Archive for the ‘USWNT’ Category

US Ladies Flip The Script….And The Tragedy Is All Brazil’s

Maura Gladys on the USWNT’s monumental win.

Not to be undone....

A little bit of drama, a little bit of emotion, and one heck of a comeback by the USWNT.

Thinking about this game, I thought about an idea that Brian Phillips threw around a while ago on his excellent blog, Run of Play. It’s the idea that when something incredible occurs, we look back at it with a “climate of expectation” that’s drastically different from the one in which it occurred. Basically, we look back at it as if it couldn’t have occurred any other way.

And on rare occasions, every event and occurrence seems delicately, and deliberately placed, one after another, onto a perfect string of moments and emotions, creating something that is almost perfect.

What happened today in Dresden was perfect. Every touch, every run, every call, now in hindsight seems as if it was destined to end with Abby Wambach’s header, Hope Solo’s save, and Ali Krieger’s penalty, even though it didn’t seem that way at the time. Because of that afterglow, we’ll remember this game not as one of tactics, but of moments and movement and feeling. In the spirit of that, and giving a nod to the pure literary feel of it all, here’s USA-Brazil in three acts.

Act One: Exposition

There was monumental hype even before the opening whistle. With Germany eliminated just a day before, the game would be a showdown between the two favorites still left in the tournament, the winner emerging as the clear and heavy favorite going forward.

Brazil entered the game on a tear, easily disposing of Australia, Norway and Equatorial Guinea in Group D by a combined score of 7-0. The United States was coming off its first loss in the group stage in program history, a 2-1 loss to Sweden, and looked disorganized and unable to finish.

U.S. coach Pia Sundhage stuck with the same 11 she started against Sweden, despite calls to bench forward Amy Rodriguez, who had trouble finishing all tournament, and defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx, who has been relatively invisible.

Boxx-to-Boxx all day....

The move to leave Boxx on the field proved smart just 74 seconds into the game when she sent a cross into the box that deflected off Brazil’s Daiane for an own goal.

She followed that up by setting an aggressive, fiery tone for the first ten minutes of play, the best opening by the United States thus far.

But Brazil showed just how dangerous they could be, peppering the goal with crosses and shots, forcing Solo to be sharp. In the 23rd minute, Marta’s talent shined through when she raced towards the goal on a breakaway with Christie Rampone trailing just a step behind. Her shot went high, thanks to goalkeeper Hope Solo cutting down the angle and Rampone applying pressure. But it was a reminder of just how quickly Marta could make her presence felt.

Halftime came with the United States still up 1-0, but the Stars and Stripes looked disjointed in the latter part of the first half as Brazil gained momentum. At the start of the second half, the U.S. continued their choppy play.  As the game ping-ponged back and forth, there was no real hints about the controversy that was about to occur.

Act 2: Madness

In the 65th minute, with two feet flailing in the air, Marta’s 5-4 frame slammed to the turf in front of the U.S. goal, with Rachel Buehler’s body splayed beneath her. Marta had just niftily popped the ball up and over Buehler and Rampone and had an open look at Solo, but Buehler lunged with the striker, causing her to miss the ball and land violently. It’s a common tactic of Marta’s, to lure defenders in close, increasing the chances of a sloppy jab or errant elbow, thereby increasing the likelihood of a foul. In this case, the referee deemed that Buehler had denied Marta of a goal scoring opportunity, which was grounds for not only a penalty kick, but a red card. Was it truly a foul? Was it worthy of a red card? Does anyone other than Marta get that kind of call? Yes, no and no. But what followed was even more incriminating.

As Cristiane took the penalty kick for Brazil, Hope Solo took a hard step to her left and punched the ball away, sending the stadium into hysterics. But as Solo took a step, so too did Rampone, who was standing outside the 18 yard box. The step was good enough to earn Brazil a re-kick for encroachment and a yellow card for Solo for dissent (we think.). All of this wasn’t apparent at the time however, and the United States vehemently questioned the referee’s call. Solo wasn’t as brilliant the second go-round, and Marta coolly slotted the ball into the right corner. USA 1, Brazil 1.

But instead of letting their emotions get the better of them, the ten players on the field re-grouped and kept playing. Shannon Boxx dropped back to fill Buehler’s spot, but Sundhage waved her back up. They’d play with three backs. In order to cover for the space that was created in Buehler’s absence, Krieger, Rampone and LePeilbet hustled to close the gaps.  Sundhage also inserted Alex Morgan in an attempt to spark the team, and she did well to earn several corners, but neither team was able to score again by the end of regular time.

And the call is....?

As play went on, Marta morphed into the villain of the match. She was the one who had drawn the foul and netted the second penalty, and now she was voicing her displeasure with every call. Fans in Dresden booed and catcalled every time she took a touch. But it took her just 97 seconds into overtime to prove her status as the world’s best scorer with a deft volley off a Maurine cross that floated above Hope Solo into the open side of the net. Controversy marred this goal as well when replay showed that Maurine was offsides.

The United States was now facing the grim task of scoring against one of the best teams in the world, while playing with only ten players, which, in hindsight, is the most absolutely American situation you can find yourself in. And they responded in the most American way possible. They pushed and pushed and pushed. Wambach almost had the equalizer in the 98th minute, and Lloyd had a shot in the 120th minute that sailed high. Minutes turned into seconds as the game burned down to the dying embers. All that remained was the three minutes of stoppage time. Then it happened.

Act 3- At The Death

On the exact day 12 years earlier that the last U.S. women’s team captured the country’s spirit, in a moment that echoed Landon Donovan’s miracle goal against Algeria, Abby Wambach got lifted.  At the 1:21:19 mark, Wambach rose above her defender and goalkeeper Andreia’s outstretched arms, eyed up Megan Rapinoe’s absolutely perfect cross and drove the ball into the open net. It wasn’t a sloppy tap-in, a bumbled shot, or a messy finish. It was pure, precise and beautiful. It was the only way the United States could have scored, and it was enough to make you believe.

Rapinoe to Wambach...

The goal was a product of a beautiful ball by Megan Rapinoe, which was preceded by a smart swing out from Carli Lloyd and capped the greatest comeback in U.S. soccer. After 55-plus minutes of playing with only ten players, the United States had new life in penalty kicks.

Looking back, you knew they had it in the bag. With the mighty Hope Solo minding net, she was bound to stop one, which she did, stonewalling Daiane (the same Daiane that gave up Brazil’s own goal two and a half hours earlier). Boxx, Lloyd, Wambach, Rapinoe and finally Krieger each unflappably put their shot past Andreia to seal the victory and shock the Brazilians. Probably one of the most poignant moments the cameras caught was the red-carded Rachel Buehler sobbing into Pia Sundhage’s arms after the win, no doubt a release of relief.

But none of it could have happened without each moment that came before it. The own goal, the red card, the penalty kick, the other penalty kick, Marta’s overtime goal, Rapinoe’s cross, Wambach’s header, Solo’s save, Krieger’s kick. It all builds up to a classic story of American spirit and triumph.

But it’s not ever yet. In a very “Miracle on Ice” kind of way, the United States still has two more games to play before they can be crowned World Cup champions. They take on France on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.  and their chances of winning it all are exponentially better now that Germany is out of the tournament.  But there’ll be plenty of time for chalk talk and tactics tomorrow and Tuesday. For now, it’s nice to enjoy the fact that today, America got to witness something perfect.

US vs. Brazil: Live Commentary

It’s big time for the ladies in just a few hours.

Big effort needed from this US lady--Shannon Boxx--today...

Their own private Ghana you might say, with the exception that the US comes up big against Brazil while the men wilt against their nemesis.

Here’s the US starting line-up.

USWNT starters v. BRA: Solo; Krieger, Buehler, Rampone (c), LePeilbet; O’Reilly, Boxx, Lloyd, Cheney; Rodriguez, Wambach

Heather O’Reilly returns to commandeer her wing.

Amy Rodriguez remains up top with Wambach, but you can be sure Alex Morgan will put in some sprints.

Pia leaves the midfield untouched meaning 33-year-old Shannon Boxx will have to put in her best game of the tournament today.

Hope Solo might be the great equalizer, but she’ll surely have to be if Boxx can’t slow Marta & Co. on the attack.

Kickoff shortly on ESPN.

Some thoughts coming out of the first few matches here.

Womens World Cup Quarter finals

Hat trick hero Sawa, will be leading Japan against host nation Germany in the second quarter final

Lineups for the first Quarterfinal.

England: Bardsley, Alex Scott, Stoney, Faye White, Unitt, Carney, Jill Scott, Williams, Yankey, Smith, Ellen White.
Subs: Brown, Chamberlain, Clarke, Aluko, Bradley, Houghton, Bassett, Asante, Susi, Rafferty.

Franc3: Deville, Viguier, Georges, Lepailleur, Soubeyrand, Bompastor, Abily, Necib, Bussaglia, Thiney, Delie.
Subs: Philippe, Renard, Boulleau, Meilleroux, Franco, Le Sommer, Thomis, Pizzala, Bretigny.

———————————————–

Well we’ve come to the knock out stages of the Women’s World Cup. 8 Teams left and 8 teams are either on their way home or drowning their sorrows in a Bavarian Beer Hall, getting ready to watch this weekend’s exciting matches. Use this post as the forum for your comments. We will be updating it with line ups as the weekend progresses.

The usual suspects are all present though not necessarily in the position one might have guessed pre-tournament. Brazil had a relatively easy stroll through their group matches and their attack certainly looks formidable. Their back line is susceptible but with a “we’ll score more goals then you” attitude what does it matter that they are weak in defense, but more in that in a bit.

Host nation Germany and number one ranked USA both stumbled out of the group stages, though Germany true to their usual soccer form started to find their rhythm in their last game, but are weak at guarding the headed ball. The USWNT are a model of in-consistency and will have to find form right now if they are going to beat the Brazilians.

Sweden who topped their group by defeating a disorganized US side, showed why they can be considered to be one of the teams holding the trophy in Frankfurt on July 17th. Their quarter final match up is against the upstarts from down under. The Matildas did well to finish second in their group by dispatching perennial women’s soccer power Norway in their last game and they will be chomping at the bit to take another Scandinavian scalp.

Japan, the Barcelona of women’s soccer or so they’ve been dubbed, started the tournament brightly by beating New Zealand and thrashing Mexico in a demonstration of beautiful football. Their ability to prance and dance around their opponents with deft passes and slick runs came to a crashing halt, when they came up against a more physical side in England, who played their best game of the year to take the top spot in the group. Japan will meet the host nation and will need to be able to deal with physical aspect of the game if they are to have a chance of advancing.

Lastly, though the first quarter to be played, the old enemies will meet up on the fields of Leverkusen. England versus France, two teams that might not have imagined being in the knock out stages pre-tournament, but are both finding a rich vein of form at the right time.

Kelly Smith needs to find the magic in those boots if England are to advance further in the tournament

SATURDAY
Quarter 1
England V. France – Noon, east coast. 9am best coast.
Look for England to win this game with a last gasp goal from Kelly Smith, England’s equivalent of Abby Wambach, in that it’s the nations star forward who needs to find the back of the net. If the English defense can shut down Delie, then they have a very good chance of advancing, if not, Les Blues will be going to the semi’s.

Quarter 2
Germany V. Japan – 2:45pm, east coast. 11:45am best coast
The Germans are susceptible to dead ball situations and France scored two goals on well taken headers. Unfortunately for Japan, they’re not the tallest squad, so they will have to rely on their Tiki-Taka style of play to penetrate the Bavarian back line. Germany buoyed by their home fans will be looking to advance to the semis where they figure to have a good chance of progressing to Frankfurt against the winners of Quarterfinal 3. The Germans more physical style of play will be too much for Japan, though the tale of the sad Prinz might cause a rupture in the German dressing room.

US's Hope rests on Solo

SUNDAY
Quarter 3
Australia V. Sweden – 7:00am, east coast. Hella early best coast
Can the Matildas play with the ferocity and passion that got them into the knock out stages? Well, they will certainly  be leaving soon, if they keep making the same defensive errors that they did in the group stages. Sweden, efficient and tactically superior, should make easy way of this match and will already be thinking of their semi against Germany. Australia have the heart, but will it be enough?

Quarter 4
USA v Brazil – 11:30am, east coast. 8:30am best coast
The big one. This should have been the final, but Pia’s substitutions (Morgan aside, who actually created a spark that the US midfielders failed to ignite) and a couple of defensive brain farts, have given us one hell of a quarterfinal. The US have held the recent advantage winning the last 4, and will want revenge for the 4 – 0 thrashing they received from Brazil in the last World Cup. Brazil will send wave upon wave of beautifully attacking football lead by 5 time footballer of the year, Marta. If the US defense line can withstand the onslaught and their midfield starts threading passes versus shooting from 45 yards out, they have a very good chance to advance against a weak Brazilian back line. Look for heroics from Hope Solo to ensure US’s path into the semis.

Sweden 2, USA 1: US With A Scandinavian Designed Squandering

This piece by TSG’s USWNT analyst Maura Gladys

The United States’ 2-1 loss to Sweden in its final group game in the Women’s World Cup is the kind of game that makes you want to re-evaluate everything about a team. It makes you want to re-think the lineup, the tactics, the style, the philosophy, the youth system, the type of athletes we crank out, everything. But with a  quarterfinals date with Brazil just four days away, that isn’t possible.

For Sundhage, a few riddles to figure out before Sunday...

Today, Sweden pretty much out-everythinged the United States. They out-played, out-strategized and out-muscled Pia Sundhage and her squad, and although the two goals that they netted were somewhat flukey, the scoreline reflected the better team.

Riding a wave of momentum from their 3-0 trouncing of Colombia, Sundhage stuck with almost the same lineup as that game, except for Megan Rapinoe on for Heather O’Reilly who was nursing a groin injury, and re-inserting Shannon Boxx back at defensive center mid. But Rapinoe had shown fire off the bench, and Boxx, although slightly ineffective as of late hadn’t played a full-out bad game, so there was no reason not to view Sundhage’s lineup as anything other than solid.

No signs of a slip-up showed in the early stages of the game either. But as the United States pushed forward and attacked, Sweden began to counter just as readily, and with better looks. Hope Solo made a reaction save off a breakaway

But soon Sweden began executing a strategy of targeting the United State’s weakest or more inexperienced players, forcing them to make mistakes, a strategy which would ultimately guide them to a win.

In the 14th minute, Amy LePeilbet clumsily took down Lotta Schelin in the box as the striker tried to collect a pass, a move that earned LePeilbet a yellow card and set up a Sweden penalty kick. Despite Hope Solo’s attempts to ice kicker Lisa Dahlkvist, and her correct guess at the direction of the kick, Dahlkvist sent a screamer into the back of the net, to give Sweden the early lead.

Then in the 35th minute, Sweden doubled its lead when a Nilla Fischer free kick from 27 yards out deflected off LePeilbet, and caught Solo moving the wrong direction, landing in for a goal.

While the deflection was unlucky, the true fault of the goal falls on Rachel Buehler, who was beaten by Therese Sjogran and made a foolish tackle from behind to cause the free kick.

Rampone didn't marshall the backline today and Hope Solo's shutout streak ended...

Both goals were products of a defense that was caught off guard and made foolish mistakes. By targeting LePeilbet and Buehler, two less-experienced players, Sweden were able to goad them into basically shooting themselves in the foot.

The United States put several decent chances on goal during the half, including two Lauren Cheney near-misses, and a nifty Amy Rodriguez chip that hit the cross bar, and it appeared that the United States still had a few goals in them for the game.

But in the second half, the United States was unable to get the two goals needed to equalize, only mustering an Abby Wambach shoulder goal off of a corner kick in the 67th minute. The goal was Wambach’s first of the tournament and second of 2011, but was not enough to spark the squad. There was about a five-minute period directly after Wambach’s goal where the United States could have.

The Stars and Stripes spent the rest of the match looking flat, and playing with almost no sense of urgency. While they did put in decent chances, there was nothing that goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl couldn’t turn away. For most of. the latter part of the half, the Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe launched balls in from 30-plus yards out, sending them in almost every direction but on frame. The one close call that the United States did have came in the 86th minute when substitute Kelley O’Hara put a ball wide with an open net in front of her.

Unlike the previous two matches, Sundhage’s substitutions and lineup changes didn’t pay off. Shannon Boxx was basically invisible, while Rapinoe, although she made some decent runs, struggled with distributing and only practiced her field goals.

Alex Morgan, who came on for Amy Rodriguez, did well to earn the corner kick that led to Wambach’s goal, but she didn’t provide the spark that many thought her presence would bring.

The most puzzling move was putting Kelley O’Hara, who replaced the injured Lindsay Tarpley on the roster, in for Megan Rapinoe. Sundhage has insisted that her team was 21 players deep and that she was prepared to demonstrate that, by inserting the inexperienced O’Hara. But you can’t help but think that maybe any other person on the squad puts in the cross from Lauren Cheney in the 86th minute that O’Hara put wide.

The loss means that the United States takes second place in Group C, setting up a match up with Group D winners Brazil on Sunday. While the United States will have a big boost with Heather O’Reilly back on the field, it seems like there are much bigger holes to fill in, including mending the communication and organization of the defense, syncing up distribution on the wings and most importantly re-calibrating the squad’s focus and motivation.

USA vs. Sweden: Live Commentary

Goal nabber Lotta Schelin drives the offensive bus for Sweden...

Update:

The US line-up vs. Sweden: Solo; Krieger, Buehler, Rampone (c), LePeilbet; Rapinoe, Boxx, Lloyd, Cheney; Rodriguez, Wambach

O’Reilly gets to rest her groin while Wambach makes the cut.

——

The ladies are nearly set to kickoff today against the Blågult (“The Blueyellow”) of Sweden at the Women’s World Cup Stadium in Wolfsburg, finishing up play in the dead ly Group of Bedoya.

Kickoff set for 2:45 ET on ESPN and ESPN3.com.

A win and the US avoid a likely match-up with Brazil in the quarterfinals, always good this time of year.

And this is also for bragging right for USWNT coach Pia Sundhage, she of the 146 caps and 71 goals for her native Sweden. Should be interesting.

 

US Roasts Colombia 3-0, Showdown With Sweden Brewing

TSG’s Maura Gladys on the USWNT

The real life Jason Bourne went top shelf, left post with an affirmative 12th minute strike...

Going into the United States’ Group C match against Colombia, many were referring to the showdown as a statement match, where the U.S. needed to prove its dominance as a top team in the tournament.

The Stars and Stripes made not one, but three emphatic statements in its 3-0 win over the South American youngsters in Sinsheim.

The United States came out extremely fast and aggressive, creating scoring chances almost immediately, but failing to finish on gimme opportunities. Shades of the team’s performance against Mexico, where the team pounded on Mexico’s door for 91 minutes before Lauren Cheney finally blasted the game-winner, seeped through early in the match.

But the squad’s resident workhorse Heather O’Reilly ended the frustration just 12 minutes into the game. O’Reilly pounced on a poor clearance by Colombia, teed up from 32 yards out, and sent an absolute rocket into the upper inside netting.

Statement: We can score, and we can score convincingly.

The team finished off the goal with a salute to the crowd, which was populated with American military personnel stationed near Sinsheim.

Pia Sundhage shook thinks up at the start of the second half, sending in Megan Rapinoe for Amy Rodriguez. This allowed Lauren Cheney to push up to her natural position at striker and let Rapinoe assume the right winger spot. The move paid off, in the 50th minute when Cheney fed Rapinoe on a streaking run to the top of the box. Pinoe collected Cheney’s ball and drilled it into the top of the net.

Statement: Our squad is so deep, many subs and starters are interchangeable, and everyone can have an impact on the game.

The USWNT's Stu Holden...

Continuing the team’s patriotic-themed celebrations, Rapinoe raced to the mic by the corner flag and belted out a quick line of Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” for everyone to hear.

Just 7 minutes later, Carli Lloyd lofted an easy shot that bounced out of Colombian keeper Sandra Sepulveda’s hands into the net, putting the game out of reach. The goal was assisted by newly-substituted Stephanie Cox.

Statement: We have the versatility and goal-scoring ability needed to finish off games.

The game’s final two goals showcased both the depth of the bench, and the ability of the players to positively respond to Sundhage’s roster moves. Rapinoe looked sharp coming off the bench, and she linked up well with Cheney, the player who replaced her against North Korea. Lori Lindsey, who started over Shannon Boxx, also looked solid. Sundhage’s against looking like a master roster-manager. The players that she elevates to starter status from the bench are taking advantage of their opportunities, and substitutes coming off the bench are working hard to shine as well. Sundhage’s moves were somewhat risky, and could have backfired on her and created a divisive environment among the squad (something that may be happening with Germany’s team with the possible benching of Birgit Prinz.) Instead, each player is accepting their role, no matter what it is, and in doing so, creating a stronger team and a positive outcome.

Once the US had the game in hand, the spotlight shifted to Abby Wambach, who, despite several chances, failed to find the net. At this point, Wambach’s drought has progressed to a full-out scoring slump. She isn’t suffering a dip in form. She’s getting in good positions and setting up her teammates well, but she just hasn’t been able to find her scoring boots.

Some of today’s misses bordered on the absurd. A header off the defender’s back, a deflection off her shin that skids off the post. Just unlucky stuff.  But other times, instead of going straight for the goal, she laid it off for a teammate to have a go. It’s an unselfish move, yes, but a move that lacks Wambach’s trademark killer instinct and nose for the goal.

The U.S. proved today that they don’t need to rely on Wambach to generate its offense, but as the tournament progresses, she’ll be needed to come up big in clutch moments.

Defensively, the United States played a high line all game, pushing all the way up to the midfield at times. It was almost burned a few times when Colombia’s Katerin Castro snuck behind the line and had a clear path to goal if not for Christie Rampone’s closing speed. The South American squad even netted a goal late in the first half, but it was called off sides thanks to a superb execution of the off sides trap by the US defense.

The U.S. takes on Sweden on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. EST, in a battle for the top spot in Group C. The match should be a tougher test for the U.S. than its previous two matches, and a more accurate example of the level of talent that it will see in the quarterfinals.

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