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After Iacchelli fails physical, Canada loses another NWSL allocation

Selenia Iacchelli

Selenia Iacchelli

(The first issue of Plastic Pitch features an in-depth look at Selenia Iacchelli’s journey through injuries and adversity, and finally to a debut with the Canadian women’s national team and an NWSL allocation at the age of 27. We follow it up with this update)

When the NWSL season starts this Sunday, 15 Canadians will be on team rosters across the nine-franchise league.

Fourteen of them will come from the 2014 roster spots the Canadian Soccer Association. Those 14 will be joined by Nkem Ezurike, who was taken in the draft by the Boston Breakers.

But, Canada has 16 allocations, not 14. Why did the number shrink?

Earlier this offseason, midfielder Desiree Scott announced her intention to move to England’s Notts County — and after weeks of waiting, the move finally went through. After the move was made, Canadian women’s team coach John Herdman chose not to fill Scott’s allocation spot, saying there wasn’t another unattached member of the national program who would merit it. (CLICK HERE)

And now there’s bad news on the injury front. And that comes from 27-year-old midfielder Selenia Iacchelli — the former University of Nebraska captain who overcame a series of injuries to work her way back into the senior national-team picture. Iacchelli has played professionally in Italy with Torres, and had been offered a contract by Doncaster Rovers, but that deal was scuttled because she broke her arm in an Edmonton indoor game. After making her debut with the senior national team late last year, she was granted an NWSL allocation in January of 2014. But yet another injury — following two foot breaks and that broken arm that put her career on hold — has set her back again. A serious knee injury has made her allocation spot null and void.
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CSA President: Canadian NWSL franchise wouldn’t have to be in MLS city; Hamilton USL sanction decision “still far away”

Victor Montagliani

Victor Montagliani

Canadian Soccer Association President Victor Montagliani believes that having an NWSL club north of the border isn’t just about developing domestic women players. He believes Canadian top-flight pro teams are about preserving a unique soccer culture in this country.

Montagliani was at Edmonton’s City Hall Monday, for the launch of the U-20 World Cup ticketing campaign. Edmonton is one of four host cities and, in 2015, will stage more Women’s World Cup games than any other Canadian centre.

“I think it’s important to have an NWSL team, because it allows us to keep our unique identity and culture, when it comes to football,” said Montagliani. “And that unique culture is important for the male and female game.”

But, if Canada is to have an NWSL team, where would it go? FC Edmonton owner Tom Fath has said that if his NASL men’s side was to break even, he’d consider throwing in for an NWSL side. The Eddies launched women’s programs in Calgary and Edmonton this fall.

Or, would it be better off in an MLS city, where it could dovetail with Toronto FC, the Whitecaps or the Impact?

Montagliani said he believes there is lots of room for Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver for a women’s pro team, but that the CSA would also back a venture in a non-MLS city.

“If you take a look at the NWSL right now, out of the Americans teams there, not all of them are in MLS markets. So, if it works for them, why wouldn’t it work in Canada? I don’t see it that way than an NWSL team has to be in the same city as an MLS team. What we want is committed, stable ownership, that ticks off all the boxes.”
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NWSL recap: Does Thorns win put Sinclair in position for ninth straight Canadian POY award?

Christine Sinclair

Christine Sinclair

A couple of weeks ago, there was a Twitter exchange amongst Canadian soccer followers, spurred by Canadian Soccer News columnist Duane Rollins, about Christine Sinclair’s prospects of winning the national women’s player of the year crown in 2013.

Sinclair, Canada’s all-time leading scorer, and the best player (male or female) this country has ever produced, has won the award 10 times, including the last eight years in a row. You could rename the women’s player of the year award “The Sincy” and no one in this country would complain.

But, coming out of her Portland Thorns’ 2-0 win in this past weekend’s NWSL championship, in which Sinclair scored the stoppage-time icing-on-the-cake goal, the question: Is it enough to keep her in the lead for the 2013 award? Sure, there’s still a lot of soccer to be played. Sinclair could score three or four vs. South Korea on a late October night and make this column moot.
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How we see the NWSL Final: Portland (Team Canada) vs. WNY Flash (Team USA)

Karina LeBlanc

Karina LeBlanc

Outside of the family members of Canadians Jodi-Ann Robinson and Bryanna McCarthy, its hard to imagine that too many people on this side of the border will be cheering for Western New York Flash to beat the Portland Thorns in Aug. 31′s NWSL final.

After all, the Flash is home to Abby Wambach, the player who reminded referee Christina Pedersen about the time-wasting rule in the 2012 Olympic semifinal between Canada and the United States. Pedersen’s ensuing call against Canadian keeper Erin McLeod shifted a game that Canada was winning 3-2 at the time — and helped the Americans get the game to extra time, where they won it. Wambach has further endeared herself to Canadian supporters with her criticism of the decision to play the 2015 Women’s World Cup on artificial turf, a move endorsed by FIFA and which was part of Canada’s bid package.

Wambach, whether she cares or not, is seen as about as anti-Canadian as a foreign sporting figure can be in this country. So, in our eyes, that makes her No. 1 seed Flash, which hosts the final thanks to a 2-0 semifinal win over Sky Blue FC, as the brash U-S-A! U-S-A! group.

Robinson and McCarthy are depth players for the Flash, so that Canadian cheer-for-our-own urge is lessened.

Meanwhile, even though Alex Morgan — who scored the U.S. winner in that Olympic semifinal — plays for Portland, it is clearly Canada’s team. Christine Sinclair didn’t score in the Thorns come-from-behind 3-2 extra-time semifinal win over FC Kansas City, but Canada’s all-time leading scorer netted eight times for Thorns this season.
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Canadian women’s-team vets will shepherd next generation of players

Carmelina Moscato

Carmelina Moscato

Canadian women’s national-team veterans Diana Matheson and Carmelina Moscato are not only preparing for the 2015 Women’s Word Cup, they are working to help the program prepare players for tournaments in 2019, 2023 and beyond.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Soccer Association announced that Matheson and Moscato will be technical assistants for the upcoming Excel camp in Burnaby, B.C. The camp, which begins Friday and runs till Sept. 1, brings together 30 of Canada’s top U-14 and U-16 prospects.

“I am not only excited to be chosen to work for this U-14 to U-16 camp, but honoured as I feel it is the greatest way to give back to Canadian soccer,” said Moscato in a release issued by the Canadian Soccer Association. “I look forward to being part of these players’ journey and hope I can add elements to their game that will allow them to play intelligent, thoughtful and insightful soccer.”
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If Matheson doesn’t score, Washington doesn’t score: Canadian named NWSL player of the week

Diana Matheson

Diana Matheson

The Washington Spirit is enduring a miserable first season in NWSL, but there has been a Canadian silver lining in the team’s stormy campaign.

And that’s the play of Canadian national team regular Diana Matheson. On Tuesday, she was named the NWSL player of the week.

Matheson was involved in both goals the Spirit scored this past week, in a series of 1-0 wins over the Chicago Red Stars and the Seattle Reign. Two 1-0 wins, not bad, you say? The two wins came after a 13-game winless streak for the last-place Spirit.

In the win that broke the streak, Matheson set up Lupita Worbis’s match-deciding goal. And, in the match against the Reign, the Canadian scored in the 83rd minute.
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FC Edmonton launches ladies’ program for high-school aged players; ASA launches mirror program in Calgary

Players model the new FC Edmonton Ladies' kits.

Players model the new FC Edmonton Ladies’ kits.

FC Edmonton’s women’s program will launch Sept. 9; but those hoping for owner Tom Fath to launch a professional women’s side will have to wait at least a few years.

“FC Edmonton has to be sustainable on the men’s (NASL) side before we go that route,” Fath said during a news conference to announce the new young ladies’ program, aimed at elite high-school aged girls.

The Eddies are getting crowds in the neighbourhood of just a little more than 2,000 per NASL home match, and those crowds and sponsorship deals need to rise for the team not to be a money-losing enterprise. While the Eddies’ men’s team has a national TV deal through Sportsnet, the team is still using a lot of red ink on the accounting sheets.

But Fath didn’t rule out a bid to join NWSL in the years to come.

“That is something we could look to do in the future,” he said. “It’s too bad that there’s not a Canadian team in there. But, if we did go that route, it would be a few years away.”

The Eddies and the Alberta Soccer Association announced a new Regional Performance Centre will be launched, and that centre will link to the Excel Program, which helps identify talent for the Canadian national program. Sergio Teixeira will be the FC Edmonton ladies’ coach, and 20 players from age 14-16 have been recruited to take part in the program.
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CWNT keeper LeBlanc wins the NWSL Player of the Week honour

Karina LeBlanc

Karina LeBlanc

When it comes to Canadians and the Portland Thorns, its Christine Sinclair who gets the headlines. After all, she was the NWSL’s first-ever player of the month.

But, on Tuesday, it wasn’t the Thorns’ Canadian striker making the news — it was the team’s Canadian keeper. Karina LeBlanc was named the league’s Player of the Week.

LeBlanc made seven saves as the Thorns were fortunate to get a 0-0 draw out of their weekend match against the league-topping Sky Blue FC. Two of the saves came after the 90th minute.
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Herdman to begin reviewing the NWSL 16 in July; hopes for Canadian NWSL teams by 2015

NWSL-Logo-516x340The job reviews begin in July.

That’s when national women’s team coach John Herdman will begin to assess the 16 NWSL players whose contracts are being paid by the Canadian Soccer Association as per an agreement with the league. In a conference call Thursday, Herdman said he will soon start looking at what players will remain part of the program in 2014, and which ones will lose their funding. Those final decisions will come in October or November.

All of the 16 players are on one-year deals, so they can be easily replaced.

“It’s perfect for us,” said Herdman. “It’s quite healthy that we can have a revolving door.”

With some young Canadians getting set to graduate from NCAA programs, there will be competition for the 16 slots in 2014.

“I expect some changes will be made, that’s par for the course,” said Herdman.
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Quon explains her decision to swap her U.S. jersey for a Canadian one

Rachel Quon

Rachel Quon

Although Sunday’s “rematch” against the United States is significant in the collective conscious for Canadians, national women’s national team coach John Herdman is looking at the match differently.

Herdman has stated that, despite this being an important match that stirs up emotions from last summer, the ultimate goal is to prepare for the women’s World Cup in 2015, which will be hosted by Canada. As a result, he will utilize a different look to gauge what kind of group he has moving forward and that includes moving younger and newer players into the line-up.

One possible addition to the roster has stirred up interest and questions more than any other – possibly because she is born in the country of its upcoming opponent.

Canada raised some eyebrows by adding U.S.-born-and -raised Rachel Quon to the roster for Sunday’s friendly. She currently plays with the Chicago Red Stars in the National Women’s Soccer League and has represented the U.S. on U-17 and U-20 World Cup teams.

It was announced earlier this week that Quon, 22, has a family connection that allows her to play for Canada — but why did she decide to make this move despite already being a part of best programs in women’s international soccer?
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