2015 USWNT Recap Blog on WSN247

U.S. Women’s Soccer Fans! Head on over to www.wsn247.com to check out my latest blog for them. 2015 was a hell of a year for the USWNT so I of course had to do my fair share of gushing over our favorite girls.

Read The Article on WSN247 Here!

 

WSN247 Blog – USA Defeats Colombia 3-0

This blog is one I wrote and is shown by my friends at www.wsn247.com. Be sure to check out their site for more women’s soccer and women’s sports information! You can also follow them on Twitter @WSN247 and make sure to ‘like’ their Facebook page!

USA Defeats Colombia 3-0 and Could Megan Rapinoe Be ANY Cooler?

Posted By: 

July 28, 2012

WSN Guest Blogger, Amy Maestri’s reactions after the USA vs Colombia women’s soccer match

After watching the USWNT beat Colombia 3-0 today, my immediate reaction was to cheer wildly, clap vigorously and try to emulate an Ali Krieger million dollar smile.  I admit, I didn’t even come close to a Krieger smile, but let’s be honest; who can??

I’m sure Krieger has a big smile after watching this game as well.  Between the birthday message from Megan Rapinoe and a big USA win, it was a winning day for our beloved defender who is still out from her ACL tear in January.  And it was a winning day for the whole USA team as they charged over Colombia 3-0, with black eyes and all.

Megan Rapinoe started the scoring off with a beautiful strike, chipping the keeper like a boss.  After her rock star goal was a rock star celebration, with the birthday message to Krieger.  Normally after a goal Rapinoe is the first to leap into the scorer’s arms like a maniac.  But this time it was our girl Pinoe with a super strike.  Pinoe had an all around spectacular game creating chances everywhere.  Next was Wambach’s goal, which spelled determination; taking on a physical battle to smash one into the back of the net just a few plays after taking a right hook from a Colombian boxer…I mean…soccer player.  Sorry, Colombia, it is going to take far more to silence Abby Wambach.  Next time try bringing an entire army.  It still probably won’t work, but might do a little more than a measly smack in the face.  Canadian striker, Christine Sinclair, would probably also like it if they sent an army against Wambach, as they are still in their neck to neck competition for career goals.  Goal number 3 was all Carli Lloyd.  After a disgustingly beautiful strike for a goal in theFrancegame, Lloyd came back with another picturesque goal.  Getting a beautiful feed from Megan Rapinoe, she timed her run perfect, took a sweet little touch and then buried the ball saying, “Bye Colombia!  Thanks for stopping by!”

After the scoring spree that Alex Morgan has been on, I was almost confused when not seeing her name on the goal tally.  I thought maybe I had forgotten how to read or that the TV was malfunctioning.  But one thing that didn’t surprise me was her playmaking abilities through the game.  She may not have had her best game or scored a hat trick, or even one goal.  But she was a play maker for us showing her skill over the ball, her ability to set up others and her ever impressing speed beating others to the ball and sending crosses in.  Our other playmaking super star of the day (and every day) was Lauren Cheney, in my opinion. Colombia, while you’re at it, sending that army to try and silence Abby, you might want to have them make a stop by Lauren Cheney as well.  I saw her dribble her way out of a tight area with defenders swarming around her just as often as I saw her give a Philly stare down toColombiaafter each questionable tackle.  She may not have been as involved in the attack as Carli Lloyd was, but she showed us all why that central midfield position suits her so well.  Watching her skill and composure was enough to make me happy for the rest of the week.  (But seeing the stare down was an added bonus)  I’d say the other bonus of the game was watching Kelley O’Hara dance and frolic over Colombian players like the stupendous little soccer leprechaun that she is.  Both in this game and againstFrance, she was a stud.  A happy little leprechaun stud.

Next up is North Korea and I am confident in another victory.  There is of course work to be done, as there always is, and there were plenty of chances we probably should have finished but I am proud of our girls after two wins with some fantastic goals.  And I know they will be ready and waiting for North Korea.  So Abby, ice your gangster black eye.  Cheney, don’t ever change.  Rapinoe, you’re a boss.  Lloyd, keep the goals coming, girl.  Solo, oh, that’s right.  I forgot you were out there!  Good job touching that ball that one time!  And way to pull of that new jersey, it looked great!

Congrats, USA!

WSN247 Blog – Talking To the US Women’s National Soccer Team

This blog is one I wrote and is shown by my friends at www.wsn247.com. Be sure to check out their site for more women’s soccer and women’s sports information! You can also follow them on Twitter @WSN247 and make sure to ‘like’ their Facebook page!

A Gold Moment: Talking To the US Women’s National Soccer Team

Posted By: 

July 24, 2012

WSN Guest Blogger, Amy Maestri, writes about participating in a teleconference with the USWNT

The US Women’s National Soccer Team will kick off their Olympic run on Wednesday, July 25, against France.  If you could measure the weight of my excitement, you would need one of those animal scales they use at the zoo.

After the heart breaking loss in the 2011 Women’s World Cup to the team which will not be named (well I guess I have to name them just in case you have been living under a rock; we lost to Japan.  Japan is the team which I will not name.  Japan, damn it!)  we have a team filled with passion, fire and determination.  They have been conditioning, mentally preparing and practicing their pageantry wave for when they stand atop the podium.  I was recently on a media conference call with head coach, Pia Sundhage and players Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone and Hope Solo.  I was lucky enough to participate in this call thanks to WSN247.  The task, I decided, was to listen, ask questions and do my best to not embarrass myself.  I realized I would be tempted to drift into my favorite old timey newspaper reporter character which in return also made me realize the ‘not embarrassing myself’ task would not be so simple.

Sundhage was up first and in her answers made it very clear that they intend to take these matches one game at a time.  France is their first test on Wednesday and it will be a good one.  As she stated, France has a very dangerous attack.  The US defense and midfield will have a battle raging against them all game.  Sundhage also made it clear that she is excited to have an impossible number of options for a starting lineup against a technically sound France.  With their infinite options and their conductor of the back line, Christie Rampone, I am confident we will see a shining victory.

Abby Wambach, in her ever calm demeanor and laid back style approached questions with an intelligent response each time, while also tossing in a few, “What up’s” to the media.  Wambach answered some questions about the pairing of her and Alex Morgan and why they are such a fantastic team.  She explains it’s the balance they provide in an attack.  While Abby soars 1.7 miles in the air higher than any human on earth to stuff a header into the back of the net, Morgan is usually right behind her with a goal of her own from winning a ball through speed, strength and skill before calmly placing a shot into that same, tired out net.  The combining of opposite players like Morgan and Wambach has obviously been epic.  But Wambach also brought up the strategy Sundhage has brought to this team.  She talked about where the US has always been strong and where they are learning from Sundhage.  It’s two opposing styles coming together on one field, making said field a sitting duck waiting for an explosion of versatility from the USA.  They still have the typical US strength, speed and an almost sickening ambition to never, ever quit on anything.  But now they also are more possession oriented and implementing different tactics.

When getting to ask captain, Christie Rampone, a question I hesitated for a moment.  I knew I had a good question, but I also knew there was a better one I should have asked.  I asked how she is handling the changes in the back four (organizationally) and also how she sees Becky Sauerbrunn’s role changing and developing.  But I know my question should have been, “When can we expect to see another ‘Reece Race’?” Come on Amy, think!  But I went with the first question and she came back with a response reeking of an excellent captain.  She knows the back line has had many changes and they are still learning and growing.  She also said that the best way to learn is to make mistakes and move forward as a collective unit.  They have been spending a lot of time working on spacing, timing and angles and watching videos (game tapes, not old Full House episodes on original VHS; much to my dismay).  She also had immensely good things to say about Sauerbrunn who she calls a very technical, calm player with a great presence who Rampone is sure will have an amazing career.  She was also asked about Kelley O’Hara; complimenting her one on one defense and how she quickly learned to connect with the back line.  And of course the question came about her post Olympics career.  Although her decision is not yet made, and probably won’t be for a few months; I still insist she is going to be playing and still owning people well into her 90’s.  Ok, realistically maybe only 87.

Hope Solo answered questions with a genuine tone and well thought out answers backed by knowledge.  When asked what her reaction is after letting a goal in she painted a picture of a prideful goalkeeper who can always see the good in things and be proud of her team but will never be satisfied if a ball has passed her goal line.  But as she stated with a win, “…my happiness trumps everything.”  Good, because we love seeing that smile after a game.  If you’re interested in learning from and being inspired by someone who is able to cut out distractions from her life and dive into her passion head first; then learn more about Hope Solo.  Also, check out her full response to a question pertaining to that subject on the quote sheet at www.ussoccer.com (along with the rest of the call).  Then they wrapped up the call with my question because obviously they save the best for last.  Or they were hoping they would run out of time before getting back to me.  Either way…my question was about the balance on the team of newer players and veterans and how effective it is.  She mentioned Lauren Cheney who although by age is younger, has a lot of minutes under her belt and was crucial for them in last year’s WWC.  So by looking more at experience than age you see what a young player can really bring to the table.  While she also stated that any championship team needs that balance.

Now onto my in depth analysis and opinion of what the Olympics will look like for the USA.  It will look like a heavy circular object connected to a pretty ribbon and will be a distinctive color; not like a bronze or a like a silver…more like a gold.  (…to put it briefly)  The competition is stiffer than it has ever been and the gap is closing drastically in skill sets between teams in the women’s game.  Lots of teams will be fighting until the end and putting up a battle.  France will be a challenge as our first opponent with their speed, technical skill and attacking force but I am beyond confident in this USA squad.  That other team that will not be mentioned will be racing towards the finish line as well looking to come out with back to back summer gold medals.  They have been growing by the day in skill it seems, but I am sure our girls will shut down the team which will not be named and send them back to their country which will not be named without a gold medal around their anonymous necks.

The USA sound ready, they sound hungry, they sound fit, they sound excited and they sound a little bit crackly.  I guess that was probably just from the speaker phone though.  Best wishes to the team and staff! Go USA!

Side note: In case you were wondering, I did manage to stifle my old timey newspaper character.  I can’t make any promises for next time, though.  See ya in the funny papers!! – Amy

A Therapeutic Rant From A USWNT Fan

Ok, US Soccer let’s have a chat.  It seems you’re moderately excited about the upcoming Women’s National Team game this Sunday against China in Philadelphia.  Sorry, but I really can’t in good faith, use a better adjective than “moderately” when describing your excitement level.  If I’m wrong, please correct me.  But furthermore, if I’m wrong; please prove it and act like it.

I am always willing to give an organization the benefit of the doubt when I know that there are many different aspects that I am unaware of.  I don’t work for US Soccer, I’m just a comedy writer who is a well educated fan of the game who speaks bluntly and wants some freaking answers. (To be politically correct)

The upcoming WNT game vs China is not going to be televised.  Fine.  It’s a friendly, it’s not a current rivalry, it’s not on at 4am; which seems to be the only time of day ESPN likes to acknowledge that women’s soccer exists.  As much as I would love for every game (no matter how important or unimportant) to be televised; I don’t live in an idealist’s fairy tale land where everything is fair and everything is made of candy.  I understand it comes down to money.  So that’s fine that it won’t be televised, for now.  I still truly believe women’s soccer can one day be a major money maker in this country, but I also understand right now we are still growing.

So here is my question to US Soccer:

If we want the sport to grow and gain more viewers and sponsors…how exactly will we do that if there is no way to watch games half of the time?

Oh, I know!  I’ll hop into that idealist’s world with trees made of candy and I’ll pull people who have never seen a game before out of thin air and turn them into sponsors and fans!  Then while I’m at it: I’ll turn all mean people into bunnies and solve world peace by singing smooth adult contemporary songs about friendship to all warring nations!

Oh wait…you mean that all sounds farfetched and unrealistic?

After my exaggerated rant, all I am trying to ask is, “How is a sport expected to grow if no one can see it?”  If it is too much money and they don’t think they will have the viewers and sponsors to get in on TV, then why no live stream?  It’s cheaper and it’s easier.  I know of at least a couple W League teams that are live streaming their regular season home games this year.  If W League teams can afford it, how is US Soccer denying us of one?  That’s like Taylor Swift saying something is too expensive while the transient who lives under the bridge swoops in and buys it instead.  (Sorry, W League; I’m not trying to call you a bum.  I love you.  Please forgive me.  xoxo, Amy)

If money is not the issue for a live stream and it has to do with something like copy writing issues or whatever it may be; at least tell us.  Because now, instead of a large group of disappointed, but understanding fans; you have a large group of pissed off fans that are going to relentlessly hassle you and bash your good name out of anger.  Everyone will either assume US Soccer is not willing to spend money on the women or they will draw their own mislead conclusions.  Either way; they will be mad and most likely ill informed due to lack of information coming from the horse’s mouth.

I truly believe that US Soccer wants the women’s team to succeed.  I am in no way saying they don’t support them or don’t want them to be televised and make money.  Of course they want them to make money.  But for some reason they still tend to neglect certain things on the women’s side which hinders their ability to grow.  So prove us wrong, US Soccer.  Show us you can be more than moderately excited about a women’s game, and not just men’s games.  I love both teams; men and women.  But have always been a much, much bigger women’s fan.  It just blows my mind that the women can be ranked #1 in the world, be going to the Olympics this year and be coming off of a 2nd place finish in last year’s World Cup and they still cannot get half the attention of the men’s team. (Which is not even ranked in the top 25, is not going to the Olympics and didn’t place in their last World Cup.)  I understand the competition levels are completely different, but it’s astonishing to me that we would not want to be proud of our women’s team for the superb record they have held for years and show them off a bit.  If you got it, flaunt it, girl.

Women’s soccer has come a very, very long way in the US in the past 20 years.  The strides that they have made are huge, and I am not unaware of that or ungrateful for that.  But is it too much to ask for progress moving faster than a snail’s pace?  Don’t we owe it to ground breaking legends in women’s soccer like Michelle Akers, Kristine Lilly and Mia Hamm to continue the legacy and keep building on the strides they made?  We have a top ranked team which is extremely marketable.  Hope Solo was on the list of the 50 Most Marketable Athletes of 2012.  (Ummm, hello dumb dumbs.  What more do you want?)  Ask 100 people who Alex Morgan or Hope Solo is and I bet 90 of them could tell you.  Then ask those 90 when their next game is, I bet 10 of them could tell you.  If they know who these women are, but don’t know where or how to watch them; how are we ever supposed to expect more fans?  If US Soccer is not even willing to stream all domestic games as a minimum for now, we can expect Snooki’s grand-kids to be gearing up for season 47 of Jersey Shore before we consistently see women’s games aired on TV.

These are just opinions from a fan.  I just want answers at the end of the day.  Why is a live stream not a given for all domestic games?  Why are they not capitalizing on an Olympic year with a team filled with marketable players?  Why does everyone and their mother’s dog know who Hope Solo is, but can’t watch her play?  And do those dogs have a hard time watching soccer deciphering between red and yellow cards due to their color blindness?

All important questions…maybe some more than others.

I’d love answers, but even more I’d love to be able to watch the best team in the world of women’s soccer, play this Sunday.

 

PS to US Soccer: PLEASE stop talking and tweeting about the new uniforms which will be debuted at this Sunday’s game for “all” to see.  All you’re doing is turning the knife that has already been jabbed into our stomachs.

The Japanese Are Coming!!

Dear Fellow US Women’s National Soccer Team Fans:  As hard as I tried, I was not able to change the shape of the globe and alter time zones.  My apologies.  So instead, I will be watching the USWNT vs Japan at 3:30 am Pacific Standard Time from the comfort of my living room this Sunday. Some friends will join me as we watch the USA and cheer relentlessly until I am certain I will be thrown out of my apartment.  Let me give any non soccer fans a little background on what this game means…

Japan has become what we call in the business, a giant pain in our ass. The technical term is “chronic ass-pain implementing distributors.” Since they beat us in the final at the World Cup this past summer (I still cringe just typing that) we have had one crack at them in the Algarve Cup this past month. We were defeated in that match, furthering their pain in the ass status.  This next game just so happens to be being played in Japan.  It’s also on April 1st, April Fool’s Day. The outcome I’m hoping for is a huge win, where we silence every Japanese fan in that stadium. The outcome I’m worried about is some of those kooky Japanese game show hosts coming out for April Fool’s Day and creating an obstacle course on the field as part of their show.  So I’ll be on the lookout for any old Japanese men in suits that belong on American used car salesmen from the 70’s holding a microphone and little Japanese girls wearing Hello Kitty helmets ready to win a karaoke machine.

The Japanese team has made some amazing strides in women’s soccer in the past couple of years. Homare Sawa, who won the Player Of The Year award for 2011 is one of my personal top international picks.  I really do think that the progress we see from them is great news for women’s soccer across the globe.  With that being said; I still hate them.  I’m not going to tip toe around this.  I want so badly to like this team of possession oriented, skilled players who have come very far but I can’t.  I have respect for them and I love seeing the positive progress in another country of the sport but every time I see them I just feel violent.  And I’m not a violent person.  The only time I ever threw a punch it was in self defense and it was done with my eyes closed and was immediately followed by me running away screaming like a 4 year old waving my hands over my head trying to protect my face.  So for them to make me feel violent says something.  It says I do not want to see another loss to them.  I do not want to see a tie with them.  I want to see a good old fashioned USA smack down laid out on them.

In my humble outsider opinion, this is how we do that:

PLAY OUR GAME.

Simple, right?  Don’t let them dictate.  When we play our game, there is no stopping us.  When we use our strengths, instead of caving early to letting them control the pace we cannot be stopped.  I don’t care how good they’ve gotten; if Heather O’Reilly takes on a defender 1 v 1 (burns them obviously) then takes the ball end line and serves a tasty dish into the head of Abby Wambach who will then bury that ball so far into that net the keeper can’t find it to fish it out – they cannot stop us.  If Lauren Cheney picks off a ball in the mid field and finds Alex Morgan on a diagonal through ball so perfectly placed you assume there is a magical path linked between their feet and Morgan takes out each defender and keeper with speed, agility & a killer finish – they cannot stop us.  If Hope Solo stands there and stares down each player until they are too insanely terrified to attack goal – they cannot stop us.  My point being, we need to play to our many, many strengths and not allow them to get under our skin.  Whether it be Abby’s head, Morgan’s finishing, HAO’s speed, Lloyd’s vision, Cheney’s connecting plays or any one of the other dozens of strengths we have; we need to utilize them.  When we dictate early and make that statement we’re an unbeatable force.  But when we sit on our heels for too long and let them begin to control the pace is where we lose.  And I have immense faith that this team will come out on April 1st ready to control that game.  There are a ton of things I could go on and on about that I would like to see happen but I feel controling the pace early is the biggest key.  Hold the ball, make smart decisions, play to our strengths so we control the game and don’t let those fricken mini possession monsters get the ball for too long.  They’re like bed bugs.  Once they take control of your hotel room, there is no getting rid of them.  Just like once Japan gets the ball for too long, there is no gaining control back of the game.  I have a feeling Pia is packing some heat for this annoying infestation though.  Just call her the exterminator. (cue intense movie music)

This week requires pulling out all the stops in fan preparation.  When I was a kid, my best friend and I used to run around my yard screaming in British accents, “The Chinese are coming!” And then we’d attack them with chop sticks. (Yes, we beat imaginary Chinese people with their own eating utensils. Don’t judge me.)  Why am I telling you this embarrassingly odd child hood tale?  Because, the accent will be coming out in full force and “Chinese” will be subbed out for “Japanese” as I warn my fellow man of their upcoming attack plans.  This is war.  No longer will they be chronic ass-pain implementing distributors to us.  April 1st we’re coming for you, Japan.  In true American fashion we’re going to come strong, proud and ready.  And none the less; on a day where we honor crafty tomfoolery.  So Japan, get ready to be tomfoolerdied… tomfoolersted… tomfoolerized.  Yes, tomfoolerized.

USWNT fans near and far: Get ready to cheer your hearts out and support our girls because (Please read the following in a British accent) The Japanese are coming!! (Decease British accent)

Who else will be gearing up this week and pulling the all nighter / early morning wake up to watch this epic match?  What do you think we need to do to win?  Tell me about it here and on twitter!

 

GO USA

 

An Unbreakable Team

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.’

So Marta Is Leaving WPS…

Ever heard that expression, “Don’t wake the bear?” Well consider me a bear that has just been poked with a particularly annoying Brazilian stick.

First, let me start off by saying that I never, ever like to speak ill of any women’s soccer player.  Although I have my favorites, and my not so favorites I have an extreme overall love, admiration and respect for this sport and the women who play it.  If you haven’t guessed it, the Brazilian ‘stick’ waking me, is Marta.  The topic of Marta has always gotten me all fired up for many reasons. The still young career of 5-time Player of the Year, Marta has been an impressive one.  She has never been a favorite of mine nor will she ever be a favorite of mine.  But I will start by saying that I believe she is the most skilled female player in the world over the ball.  There is no denying her incredible ability including her first touch, her quick feet and her deceptive moves befuddling defenders.  But I don’t find her vision to be anything extraordinary, I don’t find her shot to be one of the best in the world (although still very good), and I don’t find her leadership to be…well…I don’t see any leadership.  When her team goes down she resorts to yelling at them, yelling at the ref, diving and getting chippy (to say the least) against the opposing team.  Just because someone is monumentally skilled over the ball doesn’t make them a Player of the Year in my book.  That makes them the “Most Skilled Player of the Year”.  She has made great strides for women’s soccer in her country and has helped Brazil become a top contender.  So again, I give credit where credit is due.  But I just cannot get behind a Player of the Year who is phenomenal in one or two aspects of the game, very good in other, and nonexistent in some.  I want to see a woman win that award who is a consistent force to be reckoned with in every aspect of the game.  Homare Sawa and Abby Wambach’s nominations this year made me thrilled for that reason.  They are both true leaders and all around impeccable players.  Wambach and Sawa, without a doubt lead their countries through not only their talent and skill but in motivation and belief.  Sawa’s win, (although I was strongly pulling for Wambach) was a refreshing change and I was thrilled for her.  She made things happen for her team that some could never fathom.  The loss still stings from the WWC, but Sawa is beyond deserving.  But seeing Marta still come in above Wambach made my stomach feel like I had just eaten gas station sushi.

For the past few years while Marta has played in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) here in the USA, she has been raking in the dough.  Pay close attention now: I will NEVER be upset that a female soccer player is being ‘overpaid’.  Because guess what…compared to any men’s sport there is no female athlete on planet earth who is being overpaid.  But, I will be upset when there is someone being overpaid in comparison to other athletes on the pitch who do more to grow the sport here.  Does anyone really think that after the Women’s World Cup those 15k+ fans poured into Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester to see Marta?  No. They paid for a ticket to see Abby Wambach speak at halftime and other U.S. stars like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe to play that day. They went and bought #13 Western NY jerseys and screamed and cried for Wambach’s autograph.  We’re in America.  This will be the case in any WPS game. (That being my example due to the record breaking ticket sales that day.)  My point being…in an American league, American players are going to bring more people into a stadium, therefore making the league more money.  I am more than willing to admit (unlike some who insist on putting false information or made up guesses made out to be facts out there) I’m no financial expert or sports agent so I don’t know exactly how all that works.  But it seems if they are the ones bringing the money in, why is Marta the one financially being treated like she’s the Michael Jordan of the WPS?  (I don’t know enough current sports people outside of soccer so you’re just going to have to deal with my 90’s NBA reference)

Furthermore, I know Marta doesn’t speak fluent English.  So it is hard for her to do many interviews or press related events. I have nothing against her as a person and have heard she is a fun person to be around but not many would know that because interviews or media events with her are few and far between.  So anyone saying that she brings in media coverage is as delusional as Brazil was when they thought they were going to beat the U.S. at the Women’s World Cup this year.  I don’t blame her for not speaking English fluently (although she has been here for long enough to be decent at it) but it just doesn’t make sense to try and say she is going to be some sort of media darling in the U.S. if she can’t even conduct an interview without an interpreter.

Briefly, I want to bring up Hope Solo.  Solo has received some really harsh criticism from many people over her dedication to the WPS.  They have said she is “Hollywood” now and only cares about herself and the U.S. Women’s National Team, not caring about the WPS.  If I could speak to these people directly it wouldn’t be a pleasant meeting that would be appropriate for anyone under the age of 18.  Hope Solo has done more for women’s soccer in this country in one year than some people are able to do in a lifetime.  Do you honestly think that if she is that dedicated to USWNT, that she wouldn’t also be dedicated to the league in this country that helps form the USWNT?  A league that will in the future, help mold and develop new young players for the USWNT?  And recently, she made the decision that I hope blew up directly in her critics’ faces when she signed with her hometown W-League Team, Seattle Sounders Women.  So not only is she staying domestic, but she is going to her home turf making endless amounts of fans thrilled.  She is the best goal keeper in the entire world.  She could have gone anywhere.  But she chose to stay domestic.  Now what does all this have to do with Marta?  Well, let’s see…while Solo was being blasted for not speaking up on the WPS situation and being slammed for saying she doesn’t care about WPS…where was Marta?  Was she making grand speeches about the importance of WPS?  Was she speaking out in favor of the league?  Not a chance.  So why is Solo being held solely responsible for being a star who apparently “doesn’t care” about WPS when the highest paid player in WPS sits back in the shadows silently getting no ridicule, planning her departure to Sweden?

Last, I’ll be completely honest; I think it is just hard for me to want to like anyone from the Brazilian team.  I’ll never be able to look at Marta and not see her and her entire team doing everything in their power to beat their opponents in ways that disgrace the beautiful game. It’s true…on any team in any league there is a large amount of acting, diving and flopping.  Every one dives here and there, everyone deserves their own Oscar from time to time; USA included.  But Brazil deserves the entire Kodak Theater at Oscar time and every single last Oscar trophy in it.  I simply cannot respect that style of play.

In conclusion of my coffee fueled rant, it comes down to this: There are aspects of Marta’s game that amaze me.  But as far as her leaving the WPS; I have no morsel of sadness. I wish her the best of luck in Sweden who has a very competitive league and I’m sure she’ll do great there.  But I will not miss her here.  It’s time to focus on the W-League and the WPSL making an impact this year.  Especially with the help of players like Hope Solo making the decision to stay domestic.  I look forward to seeing the development in this country with our women’s leagues with or without Marta, while I also look forward to seeing us play against Marta on the national stage.

Oh and PS: Marta, I’m still trying to find an address to send a gift basket to you and the Brazilian team. The card reads: “Thank you for giving the U.S. ample amounts of stoppage time to score after your truly inspiring performances crawling around on the turf at the World Cup this year.” I hope you guys like Edible Arrangements!

 

…Sorry.  Couldn’t resist.

 

Beauty On And Off The Field

Ask me if I’d love to see the day when a female athlete gains more recognition for what she does in her sport than how she looks?

My answer is ‘yes, of course.’

Now ask me if I think it’s wrong for women like Hope Solo and Alex Morgan to pose either nude or with only body paint because it’s a bad reflection on them and a step backwards for women’s soccer?

My answer is ‘what the hell is wrong with you?!?’ (And that is the family friendly toned down response)

This topic gets me a little fired up.  I am more passionate about U.S. Women’s Soccer than almost anything (this of course excludes my mother’s lasagna).  I love and respect this team and the beautiful game.  I also respect the decisions of players making moves to help promote their name and the sport they play.  If an opportunity arises that allows them to do this, why wouldn’t they? Especially if it is an opportunity that would showcase the obscene amount of hours they put into getting amazing bodies.  Sure, the true pay off for them comes in the 90th minute of a game when the other team is starting to feel the ‘jell-o legs’ settle in while they’re ready to go another 90.  By all means, the hours of work they put in are to better themselves as athletes and contribute to improving their game; which it obviously does. The US Women’s National Soccer Team is probably the fittest in the entire world, and it shows on the field.  But once the final whistle blows and these players walk off with a sense of pride and accomplishment wouldn’t it also be nice to be recognized for their hard work by others as well?  Last I checked, if an artist spends every day working on a painting; perfecting it, making sure every last detail was flawless, they’re not going to light it on fire once they’re done so it’s never to be seen.  (Unless they’re like ‘Van Gogh crazy’ and the voices in their head told them to)  They’re going to hang it on a wall or sell it to a gallery.  They’re going to take pride in their work and say, “Yes, I spent endless hours of my life dedicated to this.  And because I did, I came out with a beautiful painting which I can be proud of, and now I’d like everyone to see it.” Well guess what; The USWNT and Alex Morgan and Hope Solo have been painting their asses off. They have dedicated their lives to something which they are brilliant at and that they love. Their hard work has paid off on the field and now I’m happy it’s paid off for them in these opportunities as well.

Can we also keep in mind what these photo shoots were for as well? Hope Solo posed for the Body Issue of ESPN. It’s dedicated to show off athletes at the peak of their physical fitness.  Alex Morgan posed for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition as one of only 3 female athletes chosen for it because of her toned physique.  Notice I said ESPN and Sports Illustrated, not a cheap porn site. They’re not doing anything tasteless or risqué.  They’re not going out on weekends, getting smashed and giving TMZ nip slip photos. They’re posing for sports related magazines showing that hard work pays off. People need to relax and look at the positives; that they are getting good publicity and that they are becoming household names as good, strong role models for anyone to look up to.  I haven’t even mentioned the biggest reason for why people shouldn’t care if they’re doing these shoots:  If they want to do it, and they enjoy doing it then why the hell not? They’re hurting no one and they are young and beautiful, so why not work it?  It is not up to any of us to decide if it’s “What they should be doing” or not.

With that being said, going back to my initial statement; yes, I want to see the day where female athletes are recognized more for what they do in their sport than how they look.  I will stand behind these next two statements no matter what.  In my opinion… 1) Hope Solo is the best female goalkeeper in the entire world.  2) Alex Morgan is young and has a lot to prove, but is still one of the best female strikers in the world and has the potential to become the best we’ve ever seen.  So would I like to hear people talking about them for those reasons or because of how they look? Obviously for the reasons I listed on their talent.  But the fact is, in female sports how someone looks weighs heavily on how much publicity they are given. That doesn’t change their talent level though.

Let’s say this swimsuit edition gets 500,000 people who never gave women’s soccer a second look; noticed Alex Morgan and said, “Wow, she’s hot.  Who is she?” Then they notice she plays for the USWNT. Out of those 500,000 people; even just half of them decide to check out the next game just because they like Alex Morgan now. And out of those 250,000 people: half are impressed by the skill and poise they possess in a game and decide to keep watching future games and become true fans. That’s 125,000 new fans to the game just because of a couple of beautiful pictures in a magazine.  They may watch their first game with no intention of continuing to watch, saying they just want to get a glimpse of Morgan.  But if from that, they get hooked…that’s amazing!  And if they don’t, then who cares?  It’s not going to be for everyone, but at least they are giving it the chance.  And that’s what publicity is for.  To reach new fans who may have an interest in watching, but haven’t had that one thing that has hooked them to actually sit down and watch a full game.  (These numbers are completely hypothetical to prove a point, so if you’re ready to pounce on me about them- take a Valium and go away.)

There are luckily only a small group of people who seem to have problems with these photos.  Mostly everything I have seen has been very positive and people are thrilled for them; as we should be. I’m in the front of the line waiting for female athletes to be judged less off of how they look and more off of how they play, but until that happens can’t we just be happy that we have athletes that are both gorgeous and immensely talented and being recognized for both?  What more do you people want?  Do they need some sort of magical power now too?  Hope, Alex: you heard it here first.  We not only need you to continue to be top shelf soccer players and really pretty but we also need you to fly, master time travel and breathe under water to make everyone happy.

Embrace the fact that they are getting publicity and embrace that they are phenomenal at what they do.  And oh yeah…one more thing…THEY LOOK UH-MAZING!  Congrats to Solo and Morgan for not only being some of the best female soccer players in the world but also for getting some rock star status publicity.

CALLING ALL US WOMEN’S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM FANS

CALLING ALL US WOMEN’S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM FANS

How many of you watched the game this weekend against New Zealand?  How many of you huddled around a laptop, praying you wouldn’t see the dreaded “buffering” sign come up in the middle of a brilliant play?  How many of you watched along with the 20,000+ that were in attendance in awe of this team while also in awe of how it still does not get TV coverage?

That’s what this is going to be about.  I write a lot about how amazing this team is.  I talk about their skill and their poise on the field and about how they earn their number one world ranking every time they step on the field.  But today I want to talk directly to all the other fans out there like myself who are sick of watching these games through a buffering live stream or not at all.  I don’t know about you, but if Abby Wambach goes up for a header and mid jump, my screen freezes; you better believe that computer is not going to live to see another day.  So in order to avoid the risk of multiple laptops being throw across rooms or desktops having a foot put through them, what can we do to help grow this game in media coverage?

I understand everything comes down to money.  I also understand that I don’t understand anything about the inner workings of how much money different parties make or lose under different ratings brackets.  I am not going to sit here and act like I know anything past the basics of how a station determines if they can make money off of a specific show or sporting event.  But I can sit here and say that there are numerous examples showing us that people care…that they are watching…and they are talking about women’s soccer in the US.

Women’s World Cup 2011: While the US played some of the best soccer of their lives in the Women’s World Cup final this year against Japan the whole world was tuned in on the edge of their seats cheering, watching, and oh yeah…tweeting their asses off.  During that game Twitter announced they broke the record for tweets per second.  At its peak the game was bringing in 7196 tweets per second.   I’m no expert here but that kind of seems like there is some sort of slight, vague interest there, right?

Post Women’s World Cup 2011:  When the women came back from Germany they immediately jumped into a whirlwind of interviews for everything from ESPN to Rachel Maddow to David Letterman.  Everyone wanted to talk to them and everyone wanted to know more about their journey.  Yet, after about a month of intense media coverage it seemed the media world was content to going back to forgetting they existed.  I understand we don’t have World Cup to happen every month for major soccer coverage to occur.  But if even a third of that media coverage continued in showing support for them, we could possibly be looking at a very different scenario now for how women’s soccer is covered here. Six months ago these women were national heroes who everyone wanted to talk to and now we are back to watching games online through ussoccer.com, because not even ESPN3 is picking up international games in most cases. (Which ussoccer.com deserves a BIG thank you for doing so)

USA vs New Zealand February 11, 2012:  In a soccer specific stadium that plays host to FC Dallas of Major League Soccer, the USWNT took on NZL in a friendly match.  While FC Dallas averages around 12,000 for their games the ladies sold it out with a crowd of over 20,000.  I find it interesting that a network will pick up a game that in the team’s own city a team can only bring in an average of 12,000 fans, yet no one will pick up the game turning people away at the door because they are sold out.  The fan base is growing by the day and it is being proven in games like this.  If you air it, people will watch. (Said like James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams)  On top of the stellar attendance they got, there was again big Twitter news.  Alex Morgan who is one of my favorite players and a continuing rising star of the team was trending today.  This is big news for two reasons in my opinion.  First: This game was not televised.  She was trending in the United States and also Worldwide.  So that means that there were enough people across the country and across the world who wanted to watch this game so badly that they watched it via web cast and then tweeted relentlessly about this young superstar as she scored two late goals to win the game for us.  If there are that many people tuning in online…how many do you think we would get if it were on TV?  Even fans who aren’t diehard fans are now tuning in online to watch because they need their fix of USWNT and that is a lot of times, the only place to get it. Second: I lied a little before when I said ‘Alex Morgan’ was trending.  Her name wasn’t actually trending, her nickname was.  ‘Baby Horse’ was trending.  Morgan was the youngest on the team last year when she got this nickname, hence the ‘baby’.  And due to her long beautiful strides she takes as she gallops down the field, cue the ‘horse’.  I know this because I am a fan; the only people who know this, are fans.  Which means this wasn’t a random instance of people who have never seen a game generically tweeting about how they saw a picture of Alex Morgan online and thought she was cute, or about hearing she was going to be in Sports Illustrated this month, or because they heard someone talking about her and they were asking who was Alex Morgan.  This was a large group of people throughout the US and the world tweeting specifically about her and the game today because they are fans who are watching and who know and love these players.  Also, let me remind you this was for an international friendly.  This game has no bearing on qualifying for any major tournament or overall ranking.  So what I’m saying is: It doesn’t have to be a World Cup for the US to pay attention and want to watch women’s soccer.  We are paying attention in the small games, so you better believe we will be in the big ones.

Again, let me reiterate; I am not a TV analyst of any sort, I do not know ratings compared to cost and distribution ratios.  I am just a fan and a writer who loves this game and who sees how much millions of others love this game and want to see it more appreciated.  We are a patriotic nation who loves competition and loves being number one.  Well guess what?  The USWNT is number one in the world.  This is a unique sport that is loved and played all over the world year round which we participate in and we are ranked number one in.  We have the opportunity to get behind a team who makes us proud every time they step on the field and dominate countries from every corner of the world, while representing us.  Millions have caught on and millions more will be soon to follow.  But without games on TV, and without networks like ESPN or Fox Soccer willing to even cover stories surrounding them on a steady basis; those millions are going to take much, much longer to get through to.

So what can we do?  Write to ESPN?  Write to other networks?  Yes, by all means I think the more people reaching out the better.  And take it down to that grassroots level: write to your local paper or local sports anchor.  Find the many different organizations popping up everywhere working to suport the game of soccer and grow it in the US.  Talk to other fans and friends and talk about ways to help support it.  I’m a writer and a comedian so basically, I never shut up.  But really, that is what we need.  The more talk the better.  Take pride in relentlessly talking about this team. Pat yourself on the back when you realize you haven’t come up for air in 30 minutes of talking about Abby Wambach.  Buy yourself a cookie when you reach out to other local fans to talk about ways to grow the game.  Do an Alex Morgan fist pump and jump in the air when you…well…that’s just fun to do any time.

So I’m asking you…new fans who just started watching, diehard fans who paint their faces and go to games screaming like beautiful maniacs, long time fans who ripped their shirts off right along with Brandi Chastain watching from home in 1999: What else can we do?  Keep the dialogue moving and keep reaching out to anyone and everyone you think can help make a difference.  I want to hear your ideas too.  Whether you post them here to start some dialogue or hit me up on Twitter @Gillian_E_Dubbs…either way.  Let’s talk and not shut up until we can turn on the TV, kick back and watch the beautiful game in beautiful HD of our beautiful US Women’s National Team doing some beautiful work against every country put in our path.