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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WPSL->NWSL: Familiar faces have a shot at the pros

Maddie Huster (left) warms up while Rachel Moore (right) awaits her turn.

Maddie Huster (left) warms up while Rachel Moore (right) awaits her turn. (Washington Spirit photo)

For me, the 2018 NWSL draft was the culmination of the last four years (and more) of covering the elite amateur teams in the Washington, DC, area, as half-a-dozen of the players I’d been covering were picked for a shot at going professional. I stopped by the Washington Spirit’s third day of practice, on Wednesday, February 21st, to talk with as many of them as I could.

Head coach Jim Gabarra talked about picking “homegrown” talent. “We’re fortunate to bring that quality of players in who have an attachment to the area or the Reserve team or teams past. It’s always good to give future generations the real true carrot, the pathway to the professional team by showing that we’ll at least give a chance to those we’ve had in as Reserves.”

I asked did he think it made it easier for those with experience with the organization to make the transition. “Yes, I think it does. The psychological part of coming into a pro team or into a national team, if you haven’t ever been there, the first couple of days, the first phase is always difficult. And this way we’ve got players in our DA or on our reserve teams that have been in training sessions with the pro team, so it’s something they’ve gone through. So they get to know you, and the comfort level is a lot higher.”
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The WoSo Independent Podcast – Episode #37 – End of An Era

In episode #37 of the WoSo Independent Podcast, Chris (@chris_awk) and Jon (@jonlipsitz) discuss the end of the Boston Breakers and what it means for the league as a whole (1:40). They then go over the dispersal draft (14:15), including Washington’s gutsy trade up and Houston’s baffling picks. Finally, they talk about the ~BIG NEWS, an informal partnership with leading advanced stats and scouting database inStat and the ramifications of said partnership on the podcast and AWK’s coverage of WoSo going forward (1:04:45).