the other end in front of a crowd of over 15,000.

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Young striker Myer Bevan, a stand-out in New Zealand’s ground-breaking campaign at the recent FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic, was meanwhile taking the first steps in his burgeoning professional career by featuring in a United Soccer League (USL) game for the first time. The prodigiously talented 20-year-old recently signed for Vancouver Whitecaps after coming through the UK-based Nike Academy and was an unused substitute for the MLS club’s second string side in a 2-1 loss to Sacramento Republic. Bevan will soon have plenty of Kiwi company at Vancouver as All Whites fullback Deklan Wynne will return to the club after the FIFA Confederations Cup while fellow New Zealander Francis De Vries is also on the books.

While the seasons of many leagues in Europe have now wrapped up, there are still some Kiwi men in action across Scandinavia. In Sweden, Tyler Lisette got another full match under his belt in the second-tier Superettan as IFK Varnamo drew 1-1 with Falkenberg while 17-cap All White Steven Old did likewise as GAIS were defeated 3-2 by Brommapojkarna. Nearby in Finland, Nikko Boxall could only watch from the sidelines as KuPS went down 2-0 to HJK in the top-flight Veikkausliiga after being sent off a week earlier while, one division below, Brock Messenger took full part for Jaro in a 3-2 win over Gnistan.

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The Football Ferns contingent was also in action in Scandinavia, where Ali Riley and Hannah Wilkinson joined their States-based international team mates in coming up against each other. Ferns captain Riley was able to earn bragging rights after FC Rosengard ran out comfortable 3-0 winners against Vittsjo GIK in the Swedish Damallsvenskan with the fullback playing 90 minutes and Wilkinson being withdrawn just after the hour. Over in Norway, Kirsty Yallop was also able to celebrate a victory as Klepp narrowly edged out Sandviken 1-0 in the Toppserien.

There was also success for a pair of Kiwis in Australia as Luke Adams and Luka Prelevic were both named by the Corner Flag website in the National Premier Leagues (NPL) Victoria Team of the Week. Five-cap All White Adams earned his place after getting on the scoresheet in South Melbourne’s 8-1 victory over St Albans while three-cap Prelevic helped Pascoe Vale to a 1-0 win over third-placed Bentleigh Greens. South Melbourne remain top while Pascoe Vale move up to sixth. In the professional game across the ditch, Kosta Barbarouses is on the move after being granted an early release from his contract with the Wellington Phoenix to re-join former club Melbourne Victory, where he will line up alongside fellow All Whites Marco Rojas and Jai Ingham. Up in South Africa, Jeremy Brockie will be in action overnight in a big game as SuperSport United take on Congolese club TP Mazembe in the CAF Confederation Cup.

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