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Archive for June, 2012

USWNT vs Canada Send-off Game

In a very thrilling, physical, and hot game, the USWNT came out with a 2-1 victory over Canada keeping their send-off game record perfect. In this game we saw some heart stopping tackles, heart pounding crosses, and one fantastic goal celebration. Players I was particularly impressed by: Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, and Rachel Buehler. Several players had great games, but those four players were very, very impressive today.

The game started off all USA. Several dangerous chances, several great passing patterns, and Megan Rapinoe was amazing on the right flank. Her cross led to the own goal, and I just don’t know if I can put into words how spectacular she was today. She was physical, dangerous whenever she had the ball, sent in great crosses, great free kicks, all around a performance she should be very proud of. If there was any doubt in Pia’s mind whether or not Pinoe should be starting, her performance today definitely told her, YES.

Abby. Wambach. Is. A. Beast. She didn’t score today, that’s okay. You can’t expect anyone to score every single game. She was just physically on another level. I don’t understand how the US was not awarded a PK. Abby was literally body checked into the ground right in front of the assistant referee’s vision line. She was down on the ground and the yellow card was shown eventually to Candace Chapman, but there was no PK. Don’t forget people, Abby does not dive. Proof? What about the fact that she crashed into the goal post? That’s enough proof for me. Not many soccer players I know would get up right away after that, she did. That was after she literally flung her body to try to head the ball, crashing into the post at full speed was the result of that. I can’t even remember how many times she was knocked down, every time she was down, I cringed. ’08 flashed back into my memory. Luckily, she made it through and is going to London. I remember listening to the commentary and one of the guys talked to Pia and asked about Abby and the ice around her Achilles and if she was okay. Pia just laughed at him. Abby is the healthiest she has seen ever right now.

Rachel Buehler definitely stepped it up today. After a couple hiccups in the Volvo Winner Cup, she did extremely well today. Putting pressure on the ball, good tackles, great passes to the middys, and when there was the occasional oncoming threat from Canada’s Christine Sinclair and others, she did very well to stay composed and knock the ball away.

Hope Solo. *Bows Down* WE ARE NOT WORTHY *Bows Down* WE ARE NOT WORTHY. Her save, easily the play of the game! I don’t know how many other goalkeepers could do what she did. Yes, she did let in a goal, but she cannot take the brunt of the blame for that. But, that doesn’t matter. Because the save she made earlier in the game is the reason why the US won 2-1 instead of tied 2-2. Christine Sinclair hit the ball at the goal, Amy LePeilbet deflected the ball to Hope Solo’s left, but she was already diving right. She shifted all her weight to her left, knocked the ball away, and the Kaylyn Kyle came in to try to poke it past Hope. She dove again, this time right on the ball, in the corner of the goalpost, and managed to keep it out. This all happened in less than 5 seconds. She got some well deserved pats on the back from the defenders, rightly so, and I was speechless. There is no other person I would want behind me as a defender than Hope Solo.

Amy Rodriguez hushed her critics today. The ones that said she can’t finish are now silent. Give some credit to Abby and Pinoe. Once again, Pinoe swung the ball into the box, the goalkeeper couldn’t hold onto it, and without even knowing where the ball was or who was around her, Abby back-heeled the ball to A-Rod who finished it. The goal celebration was just about as good as the goal. Most of the team went to the corner, fell down, and started doing “snow” angels just like they did when they played last time in Utah. I loved it. One of the best celebrations I’ve seen this team do. I’m looking forwards to more in London.

This was a physical game. I have not seen a game, men or women, this physical in a long time. Boxxy was carded, O’Hara was carded, the trainers were on the field for both teams more than 4 times. I’m not going to lie, it was hard to watch this game. It was so physical and that is nerve-wracking any game, but because this was an Olympic send-off made it even more nerve-wracking. A little concern is with Alex Morgan. She stayed on the ground after a challenge by Moscato. My hand were over may face and I was saying, “Please get up” over and over and over again. She eventually did and she said she just twisted her knee, a little sigh of relief, but still concerning.

With the way the team played today, they should be happy going into the Olympics. Even in the extreme heat, they played great, and came out with the victory. We’re all hoping they are standing up top that podium come August; with the game they played today, that thought is becoming more and more of a reality.

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Spain Moves One Step Closer to Something Spectacular

If you didn’t watch Spain vs. Portugal, you missed something great. Yes, the normal time was pretty bad from both sides, Spain lacked it’s normail WOW factor, and Porgutal, well, you have to hand it to them, they created chances, put pressure on the ball, and did things that few other teams that played Spain ever will able to do. Overtime was MUCH better from Spain. That was the Spain we were used to seeing. Portugal had 0 chances on goal, Spain had over 6. Spain had 2 days less rest, but they looked like the better, more rested team. Neither team could find the goal. 

The game went into a penalty shootout. The PK shootout is what I feel is the worst way to determine a winner. If a team has dominated all 120 minutes, now there is a 50-50 chance that they can win. It went from probably a 90+% chance to a 50%. Patricio saved the first PK from Xabi, then Casilla saved the second, Iniesta converted his, Pepe converted his, Pique converted his, Alves was walking up to take one, but Nani went instead and converted his, Ramos’ PK was a Pirlo(ish) PK and that was great, Alves then came back to take his and hit the crossbar, and Fabregas converted his PK to send Spain back to the final.

Where was Cristiano Ronaldo? Portugal’s most prolific player and best scorer did not even take one? A majority of the PK takers were defenders, where was he? Portgual should not have assumed he could take the winning PK. that decision I know Porgual will be regretting while Spain is celebrating going back to defend their title.

What I don’t understand is how people call Spain’s style of play, boring. That is just mindboggling. Spain does the unthinkable with the ball. No other team can create what Spain does. When the ball is at their feet, you don’t know what they’ll do. There could be 3 defenders on one player, and they’ll still weave their way out. They had over 2,000 passes completed going into the game, probably twice what all the other teams have. They pass and pass and pass, and when the opposition loses focus for one second, that’s when they find the little openings in the defense and become dangerous. People may think it get’s boring when Spain passes the ball, but that’s what Spain DOES, and it seems to be working.


USWNT vs. Japan

It was an early game. 7am for east coasters, 6am for central timers, and 4am for west coasters. If you got up, good for you, because the lack of sleep was worth it. I saw Prometheus last night, so I was super happy the game was early, that meant I wouldn’t have to sleep for that long. I thanked my brother for paying for our tickets, as well as paying for me to not sleep for the next week….. Anyways, the game was so entertaining and a great show by the USWNT.

The game started off and the USWNT right out of the cage put high pressure on Japan. That made Japan pass the ball quicker and forced a lot of errors by them. Their passing wasn’t as sharp as it normally is, and the USWNT was already performing much better than they had versus Sweden. The USWNT defense was a lot more solid, but one thing I found myself yelling at the computer was, “HOPE, PICK UP THE BALL!” I understand that she is confident with her feet, but there is a time where you can and by all means should just dribble the ball and pass it. When there is a player pressuring you and your defender, do not just dribble it. She almost scored an own goal when Christie Rampone sent her back a ball and instead of picking it up, Hope tried to control it with her feet. She was lucky, it went out of bounds for a corner kick, but that can’t happen. Another instance was when Rachel Buehler sent her a ball, a Japanese player was pressuring her, Hope passed it back to Rachel, and Japan nearly got the ball and scored. Just pick up the ball because if by some chance someone gets that ball when she’s dribbling, that’s a goal. Don’t put yourself or your team in that position. Hope had a spectacular save off of Aya Miyama’s strike and was quite strong throughout the match.

This game was huge confidence booster for the team. They were keeping much better possesion, out shot their team by about 12-2, their back line was pretty strong, and they scored four goals. Alex got the first one off of a great strike, Abby got the second after Rapinoe sent in a ball and Abby got a foot on it right as she collided with the goalkeeper. Alex scored again in the second half when she hit it right under the goal keeper, and Abby scored again in the 90+2 minute when HAO sent in a ball and Abby dove and headed it home.

Japan got one goal, once again it was off a set piece. Aya Miyama got the assist, and it was bad marking by the USWNT. But, overall, this performance by the USWNT team was very good. A couple mis-communications here and there, but the end of the game the US kept attacking, with a 3-4-3 formation. The USWNT defeated Japan 4-1 winning the whole Volvo Tournament.

Next up is their Olympic send off game in Utah where they will play their border rival, Canada on June 30.


USWNT vs. Japan

Japan seems to have our number, and recent events would prove that statement correct. With 3 previous games between the two teams, the US has lost twice and tied once. However, winning against Japan is possible, this team can do it. Here are some things they should do or try to do.

Keep possession. I know, it’s becoming redundant because I’ve been saying it for the past 2 days, but Japan keeps the best possession of the ball. They are quick on their feet, can find the little spaces in the USWNT defense, and hardly ever make mistakes when they have possession. The opportunities we get, we need to pass the ball, keep possession of it, and find players like HAO, Cheney, or Pinoe who then can run up the flanks or assist in an attacking chance with Abby and Alex.

Pass. We gave the ball up too many times versus Sweden. That is something we cannot do versus Japan. The transition from our midfielders to our forwards needs to be sharp. Doing 1-2 combinations, plays like that well be extremely beneficial to our team.

Capitalize on Japan’s errors. Like any team, Japan isn’t perfect. In the Kirin Cup, they made mistakes, a couple of them we could have scored on. We need to finish those chances when we have them.

Pass to Cheney. She’s a play-maker, she has proven herself, we need to trust her, and give her the ball. She’ll settle things down, pass, or send through balls when Alex or Abby is making a good run. She has the ability to dictate the flow of the game, that’s good for us.

Defend better in the box. When Japan has a corner kick or a free kick, 99.9% of the time, Aya Miyama will take the kick. That’s because she is one of the best servers in the game. We need to mark players better, don’t let them get past us. When we don’t mark well enough, it becomes a scramble in the box and that is dangerous. Communicate with each other, and defending a set piece should be a calmer situation.

Communicate. Everyone needs to talk with one another. Hope with the back line, the back line with the middys, the middys with the forwards, and so on. If the back line can talk with the midfielders, yell at them when the need to get back to help defend or put pressure on someone, that will prevent a lot of unmarked players and mix ups.

Put pressure on the ball. Japan can pass, but if we can put pressure on the ball when they have it, that will force them to pass quicker and put them into positions they don’t want to be in. They are a patient team, if we can force them to act fast, the chances they make an error will be greater.

Tomorrow’s the game and both teams are the top in the world. It will be an exciting match, the USWNT looking to get its first victory of the reigning World Cup Champions.


My Thoughts on USWNT

This game has been on my mind a lot so here’s what else I’m thinking.

Since we are in a 4-4-2, if our mid-field 4 are in a diamond, so let’s say Pinoe, Boxxy, Lloyd, and HAO are the starting four, Pinoe and HAO or Pinoe and Lloyd could be the top two, and Boxxy and Lloyd or Boxxy and HAO could be the back two. That way, the space between the midfield and defense isn’t so large, and there will always be at least one person in that space to put pressure on anyone in there. Part of the reason Sweden had a lot of their chances was because anyone in there had a lot of space to roam around. Boxxy is an extremely tough tackler and plays more of a defensive-midfielder than an attacking-midfielder. The tough choice would be who would be the top two. Pinoe, HAO, and Lloyd all love to be in the attack, the hard decision would be choosing who would be where.

We could go back to the 4-2-3-1. Our back four would stay the same, we’d have two players as the back-midfielders and 3 players as the more attacking mid-fielders. That way, Boxxy and someone like Tobin Heath could play back, and HAO, Pinoe, and Lloyd could be all attacking. Another possibility, which to some people would be really weird, is to move Alex Morgan back into a wide-midfielder role. Part of the reason that the formation is a 4-4-2 is because both Abby and Alex are threats and great when on the field together. But, we’re looking at it as if a 4-2-3-1 would mean Abby and Alex couldn’t be on at the same time. Technically, Abby could be up top and Alex could be on a flank, she’d still have a lot of scoring opportunities, and I liked when we played in a 4-2-3-1.

We have so many talented defenders. We need to find the four that work the best together. There’s Kelley O’hara who lacks some experience as a defender, but has plenty of speed and has shown she can defend well, Christie Rampone who is the staple in the back line, Rachel Buehler a tough tackler and very physical player, Amy LePeilbet who is also another staple in our back line, Becky Sauerbrunn a very solid and someone I think should be starting, and Heather Mitts who is a veteran defender and can get in the attack as well. I think our back four should be Kelley O’hara on the left flank, Christie Rampone in the center, Becky Sauerbrunn right next to her, and Amy LePeilbet on the right flank. Both Amy and Kelley can move up the flank quite well and swing balls into the box. Becky and Christie are the two leaders and the ones who need to organize and calm down the defense. Hope Solo should also tell the defenders where they should be and what she wants from them, communication is key.

We need to pass more. I think sending in long balls is good and has proven to be quite effective, but it gets to be uncreative. We’ve seen that they can pass. They played some beautiful soccer in the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament. When they keep possession of the ball and go to passing patterns it can be relied on more than a 50-50 long ball they send in. The USWNT is known for their set pieces, corner kicks, and balls sent to the heads of Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd, but they can also be known for their possession if they keep the ball down on the ground and play possession oriented soccer.

Now, these are just my thoughts, I don’t know if they make sense, if people get what I’m saying, or if others think this way too. These just popped into my mind and I don’t even know if it’s realistic. I am looking forwards to seeing the USWNT vs Japan game on Monday and looking to see what changes Pia may or may not bring to face the USWNT’s newest rival.


USWNT vs SWEDEN

If you were lucky enough to catch the USAvSWE game today, you witnessed some great, and not so great, things.

Oh my gosh, Abby Wambach’s goal was a beauty. HAO (Heather O’Reilly) gave her a great ball, she took one glance, noticed the keeper was out, and sent an amazing ball into the net. Alex Morgan’s goal was pure muscle and strength, as well as never giving up on the ball in the box. She shoulder off her defender and sent a well struck ball past the keeper. Then Tobin Heath was subbed on the field at half time and fairly quickly got another goal. She headed it to score after some bad marking from Sweden. Lotta Schelin did manage to get a goal after Rachel Buehler took a bad touch, Lotta got past the back line, and flicked it past Hope Solo’s left arm. The game ended in a 3-1 win for the USWNT.

My thoughts:

1) We NEED to give Lauren Cheney the ball more often. She has already proved she is one of the backbones of our team, without her, we don’t create as many chances. She calms the team down and helps the team create the flow of the game. If she doesn’t get the ball enough, we don’t score as much.

2) It’s pretty clear how much of an impact Ali Krieger’s absence has had on the team. When we had her, our back line was great. With her gone, there is a gap that needs to be filled and as of right now, we can’t seem to fill it. If we want a strong back line, I think we should have Christie Rampone as a center back as well as Becky Sauerbrunn, who Rampone has said will be the leader of the Back 4 once she’s gone, Amy LePeilbet as a left back, and Rachel Buehler or Kelley O’hara as a right back. I think Kelley would be a good option because of her speed and play-making ability. The defense is a little shaky. Hope needs to tell them what she wants from them and keep them organized. Too many errors in the game almost cost us, and while for the most part the defenders recovered with enough time to fix them, when it comes Olympic time, we cannot afford to make those errors against competition like France or Japan.

3) I liked the 4-2-3-1. I think when Pia adjusted the team to that formation, Abby got a lot more balls up top, the team had better possession and some spectacular passing. It was a lot of running for Abby who was the alone up there, but we have gone back to our 4-4-2. Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. We got 3 goals, that’s really good, but we are sending a lot of long balls, and we should keep the ball on the ground a little more. If we can keep possession and pass more, I think Alex and Abby will have a better chance at scoring.

4) Someone needs to be in-between the back line and the mid-fielders. That space was wide open for most of the game and Sweden took advantage of that. If Shannon Boxx plays back a little more and is closer to the Back 4, she can pressure whoever has the ball in that space. If she’s closer up top and no one is there, that gives any opponent open space to run.

5) We need to pressure the ball. We did in the beginning, we need to continue to do that.

6) Alex Morgan is on fire. Need I say more?

7) If we can keep possession, pass more, pressure the ball, and the back line is organized, I don’t see any team having an easy time at all. Our bench is deep, but we’ll need all 18 players on the roster playing their best come Olympic time.


Group D EURO 2012

Well, first off can I say that I hope you all who read this are enjoying it. Let me tell you, it is not easy to remember who scored and what happened during 2 games, but it’s really fun. I love this tournament, it’s so entertaining to watch, so to whoever says soccer is a boring sport is missing out. A lot.

France played co-host Ukraine to start off the day in Donetsk, Ukraine. At the beginning, it was pouring rain, lightning, and thundering. THAT was a storm. It was actually somewhat difficult to see the players because it was raining so hard. The ref blew the whistle and delayed the game as it became too difficult to play. The game resumed about 56 minutes later. France dominated. Simple as that. They had a lot of amazing chances, but couldn’t score. Ukraine had a couple of good chances, but they weren’t that big of a threat. However, France could not score and the game would surprisingly go into the half at 0-0. The second half was still great from France. Finally, Menez who had already scored, but was offsides, scored for France. Not that much later, Cabaye would make it 2-0. The game ended 2-0 and France put an impressive performance. It was great to watch.

The second game was between England and Sweden. Sweden needed to win in order to stay in the tournament. It was a pretty slow start for Sweden, not going to lie, it was kind of boring from both teams until Andy Carroll scored off a header and put England up 1-0 and would go into the half still up 1-0. Sweden would come out much better in the second half and off a Ibrahimovic free kick, Mellberg scored the equalizer. He would score again and Sweden went up 2-1. It almost seemed that Sweden could win this game, but not to England. Ashely Young had an amazing strike that rocketed into the back of the net, and just like that the game was tied. Then in the late moments of the game, Danny Welbeck scored an insane goal with his back heel and that would be the way the game ended. In a complete stunner, England won against Sweden the first time in their history, and Sweden is knocked out of the EURO 2012 tournament.

Tomorrow, Poland plays the Czech Republic and Greece plays Russia. All four teams have an opportunity to move into the knock out round. I, unfortunately, will not be able to watch the games this weekend, as tomorrow I am busy, and Sunday is Father’s Day. I have all four games DVR’ed. I will try to write about them by Tuesday night, four games is hard to watch in one day. Arguably, the most important games are on Sunday when the Netherlands plays Portugal for survival and Denmark plays Germany. Netherlands’ fate lies in Germany’s hands. Shockingly, the Dutch can still make it out of group play if the beat Portugal by 2+ goals and Germany wins. I hope you all have a great weekend. See you Monday.