Monthly Archives: September 2010

NCAA Soccer – 3 Matches That Matter for 09/30/10

Rachel Nuzzolese

Wake Forest's Rachel Nuzzolese Will Be Key for Hopes of A Road Win

Florida State vs Wake Forest (7:00)

OK Florida State, it’s put up or shut up time.

The Noles have been criminally overrated by the wide legion of pollsters who apparently think Mami Yamaguchi and Sanna Talonen are still prowling the pitch for FSU. The Seminoles’ best win of the season so far has come against Miami (FL), themselves no great shakes. Perhaps the pollsters are doing their very best to ignore Florida State’s loss to what looks like a slightly above average Auburn team earlier in the year. Regardless, a win by Florida State should prove their Top 25 chops at the very least. Their opponents are showing the form of a talented team relying on the major contributions of freshmen, that is inconsistency. But Rachel Nuzzolese and Katie Stengel have been phenomenal when on song and look like they have the potential to form one of college soccer’s greatest strike partnerships before their careers are over. A win in Tallahassee would add to their growing legend.
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Canada vs. China: Match Preview and Notes

(Scroll to the bottom of this post for some exciting news)

Canada is facing China tonight at BMO Field in Toronto. The match kicks off at 7:30 EST/4:30 PST and will be broadcasted live on Rogers Sportsnet East and Rogers Sportsnet Ontario.

This is a rare opportunity to play at home. Prior to 2008, Canada didn’t play a home game in over two years. Since then, one home game a year has been the norm, all of which have been held at BMO Field.

China has brought a really young team to face Canada and the US. 11 of the 23 players are from the 2006 U-20 WWC Russia and/or Thailand 2004, winning silver at both tournaments. That means that about half of the team was born on or after 1985. (I’ll give you better stats in another post). Veterans Bi Yan and Han Duan did not make the trip due to injuries.

The team is being revamped after a disappointing result at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup that meant China failed to qualify for the Women’s World Cup for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1991. Shang Ruihua took over as the head coach in 2008 after the team’s rocky relationship with Frenchwoman Elisabeth Loisel (2007-2008). Shang was replaced by Li Xiaopeng (not that Captain Obvious should butt in, but it’s the footballer Li Xiaopeng and not the gymnast, although that would be interesting =)) earlier this summer. Li is a former defensive midfielder for the Chinese National Team, and made a rare World Cup appearance in 2002.

Canada has been training since camp opened in Rome on August 25. After winning two exhibition games against Italian club teams in early September, Canada lost 5-0 to Germany in front of a raucous crowd of 20,431 in Dresden. The team relocated to Alliston, Ontario for more training on September 21 and played a closed door scrimmage on the 26th against China with a 1-1 result.

Following tonight’s match, China will face the USWNT in Kennesaw, Georgia October 2 at Kennesaw State University Soccer Stadium and in Chester, Pennsylvania October 6 at PPL Park. China is preparing for the 16th Annual Asian Games in November and is targeting a gold medal finish. Canada will return to training after a short break. Camp will resume at Nottawasaga Inn & Resort in Alliston, Ontario on October 4 and go until the 14. They will have open training sessions, so both fans and media are invited to attend. Continue reading

Midseason Gong Show: Pac-10 Review and Awards

Christen Press

Stanford's Christen Press is the Frontrunner for the Hermann Trophy

(Here’s the latest in my ongoing series of mid-year looks at each of the major conferences. SEC and Mid-Major reviews coming soon.)

3 – Stanford
8 – Arizona State
10 – UCLA
13 – USC
16 – Cal
57 – Washington
62 – Oregon State
100 – Arizona
116 – Oregon
134 – Washington State

Mid-Term MVP: Christen Press (F) – Stanford (Honorable Mention: Alex Morgan – Cal, Karin Volpe – Arizona State, Teresa Noyola – Stanford, Lauren Barnes – UCLA)
Mid-Term Top Newcomer: Jenna Richmond (M) – UCLA (Emi Lawson – Cal, Jazmin Ponce – Arizona)
Mid-Term Top Goalkeeper: Chante Sandiford – UCLA
Most Surprising: Cal
Most Disappointing: Washington State
Best Hope for A National Title: Stanford
Best Hope for A College Cup Gatecrasher: Cal

Stanford (RPI Ranking – 3)

Best Result: 2-1 vs Portland
Worst Result: None
Leading Scorer: Christen Press (13 G, 4 A)
Top Newcomer: Emily Oliver (GK)
What I Said: “Kira Maker is an unfussy goalkeeper who is a steady presence in goal.”
What I Should Have Said: Oops. “Kira Maker could feel the heat from freshman Emily Oliver in goal if she isn’t on top of her game.” Hindsight folks, hindsight.
Mid-Term Grade: A – You really going to gripe with a team that goes on the road to Boston College and UNC in the same season?
Chris’ Odds of NCAA Tournament At-Large Bid: 100%
The Upside: National Champions. It’s a very short list of teams that can beat Stanford. The Cardinal’s biggest opponents might be themselves in the clutch.
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Frauenbundesliga Review: Game Day 7

All eyes were focused on the match betwee the two top teams and rivals FCR Duisburg and Turbine Potsdam. Potsdam were missing Fatmire Bajramaj due to the red card (two yellows) suspension after dissent towards the referee of the last game. Thus, she was unable to face her former club Duisburg.

Everyone expected a game at high level and lots of goals and action…. unfortunately the game didn’t live up to expectations. After being on the road for a midweek game at the UEFA Women’s Champions League (Potsdam in Finland, Duisburg in Kazakhstan) both team started well and had chances on both sides but couldn’t finish. At the 13th minute young Duisburg Player Jennifer Oster unluckily brought Japanese National Player Nagasato down in the penalty cox and Potsdam Captain Jennifer Zietz scored the 1-0 from the spot. This was the halftime result. Both teams tried their best in the second half but quite obviously both team were really tired. One of the few great attacking players Alexandra Popp did chip the ball to Duisburg and the League’s top scorer Inka Grings, who finished with a great goal for the equalizer. 1-1 was also the final result and the shared points secured Potsdam to stay at the top of the League whilst Duisburg fell back due to the other results from Frankfurt and Munich.

Watch  the Highlights from the Duisburg-Postdam game at DFB.TV here

Frankfurt had to travel to Saarbrücken and as expected Frankfurt showed a very powerful performance and did win with a 4-1 score. They now surge to second place of the League Table. Garefrekes was once more the leading goal scorer at Frankfurt’s side with two goals. Prinz’s penalty goal and Pohlers with the last action of the game finished the scoreline.

Bayern Munich continued their away streak with another win. This time travelling to Bayer Leverkusen the Bayern Munich side secured their win with 2 goals from Simic and Aigner. The first goal this season from Shelley Thompson at the 79′ mark for Leverkusen just came too late.

Bayern are still chasing the top teams and move up to 3rd place with the same points as Frankfurt.

The Wolves from Wolfsburg seem to be well off track..after losing last week they had another disappointment against SC Bad Neuenahr and lost with 1-4 against the very impressive and improving Bad Neuenahr Team. Although Wolfsburg opened the game already at the 4th minute Bad Neuenahr did fight and changed the scoreline. Again Wolfsburg defense and the goalkeeper position seem to be subject for discussions.

FF USV Jena , who lost their player Lehnert due to a tailbone injury from last weeks game at Frankfurt, finally received some points against Herforder SV who showed once more why they don’t belong in the First Frauenbundesliga. Two goals from Anonma did secure the win and it was  only Jena’s the lack of finding the back of the net that kept Herford in the game.  Surprisingly Gröbner even got a goal for Herford at the 72nd min to the final result of a 2-1 victory for Jena.

Hamburg showed again that they obviously can only win away games. Traveling to Essen they impressed with a great game and especially in second half with great team play. 3-1 was the final result against SG Essen-Schönebeck. Lets see if Hamburg can win on their home pitch next week, when they have to face Wolfsburg.

 

Results:

FCR 2001 Duisburg  – FFC Turbine Potsdam  1-1

FF USV Jena – Herforder SV  2-1

VFL Wolfsburg -SV 07 Bad Neuenahr  1-4

Essen-Schönebeck – Hamburger SV 1-3

Bayer 04 Leverkusen – Bayern München 1-2

1. FC Saarbrücken - 1. FFC Frankfurt 1-4


Standings:

Place                                 Team                     Games W/D/L  Goals   Pts

1 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam 7 5 1 1
14 : 6
16
2 1. FFC Frankfurt 7 5 0 2
25 : 9
15
3 FC Bayern München 7 5 0 2
15 : 8
15
4 FCR 2001 Duisburg 7 4 2 1
24 : 7
14
5 SC 07 Bad Neuenahr 7 4 0 3
17 : 11
12
6 VfL Wolfsburg 7 4 0 3
20 : 19
12
7 SG Essen-Schönebeck 7 2 2 3
11 : 13
8
8 Hamburger SV 7 2 2 3
11 : 14
8
9 FF USV Jena 7 2 2 3
9 : 15
8
10 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 7 2 1 4
6 : 20
7
11 1. FC Saarbrücken 7 2 0 5
10 : 18
6
12 Herforder SV 7 0 0 7
6 : 28
0

Top Scorer:

Place                   Name                        Team        Goals

1 Grings FCR 2001 Duisburg 10
2 M. Müller VfL Wolfsburg 9
3 Garefrekes 1. FFC Frankfurt 8
4 Prinz 1. FFC Frankfurt 4
4 Bachor FC Bayern München 4
4 Anonma FF USV Jena 4
4 Okoyino da Mbabi SC 07 Bad Neuenahr 4
4 Goeßling SC 07 Bad Neuenahr 4
4 M. Hoffmann SG Essen-Schönebeck 4
4 Jakabfi VfL Wolfsburg 4

Some Offseason Suggestions For the WPS Powers That Be

With the 2010 WPS season now in the books, there’s no better time to start looking ahead to 2011. Forget the doomsday scenarios that seem to be floating around, there will be a 2011 season. The addition of the Western New York franchise is proof of this.

Here are a couple offhand suggestions that may or may not improve the product, both on the field and off of it. Feel free to air some of your own.

 

New merch.

I direct you to Lauren Barker’s proviso on this. WPS has adult admirers, including 20-somethings. Why not target them? Even a T-shirt with a simple WPS logo would suffice (it appears as if there was one in the WPS main shop but it doesn’t seem to be there anymore). In 2011, there will be 42 states without a WPS team. Merch that isn’t oriented to a specific team would be attractive to fans that don’t live in WPS markets.

To continue on that point why not try marketing individual players? Star players transcend their local markets. T-shirts that read “I Support Hope Solo” or “The Living Legend” with Kristine Lilly’s silhouette could interest people. Make it cool. See if these places can help you. (Here and here).

 

Webcasts.

As Jenny from http://nightoflivingrefs.blogspot.com once said, there are thousands of college grads waiting to be unpaid. Get someone a tripod and a video camera and have them stream your matches. A lot of teams (particularly Washington, Chicago and Sky Blue FC) got into the act as the 2010 season wore on which was great. Get your team’s matches seen so they can be followed. UStream is a great (and free) service. Sky Blue FC can tell you about it. Even if you can’t always get commentary at least make sure your matches viewable so fans can track their team’s progress.  

And because it might be unwise to give away your product for free, you may want to consider a small pay-per-view fee. Offer your fans the opportunity to watch all your team’s matches over the course of the season. This is merely a suggestion and it may be countered by the fact that first and foremost, teams need to get people through the gates. Offering webcasts may lessen the incentive to actually see games in person. In this digital age, every professional sports team encounters this conundrum.

 

More behind-the-scenes videos.

Kelley and Ali’s Corner was great. It was silly and fluffy and people ate it up. It’s also cheap and easy to produce (Ali edited the vids herself, right?). Some WPS players are truly funny and interesting and smart and awesome. Why not showcase this? It makes players likeable and endearing which makes supporting a team more of a personal experience.  (In other words give Karen Bardsley a webcam and some editing software and watch what happens.)

Back in the WUSA days the San Diego Spirit produced a feature called “In the Spirit”. The show was broadcast on public access television but that was before the age of YouTube. It was goofy but highly enjoyable. See for yourself:

 

 

Some Frauenbundesliga teams also produce videos of training sessions and such like. Here’s one example:

 

Considering there will be more of an impetus on marketing at the local level in 2011, features like these could help spur a vested interest in a club and its players. There are quality videographers out there who can make this happen (just ask).

The costs concerns that come with producing videos like these are legitimate. This might be far afield but if teams are interested in charging fans for a full season of webcasts, these features could be included in the package. Just a thought.

 

Climate control uniforms.

PUMA has been terrific to WPS so far. Investing in climate control uniforms would be even more terrific (especially for the Boston Breakers and the Philadelphia Independence). Sweat stains can be prevented.

 

No midseason All-Star Game, if any at all.

WPS gave the midseason All-Star Game a shot this season and fair play to them. The game’s attendance figure may suggest that the match is best played at the end of the season like in 2009. It could be the last hurrah of the season, followed up by the swanky Year-End Awards Ceremony (done on the cheap, of course). It just seems right to wait until the season is over before you start celebrating how awesome the season was.

Some fans still fail to see the point in having an All-Star Game. WPS officials must ask if it’s worth it? Most WPS teams are essentially All-Star teams as it is. If the league is still interested in doing an ASG try to lure in one of the best women’s club teams in the world, like Umea IK in 2009. As of today that would probably be either Turbine Potsdam or Olympique Lyonnais (a return trip from Bompastor and Abily? Sweet). Scheduling might be a real issue as these team’s domestic campaigns start in August so a year-end All-Star Game likely wouldn’t work. It’s worth a shot though. Pair up the best with the best and see what comes out of it.

 

Scale back the schedule and eliminate most midweek games.

WPS attracted nearly the same total amount of people in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. The difference? The 2009 season was shorter because the owners wanted their teams to play two more home games in 2010. Cost-cutting will be a major theme in the immediate future of WPS. If two extra games weigh down overall attendance, perhaps it’s not worth it. The 2011 WPS season will also start with eight teams (as far as we know, at least). That could also help make the schedule more compact.

Attendance really suffered this summer and a lot of that had to do with the copious amount of midweek games. Every WPS team experienced a dip in midweek attendance compared to their weekend gates. Shortening the schedule would eliminate this problem.

 The 2011 Women’s World Cup is going to be an issue WPS will have to deal with. More on this later but taking a short respite over the summer is another suggestion, even if it means having the season end in late September again.

 

Location, location or get the Philadelphia Independence and Chicago Red Stars new stadiums.

Danielle Harvey said everything that needs to said about the Independence’s stadium issue. That has to be a priority for that team in the offseason. It’s a shame to see such a great team go unappreciated in a soccer-obsessed city.

The Red Stars averaged some solid attendance figures this season, finishing second-best in the league. But the cavernous size of Toyota Park doesn’t do the Red Stars’ attendance justice. It’s a beautiful facility no doubt but it always looks sparsely-populated. There are college campuses in the city of Chicago, right?

The Boston Breakers could have the same problem even it wasn’t for the fact that Harvard Stadium is located in such an accessible part of Boston. That bodes well for the Breakers’ attendance.

FC Gold Pride can seemingly never seem to settle anywhere. Hayward Stadium is the team’s fourth location in two seasons. The attendances the team was attracting at Hayward weren’t much to write home about but the WPS Championship game was nearly a sell-0ut. Hopefully some of those fans will make return trips next season. Pretty please.

The AWK Contrarian NCAA Top 55 Poll v4.0 – Impostors In The Midst (Alternate Title: Look Who's Fraudulent Now)

I’ve been taking a close look at how teams have been faring against Unadjusted RPI Top 100 Teams (AKA uRPI) thus far in the season and have tacked that on in brackets at the end of each team’s line in this report. I also used what I found to rejigger the rankings a bit, and you’ll also notice some new faces, some dropouts, and the poll as a whole has shrunk by two places.

But before we get into the rankings, how about a bit of an experiment. Here are the uRPI Top 100 records of the six teams ranked that have less than two wins against uRPI 100 opposition. Let’s call them Teams A-F right now.

Team A: 0-2-1
Team B: 1-0-1
Team C: 1-3-1
Team D: 1-3-0
Team E: 1-1-2
Team F: 1-2-2

Four of those teams aren’t even receiving votes in the three other major polls. One is in the Top 10 in each poll. One is in the Top 20 in two polls. How does that make any sense? And who are these mystery impostors? Find out and take a look at the new rankings after the jump.
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Major Changes Afoot In Washington As Bompastor and Gabarra Depart

Offseason changes are inevitable in sports but it appears as if the Washington Freedom are wasting little time.

After months of speculation, French midfielder/outside back Sonia Bompastor has reportedly rebuffed her 2011 option with the Washington Freedom and is set to return to former club Olympique Lyonnais. The move comes off the heels of French national teammate Camille Abily’s transfer to the same French Feminine 1 Division side.

In an article with French website La Nouvelle Republique, Bompastor reveals that the decision did not come easy. She had previously fallen out with then-head coach Farid  Benstiti and administrative director Marino Faccioli. The conflict presumably arose when both Bompastor and Abily decided to take part in WPS’ inaugural 2009 season. Their decision did not sit well with the Lyon brass and they reportedly sued the players for €500,000 for “damages to the sport and image”.

Bompastor also stated that she was lured by offers from Paris St. Germain, for whom she was loaned to in the 2010 WPS offseason. Olympique Lyon won out, however, and Bompastor’s decision was influenced by the fact that new coach Patrice Lair was helming the club. She also stated that she would likely see out her final years as a professional with Lyon.

The prospect of playing alongside national team players in a World Cup year may also have been irresistible. It’s an issue that might become a theme this WPS offseason, as European players could very well be enticed to return home. Abily and Bompastor were amongst the first European players to join WPS when it launched and blazed the trail for others to follow. Are they going to set another trend?

There is also the temptation of UEFA Champions League glory. Lyon are the best European women’s club team outside of Germany. Lyon have won the Feminine 1 Division in four consecutive years. They have also reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 before appearing in the 2009-2010 Final where they lost to Turbine Potsdam in penalties.

Club President Jean-Michel Aulas has not been shy in revealing the team’s ambitions of winning the Champions League. The club are arguably the biggest spenders in international women’s football. The squad has been bolstered by the likes of Camille Abily (fresh off a 2010 WPS Championship) and 21 year-old striker Eugenie Le Sommer from Stade Briochin, who was the French league’s top scorer last season.

Lyon are currently tied in first with Saint-Etienne in the Feminine 1 Division after three matches played. They will try to protect their 100% record when they travel to take on last season’s runners-up Jusivy this coming weekend.

From a personal standpoint, it’s very sad to see WPS lose a player of Sonia Bompastor’s standard. I still hold true to the notion that Sonia was the most technically gifted player in WPS. She made simplicity look sublime and the extraordinary look effortless. She was a major cog in the Washington Freedom and her masterful passing ability, tenacity, perseverance and overall class will be missed sorely.

One can not begrudge either Bompastor or Abily for wanting to make the move. I was privileged enough to witness the players’ personal friendship first hand and it comes as little surprise that they would like to attain European glory together as teammates, as compatriots and as friends.

WPS will struggle to find a suitable replacement for Sonia Bompastor. Perhaps because there isn’t one.

 

 

(Thanks to Charles for the initial tip)

 

Today the Freedom also announced the resignation of head coach Jim Gabarra. Gabarra began his career with the club back in August 2000. He led the team to the WUSA Founder’s Cup in 2003 and the W-League Championship in 2007.

Given his tenure and success with the Freedom organization (two playoff appearances and one title in WUSA, two playoff appearances in WPS), the resignation is certainly surprising. The Freedom had a calamitous dip in form this past summer and failed to find a win in 10 consecutive matches. Gabarra remained but long-time assistant Clyde Watson walked. Former Red Stars head coach Emma Hayes was appointed as “soccer consultant for the interim period”.

The team then bucked up (much to the inspiring play of Ashlyn Harris and Abby Wambach) and went on to collect 14 points out of a possible 21. The total was good enough to earn a return postseason appearance (the Freedom were the only team that appeared in the WPS in both 2009 and 2010). The Freedom’s championship dreams were vanquished in the First Round, however, by Amy Rodriguez’s goal in the final minute of extra time.

FC Gold Pride, the Philadelphia Independence and the Boston Breakers now stand as the only WPS three teams that have yet to make a change at the head coach position. They are also the three highest finishers in WPS this season. The Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC, the Atlanta Beat and now the Washington Freedom have all parted with their respective head coaches in 2010.

Perhaps the team’s poor summer run had permanently soured the relationship between Gabarra and the Freedom organization. It seems as if Gabarra’s time had run its course with the team.

With the departures of both Sonia Bompastor and Jim Gabarra, the Washington Freedom are now in a period of transition. It will be interesting to see how one of the most storied clubs in women’s soccer (here in the U.S. at least) will cope in the face of change.

Photo Essay of the 2010 WPS Championship Game

Click the link below for the full Photo Essay.

Photo Essay | 2010 WPS Championship

I woke up this morning with slightly blackened knees and grey shins. Three  bags littered my bedroom floor with gear half-strewn around them. My favorite Coachella hat was resting on my airplane sized Pelican case with a crumpled FC Gold Pride press pass nestled in the dimple of the fedora. I woke up this morning, and all was right with my world.

Let’s go back a day. I was up out the door by 9:15am, scooting straight to the absolute best corner store/deli to grab the key ingredients for the morning: OJ and cheap Champagne. This was not just any day, this was WPS Championship Day. Tailgating was a must. Shooting out a few tweets then I was on the road, my red Prius scooting through a California marsh towards the better-smelling-greener-grass other side; Hayward.

Tailgating with some Twitter buddies, I grabbed my press pass and set up on the field to the right of what soon would be Val Henderson’s goal. This placement was key, as it kept me out of the incredibly unflattering view of the FSC cameras.

The beating Cali sun kept the sweet turf field rather toasty. So a short period of kneeling down quickly gave way to me perching on my Pelican case. Perfect. Great day, great atmosphere and a great behind-the-scenes coordination by the FC Gold Pride crew. Was a fun shindig all around.

Rather than cut down the hundreds of shots into just a few beauties to share with you all, Jenna let me have some fun. I love enablers.

Click the link above to browse my Photo Essay, and enjoy!