Category Archives: Player Ratings

Olympics – The All-Curren Team: Trying To Pick The Best 18 Not Easy

Well, here we are again, the end of another major women’s tournament, and time again for the AWK All-Curren Team. I call it that not out of a massive ego, but to indicate that it is indeed my choices and opinions. I point that out up front because for some reason choosing the best team from the Olympics was even tougher than the World Cup, even though there were fewer teams.

As with the World Cup, I sought to put together a real squad, one that could actually play (as opposed to starting nine forwards where we could score at will, but might end up playing Marta and Alex Morgan at outside back) a legitimate match.

And as always, feel free to put your choices in the Comments. Just remember, if you put someone in, someone has to come out and vice versa.

Among the players who barely missed the cut:

  • Portia Modise (South Africa), who had the goal of the tournament, and was very active in midfield for South Africa, who had their moments. Not enough moments for her to make the 18, though.
  • Renata Costa (Brazil) had a very good tournament defensively despite her team’s lack of organization.
  • Ali Riley and Ria Percival (New Zealand) might have cancelled each other out, as the entire New Zealand defense, including Jenny Bindon and Katie Hoyle, had a great tournament.
  • Two players who barely missed the cut at the World Cup did so again here in  Louisa Necib (France), who got off to a good start, but held the ball a little too long in some key spots for my taste, and Yukari Kinga (Japan), who was just edged out.
  • Lotta Schelin (Sweden), who probably suffered from a lack of support more than her failings.
  • And, perhaps the last cut, Yuki Ogimi (Japan), who scored three times in the tournament, including in the final, but in a tournament loaded with attacking players, we just couldn’t find a spot for her this time around. Next time.

So without further ado, here’s the squad:

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Boston/Washington Reaction, Player Ratings

First off, a big congratulations to the Boston Breakers for coming from a goal down to win their third straight tonight. What’s perhaps most impressive about this Boston team is really its “role” players. Liz Bogus and Jordan Angeli managed to get on the score sheet tonight. Ifeoma Dieke proved to be a good defensive barrier at center-back and Alyssa Naeher had a very good game in the nets. Notice none of these players are named “Lauren Cheney”, “Kelly Smith” or “Kristine Lilly”. Or even “Stephanie Cox” or “Alex Scott”. And that’s not a strike against those players. Most of them were knackered from international duty anyway. It just shows that this Boston team is operating as a unit. Three weeks ago that would have seemed impossible. Thanks Foxwoods…

Depending on the ATL/SBFC result tonight (which isn’t yet final), Boston could put just two points between third and sixth place in the table. They also now sit just one point away from the Washington Freedom who they defeated with the help of two goals Erin McLeod really needed to save. McLeod is still the most schizophrenic goalkeeper in the league. She’s can be a cement wall one day and a sheet of cellophane the next.

There were some bright spots in Washington’s game, however. It could be argued that they were more cohesive than Boston was throughout the game. Nikki Marshall ran her socks off as the isolated striker, Sarah Huffman was constantly stretching Boston’s defense and Sonia Bompastor was generally excellent from long range. The ball just dropped in more opportune places for Boston, namely for Angeli’s goal.

But particularly after that goal, Washington’s offense just vanished. Possession could no longer be controlled and the Freedom’s passing game was knocked off its rhythm. Boston looked okay going forward, particularly in midfield by dint of Kelly Smith but it’s difficult to declare Boston as emphatic winners. All credit to Liz Bogus and Jordan Angeli, but Boston’s final third had never totally clicked and Lauren Cheney was rendered useless by swarming defenders.

It’s unclear as to what Boston need more of right now: more novel ideas or more good luck. They’d probably take the latter.

Player ratings after the jump.

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Philadelphia Independence/FC Gold Pride Reaction, Player Ratings

I guess proofreading is a good idea sometimes.

The first half was the exact foil of last night’s Washington/CRS game — each team closed shop and possession was extremely hard to come by. The Indies packed the midfield with scrappy players to negate FCGP’s famous 3-woman midfield. And it worked. Except for the goal. Lori Lindsey’s uncharacteristically awful giveaway was enough for Marta, Sinclair and co. to punish Philadelphia in the first 45. 

Regardless, both teams appeared were evenly matched at halftime.

And then the second half began and Paul Riley switched his formation to a 4-2-2 with Lianne Sanderson up top. This seemed to give her the creative license to start to roam. Philadelphia pressed FCGP on the flanks and began to own possession. Boxx, Abily and Edwards seemed tentative and were continuously overrun.

But then Boxx conjured a beautifully-weighted pass and Marta sent the ball right through Karina LeBlanc’s legs. Philadelphia continued to threaten but to no avail. Despite a well-taken shot from new kid Tina DiMartino, Marta silenced the matter by beating her old teammate on a classic breakaway at the death.

Despite Philadelphia’s decent attempt at a comeback, FC Gold Pride (and namely Marta) only needed three chances. They took them all. 

Bottom line: If it wasn’t for the creativity and initiative of Marta, it’s hard to see FCGP coming away with such a big win. The midfield actually produced very little and Philadelphia did extremely well to shut it down. Perhaps  having O’Hara and Riley in the squad is critical to making things run properly.

 

Player ratings after the jump.

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Washington Freedom, Chicago Red Stars Reaction/Ratings

In what had to be one of the best games of the season so far, the Red Stars fought back from an early two goal deficit to earn a well-deserved point. There were a few outstanding individual performances (Casey Nogueira’s immediately pops in mind) but it was so encouraging to watch Chicago play as a unit so effectively.

Red Stars fans, rejoice. Everyone knew this team could perform beautifully. Everyone knew they had the talent. It was just a matter of getting them to play together. And by golly, they have!

The Freedom were as organized as ever. The only serious question mark that arose is about Wambach’s strike partner. Abby is a magnificant player. But her abilities are only enhanced when she has a partner up top. With De Vanna and Mykyland out with injury, a strike foil is hard to find. Christie Welsh is not the answer. Homare Sawa went missing for large portions of the match and Bompastor was too occupied elsewhere to romp up to the final third.

Here’s a wild suggestion: Convert Moros back to striker. She’s smallish, extremely quick and has fantastic vision. At least for the time being.

Hopefully tomorrow’s Indies/FCGP game can be half as fun. Player ratings after the j….ump.

 

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Chicago, Atlanta Reaction/Player Ratings

It was a thrilling, multi-goal match that featured an electrifying first half. Goals were scored by each team’s most productive players, both of whom rebounded well from poor individual performances last week. Then there was the goal and the assist from a player who has been saddled with hype and hope but has offered little delivery in WPS thus far. Each team tried earnestly to prove why they deserve to move up the table.

 

It was a good game. Except in happened in Philadelphia, not Chicago.

 

Dear Chicago Front Office: You were generous and classy in being the only WPS team to grant incoming Athletica fans free admission. But if you’re really feeling charitable, why not offer a refund to the 4,200+ fans who braved poor weather and skipped the ice hockey to watch – or rather, endure – 90 minutes of that.

Because that was awful. There was little rhythm, little adventure, too much needless physicality and very few solid chances. Aside from some good performances from a few defenders, it was just a bad day at the office for everyone.

To be fair, Atlanta should probably shoulder at least half of that refund. It will take a bit of time for the Beat players to adjust to their new teammates but regardless. For a team now loaded with so much individual talent, their performance was simply woeful. Aside from one strong run courtesy of the ever-dependable Lori Chalupny, there was zero initiative in offense. The forward line and midfield weren’t on the same page. Nor the same book. Nor the same category in the Dewey Decimal system.

As far as 0-0 matches go that was bottom of the barrel, ‘this is why Americans hate soccer’ bad. Lesson to be learned: Never again hype up a match between the bottom two teams in WPS.

It was a little strange that referee Daniel Fitzgerald allowed no stoppage time in the second half. But then I realized he was actually doing us all a favor.

 

Player ratings after the jump. They aren’t as mean.

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Washington Freedom/Philadelphia Independence Reaction, Player Ratings

The Washington Freedom are the consensus #2 team in WPS after their very convincing 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Independence. The Freedom bossed every aspect of the match…besides the camo kits that they apparently borrowed from the local ODP U9 Boys team. Oh well, so long as they get that check I guess.

Anyways, the Independence consistently tried to beat them with the wide game. They attempted to exploit Washington’s very narrow 4-2-2-2 formation by keeping it on the flanks before serving it into the final third centrally. But Washington’ defense remained too compact and too solid to be tricked by this. That and Philadelphia’s unnervingly worrying lack of cohesion in the final third did them in.

Jenn Hildreth is 100% right in saying that Amy Rodriguez is really only as good as the player who delivers her the perfect pass. Without the right through-ball or cross to her feet, Rodriguez’ limited abilities become pretty obvious.

Note to Paul Riley: Frida Magnusdottir is not the right strike partner for Rodriguez. More on this down below, but Magnusdottir is the kind of player who appears to be a hyperactive busy body but her work actually amounts to very little. Lianne Sanderson seems to have the physical size, vision and technical ability to be able to feed Rodriguez with the service she needs. The ‘Magnusdottir As A Central Striker’ experiment failed tonight.

 

GK Valerie Henderson 7 Did just fine with a few solid saves, but lacks the presence required to be an elite goalkeeper in this league. Also seemed a little hesitant in a clearance or two.

D Heather Mitts 6 (Subbed for Sanderson 68’) Had a strong showing in the very early moments as she made a deep run but then went very quiet. Washington doesn’t really play on the flanks so she wasn’t tested too much defensively, but I wish she had ventured forth a little more.

D Allison Falk 6 Didn’t have a great game today by her typically high standards. She got caught out chasing Rebecca Moros on Washington’s first goal but then made up for it by supplying the cross into Sanderson’s feet for the second goal.

D Sara Larsson 6 Used her physical size well against Wambach and Welsh but again got caught out often.

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Atlanta/Washington Reaction, Player Ratings

Excuse the tardines once again.

             It’s not like Atlanta doesn’t create or doesn’t have chances. Just like in last week’s match they create and have chances. Perhaps they just aren’t quality chances. Or maybe they’re just cursed.

             Either way, Washington’s defense looked very, very good. It contained Bachmann and eliminated her mazy runs as well as shut down the center of the park. I’m going to go out on a limb and say a lot of that had to do with the defensive play of Sarah Huffman and Allie Long in midfield. They interrupted so much of Atlanta’s play in midfield and forced them to play on the wings which didn’t always work so well. Huffman and Long bullied Kerr, Cinalli, Mundy and Bachmann constantly. That’s not to say that the work of the back four wasn’t good. They were definitely called into action frequently but never really had to break up a dangerous combination play.

              The thing with Atlanta is that they have some quality players but they’re merely role players. There’s really just one or two (literally one or two, and one was stretchered off early yesterday) offensive players that can actually create things for themselves and not depend on the work of their teammates. Maybe it’s nerves, inexperience, or just lack of skill and leadership. Hopefully Coach O’Sullivan can breathe some more confidence into his players, particularly his midfielders.  

                Lastly, I’m really liking Washington’s 4-2-2-2 although Gilbeau/Goebel is probably the weakest link in the system. If Washington had one more attacking midfielder who had a wide passing range and could also play on the wing, they would be imperious. And spoiled.

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Sky Blue FC, FC Gold Pride Reaction/Player Ratings

It was one of those matches that was a tail of two halves. FC Gold Pride looked far superior in the first 45, while Sky Blue FC did enough to mute FCGP’s stellar offense in the second half. 

Gold Pride came out ready to play Sky Blue off their pitch. There were some sequences between Marta, O’Hara, Abily (to a degree), Marta, Sinclair, Riley and Marta that simply struck awe. The movement and interchangeability between FCGP’s attack simply must make it the prettiest in all of WPS. (And imagine how it would have looked if Abily actually had a good game). No blade of grass went untouched by Marta. She was absolute quality. But so was Karen Bardsley, who was seemingly the only Sky Blue player not mystified by Marta and her stunts. Minus the goal of course but more on that later.

But Sky Blue did well to contain Gold Pride in the second half, even if they didn’t possess a shade of the attacking dynamism that Gold Pride showed in the first. The Sky Blue defense really came alive, particularly with Brittany Taylor and Keeley Dowling taking more prominent roles. Sky Blue were also keen to pass the ball around, wear FC Gold Pride out and thus keep the ball away from Marta and Sinclair. Still though, it appeared like every time Gold Pride recovered possession they created a goal-scoring chance for themselves.

Despite Sky Blue’s successful defensive strategy and dominant possession in the second half, the scoreline is a just one. Sky Blue lacked any clear goal-scoring opportunities and only came close on half-chances and speculative long-range efforts from either White, Averbuch or Kalmari.

After four matches it might be fair to say that Sky Blue’s attack seriously lacks bite. It just isn’t as dangerous without ‘tasha Kai’s incisive runs. The team can hold on to the ball in midfield or dispossess teams at will but when they arrive in their final third, most of their players look absolutely clueless with what to do next. FC Gold Pride, on the other hand, could very well be the class of the league and a guarantee to actually deliver on their promise.

 

Sky Blue FC:

GK Karen Bardsley 8.5 She was right to survey Carrie Dew on that set piece and it wasn’t her fault that Brittany Taylor got skinned by a streaking Christine Sinclair. So the goal was not her fault. Other than that she was absolutely outstanding: pouncing on attacker’s boots never a second too late, coming out for crosses, being constantly prepared for the suprise shot from Marta or O’Hara. And then there was that saved penalty kick and then the recovery and then the other recovery a second later.

D Keeley Dowling 7.5 Can be a little erratic with her clearance at times but still outsized O’Hara and Riley in the second half. She was also one of the most effective creative players for Sky Blue in the second half which is probably more of an indictment on her midfield.  

D Daphne Koster 6.5 Looked like she was holding on for dear life against Marta and Sinclair in the first half but gained confidence in the second. Also resorted to overtly physical play to compensate for a lack of pace that resulted in the penalty kick.

D Brittany Taylor 7.5 Her first half was poor, really poor as she looked completely out of sorts against Marta’s devilish runs. Fortunately it took just 45 minutes to adjust to that of Marta and Sinclair and she was a major reason why Gold Pride didn’t extend their league. She still needs time to learn when exactly to cut off an attacker’s anticipated run but she’s got a great handle on her size which does her well.

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WPS Match Reviews/Player Ratings

So, those preseason rankings? Maybe Sky Blue isn’t going to be that dominant after all and maybe Chicago won’t be quite the unmitigated disaster that was previously expected. And Saint Louis? Still dependant on Aluko but if they can keep their parts polished all season, they’ll be as good as predicted.

 

Saint Louis 2 FC Gold Pride 0 Again, it’s unfair to pull much from a game that wasn’t seen. But it’s nice that Chalups played 90 minutes. Boxx appears to pick up right where she left off. Don’t know if stats mean anything  but Millbrett had the most shots and shots on goal on Gold Pride, and she played nearly 80 minutes. Both teams were fairly even on shots, shots on goal, offsides and fouls. 

 

Philadelphia 0, Atlanta 0 Philadelphia appeared to have many chances in the game (particularly by Rodriguez) but couldn’t convert any. Lindsey also seems to be performing role well for the Indie’s. Hoping there’s match high lights someplace. 

 

Sky Blue FC 1, Chicago Red Stars 0 Chicago proved to be  fiesty and adventurous but not always entirely organized. Their lack of ability to produce CLEAR goal scoring opportunities was frustrating but Emma Hayes has a lot to be proud of. It was nice to see so many players come in and contribute in the final third but the lack of end product was concerning. The Red Stars didn’t manage to take advantage of Sky Blue FC’s vanishing offense as the match went on.

After Sky Blue scored the first goal it was almost as if the midfield just closed shop and allowed Chicago free reign before shutting them down in front of Bardsley. Perhaps they knew that Chicago just weren’t capable of converting. Regardless, that was wonderful work from O’Reilly and Kai for the first goal.

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Well, that wasn't so bad

Perhaps the biggest blunder of the match didn’t even occur on the pitch at all. Sidestepping FSC’s blunder at the beginning (presumably it was technical) where in which the starting line-ups and first four and half minutes of the game were lost, Coach Sundhage has reason to be pleased with her team’s performance.

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