UEFA Women's Cup: The new Umeå

When Umeå IK in a few hours enters the field for the first leg of the UEFA Women's Cup final, it is a much different team from the one that qualified. With five starters (all of them national team players) from the extremely successful 2006 squad missing, the team is not unaffected.

As usual, Umeå looked far and wide in their search for new players. But in spite of losing a lot of playing power in the defense and midfield, the club only managed to find new attackers. They signed Asia's best young player Ma Xiaoxu (here
greeted by a large part of Umeå's Chinese community ) and Swiss sought-after prodigy Ramona Bachman, but so far 21 year old Damallsvenskan veteran Madeleine Edlund from neighbouring Sunnanå looks like the best contribution, scoring 8 goals in 9 matches, including the preseason friendlies.

Umeå's failure to find replacements for midfielders Moström and Mäkinen has left them with a very top-heavy player roster; only 5 defenders but 8 forwards, This has forced the club to change their traditional tactics. The old 4-3-3 has been replaced by 4-4-2 to reinforce the midfield, with Lise Klaveness and Marta (both tagged as forwards in Umeå's squad list) taking the creative responsibility in the midfield, while Karolina Westberg, who looks like she's back in her 2003 form after a rough start in Umeå, will run the defense and is also the new team captain.

The preseason has also showed that the team hasn't managed yet to reach last year's level. One defeat, two draws and three wins isn't a record Umeå is used to or satisfied with. The week-long training camp in Turkey, that should get the team ready for the domestic season, gave a 2-1 loss to Russia's national team and a hard-fought 3-3 draw against Russian club champions Rossiyanka. Coach Jeglertz has not been satisfied. The team has often opened their matches slow and struggling and several players hasn't done what could be expected from them. Jeglertz has repeatedly critisised the Chinese star Ma Xiaoxu: She's a big star in China and stars are pampered there, he comments. As a star she is used to just wait for the ball, but here everyone has to work, take a run and create the space for another player.

The abundance of foreign players in Umeå has created an additional problem. When Umeå decided to sign Ramona Bachman from Switzerland, they assumed she would be considered a EU player, since Swiss citizens are treated as EU equals in almost all other aspect of life. But the Swedish FA was very definite in their resolution; Umeå has 4 foreign players on their roster (Marta, Elaine, Ma, Bachman) and only three of these can be on the match squad for a Damallsvenskan game. But today it is UEFA rules that apply, and all four can show up on the squad that will be announced within short.

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