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A Night to Remember

            Soccer player Dennis Bergkamp once said, “When you start to support a football club, you don’t support it because of the trophies, or a player, or history, you support it because you found yourself somewhere there: you found a place where you belong.” Each one of us have found a little of us with the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. Somehow we’ll will ourselves to get up at 4 in the morning or 12 at night to watch them play. Why? Because it’s worth it. They make it worth it.  

            On June 20, 2013, history was made. Abby Wambach scored her 160th goal, surpassing Mia Hamm as the all time international goal scorer. But we need to establish something right now; for the record, this is not just in women’s soccer, this is in all international soccer, men’s included.

            Unfortunately, her and the team’s performance was slightly overshadowed by Game 7 of the NBA finals; but there were 18,961 fans in the stadium plus countless others throughout the United States that would much rather watch this team and a player like Abby make history than a NBA final. For a while, the United States and the world were more excited about Abby Wambach than Game 7, her once reaching the top trending topic in the United States and eventually trending worldwide. For 5 minutes, the United States recognized that an icon of U.S. Soccer had just surpassed another legend and they set all other things aside, they set Lebron James and the Heat aside, because a leader of the team, a person in the forefront of women’s soccer for more than 9 years just did something no one else had ever done.    

            Isn’t it fitting that Lauren Cheney who replaced Wambach on the 2008 Olympic roster when she broke her leg, who assisted her 100th goal, assisted the record tying goal? And maybe it’s a little more fitting that Megan Rapinoe who assisted the “header heard ‘round the world” against Brazil in 2011 sent in a corner kick that Wambach finished with her head (fittingly) to pass the record. It all seemed like a fairy-tail story last night, and it did have a perfect ending.

            As a sports country, we’re so used to the headlines being about male sports, the millions and millions of dollars they’re being paid, the good and the bad. Wambach and the USWNT are a breath of fresh air. They’re selfless, humble, always looking out for each other. They don’t get paid millions of dollars to do what they do, yet they always put on a good show. Those 18,961 fans in Harrison, New Jersey witnessed something that I’m sure they will never forget. Time and time again, Wambach’s teammates were sending her passes, crosses, anything and everything for her to get a hold of. And she came through: four times. Did she take any of the credit? Of course not, it’s all about the team in her eyes.

            When the team rushed to Abby, when she sent number 159 into the back of the net, when the team cleared the bench and sprinted to her on field, I couldn’t wipe that grin off my face all night. We all could learn something from Abby, if not in a sporting sense, a personal sense. We could use her as an example of how to hold ourselves, how to be humble and gracious in what you do, and how to be a role model. Making history was, I’m sure, the last thing on her mind when the team pulled up to the Red Bull Arena. But when they pulled away, I’m sure history was on everyone’s mind. The team, thrilled for Abby and what she accomplished. Abby, she was probably thinking ahead to the future, to 2015 and the possibility that one day Alex Morgan could pass her. But, for now, Abby holds the record; she passed her once mentor, and one day Alex may pass her once mentor and the cycle could keep going. For now, let’s enjoy this for Abby. Because you know what, if you ask her how she scored 4 goals to reach 160 in 207 caps, we all know her answer. Two words: my teammates.


Abby Wambach Caught Mia Hamm

This is going to be short because I’m not sure if I can put what happened into words. What we saw tonight was a team that was determined, connected, together, and proud that their leader made history. When the USWNT players ran out onto the field and jumped on top of Abby Wambach, you couldn’t help but smile. For the past few games, they played every single ball to Abby, they wanted her to score; they wanted her to break the record. She did, and she did in style.

At the end of the game, she was quick to put all the credit on the team. Abby is so humble and sometimes I’m sure we all wish that she would credit herself once in a while. That’s probably not going to happen, but those 160 goals weren’t solely because she was in the right place at the right time. She had to work for every single one of them. When asked what she needs to work on in the future, she said one thing, “I want to assist Alex more, so she can break my record.” Looks like she’s not basking in the glory for too long, but it was fantastic while it lasted. 160 goals in 207 games, she has now surpassed her once mentor, Mia Hamm. Two classy, incredible legends, two different players, one quality that will forever be the same: leadership.

Abby is more vocal, she’s dominant in the air; Mia was quieter, with speed on the ground. Together, they formed a tandem that any player would fear. When Mia Hamm was asked to comment on this historic night, she said, “I’m just glad I got to share 158 with her. It was short, but it was fun.”

While Abby may not want the center of attention on her, it will be on her for the near future. She broke the world record; she holds the most international goals in men or women’s soccer. June 20, 2013 was a night to remember, a night where one legend passed another.

 Congratulations, Abby Wambach on this historic feat.


Let Them Play on Grass

            What. The top women’s soccer teams in the world are being forced to play on artificial turf for what looks like the majority of the WWC 2015. Ha, that’s funny, right? No, it’s not funny because it’s not a joke. It was revealed yesterday that tournament host Canada would have most of the games will be played on turf throughout the tournament.

Any soccer player, no, any athlete knows that turf does not begin to compare to natural grass. If you were to enter a room with 10 athletes from soccer, football, baseball, whatever sport, I guarantee every single one of them would raise their hand if you were to say, “Who enjoys playing on grass more than turf?”

Turf essentially changes the integrity of the game. Turf results in a different speed of play. Sure, touches might be smoother and there are no odd bumps on the field, but that doesn’t mean it’s a better surface than grass. Speed of play might be the least of the concerns as we look at the likelihood of injuries.

Turf causes serious burns if one goes in for a tackle or falls down. This happens repeatedly throughout a game of soccer as it is a physical sport and requires players to get “down and dirty”. These burns could easily lead to infection.

Secondly, injuries can get as severe as head and ACL injuries. There is a lot of falling down in soccer and I’m sure the last thing any team wants is one of the players to slam their head on the hard turf. Once a player steps on an artificial turf field, they are now prone to concussions when their head hits the ground.

Not only are concussions a major issue, the longevity of an ACL injury that could occur is also concerning. Turf is soft and can cause athlete’s ankles and knees to twist and torque repeatedly. Since the players are wearing cleats, turf “catches” the spikes and causes rotating to be more difficult and strenuous on the knee.

Lastly, one last concern is the temperature that turf can reach. According to livestrong.com, a test by a turf expert at the University of Missouri showed that on a 98 degree day, turf can reach up to 173 degrees. Now, when I looked at the venues, most are open roofed. When games are being played during a summer day, the heat that the players feel on the field will cause dehydration and fatigue during the most important sporting event of their careers.

These are not international friendly games. These are games to become a world champion. Someone needs to step in. I’m sure nobody wants to watch these games and hope that one of the players doesn’t get injured. These are the top women’s soccer teams in the world. Asking them to play on artificial turf is not only disrespectful to them, but it is dishonorable to soccer. This tournament is the moment athletes work for; they go all out for 4 years and when it comes time to finally play, the last thing they should have to worry about is the field.


2013 USWNT Speech

Hope, courage, strength, determination, perseverance, togetherness. A team is a team. They’ll fight for each other, they’ll push each other, and they will never let anyone fall behind. Teammates keep each other grounded, they keep each other motivated, and they always support one another because that’s what being a teammate is. It’s in the job description; it is the undeniable ability to help each other during a game even though nothing has been said. You yell at them, scream at them, occasionally roll your eyes at them, but it’s all for the good of the team. The team.

The team is what every athlete will sacrifice for. Lay everything on the line; give it all you have and then some, just never trudge to the locker room wishing you could have done more. Every game give all that you have because you have to know your teammates are giving it all that they’ve got too, your opponents are giving it all they’ve got and more. When your lungs feel like they are on fire, when your legs are urging you to stop, when your body is physically shutting down and your mind is starting to ache, keep going. As tired as you feel, as much as you want to stop and rest, your heart will carry you through.

These are the moments you wait for. The roar of the crowd, the singing of the anthem, your hand over the crest. So much history behind it, coming from the best. Close your eyes and take it all in, you’re standing next to those who have kicked you in practice, tackled you in practice, drilled you with the ball at practice, yelled at you, pushed you, and most importantly, motivated you. These are the players who you will head into battle with, knowing that for 90 minutes, you are 11 people, but must act as 1. Those two stars above the crest don’t mean anything unless you play like they do. You are representing your country and representing those who have come before you.

Up by one goal, up by four goals, or up by ten, no job is done until that whistle blows. You’ll be pushed over, pulled over, fouled and more, but no matter what the circumstances are, you must always keep going. The hardest thing to see as an opponent is you get up over and over again. This is your time. This is your game. This is your moment. Make the best of it. Never be complacent. When you look up and sweat is dripping down your face, your lungs are heavy and your heart is thumping, but you see the scoreboard and you just won, you know all the bumps, bruises, scratches and scrapes were worth it.

This is what being on a team is all about. The moments where your adrenaline is going, and you’re on the field with 11 people and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. You practice day in and day out, and even though there comes a time when your body feels like it can’t walk another step, you always manage to keep moving. That’s because you know one day someone else will fill your shoes. You’ll hang up your cleats for good and let the next generation have their chance to shine. But for now, you are happy to be where you are. With the teammates who you’ll laugh with, cry with, prank, kick, travel the world with, and play with. Once you step on the field, you are one. You are the United States Women’s National Soccer Team and ready to take on the world.


Facts (Not Really) O’ Fun (That’s True Though)

1) Hope Solo is so clutch that even pressure cringes when it sees her.

2) Never feel complacent when walking around the USWNT hotel. There may or may not be a Mittsy waiting to scare the ____ out of you.

3) The superhero Captain America is said to have Super-Soldier formula which is, “superhuman powers that include increased agility, strength, speed, endurance, and reaction time superior to any Olympic athlete who ever competed.” That comes naturally to Christie Rampone.

 4) Becky Sauerbrunn’s relationship with sleeves is like the Hulk’s relationship with walls. They get in the way. 

5) Kelley O’Hara is so versatile and can play basically any position. She plays defender, midfielder, forward, she could play freakin’ running back for the Falcons if she wanted to, that’s how good she is.

6) Amy LePeilbet is a ninja. Silent, agile, ninjaness.

7) Shannon Boxx runs everywhere on the field every game. She covers as much ground in 90 minutes as I do in a week.  

8) Amy Rodriguez is so fast that by the time the opponents have caught up to her, she’s gotten out a lawn chair and made fresh squeezed lemonade.

9) Heather O’Reilly game faces are better than everything.

10) If you are in the line of fire of one of Carli Lloyd’s shots, you must make a decision. Take one for the team or get hit and feel it for the next month.

11) Ali Krieger+her skills=a boss. Simple math.  

12)  Lauren Cheney is the fashion consultant of the team. So if you think showing up to camp in sweatpants, a button down shirt, and fuzzy slippers is a good idea, think again. 

13) If you ever race against Alex Morgan, bring a Segway so you have a chance. 

14) Sydney Leroux likes shopping, her dog Boss, pregame handshakes with Rapinoe, scoring goals in abundance, saving the universe from utter destruction, so on and so forth.

15) Megan Rapinoe’s hair is nominated for one of the 7 New Wonders of the World.

16) Unlike lightning, Lori Lindsey can strike twice.

17) Tobin Heath’s skills on the ball are one part sick and one part, “I don’t even understand how that is humanly possible.” Just add a tablespoon of nutmeg.     

18) Nicole Barnhart is the Baby Whisperer. Every baby in a 10 mile radius automatically falls in love with her.

19) Rachel Buehler is highly intelligent and is the construction business….Buehldozing.

20) If I had a dollar for every time Abby Wambach either scored or had a shot on goal with her head, I’d be sitting on a beach in Cabo with my eight cars next to me and my guard dolphins. That’s right, dolphins.

21) Jill Loyden would stop 10 out of 10 of my PK’s….with her mind.

22)  Christen Press can score class goals. They’re so classy even classy professors who teach classy classes about being classy can’t fathom her classy classiness.

23) Julie Johnston captained the U20 National Team to World Cup Victory. Bow. Down. Now.

24)  Kristie Mewis was drafted third round first pick, meaning it’ll take her three seconds to pick out her first goal against you. Boom.    

25) Yael Averbuch’s free kicks break the speed of sound.


The USWNT Opens 2013 with an ImPRESSive Start

Christen Press ate her Wheaties this morning. Chances are we’ll be hearing Press puns until she decides retire. I mean, scoring two goals in your first international cap and being the Woman of the Match is nothing short of amazing, so I’m sure she’ll be expecting it to the point where she will eventually roll her eyes because it’s the 700th time she’s heard it in one day. But, I think her future is incredibly bright, brighter than bright, her future is basically as brighter than a quasar, which if you’re wondering, is the brightest thing that exists in our universe. According to astronomers, it can barbeque a chicken 3,000 light years away. So yeah, her future is brighter than that.

She had two spectacular goals today, one a half volley, and one Abby Wambach style; I don’t need to elaborate on that do I? We all know what Abby Wambach style is by now. Imagine being an opposing team. You have Alex Morgan (hoping she is okay), Abby Wambach, and Christen Press all on the field at the same time. You have to pay attention to the speed of Alex, the aerial dominance of Abby, and now Christen Press. I’d be afraid. The task of defending them takes a starting 11 in itself.

Three players got their first cap today. Julie Johnston, Kristie Mewis, and Christen Press. We also saw Yael Averbuch and learned her shot can break the sound barrier. I felt the crossbar shake all the way from the Midwest. Even though the goalpost is as an inanimate object, it still hurt. Yael made her impact on the field assisting Sydney Leroux’s goal. That’s now 15 goals for her in 28 matches, all in the second half, mind you.

Maybe the most inspiring story of the night was Ali Krieger playing her first 90 minutes since her devastating injury one year ago. She was great this game, tactically she strung together many passes, got up and down the flanks, and it was nice to see her back on the field where hopefully she’ll be for a long time.

The USWNT faces Scotland again on Wednesday. Each team has had a full game to figure out each other’s playing style, so I’m betting the dynamic will be a little different. Unfortunately Alex Morgan’s status is currently unknown, so we’ll see what happens. If she’s okay, she’ll probably play up top with Abby, Christen and if not, Cheney, Abby, and Christen might start together instead. Fingers crossed she’s okay though.

Today was a dawning of a new era. There are new faces and returning faces on the team. I’m sure we’re all looking forwards to the future with the team continuing to impress us (okay, I’m done with the puns). I don’t think there is any way to describe this new journey other than, together.  Together, we are stronger. Go USA


NWSL

Alright, here’s the breakdown of the NSWL so far.

There are 8 teams: Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, Kansas City FC, Portland Thorns FC, Seattle Reign FC, Sky Blue FC, Washington Spirit, and Western New York Flash.

Each team was allowed to sign three USWNT members, 2 CanWNT players, and 2 MexWNT players. The only team that was only allotted 2 U.S. Players was WNY.

The NWSL draft then added on 4 more players in four rounds to make each teams’ total 11 players (WNY the exception with 10).

The free agent signing deadline was yesterday, with each team signing 4 free agents (WNY, Washington, and Chicago 5*).  WNY was given one more FA signing because it was only given two allocated U.S. players. Chicago was originally allowed 4 until it was announced Amy LePeilbet would undergo ACL surgery and will be out for 6-8 months. Washington was also given another FA after scheduling issues of over seas leagues might conflict with the return of certain players.

The Supplemental Draft will take place on February 7th in which teams may sign 2 more international players included in the possible eight eligible for signing.

Four more Discovery Players are up for signing after the Supplemental Draft is over, bringing the total of each team to 18-20 players.

Notable absences:

Megan Rapinoe-With Lyon until June

Tobin Heath-With PSG until June

Amy Rodriguez-Pregnant and will miss entire season

Ashlyn Harris-Play rest of season with Duisburg

Yael Averbuch-Must finish contract with Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC

Christen Press-Will play with Tyreso FF

Meghan Klingenberg-Shoulder surgery and will return to Sweden

Whitney Engen-Signed with Liverpool FC

Amy LePeilbet- Will undergo ACL surgery and miss the season

Here are the teams so far:

Boston: Heather O’Reilly (US), Heather Mitts (US), Sydney Leroux (US), Adriana Leon (CAN), Rhian Wilkinson (CAN), Anisa Guajardo (MEX), Cecilia Santiago (MEX), Casey Short (Florida State), Mariah Nogueira (Standford), Jo Dragotta (Florida), Maddy Evans (Penn State), Cat Whitehill (US, FA)

Chicago: Shannon Boxx (US), Amy LePeilbet (US, Injured), Keelin Winters (US), Erin McLeod (CAN), Carmelina Moscato (CAN), Maribel Dominguez (MEX), Dinora Garza (MEX), Zakiya Bywaters (UCLA), Rachel Quon (Stanford), Taylor Vancil (Florida), Jennifer Hoy (Princeton)

Kansas: Nicole Barnhart (US), Lauren Cheney (US), Becky Sauerbrunn (US), Desiree Scott (CAN), Lauren Sesselmann (CAN), Renae Cuellar (MEX), Marylin Diaz (MEX), Kristen Mewis (Boston), Erika Tymrak (Florida), Whitney Berry (Kansas),Nia Williams (Missouri State)

Portland: Alex Morgan (US), Tobin Heath (US), Rachel Buehler (US), Christine Sinclair (CAN), Karina LeBlanc (CAN), Luz Saucedo (MEX), Marlene Sandoval (MEX), Kathryn Williamson (Florida), Nicolette Radovic (Central Florida), Amber Brooks (UNC), Roxanne Barker (Pepperdine)

Seattle: Megan Rapinoe (US), Hope Solo (US), Amy Rodriguez (US, pregnant), Kaylyn Kyle (CAN), Emily Zurrer (CAN), Jenny Ruiz (MEX), Teresa Noyola (MEX), Christine Nairn (Penn State), Mallory Schaffer (William and Mary), Kristen Meier (Wake Forest), Haley Kopmeyer (Michigan)

Sky Blue: Jill Loyden (US), Kelley O’Hara (US), Christie Rampone (US), Sophie Schmidt (CAN), Melanie Booth (CAN), Monica Ocampo (MEX), Lydia Rangel (MEX), Lindsi Lisonsbee-Cutshall (BYU), Kendall Johnson (Portland), Ashley Baker (Georgia), Rebecca Kaplan (Maryland), Brittany Bock (US, FA), Danesha Adams (US, FA), Lisa De Vanna (AUS, FA), Manya Makoski (US, FA)

Washington: Ali Krieger (US), Ashyln Harris (US), Lori Lindsey (US), Robin Gayle (CAN), Diana Matheson (CAN), Alina Garciamendez (MEX), Teresa Worbis (MEX), Tiffany McCarty (Florida State), Caroline Miller (UVA), Holly King (Florida), Colleen Williams (Dayton Flyers)

Western New York: Abby Wambach (US), Carli Lloyd (US), Sarah Huffman (US, FA), McCall Zerboni (US, FA), Samantha Kerr (AUS, FA), Brittani Taylor (US, FA), Adriana (ESP, FA), Bryanna McCarthy (CAN), Jodi-Ann Robinson (CAN), Veronica Perez (MEX), Pamela Tajonar (MEX), Adrianna French (Oklahoma State), Amy Barczuk (Colorado), Vicki DiMartino (Boston), Jaclyn Logue (Wake Forest)

Head Coaches:

Boston: Lisa Cole

Chicago: Rory Dames

Kansas: Vlatko Andonovski

Portland: Cindy Cone

Seattle: Laura Harvey

Sky Blue FC: Jim Garbarra

Washington: Mike Jorden

Western New York: Aaron Lines