The United States Women's National Futsal Team has advanced to the quarterfinals in their second-ever appearance at the AMF Futsal Women's World Cup. The team was drawn into Group D with Paraguay and Australia in the 12 nation tournament taking place in Balaguer, Catalonia. Paraguay and Australia had both moved forward to the quarterfinals in each of the previous tournaments in 2008 and 2013.
The first match for the Americans started off like a dream, with an opening goal to give the ladies a 1-0 lead over Paraguay. As the game progressed, though, the lack of experience showed a series of defensive missteps allowed Paraguay to take a 3-2 lead into halftime. The second half was no better with the final score of Paraguay 6, United States 3.
The USWNFT rallied in the second match against Australia. They pulled out to a 3-0 lead early in the game and never let up the pressure, taking a 4-1 lead into halftime and finishing the game with a final scoreline of 6-2. The victory means that the American women will move forward in the tournament as the second seed from Group D while Australia was eliminated in group play for the first time in their tournament history.
The Americans will face off against the defending champions, Colombia, on November 23rd. Colombia rolled over their competition en route to a first-place finish in Group C; beating Italy 9-0 and South Africa 20-0. The Americans will be serious underdogs in the upcoming match.
A few familiar faces
While most of the players are unknown in National Women's Soccer League circles, a few of the national team players have made appearances in the NWSL. The most notable player is McKenzie Berryhill who was drafted by the Portland Thorns in the third round of the NWSL College Draft in 2016.
She made five appearances and two starts for the team in 2016 before she was waived by the Thorns when midfielder Kendall Johnson was activated from the 45-day disabled list. Berryhill was then claimed off waivers by the Orlando Pride. She is still officially a member of the Pride, but she has never entered a game with the team.
Another former NWSL player is Maureen Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was an amateur call-up by the Thorns in 2016 when a large portion of the team was away for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She appeared in three games and started two during that stretch, but has not played for any other NWSL teams. Maureen currently works as an assistant coach for the Concordia University-Portland women's soccer team, where USWNFT teammate Bobbi Eckler graduated from in 2017. Bobbi trained with the Thorns as a practice team player throughout the 2017 season.
Overseas, Chloe Gormon and Laura Sullivan have both been playing for FC Mulhouse in France. The players are on loan from US Azzurri for the French season. Mulhouse does not play in Division 1 Féminine, the top level of women's soccer in France.
Banini Shines for Argentina
The only active NWSL player in the tournament is Washington Spirit forward Estefania Banini. Banini, who plays for the Argentinian Women's Nation Team in both soccer and futsal, has scored two goals in both of her team's win. In their first match of the tournament, Banini helped her team win 6-1 over the tournament hosts, Catalonia. The second game against France ended with an 8-1 Argentine victory. The two wins put Argentina at the top of the group, and they are set to face off against Switzerland in the quarterfinals. The Swiss squad tied with Taiwan at 3-3 in their first match but was then beaten by Brazil to the tune of 13-0 in the final match of group play. Switzerland advanced because Brazil beat Taiwan 16-0.
You can watch all of the matches live at http://mundialfemenino2017.cat/#stream