Ferns in focus as Hassett earns double

With the All Whites currently in camp as they prepare for the FIFA Confederations Cup later this month, much of the spotlight has fallen on New Zealand’s female overseas-based players in recent days.

Hitting the headlines in Holland was Football Ferns midfielder Betsy Hassett, who completed a rare league-and-cup double as Ajax followed up their Eredivisie title with another piece of silverware. The Amsterdam-based club faced fellow Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven in the final of the KNVB Women’s Cup – the country’s leading female knockout competition – and wrapped up a hugely successful season with a 2-0 win. Hassett has been used off the bench for much of the campaign and again performed that role in the final, making a late cameo for the closing stages. The 26-year-old’s contract with Ajax has now come to an end and she is undecided over her future at this stage. “I really wanted to win the league and we’ve done that, so that’s been a big exciting thing,” she says. “But I’ve only been coming on at the end of games here and I don’t know whether that’s what I want to do for another whole season or not.”

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Also with something to celebrate was Rosie White, who blew out the candles on her 24th birthday cake yesterday. Unfortunately, her team could not mark the occasion in fitting fashion as the Boston Breakers fell to a 2-0 loss to a Marta-inspired Orlando Pride in the American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Despite playing mainly as a striker for the Football Ferns, White has been a regular feature in the Breakers midfield but was not included in the starting line-up for the Pride clash. She was in the thick of the action after coming on in the 53rd minute though, picking up a yellow card shortly after entering the fray and then heading a cross on target that was saved by Orlando goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe.

Fellow Fern Rebekah Stott was able to keep her place on the right of a back four for the Seattle Reign but, like White, was also on the losing end as the Chicago Red Stars claimed a 1-0 victory. Stott nearly had a sight of goal just after the half hour but couldn’t quite reach a corner from USA international Megan Rapinoe. It wasn’t a great round for the New Zealand internationals in the NWSL as Katie Bowen also suffered a frustrating afternoon for FC Kansas City. The versatile midfielder started the match against North Carolina Courage but was forced off in just the 17th minute due to injury and could only look on as Kansas were defeated 2-0 by the league leaders. The only Kiwi able to celebrate was former Ferns captain Abby Erceg, who skippers the Courage and had a big hand in their opening goal. The centre back rose to meet a corner perfectly and headed the ball towards goal for McCall Zerboni to turn home on the hour mark. It was North Carolina’s sixth victory of the season and keeps them on top of the tree. With a third of the campaign gone, the NWSL now takes a break for the FIFA international window and a pair of Kiwis will come together again when it returns as Erceg is set to lead the Courage into battle against White’s Boston Breakers on June 17.

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Across the Atlantic, Anna Green signed off on the FA WSL Spring Series with Reading in unassuming fashion as the Royals drew 1-1 with Sunderland. The Ferns fullback was an unused substitute for the loss but, just a few days earlier, had played for over an hour as Reading were edged 1-0 by Arsenal. The disappointing end to the season means Reading finish sixth in the nine-team league while Chelsea claimed the title on goal difference over Manchester City as Arsenal secured third. A one-off competition, the Spring Series was put in place to bridge the gap as the FA Women’s Super League transitioned from a summer competition to a winter one and Green – along with fellow England-based Kiwi Olivia Chance, who plays for Everton – now have a few months off before the action resumes in September.

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Over in Europe, Ria Percival experienced mixed fortunes in the Swiss Nationalliga for FC Basel 1893 with a 1-0 loss to FC Neunkirch swiftly followed several days later by a thrilling 3-2 success over BSC Young Boys. In Scandinavia, Football Ferns captain Ali Riley took full part as per usual in FC Rosengard’s 1-0 triumph against Kristianstads DFF while her international team mate Hannah Wilkinson was also in action in the Swedish Damallsvenskan, starting for Vittsjo GIK before being replaced in the 68th minute of a scoreless stalemate with KIF Orebro DFF. Nearby in Norway, Kirsty Yallop’s successful run with Klepp has continued with a pair of wins, 2-0 over Amazon Grimstad in the knockout NM Cupen before a 1-0 victory against Trondheims-Orn in the Toppserien league.

Despite the All Whites now all focusing on preparing for the Confederations Cup, there have still been plenty of male New Zealanders making a mark at their respective clubs. Before joining up with the All Whites as a late arrival, goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic just had time to secure promotion to the German third division with SpVgg Unterhaching, whom he helped to a 5-2 aggregate success over SV Elversberg in the Regionalliga play-offs. He will now play against the likes of the famous 1860 Munich, a founder member of the Bundesliga who share a stadium with local rivals Bayern Munich. Fellow goalkeeper Jake Gleeson didn’t have too much to do but was his usual steady self when called up as the Portland Timbers swept aside the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 in American Major League Soccer (MLS) action while a pair of Kiwis are in line to take part in a historic occasion in a couple of days. Myer Bevan – who was one of New Zealand’s stand-out performers at the recent FIFA U-20 World Cup – and Ryan de Vries are both on the books of Vancouver Whitecaps 2 and could come up against one of the greats of the modern game with reports suggesting Didier Drogba is set to make his United Soccer League (USL) debut for Phoenix Rising against the Whitecaps on Saturday. Defender de Vries is likely to start the match while striker Bevan could make his bow for the club after signing just before the World Cup. Fullback Deklan Wynne is also at Vancouver but will miss the match as he is on international duty with the All Whites.

In Finland, Nikko Boxall – whose brother Michael is in the current All Whites’ camp – played an important role as Kuopion Palloseura fell to a 2-1 loss against IFK Mariehamn in the top-flight Veikkausliiga, sending in a well-placed cross for his side’s first goal shortly before half-time. Down a division in the Ykkonen, former New Zealand U-20 international Brock Messenger took full part as FF Jaro were held to a 2-2 draw by FC Haka before then falling 3-2 to OPS a few days later. The Kiwi contingent at Swedish side GAIS, former All Whites Steven Old and Dan Keat, also both played the 90 minutes of a 1-0 win over Trelleborgs FF in the premier Superettan, centre back Old captaining the side. In the second tier, Tyler Lissette helped IFK Varnamo keep a clean sheet as they accounted for IK Frej Taby 3-0. In Africa, Jeremy Brockie travelled to the Congo to take on defending champions TP Mazembe in the CAF Confederation Cup but was an unused substitute as South African outfit SuperSport United took away a point in a 2-2 draw.

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