English in Action: Weekend 21-22 March

As he so often is, Bradley Wright-Phillips was the stand-out performer in a busy weekend for Englishmen abroad. The forward has carried his form over from last season as he bagged a goal and an assist to guide the New York Red Bulls to a 2-0 victory over DC United on Sunday. The 30-year-old showed a ice-cold composure to control and long ball and slot home before setting up his compatriot Lloyd Sam to wrap up the victory for the Red Bulls.

The New York duo were among eight Englishmen who featured in the MLS the past weekend. Featuring for the other team in the Big Apple, Manchester City loanee Shay Facey did not have the full debut he was dreaming of. The young defender picked up two yellow cards during the second half of New York City’s goalless draw with Colorado Rapids to earn career-first red card.

Elsewhere in the US, Sporting KC’s Dom Dwyer and Portland Timbers’ Liam Ridgewell faced each other as their sides battled to a 0-0 draw, which was the same scoreline over in the match in New England where Nigel Reo-Coker featured for Montreal Impact. Seb Hines‘s Orlando City suffered their first MLS loss as they went down 1-0 to Vancouver Whitecaps and Giles Barnes and co. at Houston Dynamo secured an impressive draw away to last year’s champions LA Galaxy.

There were two other English players on the score-sheet across the globe. Adam Burnaby-Atkins‘ second goal of the season was enough to secure a 2-2 draw for Dender in the Belgian Third Division. The 19-year-old midfielder is in his first season in Belgium, having previously featured for DC United’s academy in America.

The other goalscorer was Saul Hapin of Hawke’s Bay United in New Zealand but his first half penalty was not enough to prevent a 2-1 loss at home to Team Wellington. English ‘keeper Josh Hill also featured for Hawke’s Bay.

Another appearance of note was Khurram Shazad, who debuted for Austrian third-tier side WSG Wattens. The young forward entered the game as 55th minute substitute and saw his side won 1-0 over bottom club Bizau. Shazad is a former US college student, having attended Young Harris College in Georgia.

In Slovakia, Trenčín went top of the Super Liga table after a 3-0 win over DAC. 22-year-old midfielder James Lawrence played the entire match, his 15th appearance of the season.

In the Singapore S. League, Craig Fagan is still looking for his first goal for Brunei-based side DPMM FC, as he made it three starts without registering a strike. However, Steve Kean’s DPMM did still manage a 2-2 draw with Home United.

Finally, Medy Elito played the last 16 minutes as VVV Venlo secured a late draw away to Fortuna Sittard. The result means Venlo remain just one point outside the play-off spots in Holland’s second tier.

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2015 Season Preview (March Edition)

Although March usually sees English football edge closer to its nail-biting finale, for many leagues it signals fresh optimism as the local domestic scene kicks off.

Across Scandinavia, footballing hibernation is over as the spring beacons those who have been locked up all winter to brace the outdoors and play ball once again. Several competitions across Asia and the Americas also see the turn of the month as the ideal time to kick off their 2015 campaigns.

Here’s my preview for the countries which begin their campaigns in March. An April edition will follow.

Singapore: S. League
Opening match: 1st March
Singapore’s top domestic league, the S. League, kicks off the 2015 football-fest with its opening round taking place at the weekend. Both English players feature this Sunday, with former Hull City forward Craig Fagan set to make his debut for Steve Kean’s DPMM side.

The S. League has slimmed to ten teams for this year, with each side playing each other three times. Although the competition is the domestic league of Singapore, three sides from outside the country compete. Japanese side Albrix Niigata have a sister side which compete in the league, as well as Brunei-based DPMM and Malaysian side Harimau Muda B.

Warriors FC lifted the title last season, their first victory since 2009, and they boast the most English talent. As well as being managed by Stoke-born coach Alex Weaver, they also include compatriot midfielder Tom Beattie who is set to feature in his third consecutive season in Singapore. Weaver impressed many in his first full season in charge of the Warriors, becoming the first non-Asian manager to win the S. League title and only the second ever foreigner. Beattie also dazzled under Weaver’s leadership, having been re-united with his former coach after a spell together at Hougang United. The pair will be looking to hold on to their title this season when the campaign kicks off this weekend.

Elsewhere, the only other English player set to feature in Singapore this year also begins his campaign this Sunday. Former Derby County forward Craig Fagan joined Brunei-based side DPMM earlier this month, linking up with ex-Blackburn Rovers boss Steve Kean. DPMM will be looking to recover from a disappointing campaign last season, in which they finished 8th, and will be hoping that Fagan can provide the spark needed to guide them towards the top of the table.

USA: Major League Soccer and United States League
Openings match: MLS – 7th March, USL – 22 March
March marks the start of two of the US’s leagues as the country’s first and third tiers begin within the next four weeks.

Major League Soccer, the country’s premier competition, begins on March 7th and will include expansion sides New York City FC and Orlando City for the first time.

It’s fair to say they are not the only two notable additions to the MLS this year. Both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will make the move across the Atlantic to join LA Galaxy and New York City respectively following the conclusion of the Premier League season. Although that means the pair will both miss the opening months of the season, it has done little to dampen the enthusiasm of their arrival to the country.

The highly decorated pair will join ten Englishmen already plying their trade in the rapidly expanding league. They include ex-Villa players Luke Moore and Nigel Reo-Coker, midfielders Giles Barnes and Lloyd Sam and last season’s top scorers, Dom Dwyer and Bradley Wright-Phillips. English boss Adrian Heath also continues to take charge of Orlando City as they compete in the MLS for the first time.

The league kicks off its 20th season next week with two ten-team conferences and culminates in the end-of-season playoffs, which will include twelve teams this year.

Just bumped into myself in Hollywood, standing next to TH too 👏 #LuckyBoy

A post shared by Dom Dwyer (@ddwyer14) on

Dom Dwyer with Dom Dwyer…

The newly rebranded United States League also begins next month, with its first match taking place on March 22nd.

The league has had a major overhaul during the off-season with the competition increasing from fourteen teams to twenty due tot he fact that every MLS franchise now has a reserve side, or an affiliate side, competing in the competition.

The increased number of teams means the division will now split into eastern and western conferences, adopting the structure of the MLS.

Two English managers will feature in the league, with Leigh Cowlishaw and former Everton player David Irving taking the reigns at Richmond Kickers and Tulsa Roughnecks respectively.

There are also several Englishmen on the rosters of the USL sides. One of those is former Manchester United youth defender Mark Howard who, after five seasons in Denmark, joined Oklahoma City Energy last season.

In addition, with many second sides in the division, players can easily drop down from the MLS. This will both increase the quality of the division and also give chances to Englishmen who may not be featuring regular in the top tier.

Read my piece on why you should watch US soccer here.

April
Several other divisions, especially those across Scandinavia, begin their league campaigns in April. There will be a separate post for those leagues. However, in Finland and Sweden, competitive football has already begun with cup competitions starting as early as last week in Finland and yesterday in Sweden.