Author Archives: Jenna Pel

Houston Dash Drop Points But Gain Confidence In Debut

(Photo by Wilf Thorne)

(Photo by Wilf Thorne)

The Houston Dash made a point Saturday night, though not one reflected in the league standings. Houston Mayor Annise Parker and NWSL Commissioner Cheryl Bailey were on hand to add an air of significance to the event and offer well-wishes in advance of the side’s maiden voyage. Aside from Allie Long’s opportunistic first half goal, one would be excused for failing to pick out the reigning champions from the expansion outfit.

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Time Capsuling the USWNT/Republic of Ireland All-Time Series

The United States will meet the Republic of Ireland twice in the next four days as the 2012 Fan Tribute Tour winds down. Rather than a typical preview of the current teams, let’s stroll down memory lane.

Below is a retrospective of the previous eight meetings between the two sides. This feature promises plenty of 5-0 wins, Abby Wambach goals, feats by former greats, and Kate Markgraf’s first and final international goal.

 

September 4, 1999 – 5-0 – Foxborough, MA

The game in which… the U.S. cruised to a 5-0 victory in its first homecoming match since being crowned world champions

Setting the stage: The freshly-minted world champions (and sporting superstars) returned to action before a rapturous crowd totaling 30,564. Head coach Tony DiCicco admitted his team was still a bit weary from the World Cup but commended the side for its professional performance. DiCicco reassembled his World Cup squad but a couple key actors were missing including Michelle Akers and Briana Scurry. Tiffeny Milbrett owned the moment scoring two goals and providing one assist.

Stat of note: This match remains the third highest-attended USWNT friendly since 1999. It also marked Tony DiCicco’s 99th win as head coach.

Stock ‘Brave Ireland’ line from match report: Ireland put up an admirable fight against a U.S. roster stocked with a staggering 1,599 international games worth of experience as compared to a combined 104 total for the Irish.

Current USWNT players used: None

Attendance: 30,564

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Press Release: New U.S. Women’s Soccer League Forms

All the details below, as per a press release sent out by the Boston Breakers timestamped at 12:26 AM ET.

 

CHICAGO, IL (Aug. 9, 2012) – With the conclusion of both the WPSL Elite League and W-League semi-pro women’s playoffs and the ongoing thrilling performance of the U.S. Women’s National Team at the Olympic Games, five of the top women’s soccer teams in the country are announcing the formation of a new professional women’s soccer league that will start play in the spring of 2013.
Among the teams are the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, a newly formed team in Seattle, and New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC, three out of four of which were members of the prior Women’s Professional Soccer league. Additionally, four other teams are finalizing their participation in the league including another team that will be located on the West Coast.

“All these teams are committed to playing with and against each other starting in 2013 and to working out the final details to allow a sustainable professional league for women’s soccer in the U.S.,” said Michael Stoller, Managing Partner of the Boston Breakers.  “We want to emphasize this is not a competitor to any of the existing leagues, but rather this is a significant step up in the competitive level and professional standards and we expect to establish a natural relationship to allow teams to enter this new league and perhaps to fall back (self-relegate) to their prior league if they need a break from the higher spending and competitive requirements.”

Much work has already been done to structure the minimum standards, season length, player requirements and conferences.  It is expected that several more teams will join the league in the coming month or two as discussions continue with several other ownership groups.

This league is being created by ownership groups within the existing leagues on the basis of understanding the successes and failures of the first two attempts at a professional league in America. A main goal for the league is to provide the best U.S. players with the ability to develop and train at a high level on a consistent basis. The team owners are driving this effort and are working to make sure the league will help prepare those players for international competition with the U.S. WNT.

The founders of the new league have been working with United Soccer Leagues (USL) and Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) to attempt to solidify the relationship and roles of the existing women’s leagues with the new league and participation for all teams that elect to meet the minimum standards. This is an acknowledgement on the long-term success and sustainability of semi-pro women’s soccer leagues in this country.

WPSL has participated in the planning for the new league, “We have supported women’s soccer for decades and are very proud of our creation of the WPSL Elite League this year and the role we have been able to play in bringing this new league together for 2013.  We are committed to easy movement for teams between WPSL and this new league and we will also provide a place for reserve teams to play,” said Jerry Zanelli, founder and President of WPSL.  “Many details remain to be worked out but we will support the new league in its growth and are happy to see an unambiguous future for women’s professional soccer in the United States.

“We are excited to bring the highest level of women’s soccer to Seattle,” said Bill Predmore, President of Seattle-based digital marketing agency, POP, and the leader of the ownership group for the new Seattle club. “Seattle has a long history of enthusiastic support for professional soccer, which we hope will provide us with a strong base of fans for the new women’s club.”

According to Arnim Whisler, owner of the Chicago Red Stars, “This is an inclusive not an exclusive effort.  If teams want to join and can meet the minimum standards then we welcome them.  This league is for the players that want to play and be on the WNT radar, the fans that continue to support us despite our false starts in the past, and the teams that are committed to elite women’s soccer.  We have been very happy with the WPSL Elite season that we just completed and cannot thank Jerry enough for his providing so many teams the place to play this year on such short notice and we see this as a natural extension of that model to a more permanent league and infrastructure.”

In the near future, there will be more detailed discussions with U.S. Soccer on the proper sanctioning process.

 

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? More to come after everything settles in.

Being Hope Solo: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Some people think I’m bonkers/

But I think I’m just free/

Man, I’m livin’ my life/

Nothing’ crazy about me

 

Who would have thought Dizzee Rascal would have the inside line on the Hope Solo/Brandi Chastain flap? That verse was featured in a performance that provided one of the many jolts in Danny Boyle’s electrifying Opening Ceremony last Friday.

Another stirring moment – one that, again, occurred off the field of play – would soon follow.

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AWK’s Weekly Recap, May 28 – June 3

This is a snappy recap of the week gone by in women’s soccer. There will be lots and lots of gerunds. Here’s the first edition. Oh, and hello again. It’s been too long.

 

Lori Chalupny and the Chicago Red Stars top the WPSL Elite Division after Sunday's win against the Boston Breakers.

Streaking. Two undefeated, former WPS clubs took the field on Sunday in WPSL Elite Division action. Only one would leave with their perfect record still intact. In the six times the Boston Breakers and Chicago Red Stars met in the former top-flight, each claimed a ‘W’ on three occasions. The resurrected Red Stars tipped the scales in their favor on Sunday. They retained their 100% record and handed the Breakers their first loss of the season. Michelle Weissenhofer’s goal 10 minutes before halftime was the lone goal of the match. Having broken Boston, the Red Stars are now the team to beat in the league.

 

Drawing attendees. The most star-studded team in the women’s soccer galaxy made their home debut in W-League play Thursday night. Lots of people either turned up or tuned in to watch the Seattle Sounders Women defeat the Colorado Rush 2-1. Over 4,500 people packed Starfire Sports Complex while upwards of 2,000 watched online. Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, and Megan Rapinoe all saw game time, but it was Megan Manthey and Veronica Perez who notched Seattle’s pair of goals. The Sounders returned to action the very next day and scored a 1-0 victory over the Victoria Highlanders courtesy of a Keelin Winters goal. The Sounders are now tied in second place alongside the Colorado Rush in the Western Conference standings.

 

Drawing games. The WNY Flash faced off against the New York Fury on Sunday night. The Fury share more than a few similarities with the Philadelphia Independence, so we can pretend it was a re-match between old pals. The match, much like the last time the Flash and Independence met in the 2011 WPS Championship, ended 0-0 after regular time. A hyper-dramatic penalty kick shoot-out wasn’t in the cards this time, though. Paul Riley’s Fury improve to ten points on the season while Aaran Lines’ Flash progress to a 1-2-1 record.

 

Drawing groups. More on this later, but the draw for the 2012 U-20 Women’s World Cup was held in Japan early this morning. Here’s what we have:

Group A: Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, New Zealand
Group B: Brazil, Korea Republic, Italy, Nigeria
Group C: Korea DPR, Canada, Norway, Argentina
Group D: USA, China PR, Germany, Ghana

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Cool finishes and hot starts: Winners from the weekend

Gotta love the giant killers: Sarah Hagen inspired Bayern Munich past Frankfurt en route to a historic DFB-Pokal Cup win

Bayern Munich managed to revel in DFB-Pokal glory this weekend, but the victors weren’t the usual suspects. While the club’s men’s side got humbled by Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final, its women’s team pulled off a mighty upset against FFC Frankfurt (highlights). The Bavarians remained resolute and compact against the holders. Frankfurt’s form has been infamously bipolar this season, and the club’s Mr. Hyde persona made an appearance on Saturday. The team seemed to revert to its former self and lacked much bite. Frankfurt’s lifeless performance is particularly worrying for its prospects in the Champions League final.

In contrast, Bayern Munich’s attack closed out the match with vim and vigor. Sarah Hagen’s free header gave the underdogs the surprise lead. Ivana Rudelic’s follow-up goal cemented Bayern’s shocking, and indeed historic, win. This marks the first time a team other than Frankfurt, Turbine Potsdam, or Duisburg has won the DFB-Pokal since 1997 – before the Frauen-Bundesliga era. Referring to Bayern Munich as ‘giant killers’ sounds ridiculous, but it holds true for the women’s side. This is Bayern Munich’s first major trophy; a fact not lost on the team, as evidenced in its post-match celebration. With the men’s team’s Champions League date with Chelsea to come, the 2011-2012 season could serve up a storybook ending for FC Hollywood.

 

It was mission accomplished for Albertin Montoya and his U.S. U-17’s. The team eked out a 1-0 win over Canada to win the 2012 CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Guatemala. The U.S. also exacted some revenge on its regional rivals, avenging the loss that eliminated them from World Cup qualification two years ago. Amber Munerlyn’s 21st minute goal made the difference. She became the tenth different U.S. player to find the back of the net in the tournament. Summer Green lit up the competition with an unstoppable goal-scoring streak. Her record-breaking 12 goals managed to get some pub in her local paper. Meanwhile, Mexico hammered Panama 6-0 to clinch the final World Cup berth.

 

Kyah Simon produced a memorable performance on Mother’s Day as she led the Boston Breakers past DC United in cross-league play. Boston ran out 1-0 winners on the day. Simon spearheaded Boston’s attack with seven shots, five of which were on goal. The Breakers combined for 15 shots in all but DC United goalkeeper Didi Haracic weathered the storm. Haracic was subbed late and came off to a standing ovation. The Breakers have collected two wins from two games and will meet FC Indiana at home on Friday, May 18. For more on this match, check out Kevin’s firsthand report below.

 

A first half rampage propelled the New York Fury to a comprehensive 5-1 victory over the New England Mutiny. The stage was set for a memorable home opener, but the visitors stole the show. Former Texas A&M Aggie Merrit Mattias helped herself to a hat-trick that put the Fury up 4-0 before the halftime whistle. Jasmyne Spencer netted the second goal of the night. Mutiny coach Tony Horta tried to turn the tide in the second half. “I thought we got a little flat after the first goal, we got a little confused,” he said. “But I thought the second half with the information we gave them, they took it well. We made some adjustments and the game was even.” The Mutiny has a chance to right the ship next Saturday when they host the ASA Chesapeake Charge. Next weekend will see a reunion of sorts for the Fury as they meet the WNY Flash; foes in a different form.

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2011-12 UEFA Women’s Champions League Semi-final Pt. 1: Changing of the Guard

Olympique Lyonnais probably didn’t need any help from Mother Nature in its bid to reach a third straight UEFA Women’s Champions League final. Still, it didn’t hurt. Lyon on Sunday collected a comprehensive 5-1 win over Turbine Potsdam at the famed Stade de Gerland. Lyon’s tournament rivals were simply swept away in the ensuing deluge.

Patrice Lair’s scintillating side handed Turbine Potsdam its heaviest defeat in tournament history. Lyon were utterly unstoppable on the night. The German powerhouses stumbled through a hellish opening 21 minutes and never recovered. Amandine Henry’s stunning sixth minute strike (.GIF) sailed past Alyssa Naeher and set the tone for the rest of the match. A picture-perfect Camille Abily free-kick and trademark Lotta Schelin strike followed soon after.

The rain-soaked pitch contributed to Turbine Potsdam’s concession of the battle in midfield. The sudden three-goal deficit saw them lose the battle of the mind.

The team’s disjointed attack only mustered three measly shots on goals. Lyon, meanwhile, produced 15. True to the hosts’ cool, calculating style, every third attempt resulted in a goal.

Possession was slightly more equitable in the second half, but Lyon refused to let up. Lara Dickenmann’s weaving run culminated in Lyon’s fourth goal of the night. They capped off the win in the 61st minute as Abily connected with Schelin for her second.

It was as if the driving rain played directly into Lyon’s hands. It did nothing to disrupt their oft-breathtaking style of play. The wet conditions even appeared to up the tempo of Lyon’s attacks. Each Lyon player seemingly had a telepathic understanding of teammates’ movements and whereabouts.  Turbine Potsdam were ultimately powerless to stop Lyon’s silk-smooth passing and, ahem, fluid movement.

Bianca Schmidt’s late header may have given Turbine Potsdam a tenuous life-line. The side hasn’t lost a Champions League match at home since 2006. They must now overcome the daunting first leg scoreline and the psychological bruising. Both could be insurmountable.

Lyon have markedly strengthened since losing the 2010 UEFA Women’s Champions League final to the Germans in penalty kicks. The tournament may only crown the best club team in Europe, but if Lyon perform like this in the final in Munich, a grander title is deserved. This is women’s football in its most highly evolved state.

 

Olympique Lyonnais may have just dashed hopes of an all-German final, but Frankfurt can at least still claim legitimate eligibility. The competition’s only three-time winners pulled out a 2-1 away victory against Arsenal. It was dramatic in a very familiar sense.

Frankfurt advanced to the semi-finals on the back of an immensely suspenseful quarter-final second leg match against Malmo. They overturned a 1-0 aggregate deficit thanks to Silvana Chojnowski, who struck the vital equalizer in her debut appearance for the side. A Kerstin Garefrekes brace put the tie on ice.

The recently retired German international came through in emphatic fashion once more.

Ane-Marie Crnogorcevic broke the extended deadlock after 64 minutes. Arsenal offered a speedy retort just five minutes later as defender Ciara Grant bested goalkeeper Desiree Schumann. A 1-1 draw seemed inevitable until Garefrekes powered Frankfurt to victory with mere seconds to spare.

The last-minute triumph was the latest peak in a thoroughly topsy-turvy season for Frankfurt and manager Sven Kahlert. The side – along with its attack – has frequently misfired this year. Frustration has stemmed from injuries to key figures, discontented players, maddeningly inconsistent form, and occasionally incomprehensible tactics.

Five straight wins suggests Kalhert’s team has finally turned the corner, however. It comes at the timeliest juncture of the season. Frankfurt currently lie fourth in the Frauen-Bundesliga, but are just three points adrift of a Champions League spot. A date in the DFB-Pokal Cup final has also lifted spirits.

A victory over Arsenal in the return leg will likely qualify the season as a success. And if history counts for anything (re-branding aside), this is the competition the club knows best.

Split Decision In Sendai: Japan 1, USWNT 1

*Spoiler alert for those deterred by the 6:30 A.M. ET kick-off time*

 

The USWNT earned a 1-1 draw against Japan in the first match of the inaugural Kirin Challenge Cup.  It was the latest episode in the burgeoning rivalry between the sides. Japan reigned victorious in the sides’ two most recent meetings.

Unlike the World Cup final and the Algarve Cup semifinal, Japan did not easily cede possession to the U.S. The hosts took the initiative from the get-go. They controlled the tempo of the match by bossing the center of midfield, this despite the absence of Homare Sawa. As a result, outside midfielders Lauren Cheney and Heather O’Reilly were largely marginalized figures. Central players Carli Lloyd, Abby Wambach, and Shannon Boxx struggled to maintain possession, thus starving lone striker Alex Morgan of much service.

The U.S. defense came under pressure early. The back four did well to read and deal with incoming passes. Clearances were another issue, though. A failed clearance resulted in Japan’s first goal. Yukari Kinga exploited the mass confusion in the box and tucked away the first goal of the match.

Per usual, the U.S. looked slightly sharper in the second half. Also per usual, Alex Morgan (because who else, really?) came through with the game-tying goal in the 73rd minute. The goal was initially called back for offside but was eventually validated after the match official counseled with the assistant referee.

The U.S. has traditionally dominated the series against Japan and went into the World Cup final with a record of 22 wins and three draws. The USWNT has failed to beat the Nadeshiko since. The hoodoo has seemingly been reversed.

 

More notes:

–  Kelley O’Hara is steadily improving. At first it was hard to make sense of her switch from outside attacker to left-back. O’Hara looked more comfortable in her position today, showcasing the characteristics that help define her: tenacity and speed. She’s in for a bit more refinement, but has been making steady progress.

 

– Alex Morgan’s numbers are staggering. She’s now scored 12 goals in 2012 alone, two more than she did in 2011 and 2010 combined. She’s also scored 10 of the U.S.’s last 18 goals. Not quite Celia da Mbabi Okoyino numbers (who has scored 10 goals in her last three appearances for Germany), but still quite impressive.  Today’s goal brings her up to 19th on the all-time USWNT list, tying her with Shannon Boxx on 22 total.

 

–  Speaking of Boxx, at half-time ESPN broadcast a piece about the midfielders’ struggles with lupus. Much respect to Boxx for sharing her story and refusing to let the energy-sapping condition slow her down.

 

–  The atmosphere looked fantastic on television with the constant drumming and chanting. Fans apparently showed up in costume hours before kick-off. It was a rather chilly night in Sendai (the official match report has it at 46 degrees), but that didn’t prevent the 15,159 frenzied spectators from making their presence known.

 

–  So this was the first match of the first edition of a women’s soccer tournament in Japan and it occurred at a rather unsociable hour for American viewers. None of that seemed to matter to ESPN, who pulled out all the stops with Julie Foudy and Adrian Healey on the call and Tony DiCicco in studio, who managed to sneak in a blurb about WPS’s demise whilst on the topic of Shannon Boxx.

Twitter was also abuzz with devoted USWNT fans who obviously paid no mind to the pre-dawn hour. It was probably the same during the 2007 Women’s World Cup, but it’s hard to imagine it was as much fun in a Twitter-less world.

 

Let’s do it all again on Tuesday when the U.S. take on Brazil. More exclusive coverage of this game to come.

Japan Welcomes the USWNT and Canada/Brazil Coverage

The USWNT is prepping for its turn in the first edition of the Women’s Kirin Challenge Cup. The team appears to be getting all-star treatment. Hope Solo and Abby Wambach appeared on a Japanese talk show (video) and later spent time with a robotic robot.

Our man in Japan Hal Edmonson will be providing exclusive insight into the tournament. He’ll be present at the U.S.’s two matches against Japan and Brazil.

Undeterred by a pesky language barrier, Hal has generously sent along some interesting bits of news. Homare Sawa is officially out of Japan’s squad through vertigo. The reigning Ballon d’Or winner is suffering from “acute positional vertigo”, which sounds rather unpleasant.

Here is Japan’s official squad: (The U.S.’s squad was unveiled a few days ago; it features the same 23 players from the Algarve Cup).

Perhaps most interestingly, Hal also shed light on a possible link between L-League club INAC Kobe and Abby Wambach. Wambach appeared at an INAC Kobe training session to wish Sawa well (brief video here). The team’s chairman told a reporter that he was interested in attempting to acquire Wambach after the Olympics.

Per this article:

“SportsNavi has learned that INAC Kobe is targeting USWNT star forward Abby Wambach following the 2012 Olympics. Wambach dropped in on the INAC Kobe training camp in Kagoshima on Wednesday to pay respects to Nadeshiko midfielder Homare Sawa, who is still suffering from acute positional vertigo.”

During her visit to the Kagoshima camp, Wambach briefly joined the practice, trading passes and joking with Nadeshiko Japan players Shinobu Ono and Yukari Kinga as the team’s chairman, Honson Mun, looked on eagerly. “We’ll have to have a discussion with her after the Olympics. Two years ago, it would have been difficult, but now with the American pro league gone, the landscape is perfect for a transfer,” Mun said. “If things go well, she could be a centerpiece of INAC in the second half of the campaign. I think she could fit in well here with our players.”

According to other press reports, Wambach didn’t exactly play down the speculation saying, “If WPS re-launches, I’ll sign there, but if that doesn’t happen, it’s possible that Sawa and I could be teammates.”

Wambach and Sawa were Washington Freedom (WPS) teammates from 2009 to 2010.

Fanciful rumor? Overblown speculation? Either way, a Wambach and Sawa reunion would be pretty awesome.

 

Also, as you likely know, Canada will meet Brazil in a friendly today in the Boston area (which seems to be the epicenter of women’s soccer in the U.S.). The match will precede the New England Revolution/Portland Timbers match.

Our man Ray Curren is on the beat, so check back later for post-match coverage.