March 28, 2010

Damallsvenskan 2010 preview 3

... and the rest...

The four teams previously profiled (Linköpings FC, Umeå IK, LdB FC Malmö, and Kopparbergs/Göteborg) are the favorites to finish in the top four. The top two finishers in the 12-team league will be in the UEFA Women's Champions League; at the other end, the bottom two teams will be relegated to a lower division.

Let's now check out the two teams that were newly promoted this year, Jitex BK and Tyresö FF. Jitex is headquartered in the town of Mölndal on Sweden's west coast, and games against K/Göteborg will be considered derbies. They have a tough start to the season against last year's second place Umeå. Notable players include goalkeeper Stephanie Öhrström, who was the second keeper last year for LdB FC, and Finnish international Annica Sjöland, who played last year for AIK.

Tyresö is just to the southeast of Stockholm, and its football team seems to have high ambitions. Player recruited in the off-season include goalkeeper Carola Söberg from Umeå, who played in last year's WPS All-Star game for Umeå. Another WPS connection is defender Johanna Frisk, who played last year for the (now defunct) LA Sol, and before that for Umeå. Forward Elin Ekblom Bak, who nominally played last for AIK, returns from maternity leave to greatly strengthen the side. Of the two newly-promoted teams, Tyresö probably has the far better chance to remain in the top league next year.

If Tyresö FF does manage to stay up top, it will probably come at the expense of Kristianstads DFF, who had a very bad start to the 2009 season, but who rallied to finish a strong 10th. Kristianstad has two players for the Icelandic nation team, Gudny Björk Odinsdottir (Guðný Björk Óðinsdóttir), who played last for Valur in Iceland, and Margret Lara Vidarsdottir (Margrét Lára Viðarsdóttir), who had a rather good season with winners Linköping last year.

And now finally we come to the difficult five teams in the middle, including the Stockholm teams AIK, Djurgårdens IF, and Hammarby IF DFF; Karlslunds IF Örebro (from the city of Örebro), and Sunnanå (from Skellefteå). Of these, Örebro is almost certainly the strongest, having not been hurt by retirements and/or transfers as much as some of the others. They return Finnish stars Sanna Talanen and Sanna Valkonen and Sweden's 2nd keeper Kirsten Hammarström. Just as importantly, perhaps, they have coach Richard Holmlund, who was successful at Umeå for many years.

Hammarby IF DFF has lost stalwart Kicki Bengtsson to retirement and sometimes national team defender Karin Lissel to Tyresö, but otherwise keeps most of its squad from 2009, including standouts Nazanin Vaseghpanah and Annica Svensson. Hammarby has also swapped defenders with Djurgården, acquiring Therese Brogårde while losing Elin Sölveskog.

Djurgården retains the services of its Icelanders goalkeeper Gudbjörg Gunnarsdottir (Guðbjörg Gunnarsdóttir) and defender Gudrun Gunnarsdottir (Guðrún Gunnarsdóttir). Victoria Sandell Svensson returns in an administrative capacity. But they lose most of the rest of last year's starters, and it will be a tough season for them; I have not seen any local predictions that they will finish as well as last year's sixth place.

Sunnanå keeps its international stars Brazilian keeper Bárbara Micheline do Monte Barbosa and Nigerian Perpetua Nkwocha; they lost Hanna Marklund to retirement and Kathryn Gill to LdB FC. Sunnanå plays surprisingly well against its southerly neighbors Umeå, quite often shocking them with a tie or win; this year, winning this ersatz derby will be more difficult for them.

AIK returns some strength in the defense with defender Linda Sembrant and goalkeeper Maja Åström, and they have promoted some of their developmental players. On paper though they have lost some offensive capability with the defections of Louise Fors and Annica Sjölund; of the players remaining, Sembrant is tied with another defensive player, Sofia Simonsson, for the most goals last year.