After watching* the US Women’s National Team game today where they opened the Algarve Cup with a 5-0 win over Denmark I am left in awe again of the endless options this team has. I saw countless tweets about how no one envies head coach, Pia Sundhage, in her decision making process to create a final roster. Pia has more top shelf options than Chelsea Handler has top shelf vodka.
*By watching, I of course mean reading updates from US Soccer because Portugal hates the Universe and is not filming all games.
Once again Pia gave Alex Morgan a starting spot in the lineup and once again Alex Morgan thanked her for 90 minutes by playing brilliantly. With 2 goals and 1 assist on the night she is continuing to prove that 2012 is going to be the year of the Baby Horse. (The Chinese forgot to put the “Baby Horse” in their rotation, obviously) Although I couldn’t see her I assume it looked something a great white shark circling its prey and then attacking it forging full speed ahead at 40 mph. I would also assume there was less bloodshed in this scenario than in the shark metaphor. Alex Morgan aka Baby Horse aka Pink Ninja aka the red white and blue blur you see darting down the field; is making a statement. That statement reads: “Hi America, did you order this new generation’s great goal scorer? Well……..hi!” That statement wasn’t taken, verbatim, but I think it’s close.
Aside from the usual Alex Morgan show we have all come to know and love, there were also some fun numbers by Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Tobin Heath, Lauren Cheney, Sydney Leroux and solid defending as usual with Stephanie Cox, Amy Lepeilbet and the whole crew coming to play. Wambach scored her 132nd career goal off of a Morgan assist putting her 132 goals ahead of me. She continues to be a shining, leading example of what the payoff looks like from hard work. On the defensive end it sounds like all of our girls put up quite a strong front with Captain America, Christie Rampone leading the way. With 251 caps she doesn’t look or play a day over 150. Experienced and seasoned with knowledge and can still kick everyone’s ass up and down that field. Carli Lloyd did what she always does…WORK. With one goal for the night and I’m assuming a full evening of connecting plays and settling the midfield; she is undoubtedly one of America’s finest assets. O’Reilly, Cheney and Heath all tacked on one assist each to their stat sheets as did defender Stephanie Cox who sees limited minutes but is making them count. And after seeing highlights and witnessing quite a few magical Tobin moments including a nifty little snake dribble right at the end line I am now officially convinced she is a soccer Houdini chick extraordinaire (official technical title). I hear Cheney was ‘all over the field’ as well (from US Soccer) to which my response was, “Why is this news?” Because let’s be honest; that’s just a given. She finds openings, she locates teammates and she creates chances. Cheney exposes opportunity more than Angelina Jolie exposes her malnourished leg.
The depth of this team is truly what makes it so special. As much as I do not envy Pia for the tough decisions she has to make, she must sleep pretty damn soundly knowing that she can put together a winning team with a number of different options. The Wambach / Morgan duo has proven to be a special one this year, creating endless scoring opportunities resulting in some pretty delightful goals. Let’s remove Wambach from that scenario though, and add in Tobin Heath. We substitute physicality, superior danger in the box and leadership for impeccable foot work and vision. Every time someone comes off and we lose what they have to offer, the person coming on has just as much to offer whether it be in the same areas or completely different ones. The team’s chemistry is a thing of beauty too. You can have all the talent in the world on the pitch, but if there is no chemistry it’s pointless. The team as a whole plays with an overall sense of togetherness and chemistry but certain duos and trios really just link up as if they were born to be on the field together. Wambach and Morgan were born to play up top together just as Cheney, Lloyd and Boxx were born to create a midfield that any team in the world should fear going up against. And newcomer, Leroux, seems to be able to blend with anyone and fit right in right away. I’ve got my eye on that one. Syd The Kid is going to be a trouble maker for many back lines across the globe. But it doesn’t end there; Heath and Morgan are brilliant together too…and HAO can very easily be tossed into that midfield trio making it unbeatable in their seamless transitions to each other. And then we have the beautiful love story and pairing of Hope Solo and her goal. The chemistry is undeniable. The way she does everything in her power to protect her net from being hit is inspiring. Every time Solo sacrifices her body for the well being of her beloved goal, hopeless romantics everywhere quiver in the knees. Although Hope is normally the one doing all the work in the relationship you see the love reciprocated on the rare occasion she cannot protect her net and the posts or crossbar step up to take a hit for the team. Chemistry at its finest.
Being the number one ranked team in the world there are heavy expectations on our girls. And I can tell you confidently that even those expectations are not great enough for what this team is capable of achieving. We have not faced many difficult teams so far this year, so I will acknowledge that. We have yet to play a top 5 team in 2012 so our results should be pretty epic thus far, as they have been. But I have no doubt in my mind that when we face teams coming up such as Germany, Brazil or Japan that we will come out firing on all cylinders and continue to prove to the world why we maintain our number one rank. These games are an excellent time for Pia to be trying new things, which she has been doing. And what we are finding from these little experiments is that there is no such thing as a weak link on this team. This team is one of those chains that you see on a huge ship that has links the size of a small foreign car. It’s unbreakable.
Next up is Norway at the Algarve and I am eagerly waiting to see what Pia Productions has up their sleeves for us.
Lastly I want to thank, as always; US Soccer for giving us Match Tracker and Twitter updates to keep us from having epileptic fits from not knowing what is happening. Match Tracker was on point today with quick and informative updates throughout the match keeping us sane. Oh, just one question….where on earth did saying that someone was ‘bundled’ to the ground come from??? But now I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite phrases from our friends at US Soccer’s Match Tracker.
‘Heath is back on. She’s tough. She’s from New Jersey.’
‘Syd The Kid and Blonde Ambition’
‘…the charging Baby Horse.’