June 17, 2009

Damallsvenskan 2009: The Midway Point

By: Jocasta -- Damallsvenskan Soapbox

At this point, the top team (Umeå) and bottom teams (last year's newcomers Kristianstad and this year's newly-promoted Piteå and Stattena) come as no surprise. The order of teams in the middle, however, is a little unexpected, with for instance none of the Stockholm teams (AIK, Djurgården, and Hammarby) in the top half of the table. Every team, even Umeå, has lost a game at this point.

Let's start at the top. The facts that coach Andree Jeglertz was lured away to Allsvenskan (Djurgården's men's side), and that some player named Marta was lured away to WPS (Los Angeles Sol) does not seem to have slowed the team down much—perhaps they win by fewer goals than last year, but the outcome is the same. Umeå's single defeat came at the hands of Sunnanå, a team that Umeå historically has had trouble with, for some reason; they also tied Piteå, in the last game of the last round. Umeå now has 28 points, leading the field by 2 points.

The first small surprise of the 2009 season is the team currently in second place with 26 points, Kopparbergs/Göteborg. K/G opened the season by defeating LdB, and then went on to defeat Linköping in their second game. They've looked quite good in the games I've been able to see, and two of its young forwards are at (Linnea Liljegärd) or near (Sara Lindén) the top of the league for goals and assists.

Third-place Linköping FC (23 points) lost a couple key players from last year, including Daniela (WPS's St Louis Athletica). They are quite a strong team, but have had a little trouble playing at that high level consistently.

The second surprise in the table comes in the 4th place, KIF Örebro(22 points). Örebro is a team without any really well-known Swedish players, but they are solid throughout, and have some top players from Finland. They are also well-coached by Richard Holmlund, who used to be at Umeå.

LdB Malmö (19 points) are probably this year's under-performers, if comparing pre-season hype to mid-season place in the table. They currently sit 5th, with 1 ties and 4 losses. LdB did give Umeå a bit of a fight, in a well-played game that was televised. They can score a lot against weaker teams, scoring 25 goals in three weeks against Kristianstad, Piteå, and Stattena, and Djurgården.

Sixth-place Sunnanå (19 points) has the other sleeper team this year, along with Örebro. The return of former national team defender Hannah Marklund heralded what has been a quite good season for them. Any year in which they defeat Umeå has to be considered already a success, and being in the top half of the table is a nice bonus.

The bottom half of the table starts with all the teams from Stockholm,with Djurgården, Hammarby, and AIK in 7th, 8th, and 9th place. Djurgården and AIK both lost key players from last year and have been struggling. Djurgården lost both of its German internationals, keeper Nadine Angerer and midfielder/defender Ariane Hingst, who went back to Germany and now play for 1. FFC Frankfurt. AIK's Australian internationals Lisa DeVanna and Kathryn Gill went in quite different directions, with Gill heading up north to play for Sunnanå, and DeVanna heading west for WPS (Washington Freedom). The third Stockholm team, Hammarby, has much the same team and is faring much as they always do.

At the very bottom of the table, there are currently three teams vying for 10th place in the league, which is a big deal because the last two teams are relegated to a lower division. Of the three, Piteå (10th) is probably feeling the best about itself, as they have just come off a shock draw against Umeå, in a game that they were winning until the last five minutes. The bad performance of Kristianstad (11th) is probably the most surprising of the three, as they managed to stay in the top league last year, starting their season with a shock 2-1 defeat of Djurgården. Twelfth-place Stattena has had just an awful time, with a goal differential of -40.

Games are scheduled to continue through early July, with Round 16 being played at the end of July, then the league goes on hiatus forthe European Championships in August and September. The season will then resume in late September, and end in early November.

Go to the Swedish FA's site (
http://svenskfotboll.se/damallsvenskan/) to see the complete table.