Category Archives: Sydney Leroux

Olympics – What We Learned: Quarterfinals – United States 2:0 New Zealand

“In one physical model of the universe the shortest distance between two points is a straight line in the opposite direction.” – Ty Webb

The United States Soccer Federation has recently advised all of its men’s Academy teams to try to switch to some variation of a 4-3-3 recently (actually, much stronger than advised in many cases) in an attempt to get more possession-oriented soccer at youth levels, and presumably to try to take that to the national team level at some point in the future.

In theory, I’m all for it: most of my young teams play in a 4-3-3 to try to teach them positioning and to create more possession and movement by giving another option out of the midfield and encouring the wingers to pinch in and allow the outside backs to overlap and get forward. Of course, despite what we may hear from some parents and others, winning isn’t our top priority.

Pia Sundhage, probably taking some advice from somewhere because Scandinavians play it about as often as a winter heat wave takes over Stockholm, experimented with a 4-3-3 after the World Cup, to mixed reviews and results. It was pretty obvious by then that the best lineup for the U.S. women’s national team was something that put Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan together, and quite simply that was a 4-4-2.

As the play of the United States has gotten more and more direct over the last few months, its status has been climbing. Do you remember before the World Cup last year? Germany was heavy favorites, the United States? Not so much. Obviously some personnel changes and more experience help the cause, but the U.S. has reclaimed its spot as the favorite to win a major tournament – in this case the Olympics – by doing what works best for them, playing it as quickly as possible at two of the best strikers in the world.

While against France and Japan (and maybe even Canada), things won’t be as easy, against New Zealand, all it took was one look at the terrified look on poor central defender Abby Erceg’s face every time the ball was played long and Morgan was on her outside shoulder, inside shoulder, or seemingly both at once. If Erceg did get there, she probably wasn’t going to be able to do what she wanted with it, and that kind of pressure just builds up over 90 minutes. New Zealand makes more mistakes, the U.S. gets more of the ball in their end, and gets more chances.

New Zealand – to their credit and as we expected – battled until the end. But the result and the number of scoring chances was inevitable. It won’t be as easy in the final two rounds, but I don’t see any reason why it won’t work.

Here’s what else we learned in the United States’ 2-0 win over New Zealand:

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Another Note On the Leroux/Morgan Thing

Sorry to bang on about this topic but from here it’s gonna work like this: more sad bits about WPS = more happy bits about Leroux & Morgan saving revitalizing women’s soccer.

 

Anyways, remember back in 2008 when Alex Morgan scored that beautiful goal in the U-20 WWC Final and all the Chileans/South Americans went bonkers over her from there on out? The same thing has apparently happened with Leroux and folks from the African continent, particularly Ghanians and Nigerians.

 

They’re living in parallel universes, I say.

 

Who Is Sydney Leroux?

 

Well, who exactly is this young, athletically-gifted, eye-catching forward? Is she the future of the United States Women’s National Team? The next Mia  Hamm, perhaps? Is she the future of women’s soccer as a whole?

Or is she merely style over substance? A national traitor, even? She was born mere miles away from the hometown of would-be strike partner Christine Sinclair, after all. She could have been the face of Canadian soccer – men or women’s.  

Only a player with as much potential as Leroux is worthy enough to spark such division. So who is she?

The 20 year-old’s back story may help: At just 14, She was Canada’s youngest player in the 2004 U-19 Women’s World Cup. Then at age 16 she switched allegiances to the country of her estranged father. She had a rough year and was told she was not going to get selected for the U-16 USWNT training camp. She earned her keeps, however, and played with the U-17 USWNT in Germany in 2006. She was the recipient of the Golden Shoe in the 2008 U-20 Women’s World Cup and helped guide her adopted country to the title. She attended UCLA that Fall where she would play alongside Kara Lang and Lauren Cheney, both potential future strike partners in parallel universes. Her five goal performance at the 2010 U-20 Women’s World Cup elevated her to a different stratosphere. The botched penalty that sent her team home brought her back down to earth.

Perhaps the question should probably be framed as ‘What is Sydney Leroux?’ as in what is she capable of being.

 She can be one of the most clinical finishers in the women’s game. Although she may lack the vision for combination play, she’s absolutely deadly in 1 v. 1 situations. She may be the natural heiress to Abby Wambach’s throne. Both forwards are ultimately lone strikers; they operate best in front of goal, unperturbed by a partner. 

She can be a talking point. Whether it’s the back story or the tattoos or the ‘heart, meet sleeve’ attitude or the Hollywood good-looks, Leroux is interesting. She can stir up interest for things that have nothing to do with which foot she can score goals best with. She’s seemingly got a keen interest in the dramatic, as was exhibited in her tear-soaked reaction after skying her penalty kick.

She would be like Mia Hamm but a hundred times more intriguing. I think both players would be okay with that characterization.

Professionally, Leroux’s personality and goal-scoring prowess will inevitably benefit a WPS team, both on the field and off of it. Hopefully there will still be a league for her to be drafted into by the time she graduates college in 2012.

If marketed correctly and honestly, she could attract potential cross-over fans. Perhaps some of them will like what they see and become converted fans of women’s soccer at large. She could be a face, a personality, a presence that casual fans can latch on to. That’s not something that’s been done since the days of the ’99-ers. There is some irony in that all it will take for the USWNT to become relevant again is a Canadian.

This is all hopeful speculation, of course. Pia Sundhage would be crazy not to call her up to residency for the Gold Cup later this year. While the USWNT has been effective under the Pia Sundhage, it’s also been a little dry. Leroux could inject a bit of life into a program that will frankly be struggling for attention at next summer’s Women’s World Cup. 

And perhaps WPS could try to encourage her to forego her last year at UCLA and enter the 2011 Draft. (Would that be the WPS equivalent to tapping up?) Anything to spur more interest in the league at this point is probably wise.

It’s impossible to tell what the future holds for Sydney Leroux. It’s a safe bet that she’ll continue to be both a provocateur and a world-class performer in equal measure. And she’ll probably be just fine with that.