Ferns in focus ahead of USA tour

With the All Whites in camp to take their next steps on the road to Russia, the overseas spotlight has fallen on the Football Ferns in recent days and they did not disappoint as many played prominent roles for their club sides.

The Ferns are set to play in a pair of internationals themselves this month and warmed up for those matches against world champions USA with some strong performances across the globe. At the forefront in Europe was captain Ali Riley, who is not renowned for her goalscoring prowess but had a rare strike to celebrate as Rosengard drew 2-2 with Vittsjo GIK in the Swedish Damallsvenskan. Riley has scored just once for her country in over a century of appearances and has only a handful of club goals to her name but added to her tally in spectacular fashion, picking the ball up near the corner of the penalty area and curling a perfectly-placed shot inside the far post. The stunning effort was part of a memorable period for fullback Riley, who lifted the Swedish Cup with Rosengard last week and is now set to skipper New Zealand against the country she was born and raised in. One fellow Fern wasn’t particularly pleased about her goal though as Hannah Wilkinson plays for Vittsjo and took part in the last half an hour as her side salvaged a point after being two goals down. Rosengard are now four points off top spot while Vittsjo are in mid-table.

https://twitter.com/HannahWilkinso1/status/904069536823070720

Elsewhere in Europe, Kirsty Yallop suffered heartbreak as Klepp were knocked out of the NM Cupen, Norway’s leading female cup competition. With the score locked at 1-1 against Avaldsnes, the tie had to be decided from the penalty spot and Klepp ended up on the wrong side of the shootout, going down 5-4. A pair of Ferns were both in action in the German Frauen Bundesliga, CJ Bott’s league debut for USV Jena not quite going to plan as she played 26 minutes of a 4-1 loss to Turbine Potsdam while Amber Hearn was also on the losing side as FC Koln were defeated 2-0 by FFC Frankfurt. One player who may soon wear the silver fern was likewise left empty-handed in Germany but Jana Radosavljevic at least had the consolation of finding the net as Cloppenburg were edged out 4-3 by Gutersloh. There also wasn’t much joy for Betsy Hassett over in Iceland as KR Reykjavik were beaten 2-0 by Breidablik while Erin Nayler endured a similar fate in the opening round of the French Division 1 Feminine as Bordeaux were outclassed 3-0 by Lille. The only Football Fern to taste victory in the European game was Ria Percival, whose FC Basel earned a 2-1 win over Young Boys in the Swiss Nationalliga.

Over the English channel, Anna Green celebrated her 27th birthday last month and will be looking forward to the FA Women’s Super League kicking off in late September as Reading FC appear to be assembling a competitive side. As well as having the services of the Football Ferns fullback, Reading coach Kasey Chambers has extended the contract of England player of the year nominee Jade Moore and lured Fara Williams, the highest-capped England player of all time, on a two-year deal from Arsenal. Green and co are currently in the midst of their pre-season preparations, as is Olivia Chance at Everton, whose campaign is set to kick off in  eye-catching fashion with a Merseyside derby against Liverpool. Chance has already faced a couple of the other big names in English football in recent days, taking on Arsenal and Chelsea in pre-season friendlies but losing 3-0 and 2-1 respectively.

Across the Atlantic, the Kiwi contingent in the American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) were all in the thick of the action as they looked to make a statement ahead of taking on the US national team, currently ranked number one in the world. Leading the way was Rosie White, who scored her fourth goal of the season for the struggling Boston Breakers but couldn’t prevent another loss, this time 4-2 against the Orlando Pride. After going two goals down, White gave her side hope just after half time when she tucked home from close range but it wasn’t enough to lift Boston away from bottom equal on the ladder. The other two Football Ferns enjoyed more success, Rebekah Stott taking full part at right back as Seattle Reign defeated Houston Dash 1-0 while Katie Bowen played just over 70 minutes of FC Kansas City’s 4-1 win over Sky Blue FC. Former Football Ferns captain Abby Erceg has skippered North Carolina Courage to the top of the table but their five-game winning streak was finally snapped with a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Red Stars. Much of North Carolina’s progress has been down to the rock-solid defence led by Erceg, with a league best of only 18 goals being conceded across their 20 matches so far. In the college system, Martine Puketapu didn’t get on the scoresheet but still helped Colorado University to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Brigham Young University while Daisy Cleverley was also part of a winning effort as Berkley University accounted for Long Beach State 1-0.

While most of the current All Whites have spent the past week securing their berth in the intercontinental play-off for a place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, other Kiwi male players have still been in action in other parts of the world. Regular squad member Tamati Williams was without a club after leaving Dutch second-tier side RKC Waalwijk but has now secured his immediate future after signing with AaB Fodbold in the Danish top-flight. “It’s a good level and the facilities are fantastic,” he says of his new employers. “All the staff seem very motivated to get further up the league again, which is always nice. Everyone is looking to go in the right direction.” AaB finished 10th in the 14-team league last season. Another goalkeeper who has previously been involved in the All Whites set up also has reason to be pleased with himself as Max Crocombe continues to shine in the upper reaches of the English non-league system for Salford City. The club partly owned by Manchester United’s much-vaunted ‘Class of ‘92’ are now third on the National League North table after a 2-1 win over second-placed Harrogate Town. Crocombe played a vital role in securing the victory, making an outstanding save with 10 minutes remaining to preserve Salford’s lead.

In Sweden, Tyler Lissette played the full match as IFK Varnamo swept aside Atvidabergs FF 3-1 while Dan Keat and Dylan Burns were both unused substitutes as GAIS Goteborg drew 1-1 with Orgryte IS and Hudiksvalls FF lost 4-2 to Pitea IF respectively. In Italy, Niko Kirwan’s AC Mestre triumphed 3-1 over AlbinoLeffe in Serie C while Brock Messenger entered the fray as a late substitute as FF Jaro defeated Grankulla IFK 5-2 in Finland. In England, Steven Old was made to earn his coin during 90 minutes in an over-worked Morecambe defence as the Shrimps were eventually beaten 2-1 by Accrington Stanley. Morecambe were forced to play over half an hour of the League Two game with only 10 men after having a player sent off. Rory Fallon had a less busy afternoon for Torquay United, watching on as an unused substitute as the Gulls carved out a point in a 1-1 draw at home to Chester.

In the United States, Bill Tuiloma continues to impress in the early stages of his career at the Portland Timbers, starting all five games for their second string in the United Soccer League (USL) since his arrival and scoring two goals, both headers. His latest net-buster arrived in a 1-1 draw on the road against Rio Grande Valley, a loose ball breaking to the midfielder just inside the six-yard box for him to show good technique to get his body underneath it and head home. Just a few days later, Tuiloma and the Timbers were back at home and earned another 1-1 result against the Tulsa Roughnecks. The form of the 22-year-old is timely as he looks to force his way back into the All Whites squad ahead of November’s intercontinental play-off.

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