The WoSo Independent Podcast – Episode #43 – 2018 NWSL Team Previews – Washington Spirit

In this episode of the WoSo Independent Podcast, Chris (@chris_awk) and Jon (@jonlipsitz) continue their look at the 2018 NWSL season by previewing the new look Washington Spirit. How much has the club improved from the draft(s) and trades? What are realistic expectations for this season? Are they a playoff contender?

International – Scouting the 2018 Algarve Cup

One of the great things about being partnered up with inStat now is the availability of advanced data on tournaments not televised in North America, such as the Cyprus and Algarve Cups. Using that data, here are some of the players that impressed…and some that didn’t in this past March’s Algarve Cup. Keep in mind, not every game was graded with advanced data, though every team had at least one match that was. Additionally, weather forced the abandoning or cancellation of some matches.

Russia (12th Place) [Note: Russia’s match with Canada was not scored.]

2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Hopes – The Russians still have at least one game in hand on all the teams ahead of them in the standings right now, but a 6-0 loss to England and 0-0 draw with Wales have probably submarined their hopes for next year’s competition.

Three of the Best (Minimum Two Matches Scored):

1. Nadezhda Smirnova (CSKA Moscow) – DM, CM

If Russia is to make a move up in the world of women’s soccer, they’re going to need players like Smirnova to make a big jump forward in their development. Smirnova was the best of a bad bunch at the Algarve in a central midfield role in three matches. A potential playmaker, Smirnova attempted six key passes but still only completed one. While Smirnova wasn’t awful defensively, her best role is probably higher on the pitch in midfield rather than the defensive role she played twice at the Algarve.

2. Nadezhda Koltakova (Donchanka Azov) – DM

A center-back at club level, Koltakova got a run out in central midfield in a few matches at the Algarve for the Russians. She acquitted herself quite well considering a relatively green record at international level, including completing ninety-three percent of her passes against Sweden in her one half of action. Koltakova also managed to win a bulk of her challenges and won all eight of her duels in the air.

3. Anna Kozhnikova (CSKA Moscow) – CB

Now one of the undisputed veterans of the Russian squad, Kozhnikova probably wouldn’t have ranked this highly had the match against Canada been scored, as she was sent off in the 1-0 defeat. But she still was solid in her other two matches, despite some shaky passing. However, the veteran won 73% of her challenges and both duels in the air against China in the defeat in the 11th place match.

And One to Forget (Minimum Two Matches Scored)

Maria Galay (Zvezda Perm) – RM, LM

The winger was emblematic of Russia’s offensive problems this tournament. She managed zero shots, barely completed half her passes and completed just one of three crosses. Defensively, Galay was a disaster as well, winning under 30% of her challenges and just two of seven in the air. The bigger question might be how Galay ended up going the whole way against China in the 11th place match.

China (11th Place)

2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Hopes – Almost a sure thing. Before the Asian Cup draw even came out, China looked like one of the best five in the region, but with Jordan, Thailand, and the Philippines in their group, it would be a serious shock if they didn’t just qualify but also win their group in decisive fashion.

Three of the Best (Minimum Three Matches Scored):

1. Wang Shuang – F, LM, CM

One of the rising stars of Chinese women’s football, Wang Shuang again showed her class in the Algarve Cup despite her side’s overall disappointing performance. She spread seven key passes in three matches, including five against Norway in a 2-0 defeat. While Shuang’s crossing game was a bit more spotty, she did complete three and held up well defensively for a forward despite contributing little in the air.

2. Li Ying – F, CM

Another star in the next wave of Chinese women’s soccer, Ying Li probably would’ve featured in all four matches at the Algarve had she not been sent off late against Portugal in a 2-1 defeat. The forward still managed a few shots on goal on the tournament, six key passes, and an 80% pass completion number against Russia in the 11th place match win. While she failed to hit the target here, her scoring form will be crucial if China’s to impress in 2019.

3. Shanshan Liu – RB

Liu had been a stalwart for China at left-back for some time coming into the Algarve, but she hopped over to the right side of defense for this tournament in three of four matches.Other than a bit of an off day against Australia, it might be an experiment worth reprising. She netted one of China’s goals against Russia in the 11th place match and chipped in with six key passes in four games despite weak overall pass numbers. Unlike most of the members of the Chinese squad, Liu is more than capable in the air, winning seven of ten challenges in the tournament.

And One to Forget (Minimum Three Matches Scored)

Ma Jun – One of China’s oldest players, almost pushing thirty, Jun did little to ease fears that she might be in decline in two games and a brief cameo against Australia. The center-back had a nightmare against Russia, completing just 63% of her passes and losing 56% of her challenges and 60% in the air.

Denmark (10th Place) [Note: Denmark’s match with Iceland was not scored.]

2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Hopes – A bit difficult. The 3-0 forfeit against Sweden looms large, likely forcing the Danes to beat Sweden in the final group fixture in September to win the group. They still need to be near perfect to even assure themselves of a spot in the playoffs.

Three of the Best (Minimum Two Matches Scored):

1. Stina Lykke Petersen (Kolding Q) – GK

Denmark’s #1 shined in goal, even if her team didn’t give her much help at times at the Algarve. Petersen made four saves in the draw with Iceland in the group stages and then stood on her head to make the defeat to Japan look respectable, making four top class saves and seven overall in the defeat to the Asian powerhouse. More displays like that will be needed if Denmark is to feature in France next year.

2. Katrine Veje (Montpellier) – LB

Still going strong after a century of caps, Veje could hit two centuries at this rate if her current form keeps up. The former Seattle Reign player has shifted into a left-back role at international level after functioning as a winger at club level and previously with Denmark. She was solid against Iceland but showed her true skill in just one half against Holland, assisting on both of her side’s goals while also managing to win fifty-six percent of her challenges in that group stage match.

3. Rikke Sevecke (Brondby) – CB

You’d be forgiven for not knowing who Sevecke was heading into this tournament, but you really should after her displays at the Algarve. Sevecke entered with just a pair of senior level caps to her name but started three matches and looked solid in a draw with Iceland and loss to Holland. Sevecke completed a pair of key passes against the Dutch while also winning 75% of her challenges and both aerial duels in the match, though those numbers were much lower against Iceland, underlining a little bit of inconsistency.

And One to Forget (Minimum Two Matches Scored)

Simone Boye Sorensen (Rosengard) – CB

Sorensen has been really good at club level for Rosengard, but her Algarve Cup was one to forget, as she showed little in two appearances off the bench at CB. Sorensen completed just 67% of her passes against Holland a 3-2 loss and lost two of three challenges in the Japan defeat. But she also was the unfortunate player whose own goal against the Dutch capped off a spectacular team meltdown when the Danes looked sure to win just minutes earlier.
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The WoSo Independent Podcast – Episode #42 – 2018 NWSL Team Previews – Utah Royals FC

In the latest episode of the WoSo Independent Podcast, Chris (@chris_awk) and Jon (@jonlipsitz) look at the newest addition to the NWSL, Utah Royals FC. What does their joining the league mean in the long-term? What can new manager Laura Harvey get out of the mix of FC Kansas City’s players and some interesting newcomers? And will it all equal a playoff berth at the first time of asking in 2018?

International – Scouting the 2018 Cyprus Cup

One of the great things about being partnered up with inStat now is the availability of advanced data on tournaments not televised in North America, such as the Cyprus and Algarve Cups. Using that data, here are some of the players that impressed…and some that didn’t in this past March’s Cyprus Cup. Keep in mind, not every game was graded with advanced data, though every team had at least one match that was.

An Algarve Cup review will likely be out later in the week.

Hungary (12th Place)

2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Hopes – All but dead. Fifth of five in their group with one point in four, means eyes are cast on qualifying for UEFA EURO 2021 now.

Three of the Best (Minimum Three Matches Scored):

1. Viktoria Szabo (Saarbrucken) – LB

Dismal against North Korea in the opener but had a big showing vs. South Africa, completing 85% of her passes, completing two of three crosses and winning of two of three challenges in the air.

2. Reka Szocs (MTK) – GK

Solid in challenges and in the air, Szocs kept it respectable with nine saves in her three matches despite a 54% shot saved rate. Playing behind an under fire defense probably didn’t help her cause.

3. Henrietta Csiszar (Leverkusen) – RM

Used more centrally in previous matches, Csiszar had some decent showings on the flank in this one, assisting on the goal against Slovakia and completing two of three crosses while serving as a playmaker with eleven key pass attempts and destroyer with some solid tackle numbers throughout.

And One to Forget (Minimum Three Matches Scored):

Bernadett Zagor (St. Polten) – FW, DM

Not hard to see why Zagor missed out on the 11th place game defeat after three ineffectual displays for the Hungarians in group play, putting up just a single shot while also delivering some ghastly passing and tackling numbers.

Finland (11th Place) [Note: Finland’s game against Wales was not scored.]

2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Hopes – Alive! You wouldn’t guess it based on this dismal showing, but Finland are currently second in their group, which would equal a shot at the playoffs if they were high enough in the pecking order. Bad news? They haven’t played group heavyweights Spain or Austria yet.

Three of the Best (Minimum Three Matches Scored):

1. Katarina Naumanen (HJK) – RB

Stuck out wide after previously playing as a center-back for Finland, especially at youth level, Naumanen shone brightly after starting the 11th place game win against Hungary. 79% passes completed and hitting both of her crosses, while winning nine of ten challenges and all four challenges in the air equalled a great day for the youngster.

2. Emmi Alanen (Vittsjo) – DMC

Alanen was dropped to the bench for the 11th place game but responded as a sub with her best showing of the tournament, completing two key passes and netting one of Finland’s two goals on the day. She also netted both against Italy in a surprising draw against the eventual finalists and has to be considered key to any hopes of a shock WWC appearance down the line.

3. Minna Meriluoto (HJK) – GK

Meriluoto looked an unlikely candidate for this list after getting shelled against Switzerland in group play. But she rebounded in the 11th place game against Hungary, making six saves on her way to a Woman of the Match performance while also completing 85% of her passes.

And One to Forget (Minimum Two Matches Scored):

Anna Auvinen (Honka) – CB

At thirty-one years of age, there has to be suspicion that Auvinen may be getting a bit long in the tooth after displays like these. She offered little in a cameo on the wing against Switzerland before playing in the ninety-minutes against Italy and somehow conspiring to win just 27% of her challenges along with losing two of three in the air. She was dropped for the match against Hungary, and it was hardly a shock.
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The WoSo Independent Podcast – Episode #41.5 – 2018 NWSL Team Previews – Houston Dash

It’s time for Take Two on the Houston Dash, as Chris (@chris_awk) and Jon (@jonlipsitz) break down the fallout from the Christen Press imbroglio. Beyond that, they discuss Houston’s fresh start and new look roster. Can the offense produce without Press? Is the midfield capable of competing? And is the defense better than some might think?

The WoSo Independent Podcast – Episode #40 – 2018 NWSL Team Previews – Chicago Red Stars

It’s part three of Chris (@chris_awk) and Jon’s (@jonlipsitz) 2018 NWSL preview. In this edition, they look at another one of last year’s playoff teams, the Chicago Red Stars. What will be the overall impact of Sam Kerr’s arrival? Will they be more tactically flexible with the shakeup on offense? And could the club’s situation in central defense hurt their title hopes?

The WoSo Independent Podcast – Episode #39 – 2018 NWSL Team Previews – Orlando Pride

In this episode of the WoSo Independent Podcast, Chris (@chris_awk) and Jon (@jonlipsitz) continue their preview of the 2018 NWSL season. This time out, they look at one of last year’s playoff teams, the Orlando Pride. Is it title or bust for Tom Sermanni’s side? How will Sydney Leroux fit into the superstar attack? And will the backline be the undoing of any title hopes for the Pride?

World – Let’s Rank The Players on the Women’s FIFPro XI Shortlist

One of the glories of having access to inStat data now is having the ability to compare and contrast players from around the globe in WoSo, which is a big boon for someone in the United States who wants to increase their knowledge of the international game. So when FIFPro released their shortlist of fifty-five players in consideration for their Best XI for 2017, I naturally wanted to examine those on the list.

This ranking is based on the overall “inStat Index” number for each player, which is essentially an average of overall game ratings over a period of time. I calculated the average Index for each player from the entire calendar year of 2017 all the way up to just before the SheBelieves Cup/Algarve/Cyprus Cup matches, which aren’t included in the ranking. I also only included senior international matches as well as domestic league and continental comps (so no domestic cup or club friendlies) in the calculations.

I also struggled with sample size for some players. Unfortunately, not every match is rated in inStat, meaning some of the players just don’t have enough data in the system. I set a very generous minimum of twelve matches for inclusion in this list. Deyna Castellanos has more than twelve matches, but they’re all at college level, which I don’t consider compatible for the purposes of this list. Here are those who didn’t have enough data:

N/A – Deyna Castellanos – FW, CM – Venezuela – Florida State
N/A – Natalia Gaitan – CB, DM, RB – Colombia – Valencia
N/A – Tuija Hyyrynen – RB, CB – Finland – Juventus
N/A – Andreea Paraluta – GK – Romania – Atletico Madrid
N/A – Alice Parisi – DM, CM – Italy – Fiorentina
N/A – Laura Rus – FW – Romania – Reggiana

And now the list…

Tier 6 – The “Wait, What?” Tier

49. – Sandra Zigic – LB – Croatia – Jena

48. – Elena Linari – CB – Italy – Fiorentina

Tier 5 – Good Players With Great Reputations

47. – Sara Dabritz – DM, CM, LM – Germany – FC Bayern

46. – Carli Lloyd – CM, FW – USA – Sky Blue FC

45. – Alanna Kennedy – CB, DM – Australia – Orlando Pride

44. – Shanice van de Sanden – RM – Holland – Lyon

43. – Karen Carney – CM, LM, RM – England – Chelsea

42. – Danielle van de Donk – CM, LM – Holland – Arsenal

41. – Line Roddik Hansen – CB, LB – Denmark – Barcelona

40. – Jodie Taylor – FW – England – Seattle Reign

39. – Victoria Losada – CM, DM – Spain – Barcelona

38. – Nadia Nadim – FW, RM – Denmark – Manchester City

Tier 4 – The Great But Just Short of World Class Tier

37. – Jackie Groenen – DM, CM, FW – Holland – Frankfurt

36. – Katarzyna Kiedrzynek – GK – Poland – Paris Saint-Germain

35. – Stephanie Houghton – CB – England – Manchester City

34. – Kristin Demann – CB, DM – Germany – FC Bayern

33. – Anouk Dekker – CB, DM, CM – Holland – Montpellier

32. – Almuth Schult – GK – Germany – Wolfsburg

31. – Millie Bright – CB, DM – England – Chelsea

30. – Sandra Panos – GK – Spain – Barcelona

29. – Saki Kumagai – DM, CB – Japan – Lyon

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2018 SheBelieves Cup – USA 1 – 0 Germany – Four Thoughts From Chris

Megan Rapinoe scored early in the first half off an Alex Morgan flick in windy conditions as the USWNT edged past Germany, 1-0, in a ragged game on Thursday night in Columbus.

1. A Familiar American Lineup

One suspects that the XI that stepped out onto the pitch for the U.S. on Thursday might end up being pretty close to the first choice squad that hops off the plane in 2019 in France. While Becky Sauerbrunn is likely to replace Tierna Davidson in the lineup once healthy, and Carli Lloyd could be usurped by Sam Mewis, the other nine players look solid bets for the starting lineup. After a long, long string of experimentation last year, the U.S. settling on a steady lineup could be a relief, though fans will certainly hope that performances improve from Thursday’s display.

2. Germans Lack the Final Touch

It’s a tale that German supporters have too often been forced to endure in recent years: talent and chance creation but little to show for it on the scoreboard. And so it was for most of the opening half from Columbus, with the likes of Svenja Huth creating a string of chances with crosses and others providing some smooth dribbling into the box, but nobody in white could pounce. They were a bit unlucky at times, with one shot shaving the far post, but the continued lack of goals against elite opposition has to be concerning. It’s difficult seeing the likes of Marozsan and Popp giving way any time soon, but Steffi Jones will surely be considering some of her other attacking options in this tournament’s other matches. Jones made a few changes in the attack towards the end of the second half, but her side struggled to regain the group they had on the game early in the first half.
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2018 SheBelieves Cup – England 4 – 1 France – Four Thoughts from Chris

France were humiliated in an astonishing 4-1 rout by England in cold and blustery Columbus, Ohio on Thursday.

Here are some thoughts:

1. Questionable Team Selection for France:

Given the new nature of Corinne Diacre’s reign as France WNT manager, there was probably some expectation of squad rotation throughout this tournament as they prepare for the meat of WWC qualifying. But Diacre sprung a serious shock from the off, leaving out Sarah Bouhaddi in goal in favor of the relatively untested Karima Benameur. While the keeper wasn’t guilty of serious howlers, rolling the dice right away was a shock.

Even more surprising was the omission of Amel Majri from the starting lineup. Majri’s been in incredible form for club and country over the past year and looked to be a sure thing in the lineup based on form. But Diacre opted for Sakina Karchaoui at left-back and Eugenie Le Sommer on the wing, leaving Majri on the bench. Given the quality of those two, squeezing Majri into the lineup could be difficult, but based on recent form, it seems necessary if France is to get the most from this squad.

2. A Tough Break Unpunished for England

England’s center-back situation coming into Thursday’s match was already up in the air with Millie Bright a doubt because of illness and other injuries hitting depth. The above prompted a recall of Anita Asante to the squad after a long absence, and the veteran started at the heart of defense with Bright but was forced off very early through injury, with Abbie McManus brought in to fill the breach. But with the raw McManus and potentially unwell Bright anchoring the defense, France were unable to seriously test Karen Bardsley in goal. While the Three Lionesses were able to survive against an off-song France side, how they hold up in defense in the other two rounds of the tournament if Asante is out is a big question.
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