Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Pia Sundhage's last match as head coach of the U.S. women's national team was certainly memorable as they rolled to a 6-2 win over Australia this evening at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. It was the 14th straight win for the top women's side in the world.
Australia, who had lost to the U.S. 2-1 on Sunday in California, was actually up 2-1 in the first half but that lasted all of nine minutes as Alex Morgan scored her first of two goals right before halftime (43rd minute). From there, the Americans blitzed the Australians with four goals in the second half.
Now, Sundhage leaves for Sweden (her native country) with a four-year deal set to begin on December 1. It will be fascinating to see who the U.S. chooses as its next head coach. It's hard to argue with Sundhage's success since she took over in November 2007: 91-6-10 with two gold medals (2012, 2008), three Algarve Cups and runner-up in the 2011 World Cup.
The U.S.' next two matches are a month away against Germany: October 20 in Bridgeview, Illinois and October 23 in East Hartford, Connecticut. During this game, former national team member and ESPN2 commentator Julie Foudy speculated that the U.S. wanted to name a coach by Halloween but it is possible they won't have one in place by the Germany matches. In that case, an assistant would temporary hold the position.
Five different goal-scorers helped the U.S. improve to 22-0-2 all-time against Australia. In 2012, they are 23-1-1 (only loss to Japan) and they've outscored their opponents 100-17.
Morgan led the U.S. with two goals and two assists, Megan Rapinoe had two assists while Heather O'Reilly, Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx and Sydney Leroux all scored goals. Heather Mitts and Kelley O'Hara rounded out the scoring with assists.
O'Reilly opened the scoring with a deflected goal in the 25th minute. Morgan broke down the left flank but then passed it back to the top of the box. O'Reilly came from out of the picture and hit a low hard shot that nicked off an Australian defender.
Two defensive breakdowns in rapid succession gave Australia the brief 2-1 lead. Lisa de Vanna scored her second goal against the U.S. in as many games with a pretty toe poke past Hope Solo in the 32nd minute. Two minutes later, Sarah Walsh-who was playing her last match for Australia-found herself in alone on Solo and she deposited it into the net.
Morgan went to work in the 43rd minute with a top-notch goal, her 33rd in 51 international matches. O'Hara had the assist as Morgan placed the shot in the far corner with her preferred left foot. It was a big goal in terms of momentum since the U.S. nearly trailed at halftime. Instead, that must have pumped them up because they never looked back in the second half and Australia could do nothing to stop them.
Wambach was the recipient of a crazy bounce after she stuck her foot out and got a touch on Morgan's shot in the 53rd minute. It took a huge deflection and ended up in the goal. After that, the U.S. scored on three headers in a span of 19 minutes with each one more spectacular than the last.
Morgan bagged her second strike in the 63rd minute when she won a 50-50 cross from Mitts. It's easy to forget that Morgan is only 23-years-old. I'm having a hard time finding any holes in her game, she seems to do everything well: shoot, distribute, win headers, run off the ball. It is scary to think she'll most likely get even better the next few years.
Substitute Shannon Boxx got in on the action with a powerful header off Rapinoe's corner kick in the 69th minute. Leroux was the second sub to score a goal as she also connected on a cross from Rapinoe in the 82nd minute. What made Leroux's my favorite is that she dove toward the ground to head the ball rather than wait for it to come to her feet. At 22, the youngest player on the team, her skills are remarkable and she is definitely the most exciting prospect on the national team.
All that's left to do is wish Sundhage all the best and thank her for all her hard work over the years with the U.S. team. Good luck in Sweden Pia, haha except when you face the U.S.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
The second half was completely forgettable except for Herculez Gomez's goal in the 55th minute off a free kick. That turned out to be the game-winner as the U.S. held on for a 1-0 win in a 2014 World Cup qualifier that truthfully shouldn't have been that close. The three points are all that matters though since Jamaica beat them 2-1 on Friday in Kingston.
The U.S. improved to 7-2-2 this year and is now 11-1-8 all-time against Jamaica. The U.S. maintained its unbeaten record at Columbus Crew Stadium, moving to 6-0-3 all-time at the USA’s first soccer specific venue and they are 9-0-3 in home matches against Jamaica.
Now, the U.S. vaulted from third-place in Group A to a first-place tie with Guatemala (who beat Antigua and Barbuda 1-0 tonight as well). They each have seven points (2-1-1), along with Jamaica, but the U.S. and Guatemala have a better goal-differential at +2. There are two more matches in this round: U.S. at Antigua and Barbuda on October 12 and U.S. hosts Guatemala on October 16 in Kansas City. It looks like the latter match could have huge implications since the top two make it to the next round which means either the U.S., Guatemala or Jamaica will be eliminated.
Jurgen Klinsmann made five changes to his starting lineup and they paid immediate dividends. Graham Zusi, making his first appearance in a World Cup qualifier, was one of the U.S.' better players. In the 6th minute, his shot out of nowhere nearly went in but it hit the crossbar-something which became all too familiar.
Gomez also had a fine match, he almost was sent in on a breakaway when he chested down a long pass from Steve Cherundolo but he was knocked off the ball. Later, his free kick into the box was right where you want it but Jermaine Jones completely whiffed on a header that wasn't that difficult.
After Jones drew a yellow card on Lovel Palmer in the 17th minute for a wild tackle, Gomez's free kick was punched out by Dwayne Miller. By that point, the U.S. was buzzing as Cherundolo's rare shot was deflected off the post. Then Carlos Bocanegra headed a corner back to Zusi but his volley was high. For the third time in the opening 30 minutes, the U.S. hit the woodwork as Danny Williams' long-range shot beat Miller to the side but rattled off the post.
Gomez and the U.S. were rewarded for their stellar start in the 54th minute when he scored his fifth career international goal, second in World Cup qualifying. He hit the curling shot well but in reality, Miller made much better saves in the first half and I'm sure he'd like to have that one back since his hands were in position while he dove to the side. Regardless, the U.S. deserved that strike which isn't something I would often exclaim.
It would have been great to see the U.S. pop an insurance goal and put this out of reach but that's generally not how they operate. Klinsmann rolled the dice by taking out Zusi, Jose Torres and Gomez for Maurice Edu, Brek Shea and Jozy Altidore respectively. Not exactly your dream trio in terms of salting away a win. Oh well, it worked this time.
There were a couple nervy moments for Tim Howard as Jamaica finally looked to go forward in the second half but they either couldn't connect on crosses or shots went over the goal. This was an ugly win but on the road to a World Cup, you're bound to have matches like tonight when you have to slog through unforeseen circumstances (hitting the post three times). Credit to the U.S. for staying composed and knowing that their time would come. Let's hope Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan are healthy in October because they could sure use their talents in the midfield and attacking third.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Once again, I guess I should consider it a blessing in disguise that I wasn't able to watch a U.S. men's national team World Cup qualifier live (hello Guatemala earlier this summer) because if I had, I might have smashed my television or the remote.
The U.S. lost 2-1 in Jamaica last night at Independence Park aka The Office (the U.S. is 0-1-4 there), marking the first time in 19 meetings (1-10-8) that the Americans had fallen to the Jamaicans. Jamaica is now in first place in Group A with seven points, the U.S. and Guatemala are tied with four points and the same goal-differential after Guatemala rallied for a 3-1 win at Antigua and Barbuda last night.
The weird part is that Clint Dempsey scored 35 seconds in (fastest goal in U.S. World Cup qualifying history) but after that the U.S. couldn't mount any sort of attack. No doubt missing midfielders Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan (both out with injuries) hurt them severely.
Maurice Edu played a through ball to Herculez Gomez, his shot was saved but Dempsey (making his first appearance in 3 months) was there for the rebound. It was his 28th international goal and he has scored in all three World Cup qualifiers in 2012.
Jamaica scored both of its goals off of dangerous free kicks from the top of the box. In the 23rd minute, after a foul by Kyle Beckerman, Rodolph Austin hit a shot that deflected off Beckerman's legs (he was in the wall) and past Tim Howard.
In the 62nd minute, after a foul by Edu, Jamaica's all-time leading scorer Luton Shelton extended his record with his 34th international goal. Howard had no chance as it curled low and inside the near post.
These teams meet again on Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio. Thankfully, that will be broadcast live in the States (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET) so we can all watch it and don't have to rely on Twitter or sketchy gametrackers online. Needless to say, at worst the United States has to get a draw. A win would put them back in the right direction while a loss would further compound last night's disaster.
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Fresh off their historic 1-0 win in Mexico on August 15 (albeit in a friendly), the U.S. men's national team gets back to business in terms of 2014 World Cup qualifying as they travel to Kingston, Jamaica on Friday night (8 p.m., not on TV here) to play Jamaica. Then the Reggae Boyz come to Columbus, Ohio for a rematch on September 11 (8 p.m., ESPN 2, ESPN3.com).
Today, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann selected 24 players to train for the vital pair of Group A matches. Keep in mind that midfielders Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan are both unavailable because of injuries. Interestingly enough, the U.S. has never won a World Cup qualifier in Jamaica, they have only settled for four ties.
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (4): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Maurice Edu (Stoke City), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur), Herculez Gomez (Santos)
18 American players were part of the 3-1 win vs. Antigua and Barbuda on June 8 and the 1-1 tie vs. Guatemala on June 12. 20 of the Americans currently compete on a European club with five in the English Premier League. In total, they play in nine countries.
2012 has been very good to the U.S. men, they are 6-1-2 with five shutouts. Their signature moments have been their first-ever win (1-0) in Italy (February 29) and their inaugural victory in Mexico that I already referred to. Beating Jamaica on their home soil isn't at that level but it would still be a nice addition to this impressive resume. Jamaica is tied atop Group A with four points after two matches but the U.S. leads with a better goal differential.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Perhaps you've heard that U.S. women's national team head coach Pia Sundhage is stepping down. I have heard some additional information that she'll be at the helm for two more games, Sunday, September 16 vs. Australia at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA and Wednesday, September 19 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO.
The farewell tour got off to the perfect start for Sundhage (who is reportedly in the works to be Sweden's head coach) as her team pinned an 8-0 loss on Costa Rica this afternoon at Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester, NY. It was the team's first match since winning the gold medal vs. Japan at the London Olympics.
Hometown hero Abby Wambach gave the people what they wanted as she scored twice, Megan Rapinoe had two goals while Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Carli Lloyd and Heather O'Reilly bagged single tallies.
The U.S. was never challenged as they led 5-0 at halftime. Rapinoe opened the barrage with a goal off a free kick in the 13th minute, her shot just grazed the crossbar and went in.
Not surprisingly, Wambach had not one but two headers for goals (putting her at 145 international strikes). Rachel Buehler crossed to her in the 24th minute then Rapinoe's corner kick eight minutes later found what has to be the greatest aerial player in women's soccer history.
Alex Morgan got in on the action in the 38th minute after a touch from Wambach, Morgan's left-footed shot left the Costa Rican goalkeeper with no chance to stop the high riser.
Rapinoe's second goal-in the 45th minute-was a complete gift as her shot from the edge of the area trickled in off the goalkeeper's hands.
Supersub Leroux kickstarted the late scoring as she ran onto a pass from Morgan, overpowered her defender and finished in the far corner in the 77th minute.
Lloyd kept up her hot streak as she scored on a bending free kick in the 84th minute and O'Reilly tapped in Leroux's cross in garbage time (89th minute).
Some interesting notes courtesy of ussoccer.com
In the 54th minute, goalkeeper Jill Loyden replaced starting goalkeeper Hope Solo, ending Solo’s consecutive minutes played streak at 1,163. That is a U.S. WNT goalkeeping record as Solo surpassed Briana Scurry’s previous mark of 990 minutes during the 2012 London Olympics.
The U.S. improved to 94-2-5 when Abby Wambach scores a goal.
The USA improved to 10-0-0 this year when Wambach and Alex Morgan both contribute at least one goal in the same match.
U.S. defender and team captain Christie Rampone played in her 267th career international match on Saturday. She now sits five behind third-place Julie Foudy (272) on the all-time list.
Pia Sundhage improved her USA coaching record to 89-6-10.
The next match against Australia will also be broadcast live on NBC like today's game. I gotta say that the new go-to announcer combination of ex-U.S. men's player Kyle Martino and Arlo White is great. Thank God they left Brandi Chastain and her needless yelling back in the UK or somewhere else far away from a microphone.
What had been rumored for a long time, came to fruition this morning as U.S. women's national team head coach Pia Sundhage has stepped down and she is returning to her native Sweden.
Before the London Olympics, I had read multiple reports saying that she was done after that tournament so what better way (other than a World Cup title of course) to go out on top with the U.S.?
“After the Olympics we had discussions and early in the process it became clear that Pia was very interested in returning home to Sweden,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. “It certainly wasn’t an easy decision for U.S. Soccer or Pia. She deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the amazing success the U.S. Women’s National Team had during the past five years. On behalf of U.S. Soccer, we sincerely appreciate Pia’s hard work, dedication and commitment to the organization. We wish her all the best in the future.”
Gulati and U.S. Soccer CEO/Secretary General Dan Flynn will begin the search process for a new coach immediately, but there is no set timetable for when a decision will be determined.
“It was an honor to be able to coach these players for five years and I learned a tremendous amount from them,” said Sundhage. “I want to thank all the players and all of my assistant coaches for making me better. Before I took this job, I always admired the spirit and character of the U.S. team, but to experience that first-hand on the training field and from the bench as their coach was truly special and something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Although it is time to move on, I’d like to thank U.S. Soccer for this wonderful opportunity and I wish this team and the players all the best in the future.”
I don't want this to come out the wrong way but I've said for a while that Sundhage is a goof and the U.S. women would be better served with an American (don't ask me exactly who) in charge. My whole non-jingoistic thinking is that the U.S. men are middle of the road so they need a foreigner to show them what to do better. Conversely, the U.S. women are the best so why look elsewhere? There was an obvious language barrier with Pia and even though it was clear that the players enjoyed playing for her, who knows how much work she actually did in training and on gamedays? I'm going to assume that her assistants did more than most outside U.S. soccer actually know.
Give Sundhage her proper respect: in her nearly five years (she started in November 2007) on the job, her squad compiled an insane 88-6-10 record. She won 11 total tournament titles including three Algrave Cup titles, two Olympic qualifying tournaments and two Olympic gold medals. The big asterisk on her resume is the lack of a World Cup title. The U.S. famously lost to Japan in penalty kicks in the 2011 Women's World Cup final.
It'll be fascinating to see which way U.S. soccer goes this time: looking within the United States or once again, heading to Europe.