Author Archives: Jenna Pel

Forecasting the USWNT CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying Squad

Coach Pia Sundhage should announce her 20-player roster for 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying anytime now. Players have this week off and will head down to Cancun next week. Unlike 2006 where in which Canada, Mexico and the U.S. bypassed the preliminary rounds and entered straight into the semis, the tournament will have a proper group stage. Also unlike 2006, the tournament will apparently not be called “the Gold Cup”. The USWNT will meet Haiti on October 28, Guatemala on October 30 and Costa Rica on November 1. 

Here’s a prospective roster with (age/caps/goals):

 

Goalkeepers (2):

Barnhart  (29/24), Loyden (25/1)

 

Defenders (7):

LePeilbet (28/37/0), Buehler (25/42/0), Rampone (35/219/4), Mitts (32/109/2), Cox (24/63/0),Krieger (26/6/0), Sauerbrunn* (25/0/0)

 

Midfielders (7):

Lilly (39/349/130), Boxx (33/129/21), O’Reilly (25/127/27), Rapinoe (25/17/6), Averbuch (23/10/0), Lindsey (30/11/0), Lloyd (28/93/20) 

 

Forwards (4):

Wambach (30/142/109), Cheney (23/27/9), Rodriguez (23/49/8), Morgan (21/3/1)

 

Average age of squad: 27 years old

Average amount of caps per player: 70

7 players from the 2006 CONCACAF Gold Cup (Cox, Rampone, Mitts, Lloyd, Wambach, Lilly, O’Reilly)

 

More tidbits after the jump.

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A Few Notes For Your Sunday Evening

  • New Zealand will be appearing in the country’s third Women’s World Cup after ploughing through the OFC Women’s Nation’s Cup. Oceanic WWC qualifying resembles the early stages of the college football schedule in which the big teams absolutely devastate Division III schools with names like Coastal Southwest Vocational College with scores of 63-0.  Considering the 14-0, 10-0, 7-0, 8-0 and 11-0 score lines, perhaps the Ferns actually were playing American football. If that’s the case, Ali Riley was definitely employed as a safety. Wouldn’t it be fun to imagine what it would be like if New Zealand ditched the OFC and followed Australia into the AFC?

 

  • According to this website, Playa del Carmen will no longer be a host site in CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying. Cancun will instead stage all the matches.

 

  • The final UEFA WWC qualifying playoff matches (the one before the final UEFA/CONCACAF WWC qualifying playoff matches) between Switzerland and Italy will be played October 22 or 23 in Italy and on October 27 or 28 in Switzerland. (Thanks Charles)

 

 

  • There were some shock results in the Frauenbundesliga this week and by shocking I mean woeful, not surprising. Wannabes Wolfsburg showed their top-half-of-the-table credentials as they beat a Duisburg side that has been ravaged by injuries. Both USV Jena and Essen-Schönebeck got shut out by a combined score of 15-0. Jena drops back into the relegation zone, much like that team on Merseyside. Why do I bother supporting football clubs?

 

  • Elsewhere, Herford managed to score a goal but only after Bayer Leverkusen scored five. And Jessica Landström collected her first goal for Frankfurt in the team’s 8-0 demolition job of Essen-Schönebeck.

 

  • Thank goodness women don’t play soccer like this anymore. It would make our job that much harder.

 

  • A new USWNT tab has been added above. Don’t know why I didn’t think of that sooner.

 

  • Midterms will keep me away for most of the week but keep checking in for more of Chris’ incomparable NCAA coverage, a mention or two of the UEFA Women’s Champions League Round of 32, continued discussion of the USWNT, a few interviews and an appearance from Shek Borkowski.

What's Your Ideal USWNT Formation?

This comes off the heels of yesterday’s revealing discussion about the tactical disaster that was the USWNT/China draw on Wednesday night. A few commentors put forth their own preferred formations and/or suggested calling up names that have seemingly been black-listed from the USWNT.

This merely sratches at the surface of the myriad of emerging problems that riddle this USWNT set-up. The dearth of fullbacks, the institutional distrust of young players, the stubborn selection of pet players regardless of their fitness or form, the clear lack of technical ability, the “we can’t pass or control the ball so let’s just hoof it up to Wambach and hope for the best” mentality and the lack of a true holding midfielder are all factors in this. That’s a conversation for another day, however.

Select any player you’d like, even if they’re (allegedly) unfit or out of favor (calling Lori Chalupny and Leslie Osborne). Also pick your seven reserves with preferably one goalkeeper. Order your substitutes by whom you feel would have the most immediate effect.  

If you posted your formation in the previous post, feel free to transcribe it here. Also, if you’re completely and utterly confused by these nebulous number arrangements called ‘tactics’ I highly recommend reading EPL Talk’s Beginner’s Guide to Tactics.  Pretty soon you’ll be able to tell when a left-back gets slotted in to midfield, thus creating a three-man defense and a condensed five-man midfield.

 

Here’s Chris Henderson’s variation of a 4-3-3:

                                   Solo

     Chalupny—Buehler—LePeilbet—Krieger

                     Osborne—Averbuch

                                Boxx

         O’Hara—-Wambach—–Morgan

 

And here’s my suggestion:

                               Solo

     Chalupny—Buehler—LePeilet—Krieger

                              Osborne

                O’Reilly—Boxx—O’Hara

                             Wambach

                             Rodriguez

 

Subs: Morgan, Lilly, Averbuch, Lindsey, Cheney, Barnhart

 

The formation would resemble more of a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-1-3-2, depending on Abby Wambach’s positioning. She would have a “free” role and could either play in passes from midfield alongside Shannon Boxx, widen out play on the flanks or link up with A-Rod up top. Wambach’s vision is second to none and she would play as the reserved striker/playmaker, which she kind of already does. It was very tempting to select a 4-2-3-1 with Osborne and Averbuch as your DM’s but the system would lose a wide player (either O’Hara or O’Reilly) and the USWNT doesn’t want that to happen, as is illustrated below.

 

*Note on 4-4-2: Batfink made the point that 4-4-2 is still a perfectly acceptable system today (ask Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur) but that the USWNT simply doesn’t have the personnel to make it work. 4-4-2 depends on its wide players – fullbacks have to make deep runs and wingers have to cut in from the outside. The USWNT made it work twice this year: first in the Germany friendly in which HAO and Lilly completely bossed the flanks and in the first China game in which HAO (again) and Megan Rapinoe had excellent performances. How’s this for proof? Both wingers scored in those two games. When the outside midfielders are off their game, however, the system loses its threat. That’s what happened in Wednesday’s China game. Rapinoe was anonymous and it sabotaged the entire system. Attacking impetus was put on to the central midfielders. Considering how many square passes were played across midfield by either Shannon Boxx or Carli Lloyd on Wednesday, it’s safe to say that the USWNT isn’t going to win games on the back of its spectacular central mid’s. 

Germany’s Women’s National Team plays a variation of a 4-4-2 in which its wingers spend more time in the front line than in midfield. They create endless waves of attacking sequences as players like Kerstin Garefrekes and Fatmire Bajrmaj (who is probably the most skillful player in the women’s game today) cut in to pair up with clinical finishers like Inka Grings and Martine Muller (who may or may not be a factor next year). Germany’s fullbacks are also threats but understand when to stay home and defend.

The other variability that a 4-4-2 must have is overlapping runs from outside backs. This is what killed England in the 2010 World Cup. England right-back Glenn Johnson was ineffective going forward and England lost much of its edge. And as for England’s wingers? Seven words: Steven Gerrard is not a natural winger.

The USWNT simply aren’t producing enough (or any) quality fullbacks. We’re kind of making the best with what we’ve got. If neither the outside midfielders nor the outside backs can make runs in to help initiate the attack, the 4-4-2 formation is D.O.A.

A flat four formation across midfield just isn’t going to fly, particularly if your outside midfielders are having ‘off’ games.

 

What do you say?

Notables For October 7, 2010 Delivered To You With Unbridled Passion

  • As Jeff Kassouf revealed last night, former Washington Freedom coach Jim Gabarra has been named head coach and technical director of Sky Blue FC. The team’s previous head coach Rick Stainton will remain with the team as an Assistant Coach.

 

  • So maybe the SBFC head coach position isn’t the Defense of Dark Arts job after all. Gabarra presents a steady pair of hands to a club that’s been known for its volatility, particularly at the head coach position (this marks the team’s sixth head coach since 2009). The hire speaks to Sky Blue FC’s ambitions, as well as the team’s desire to shed its reputation of being a club with an alarmingly high turnover of personnel.

 

  • There doesn’t seem to be full highlights of last night’s USWNT/China game but here’s all that Pia Sundhage wants you to remember:

 

 

  • Italy and Switzerland are set to meet in the final UEFA Women’s World Cup qualifying playoff after each team earned goalless draws in the second leg of the penultimate UEFA Women’s World Cup qualifying playoff (you try to simplify that phrase). Italy bested Ukraine with a 3-0 aggregate while Switzerland eliminated Denmark on a 3-1 aggregate. This is just the second time Denmark will miss out on a Women’s World Cup (the first being in 2003).

 

  • The date of the fixture has not been determined yet. The winner of that game will face the third place team from CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying. Italy have appeared in two World Cup’s (1991 and 1999) while Switzerland are looking to make their Women’s World Cup debut. Members of The Riptide will be rooting for neither team.

 

  • New Zealand is set to beat play Papua New Guinea in OFC Women’s World Cup qualifying soon or now or something (Oceanic time zones are always confusing). Papua New Guinea have managed to concede just one goal in its past four games but that’s a statistic that will likely be forgotten when they come up against the Ferns, who have averaged nearly 10 (!) goals in the past four matches.

 

  • And just for fun – the Solomon Islands meet the Cook Islands in the Third Place match soon or now or something. Here’s hoping there’s a webcast.

 

  • In case you missed it, here’s WPS Best XI as determined by an 11-member media panel made up of media members that have covered WPS for the duration of the season. Shannon Boxx and Leslie Osborne barely missed the cut. Marta was the lone unanimous selection. (And yes, head-hunters have been sent out to track down the single person that did not vote for LePeilbet).

G Nicole Barnhart (FC Gold Pride) — 7 votes

D Amy LePeilbet (Boston) — 10 votes

D Rachel Buehler (FC Gold Pride) — 7 votes

D Ali Riley (FC Gold Pride) — 7 votes

D/M Jordan Angeli (Boston) — 5 votes

M Lori Lindsey (Philadelphia) — 8 votes

M Kelly Smith (Boston) — 7 votes

M/F Marta (FC Gold Pride) — 11 votes

F Amy Rodriguez (Philadelphia) — 10 votes

F Abby Wambach (Washington) — 8 votes

F Christine Sinclair (FC Gold Pride) — 7 votes

 

  • This was mentioned earlier in the week but WPS is considering tinkering with its 2011 schedule. Possible amendments include starting in mid-to-late April, contracting the amount of fixtures that would look more akin to the 2009 schedule, taking a two-week break during the World Cup, scheduling the Championship game in late August and avoiding as many midweek games as possible (which the league tried to do in 2010 but then Saint Louis folded and it got a little complicated). These changes are merely ideas right now but it’s good to know that the powers that be are considering them.

 

  • Sweden has won the right to host the 2013 UEFA Women’s European Championship. The Netherlands finished second in the bidding process. Qualification begins September 2011 and just 12 teams will advance to the tournament which seems startlingly low. Sweden hosted the Euro’s back in 1997 under a joint partnership with Norway.

 

  • Here’s a rather alarming story: You know the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup that was recently held in Trinidad & Tobago? Yeah, nearly never happened. Why, you ask? Because the $81 million that had been set aside to repair the country’s stadiums vanished. The money was supposedly “allocated and misappropriated”. The $81 million probably went the same way of FIFA Vice-President and CONCACAF General Secretary Jack Warner’s credibility. Neither are likely to be found any time soon.

 

  • So that’s why England haven’t scheduled any international friendlies for the rest of the calendar year. The team will be competing in the Peace Cup in South Korea alongside the host nation, New Zealand, Taiwan, Mexico and Australia later this month. The Three Lions will meet South Korea on October 19, New Zealand on October 21 and a TBD opponent on October 23. Anita Asante and Karen Bardsley (yippee!) have been recalled to the squad.

 

  • The full roster is as follows: GK – Brown, Bardsley. D – Asante, Bradley, Johnson, A. Scott, Stoney, Susi, Unitt, White. M – Bassett, Clarke, Houghton, J. Scott, S. Smith, Williams, Yankey. F – Asante, K. Smith, White.

 

  • Speaking of Ellen White, the BBC asks the Arsenal striker a few quick questions in this video.

 

  • Former Red Star and Notre Dame star Michele Weisenhoffer has brought the flip-throw to the Fauenbundesliga and the silly gimmick has Germans absolutely beside themselves. ‘Weissenhofer und der Flip-Throw’ is an awesome headline and here’s the article (and video!) that accompanies it.  

 

  • Here’s an interview with Alexandra Popp. In it she explains how her recent success has “terrified” her, why the 2011 Women’s World Cup could be a “summer fairy tale” and what it’s like being a top-notch footballer preparing for university.

 

  • Don’t be alarmed if you see this video making the YouTube rounds: German referee Bibiana Steinhaus was accidentally swiped by Hertha Berlin defender Peter Niemayer in a recent match and laughed it off in a charmingly incredulous manner. The 31 year-old Police Commissioner (awesome) is the only female referee in German men’s professional football, by the way.

 

  • If you’re a reading this from Mexico and have an interest in Mexico’s Women’s National Team please email me at jennaawk@gmail.com.

 

  • Thanks to everyone who has chimed in about last night’s USWNT/China game in the post below. You are all the reason why All White Kit exists. Providing a place for thoughtful, passionate and insightful discourse about the women’s game was always the aim and it’s a privilege to hear everyone’s thoughts. Who says no one cares about women’s soccer in this country?

 

  • Lastly, because it’s Alex Morgan’s week let’s all remember the moment she burst on to the scene.

*Side note: That match was probably just the third women’s soccer match I had seen since the 1999 Women’s World Cup. The game immediately followed the 2008 College Cup Final between North Carolina and Notre Dame on ESPN2 and for some reason I didn’t change the channel. That goal still ranks as my personal favorite not only because of its sheer quality but also because it’s what got me curious about the women’s game. That mild curiosity has transformed into unbridled passion so thanks Alex.

USWNT 1, China PR 1: Morgan’s Fine Performance Only Papers Over Deepening Cracks

After 80 minutes, you’d be hard pressed to explain why China will be missing out on a Women’s World Cup for the first time in the team’s history. You might also find it difficult to explain why the top-ranked women’s soccer team in the world looked so inept against its erstwhile world rivals.

It was if the malaise from the sparsely-populated PPL Park crowd (a crowd of a measly 2,505 to be exact) had somehow been transmitted to the United States’ Women’s National Team. If it wasn’t for a particularly spritely super-sub performance from the team’s resident collegian, the USWNT could be facing some very serious concerns ahead of CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying.

Tonight’s performance only amplifies the questions that were initially posed after the pair of Sweden friendlies this summer. The unsettled look of the back four, the lack of a defensive buffer in midfield and the dearth of quality link-up play between the central midfield and the forward line were all on display tonight. Rather than being sorted out in the interim, these issues have only been magnified and it took a tactical switch from a 4-4-2 to a more expansive 4-3-3 to iron them out. It’s a worrying sign. How will this squad fare against the likes of improved Canada or Mexico teams in World Cup qualifying?

It’s important to keep tonight’s match in perspective, however. The USWNT did manage to salvage a draw and looked lively after that tactical switch had been made. Most of these players are still recovering from six rigorous months of the WPS season. 20 different players got a run out in these two friendlies so it would be presumptuous to expect consistency. It’s unclear if coach Pia Sundhage has found her preferred 11 yet. International friendlies afford teams the opportunities to mix and match, which is why they don’t really count for much.

Still, it’s difficult to explain away such a poor team performance, particularly considering how the USWNT bossed the first meeting between the teams on Saturday. There’s no excuse for the lack of team cohesion, the wayward passes, the slack defending and the toothless attack that occurred in the first 80 minutes.

The second half substitutions of Alex Morgan and Kristine Lilly changed the complexion of the match. Other than the ever-industrious Heather O’Reilly, both players put in the most productive shifts of the night. Although these two women are on the opposite rungs of the ladder in every possible way, they each share an odd kinship. In many ways, they’re waging the same war. Both players are playing for keeps and they know it. Lilly – evergreen as can be – is fighting to prove that she can still provide a service to her team, despite her age. Morgan – green as can be – is fighting to prove that there’s a place for her too, despite her age.

One player is basking in the dimming rays of the twilight of her career while the other is just stepping into the spotlight.

At the risk of living only in the moment, Alex Morgan has to be credited for her terrific performance. The two shots she managed to get on frame – one being the goal – required a maturity and composure that some older, more seasoned strikers don’t possess. She also made wise, forward-thinking passes that helped prolong attacking sequences. She didn’t hide in the shadows or squander her opportunities with wasteful shots. Morgan is well on her way in proving that the 2008 U-20 Women’s World Cup was no fluke. 

However, her lovely left-footed half-volley in the 83’ wasn’t enough to absolve her team’s disappointing performance. The USWNT started off on the back foot. China showcased its fine passing game and technical quality from the get-go and stretched the USWNT’s weary back four. China’s marauding attackers constantly hugged the flanks, eventually undoing the defensive fastening put forth from fullbacks Rachel Buehler and Heather Mitts. Mitts, in particular, fell off her game as the match wore on. China’s 37’ goal emanated from a defensive mishap from both Mitts and Megan Rapinoe. Zhou Gaoping served up a cross into the terrific feet of forward Ma Jun. Ma controlled the ball with the slightest of touches and ripped the half-volley up into the far corner of the net. It was a marvelous goal from a marvelous player.

Christie Rampone and Amy LePeilbet could never seize  control of the rest of the match. They seemed like defensive misfits yet again. While both players have an acute tactical awareness, neither is known for their pace or brazen tackles. The LePeilbet/Buehler partnership offered the best of both worlds with LePeilbet’s intuitive takeaways and Buehler’s hard-edged but fair tackles. This partnership lacked the latter dimension. Rampone was well beaten during the run-up to China’s goal, yet no one else had tracked back to help. The back four was stretched apart.

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An Inquisitive Preview of Tonight's USWNT/China PR Match

After the USWNT’s 2-1 win over China PR in Kennesaw, Atlanta on Saturday night, Pia Sundhage’s team reunites with the Steel Roses in Chester, Pennsylvania tonight. The friendly will be televised on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET and will be streamed on ESPN3.com. It’s game preview time done in typical ‘list of questions’ form. You know the drill.  

 

Goalkeeper

Nicole Barnhart is the USWNT’s #1. How will she do?

Jillian Loyden got the start in Saturday’s match but wasn’t tested all that often. China could only offer up six shots, half of which were on goal. Nicole Barnhart is the USWNT’s default #1 in place of an injured Hope Solo. This is the final tune-up match before CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying and it will be interesting to see how Barnhart will do behind a pretty unfamiliar back line. Does the fact that Barnhart is probably well-rested after a non-eventful WPS Championship game and a three week break mean anything? 

 

The defense

Is Becky Sauerbrunn auditioning for the part of outside back?

WPS’ iron woman finished the season playing mostly as a central defender but given the USWNT’s paucity of outside backs, Sauerbrunn could be making a return stint to the National Team. Both Ali Krieger and Stephanie Cox were dropped for this match so Coach Sundhage is probably testing out the other options she has at her disposal. Sauerbrunn is a quality defender with intelligence and experience. If she plays well enough tonight, she could help put an end to the endless shuffling of the back four.

(Side note: Is Kandace Wilson ever going to get a call-up? She’s youngish, is quick as lightning, is capable of making some excellent overlapping runs and can score some lovely goals. Hmmm.)

 

Who will it be tonight: Rampone/LePeilbet or Buehler/LePeilbet?

Match reports suggest that the Rampone/LePeilbet duo seemed tentative on Saturday night. It takes time for a central defensive pairing to take root. Coach Sundhage has gotten some good mileage from the Buehler/LePeilbet partnership in 2010. If the left-back question isn’t answered, Buehler will probably be marooned out wide for World Cup qualifying. The USWNT will lose some of its edge in defense if that happens. We’ll if Coach Sundhage opts to give the veteran Rampone another shot at cementing her place alongside the dependable LePeilbet.

 

Who starts at right-back?

Hometown girl Heather Mitts has been called up for the friendly. As has been mentioned, Krieger and Cox have been dropped. Sauerbrunn can probably play on the right but it should be Mitts’ domain tonight. Mitts’ has been less than dominant this year, given her age and injury concerns. This is probably another audition for the World Cup qualifying squad. If she doesn’t nail it, Krieger and Cox will likely nab the part.

 

In midfield

Is Yael Averbuch acting as a Leslie Osborne stand-in?

This is probably wishful thinking but Averbuch was used in central midfield on Sunday, rather than the wide position she occupied in the Mexico friendlies earlier this year. That means that Coach Sundhage has seen the light opted to play a true holding midfielder. However, she was inserted to a flat midfield four so maybe she wasn’t a “true” holding midfielder in the way Osborne was for the Boston Breakers. Granted, this will probably mean little as Carli Lloyd is probably going to earn her spot back from Lindsey, Averbuch and possibly Osborne.

 

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Querying About the Western New York Franchise, pt. 2

Will any new players be arriving from Europe?

There’s a case to be made that players whose national teams will be competing in the World Cup will stay on home shores next season. That, however, only figures for four countries (England, Sweden, Norway and France. Germany doesn’t count). The fifth will be decided in due course but it will likely either be Italy or Switzerland. That leaves the bulk of the European continent. In other words, there are plenty of players who won’t be competing in next summer’s World Cup and thus will presumably be eligible to play in WPS. This includes nations like the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Spain and Denmark (assuming they don’t beat Switzerland tomorrow). Players from the listed countries have done reasonably well in WPS thus far, even if they are well underrated like Laura Kalmari or Johanna Rasmussen. The Western New York franchise should not be discouraged from looking towards Europe for players, despite the fact that players from more “prominent” national teams will likely be staying home.  

Moreover, the climate of Western New York could be favorable to European players. American coaches seem to think that European players have a hard time acclimating to the temperatures stateside. Regardless of whether or not this is true, the WNY franchise will be the northern-most in WPS so that shouldn’t be an issue.

 

Will Abby Wambach return to her hometown?

This is the million dollar question and will tie in to the query below. If Western New York wants to make a real splash, it will do everything in its power to woo the native upstate New Yorker, who also happens to be the best striker in the women’s game. The Washington Freedom seem to be in a state of transition with the departure of both Sonia Bompastor and Jim Gabarra. The union between the Freedom front office and Gabarra didn’t seem to end well, at least according to this piece in The Washington Post. Wambach will have a choice to make: will she desert the only professional team she has ever suited up and in doing so, avoid the cloud of uncertainty that hovers over the club or will she elect to stay and offer a steady hand in the rebuilding process?

 

Who will be the team’s first ever draft pick?

If Wambach (and presumably Sarah Huffman) decide to make way for Western New York, the Freedom should receive nothing less than the #1 overall pick in the 2011 WPS Draft, plus a few more in the lower rounds. Picks in the Expansion Draft could also be part of the package, if possible. Chris Henderson assures us that Cal forward Alex Morgan will be the proverbial chosen one “unless hell freezes over or an ACL snaps”.

Western New York will have two options, both of which have to do with building from the top down. They can choose to hold on to the #1 pick, draft Morgan and hopes she evades the curse that has struck former #1 picks Amy Rodriguez and Tobin Heath. Alex Morgan’s inclusion in the USWNT senior side this year speaks to her potential. She has to prove it first (the lessons of over-valuing a young A-Rod are still fresh) but if everything goes according to plan, she could be something special – due to both her goal-scoring prowess and well, you know. The breakout star of the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is one of those rare college draftees who team owners and GM’s dream of building a franchise around.

As has been mentioned, the franchise could instead decide to go for Wambach whose star quality would do an expansion team wonders.

If Western New York is able to nab Wambach, however, the Freedom probably wouldn’t mind receiving Morgan as a consolation prize. This scenario is far afield and could possibly never materialize but it’s one worth thinking about. Western New York will have to present one hell of a deal to a Washington Freedom side whose identity is currently in the balance.  

 

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Querying About the Western New York WPS Franchise

The introduction of the Western New York franchise is perhaps the best news the league could have asked for in the offseason. WPS expansion means more storylines, more prospective fans, more new faces and more $ for the league (Western New York team owner Joe Sahlen reportedly paid a seven figure expansion fee). There was supposed to a press conference tomorrow that would mark the unveiling of the team but it has been postponed to a later date, as the team and league are still ironing out legal details. 

In the meantime, here are a few on-the-field questions for the new WPS team.

 

Will the team attract Canadian players? And/or fans?

As WPS waits (or hopes?) for the day the Vancouver Whitecaps join the league, the Western New York team could be a proxy of sorts. Canadian guru Lissa pointed out the fact that both Diana Matheson and Kara Lang spent time with Oakville Soccer Club. The club has become “one of the largest soccer organizations in North America”. It’s also 30 minutes south/west of Toronto which makes it about an hour away from Niagara University  and two and a half hours away from Rochester. Matheson had a terrific game against China in Canada’s most recent friendly and may or may not have signed a multi-year deal with Norwegian club LSK. Kara Lang’s career has been hampered by injury but she had a fine turn with the Vancouver Whitecaps this summer. And then there’s Kelly Parker. Parker doubled as the W-League’s MVP in 2010 and the league’s top goal scorer. Additionally, she helped defeat Lang’s Whitecaps in the 2010 W-League Championship. The 29 year-old signed returned to Sky Blue FC late in the WPS season but only appeared for a total of 10 minutes. Could a return to her old club be in the cards?

As for the fans, Canadians will have to make quite the trek to see the team. The drive from Toronto to Buffalo would take about two hours. Add the time it takes to cross the border with the bridges and such and that’s a total of two and a half hours. (Would it be worth it to take a ferry instead? Are there such things?) The driving time from Montreal to Buffalo is an untenable 10 hours. Quebec and Ottawa aren’t much more manageable. Rochester is about an hour and a half away from Buffalo. If the team expects to attract any Canadian fans, perhaps discounted tickets would be a nice gesture.

 

Will the team adopt Sky Blue FC as its rivals?

This probably won’t be discernable this season but both clubs will be the team’s geographical neighbors. You wouldn’t know by the name but Sky Blue FC does have some association with the state of New York. Or at least it did (the team was known as WPS’ ‘NJ/NY’ franchise). WPS doesn’t really have a true regional rivalry yet so a quasi-interstate rivalry would be fun.

 

Should the team nab Karina LeBlanc?

This is just a hunch. After the 2010 WPS Championship game, Paul Riley confirmed that Val Henderson was Philadelphia’s #1 goalkeeper. As the old adage goes, you can’t keep two #1 goalkeepers happy. LeBlanc’s former back-up started every one of Philly’s playoff matches. So where does that leave Canada’s first choice goalie? LeBlanc had definitely regressed from the dominant form she enjoyed while in Los Angeles in 2009. She’s probably too good to be a permanent back-up and every established WPS team seems set with their first choice goalkeeper. It might make sense for the franchise to start building from the back. A possible move for LeBlanc, however, would mean a third different club for LeBlanc in three years. The Buffalo Flash enlisted the help of 25 year-old Mexican National Team goalkeeper Pamela Tajonar. She helped guide the club to an undefeated season so perhaps the team won’t be so hasty in picking up a brand new goalkeeper.

 

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5 Things Learned In Week 8 of the Frauenbundesliga

5.) Essen-Schönebeck and Saarbrücken are showing their true colors

Both teams crept in to the upper half of the table this season but now they’ve slipped into the opposite end. Essen-Schönebeck had a fine run of form as they went four games unbeaten. The team’s luck has changed, however, as last weekend’s loss to Hamburg and this week’s draw to Bayern Munich see the team in eighth place. Saarbrücken broke their four game losing streak with an obligatory win against Herford this weekend but the team remains locked in ninth place.  They shouldn’t expect to make this a habit as they face Turbine Potsdam next weekend.

 

4.) Wolfsburg are nothing but pretenders

The team sat in second place after Game Day 5 and Game Day 3 but have now fallen to sixth after three horror results. Wolfsburg dropped points after taking the lead yet again as they conceded two late goals to Hamburg’s Carolin Simon and Lena Petermann. (And just to continue this season’s “Hamburg is an extremely young team” motif, Simon and Petermann are 17 and 16 respectively). For a few weeks it looked as if Wolfsburg would break up the hegemony at the top of the table but the Wolves’ identity has been reveleaed: they’re little more than a midtable side.

 

3.) Shelley Thompson and Laura Feiersinger aren’t quitters

Herforder SV are all but relegated but no one has told Austrian midfielder Laura Feiersinger. The 17 year-old has scored more than half of her team’s goals this season with four. She also tallied Herford’s only goal in their 2-1 loss to Saarbrücken. Same goes for Bayer Leverkusen’s Shelley Thompson. The former Frauenbundesliga Golden Boot winner did nothing with the Atlanta Beat but she’s on a bit of a roll now, scoring Bayer Leverkusen’s only two goals in its last two matches. The goals came in losing efforts, however, and Leverkusen are back in the relegation zone after a promising streak that saw the team take seven points out of a possible nine.

 

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USWNT/China Highlights, Squad Named For Next Friendly, CONCACAF Dates

 

According to Chris’ match report and the highlights above, the USWNT played the flanks quite well. That was a major problem for the team in the Sweden friendlies (particularly in the first match). O’Reilly, Rapinoe and Lilly did well to assure that the center of midfield isn’t the team’s only creative outlet. That’s a good sign.

The fact that Rachel Buehler had to play left-back is not a good sign, however. The Buehler/LePeilbet partnership has been solid all this year and for some of 2009. This also speaks to the crisis the USWNT has at fullback, as there doesn’t seem to be a single defender with a decent left foot in the entire USWNT player pool. It’s far too premature to start ringing the alarm bells on the LePeilbet/Rampone partnership but the center-back tandem does lose a bit of an edge without Buehler’s tenacity.

Still, it was a good result from the U.S. China’s goal was probably as much of a fluke as it was a beauty.

 

Pia Sundhage has named the 24 players who will be traveling to Chester, Pennsylvania for Wednesday’s match against China. They are:

GK Barnhart, Loyden, Harris

D Buehler, Cox, Krieger, LePeilbet, Mitts, Rampone, Sauerbrunn, Taylor

M Averbuch, Boxx, Lilly, Lindsey, Lloyd, O’Reilly, O’Hara, Rapinoe, Tarpley

F Cheney, Morgan, Rodriguez, Wambach

 

So no appearances from Sarah Huffman, Whitney Engen, Alyssa Naeher, Meghan Schnur, Tobin Heath or Joanna Lohman this time around. That probably casts doubt on any chance they might have of making the Gold Cup squad as well. Engen should get her chance soon, if not now. Tobin Heath’s spot on the squad could be marginalized by the ever improving Megan Rapinoe. And the exclusion of Meghan Schnur only drains the USWNT’s already shallow pool of full-backs. 

Ashlyn Harris could very well get a half in goal, particularly if things are looking good at halftime. It will also be interesting to see if there’s a place for Becky Sauerbrunn’s industry in the squad. Finally, can Lindsay Tarpley or Kelley O’Hara challenge Rapinoe for a spot? They’ll have to prove it on Wednesday.

 

 The dates for the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying have been announced.

The U.S. will meet Haiti on October 28, Guatemala October 30 and Costa Rica November 1.

Canada will meet Trinidad & Tobago on October 29, Guyana on October 31 and Mexico November 2.

Both semifinals will be held on Tuesday, November 5. The Final will be staged Monday, November 8. The crucial Thir Place game will kick off a few hours before.