Sweden and Japan played to a scoreless draw, and although Japan had the better of the play and more chances, Sweden wasn’t exactly dominated, with the exception of a 20-minute stretch in the second half. Really, the game was about what I expected, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Sweden is close to the top teams, the question is whether they can get past them and make a run at the gold medal. I think they can, but it might take a couple of breaks. Here’s what we learned:
Poor Sweden, always one of the best teams in the world, always in the hunt, but never quite able to take home a major trophy, and therefore overshadowed by something. This year’s version – with two of the best players in the world in Lotta Schelin and Caroline Seger on display – rolled to victory over South Africa in their first game, but all the talk will be about Portia Modise and her 60th minute goal from midfield that will likely be the goal of the tournament when all is said and done. Of course, there’s good reason for all the talk about Modise, she’s a fantastic story that’s worth our time.
That title has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? The Canadian Women’s National Team captured the top prize at the XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico by defeating Brazil in dramatic fashion. Following a come-from-behind 1-1 draw in regulation and a scoreless overtime, Canada struck gold with penalty kicks, 4-3.
Twenty year-old Debora opened the scoring just 4 minutes into the match. The Brazilian striker headed towards three Canadian defenders and was given an excess of space to dribble up field before unleashing a top corner beauty from outside the box.
Canada was able to stay in the game thanks to a series of critical saves by Karina LeBlanc, especially late in regulation time when Brazil began peppering the Canadian net. Brazil outshot Canada 22-13, while Canada maintained 57% of possession.
As the clock ticked away, it appeared that Brazil was on its way to claiming another PanAm gold medal. However, like the 2011 Women’s World Cup quarter-finals against the USA, Brazil was undone late in the game by an equalizer off a header. This time it was at the mercy of Christine Sinclair being her usual clutch self. Canada won a corner kick in the 88th minute and Diana Matheson sent in a perfectly struck ball. Sinclair circled around goalkeeper Barbara to head it in with ease and forced the game into overtime.
But 30 minutes was not enough to break the deadlock between the teams, so the dreaded, heart wrenching penalty kicks were to settle the score.
Matheson converted the first Canadian PK with confidence, as did Francielle for Brazil. Upon the second round, Barbara was in a rage when she got a glove on Sinclair’s shot, but it wasn’t enough to keep it out of the net. Maurine and Melanie Booth were both successful in their respective shots from the mark. Canada took the lead following Brazil’s third PK when Grazielle placed her attempt up the middle for an easy stop by LeBlanc. Sophie Schmidt put Canada ahead once again and Ketlen answered back. It was 4-3 heading into the fifth set of PKs; things got momentarily tense for Canada while Brazil saw a glimmer of hope when Candace Chapman’s strike rattled the right sided post. The next kicker, Debora, had an opportunity to play hero for Brazil once again if she could tie up the results, but LeBlanc guessed the right direction to make her second PK save and secure first place.
The win marks Canada’s first PanAm gold in women’s soccer, and John Herdman’s first tournament win since taking over the team in September. Canada previusly claimed fourth (1999), second (2003) and third place (2007) since the sport was included in the PanAm Games 12 years earlier. Brazil had won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2007, and with the absence of any US team, it appeared to be theirs for the taking. Alas, it was yet another second place finish (see: the Women’s World Cup, Olympic Games and Torneio Internacional Cidade de São Paulo).
2015 will be a marquee year for the Canadian Women’s National Team with the Women’s World Cup being staged across Canada from June 26-July 17 and PanAm Toronto July 10-26. The overlap makes it highly unlikely that the senior team will be able to defend their title as the reigning PanAm Women’s Soccer champions. But with that aside, the build up in the next 4 years will be exciting times for the sport in the country. Whether it’ll be about seeking World Cup redemption or potentially instilling confidence in our youth team to represent us at the PanAms in place of the full squad, it’s all taking place in Canada. There’s no better feeling than playing (and winning) on home soil, right?
Oh USWNT, there you are.
There’s the team that’s capable of beating up on teams – despite their FIFA ranking – with relative ease. There’s the defensive shape, the midfield cohesiveness, the line of creative forwards ravenous for goals. That’s the team comprised of players that always heed the call of duty, despite the amount of caps next to their name. That’s the only team in the world that considers a 1-1 draw a loss and goes into every match knowing anything other than a win is thoroughly unacceptable. That’s the United States Women’s National Team we’re lucky to call our own. (For us Americans, that is).
A lot of those lingering questions posed after the USWNT’s poor 1-1 result mid-week were answered tonight. Perhaps those initial concerns were merely outliers. They certainly don’t seem to be trends. The team had a very good match tonight. Megan Rapinoe made me feel guilty about never really buying into the Pinoe hype. And Abby Wambach…well, you know. She’s pretty good and stuff.
The team kept its shape tonight throughout the game which was the one thing I was really hoping to see. Goals are almost always guaranteed with players of this quality. But consistent tactical organization seemed to be a legitimate concern after the team’s second half performance last Tuesday. There were also a few much-improved individual performances (Lori Lindsey’s name should probably go here).
For some reason I kind of checked out of the second half so any anoraking will have to wait until tomorrow after I re-watch it. (Funny how my occasional ADD only surfaces intermittently during the 45-80 minutes of soccer games I actually need to pay attention to or any lectures from professors I need to pay attention to). But here are a few things of note:
What would this team be without Abby Wambach? Not nearly as threatening, not nearly as productive, yes those are obvious. But Wambach is at times the most creative playmaker on the field which is extraordinary for a player who only starts up top. No doubt she also provides her team with a psychological edge too. Knowing you have a striker who is almost guaranteed to score every single game can only do wonders for a team’s collective confidence.
Ali Krieger could be the answer at right back. The cold, hard truth is that Kate Markgraf isn’t going to get any faster in 2011. Same goes for Heather Mitts. Fullbacks typically run more than any other player on the field. That’s why fullbacks are often converted to center-back after they hit 30. Krieger is immensely fit, very physical, tactically adventurous and is a fine passer of the ball. She’s also who Alex Morgan will look like in 5 years time.
Heather O’Reilly didn’t really cut in from the flank. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Her diagonal runs into the box are always exciting and makes defenses quiver. She didn’t really do that tonight, instead preferring to keep play wide and send in hopeful, at times errant crosses into the box. Meh. It was also a weak night for HAO-Face which is never a good thing.
Captain Rachel Buehler had a major confidence boost. Buehler became just the 12th person in the history of the USWNT to don the armband and she wore it well. She had a fantastic game tonight and made a few key offensive contributions as well which was interesting.
Lori Lindsey is boss. Lindsey had the best game in a USWNT kit tonight. At least of any that have been televised. Her long ball to Rodriguez was perfect. She also got stuck in quite a bit which is always fun.
But the USWNT could still use a holding midfielder. I know this point will likely be moot after this performance but one has to remember that this was ultimately Sweden’s B side. A few key midfielders were missing in tonight’s game so it’s safe to presume the match would have been different had they been there. Playing with just 3 bands of players (i.e. a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3) is rare these days and there’s a reason for that. Good thing the U.S. has a good corps of DM’s in its pool: Osborne, Averbuch, Huffman if played correctly, hell, even Buczskowski.
Megan Rapinoe is a proper winger. Yes, at times she can be pretty wasteful in front of goal and a little too ostentatious in her dribbling but tonight she showed how good she can be when she hits her mark. Ditto for her goal celebrations when they hit the mark.
Meghan Schnur will only grow into her position. Schnur looked good at the beginning and had an ultimately decent game, particularly after having to deal with Sweden’s best player of the night in Josefine Oqvist. She’s still coming off of an ankle injury so expect her to be even better. Definitely a step up from Stephanie Cox’s performance.
Again, I need a repeat viewing but I’m not sure I’m sold on the 4-4-2. Sweden again looked much more dangerous in the second half when they shuffled their players around in a new formation. In tactics triangles always beat straight lines and the USWNT mostly had straight lines tonight. It’s just that a lot of the Swedish players attempting the triangles weren’t first choice. It’s a wonder what would have happened if they had been.
Lori Walker is a great analyst and she needs to commentate every USWNT game from here on out. Jenn Hildreth gets a lot of crap. Some of it is warranted while a lot of it is not. Regardless, Walker is capable of articulating herself from a coach’s perspective. That’s actually quite difficult for a coach to do sometimes. And she complements her commentary with anecdotes that are actually relevant and that provide some color to the broadcast as opposed those who resort to name-dropping in an attempt to conceal one’s ignorance about matters such as basic formation changes or player analysis.
Ok, more tomorrow. G’night.
The United States Women’s National Team earned their first draw since March 2009 tonight against Sweden before a paced house in Omaha, Nebraska.
But things aren’t as they seem: that drawn game in March ’09? It was incidentally a 1-1 draw with Sweden in the Algarve Cup and the USWNT actually went on to win it in penalties. And that packed house? Morrison Stadium only fit about 6,400 people anyway so perhaps it would be a shame if the game wasn’t nearly sold out. It did look good on television though.
As for the match itself. The United States was much the better side in the first interval, particularly in their own half. Shannon Boxx was distributing some perfectly-weighted passes up the middle. Abby Wambach had some fantastic opportunities in the box but was just a tad off in the timing of her runs. Heather O’Reilly was getting some good reads cutting in from the right and finding an open player.
The United States were playing direct and were playing effectively. Service from the wings was ok but couldn’t be sustained. Stephanie Cox had about two fantastic incisive runs but couldn’t find the final pass. Megan Rapinoe also saw some time on the ball but mostly squandered her chances with her requesite overly-ambitious shots from long range.
Sweden, meanwhile, were clearly developing their rhythm as the match played on in the first 45 minutes. Their assets soon became clear: blistering pace on the ball combined with short, crisp passes around midfield with players floating in an out of different positions. The connection between their passes wasn’t quite there yet and so the U.S. back four appeared to have the upper hand. Jessica Landstrom was a threat as she frequently stalked around the final third but couldn’t find either the killer pass or shot.
The United States’ direct style up the middle eventually paid off in the 44′ (just as Sweden’s intelligent passing game would in the second half) as Abby Wambach released a wonderful through ball to Amy Rodriguez who dealt with two Swedish defenders before finding the back of the net. It was a well-taken goal with an even better set-up as Shannon Boxx won a tackle back in midfield, found Lori Lindsey who served in a quick pass to Wambach who then found Rodriguez right up the middle.
Nearly a minute later a similar play occurred as Rodriguez received a clean pass and proceeded to thwack the cross bar. However, Sweden hit the U.S. on an immediate counter attack on the other end and nearly made them pay.
It would be a harbinger of the second half.
It’s hard to determine exactly what rocked the United States off its rhythm in the final 45. But the team looked far disorganized and frenetic throughout the duration of the second half, particularly in defense.
The United States Women’s National Team is back in action tonight for their fourth friendly of 2010. They will face Sweden, ranked fourth in the world, in the first of a two-game series at Creighton University’s Morrison Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. The game will (supposedly) be televised on ESPN2 at 8pm CT.
13.) What is Carli Lloyd doing there?
Really now. Lloyd isn’t match fit and has only been cleared to run, pivot, cut and pick after her ankle injury in May. She can do all the running, pivoting, cutting and picking she cares to in Piscataway but why is it necessary for her to be included in the squad when she has no chance of playing? Might as well take Tobin Heath or heck, Angela Hucles. And even if she was 100% fit, the perpetual inclusion of Lloyd has always been controversial. Lori Lindsey is a good option in the center of the park as she’s got much more of a physical presence and is also more defensively-minded. Maybe the pairing of Lindsey and Boxx in central midfield will be bolted down after these friendlies.
12.) Will Kristine Lilly get the start and is Kelly O’Hara waiting in the…wings?
The legend of Lilly lives on. She’s now accrued 345 international caps which is quite a lot, and is projected to start on the left wing tomorrow night. While she’s had a slow start up in Boston, her goal two weeks ago against Philadelphia may have been the turning point. She also scored that lovely goal from about 15 yards out in the Germany friendly. She looks on pace to get called up for her sixth (!) World Cup next summer but hopefully Pia has a contingency plan in a player like Kelley O’Hara. Or Megan Rapinoe or Tobin Heath if she’s ever fit again. This could be a good match for O’Hara to get blooded in.
11.) Will Jessica Landstrom be able to exact any revenge on the U.S. of A?
Dear old Landycakes apparently left Sky Blue FC in a fit after having scored zero goals in nine appearances for SBFC. The 25 year-old striker has scored six goals in Sweden’s six World Cup qualifying matches thus far. Perhaps she has a parting gift all wrapped and ready to bestow upon the USWNT while on her way out of the States.
10.) Who is Caroline Seger?
Much like Landstrom, the Swedish midfielder hasn’t really made her presence known just yet with Philadelphia. Unless of course you’re Sarah Huffman. Seger has also scored six times in Sweden’s six WWC qualifying matches so maybe she’ll show us the player she’s capable of being.
9.) Who is Sweden?
WPS fans are familiar with a few Swedes of course like the aforementioned Landstrom and Seger. And then there’s the central defender Sara Larrson and the teenage winger Kosovare Asllani. There’s also Therese Sjorgan, whom Shek Borkowski has referred to as being one of the best holding midfielders in the world. The Malmo member is the eldest player on the squad at 33 and has amassed the most international caps on the team with 154. There’s also forward Sara Linden who’s having a bit of a career renaissance with her club team Goteborg.
8.) How many goals will Abby Wambach score?
Abby Wambach has scored 107 goals with the United States Women’s National Team and is collecting goals at a quicker rate than Mia Hamm. The 30 year-old striker is the third highest goal-scorer in USWNT history and is currently 23 goals behind the second most goal-scorer Kristine Lilly. Wambach has scored six goals in the seven USWNT matches of 2010, including a brace in the Germany friendly on May 22. Chances are good that Wambach will yet again find the net tonight but how many times?
Kristin Hammarstrom/March 29, 1982 Orebro 8 apps, 0 gls
Hedvig Lindahl/April 29, 1983 Goteborg FC 58 apps, 0 gls
Sofia Lundgren Linkopings 20 apps
Sara Larsson/May 13, 1979 Philadelphia Independence 92 apps, 8 gls
Lina Nilsson/June 17, 1987 Malmo 14 apps, 0 gls
Malin Levenstad/Malmo 14 apps, 0 gls
Charlotte Rohlin/December 2, 1980 Linkopings 31 apps, 3 gls
Stina Segerstrom/June 17, 1982 Goteborg 44 apps, 2 gls
Sara Thunebro/April 26, 1979 FFC Frankfurt 60 apps, 3 gls
Linda Sembrandt/May 15, 1987 AIK 15 apps, 1 gl
Therese Sjogran/April 8, 1977 Malmo 154 apps, 14 gls
Lisa Dahlkvist/February 6, 1987 Goteborg FC 24 apps, 3 gls
Nilla Fischer/August 2, 1984 FC Malmo 58 apps, 10 gls
Louise Fors/October 23, 1989 Linkopings 17 apps, 9 gls
Linda Forsberg/June 19, 1985 FC Malmo 15 apps, 2 gls
Caroline Seger/March 19, 1985 Philadelphia Independence 72 apps, 11 gls
Kosovare Asllani/July 29, 1989 Chicago Red Stars 22 apps, 4 gls
Linnea Liljegard/December 8, 1988 Goteborg 12 apps, 6 gls
Jessica Landstrom/December 12, 1984 FFC Frankfurt 37 apps, 13 gls
Sara Linden/Goteborg 13 apps, 3 gls
Josefine Oqvist/July 23, 1983 Linkopings 51 apps, 11 gls
# players in the Damallsvenskan: 17
# players playing abroad: 5 (3 WPS, 2 Frauen Bundesliga)