Monthly Archives: July 2011

2011 NCAA Soccer Preview – Southland – The (Soon To Be) Departed

Lacey Bockhaus

Southeastern Louisiana's Lacey Bockhaus - More History In Goal In 2011?

You’d forgive the heads of the Southland Conference in feeling a little sheepish at the end of the 2010 season. After an exciting campaign that had seen the emergence of upstart Texas-San Antonio at the top of the heap after the Southland Conference Tournament, there was to be a rather grim comedown in the Big Dance itself as the Roadrunners were systematically dismantled by Portland at Merlo Field, 9-0, in one of the worst beatings dished out in the NCAA Tournament in some time. It hardly took the shine off of a great season from a program that had been nothing but a glimmer in the eyes of a few half a decade ago, but it still stung nonetheless.

Worse was yet to come for the league. After the latest round of musical chairs in conference realignment, the Southland was one of those holding the proverbial bag when the music stopped. In the blink of an eye, UTSA was WAC-bound as of the 2012 season. Adding salt to the wound was the WAC poaching Texas State and Texas-Arlington (though the latter doesn’t sponsor soccer) as well. Suddenly, the league was lighter two of its best performers in recent years and left with eight soccer playing programs.

It’s a lame duck year for sure, but there’s still quality to be found in the Southland for 2011. The league often plays like a pared down version of its much bigger cousin, the Big XII, with explosive scoring, physical play, and sometimes spotty defenses. Hey, it even has the same problems with teams looking for the exit door! While its anybody’s guess as to what the league’s next move is in adding back to its ranks, the brass will surely be desperate to have the focus on who’s on the pitch for 2011 rather than who won’t be there for 2012 and beyond.
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Sunday Morning “The End is Nigh” Update: WPSL, W-League, WPS

WPSL

The Chicago Red Stars will face the Orange County Wave in the 2011 WPSL Championship Game today at 1 PM CT.

The Red Stars hadn’t played in two weeks, were missing regular starters Elise Weber (wedding) and Vanessa DiBernardo (U-23 camp), but still managed to claim a 2-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Hellenic. Michele Weissenhofer and Julie Ewing scored for Chicago before Tampa Bay’s Tatiana Mathelier cut down the deficit down to one goal. Chicago held on though and advance to today’s final in their inaugural season in the WPSL.

In the other semifinal, the Waves blanked defending champions Boston Aztec Breakers Reserve 3-0. Former Sky Blue FC player Meagen Snell bagged a brace and Katrin Omarsdottir added another tally. Kiki Bosio contributed two assists. Waves coach Abner Rogers changed his formation to a more attack-minded 4-3-3 and it paid dividends.

Red Stars coach Rory Dames is aware of the threat the Waves’ system poses. He said, “We’re going to need to show up and play better than we did [on Saturday]. They’ll get the ball down, they’ll play some sort of three-front [formation], they’ll try to find seams and try to do a lot of service into the box. We’re just going to have to be intelligent enough to play where we have the numerical advantages and break them down.”

You can view the match via webcast at www.ChicagoRedStars.com and www.WPSL.info.

 

W-League

The Ottawa Fury will look to capture a perfect season with a win against the Atlanta Silverbacks in tonight’s league final. The Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders will also face off in the consolation match.

 

WPS

A sold out crowd of 5,065 people were on hand in Piscataway to watch the WNY Flash defeat Sky Blue FC 3-1.

In the 22nd minute Therese Sjogran recorded her team-leading sixth assist of the season as she fed Adriana a pass that led to the game’s first goal of the night.

Just seven minutes later the Flash equalized as McCall Zerboni drove a hard shot past Sky Blue goalkeeper Jenni Branam. SBFC’s official match report perhaps said it best as Zerboni’s goal “triggered an offensive explosion”. The Flash netted two more times before the halftime whistle as Marta and Christine Sinclair both got on the scoreboard.

In the closing minutes of the second half Alex Morgan guaranteed victory for the Flash as she chipped Branam for the goal. It was her fourth goal in five matches, World Cup games included.

Before the match Jenni Branam announced that she plans to retire at the conclusion of the season.

 

In Saturday’s other match, magicJack got back to their winning ways with an emphatic 4-0 win against the Boston Breakers. Christen Press tallied a hat-trick while player-coach Abby Wambach opened the scoring with her fifth goal of the season. Press must have been reading all the reactionary “Alex Morgan for RotY” talk because she’s now the clear frontrunner for the honor.

According to the press report, the Breakers registered just one shot all game.  

magicJack are back in a playoff spot as they’re now tied on points with Sky Blue. Boston has three matches left to sneak back into the playoff race.

Hope Solo was not in attendance at the match because of…NASCAR? Solo will be behind the wheel of the pace car at today’s 2011 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

 

And to take one last glance at the top of the league standings, the Flash are now level on points with the first place Philadelphia Independence. Philadelphia can extend their lead once more with a win against Atlanta tonight.

Speaking of Atlanta, it’s always been hard to take the Beat seriously (Lori Chalupny, this is not aimed at you), especially since coach James Galanis admitted the team never thought they’d make the playoffs. But these quotes from him are truly LOL-worthy.     

Paul Riley better expect to play 1970 Brazil at Widener University tonight.

W-League, WPSL Semifinals Updates and More Notables

  • The pair of W-League finalists has been determined. On Friday night the Atlanta Silverbacks defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1. Tiffany Weimer scored an equalizer before the Silverbacks scored two unanswered goals. In the other match the Ottawa Fury sneaked past the Seattle Sounders 2-3. W-League MVP Mallory Outerbridge scored a brace in that match. The final between the Atlanta Silverbacks and Ottawa Fury will be held on Sunday at 7:30 4:00 PT.

 

  • The WPSL semifinals are also set to kick off today.  Defending champions Boston Aztec Breakers Reserves will take on the Orange County Waves at 1pm before the Chicago Red Stars meet the Tampa bay Hellenic at 3pm. The winner of both games will play for the 2011 WPSL Championship on Sunday, July 31st at 1pm. The Chicago Red Stars will be hosting the 2011 WPSL National Championship weekend on their home turf (Village of Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex) in Lisle, Ill.  Fortunately the matches can be viewed via webcast. The 2011 WPSL National Championship webcasts will be accessible at www.ChicagoRedStars.com and www.WPSL.info.

 

  • In tonight’s WPS action, Sky Blue FC will have the chance to maintain possession of third place against the WNY Flash. A win for the Flash would bring them level with Philadelphia in first place.

 

  • Tomorrow’s matches will see magicJack attempt to regain some form against the Boston Breakers. Both sides are currently on 16 points. And on FSC, the first place Philadelphia Independence will look to extend their league against the Atlanta Beat.

 

  • On Thursday the Philadelphia Independence announced that the team is “likely” to host their WPS playoff game at PPL Park.

 

  • On Wednesday ESPN’s Jacqueline Purdy wrote about the post-WWC bounce that’s currently being experienced in WPS.

 

  • Here’s some video and (most notably) some coverage of magicJack’s midweek match on NBC Miami.

 

  • Beau Dure’s piece on espnW regarding the options pro women’s soccer has going forward is a must read.

 

  • Today is Hope Solo’s 30th birthday and The Huffington Post is running a piece on why Solo is capitalizing on the newfound media attention and vice versa.

 

 

  • The Mia Hamm Foundation is staging the fourth edition of the Celebrity Soccer Challenge on Sunday in southeastern D.C. In addition to celebrities like Pep Guardiola and Kobe Bryant,   USWNT players Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, Heather O’Reilly, Tobin Heath will also be participating in the 7-a-side match. The event will help raise funds and awareness for families needing marrow or cord blood transplants. Read more about the match here.

 

  • On Thursday Spain defeated Iceland 4-0 to advance to the final of the 2011 UEFA Women’s U-17 Championship. Alexia Putellas netted a brace. In the other semifinal, France bested Germany in penalty kicks. The final will be held tomorrow.

 

  • Two members of the Football Ferns have landed pro contracts in the Frauen-Bundesliga. Striker Amber Hearn will be part of new coach Martina-Voss Tecklenburg’s project at USV Jena. 21-year-old Ria Percival has also signed a deal with FFC Frankfurt.

 

  • The first annual Soccer for the Cure will be a 24-hour nonstop soccer game to raise funds for Susan G. Komen For the Cure. This year Jonathan Stein lost his mom to breast cancer and created the event to help honor her memory. The event needs players for 2 hour time blocks beginning on August 5th at 6:00PM  (Players must be 14 years and older). Time slots can be selected on a first come first serve basis. It will be held at Joseph Sims Elementary School in Elk Grove, CA. For more information please email jonathan@jonathangstein.com.

 

  • And lastly, a video that woud do Cali Swag District and Abby Wambach proud.

[vsw id="3OvFAnt5-jw" source="youtube" width="500" height="450" autoplay="no"]

 

A surprise weekend vacation has pushed the final post of the WWC MVP list to Monday. Either that or this is just me regretting putting Lauren Cheney at #25.

2011 NCAA Soccer Preview – Patriot League – Atlantic Treasures

Molly McGuigan

Knight's Time - Army Sophomore Molly McGuigan, A Top Patriot League Defender in 2011 and Beyond

Though mostly unknown and overlooked outside of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region, the Patriot League has long served as one of the overlooked gems in DI soccer. Home to nowadays rare stability with the same lineup of teams for a decade strong, tantalizing rivalries such as Army vs Navy, some truly fantastic facilities, and a little bit of USWNT royalty (Navy head coach Carin Gabarra), the Patriot League has been a conference that hasn’t received its fair share of attention in recent years. On their day, the best in the conference can play with anyone. Just ask Arizona who were stunned by Colgate in the NCAA Tournament in 2004 or Nebraska who was downed by Lehigh in 2009.

And there are storylines galore entering into the 2011 season. Can Army keep up the withering pace their defense set last season and go one better to get into the NCAA Tournament this season? Can Eric Lambinus shock everyone again and get Lehigh into a second straight Big Dance? Will Carin Gabarra be able to get the vaunted Navy program back into title contention? How will Bucknell and American do without Christa Matlack and Friederike Engel respectively, two of the best to have ever put on the shirt for each program?

Almost inevitably tight at the top and in the gloves off four-team postseason tournament, the Patriot League promises to serve up delicious theatre once again. And perhaps the chance to see a future WPS player or two in the vein of Lehigh great and current WNY Flash defender Gina Lewandowski
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AWK’s NCAA Soccer Prestige Pyramid v1.0

Ah, yes, the prestige pyramid. I came up with this monstrosity some time in the Spring when I was debating college soccer’s “North Carolina Problem” when it comes to measuring the prestige of the collection of programs. Namely that judging programs based on National Titles (or Hell, even conference titles in the ACC) is hard when one program’s one the vast majority of everything there is to win.

I also came up with this after reading a Spring match report where LSU, after playing Texas, called the Longhorns a national power. I mean, look, we love you guys in Baton Rouge, but really? Under what objective measure is Texas a national power in college soccer?

So I basically tried to come up with some mutant form of objective measurement to measure prestige. I think it turned out well, but there are obviously some flaws, caveats, etc.

Notes:

-This is based on the last five years mostly and in the last ten on the top few levels. Why? Because besides the hideous kits and bodacious hair, the game’s changed a whole lot over the past decade. Go watch an average game from 2001. A good deal of it is just plain unwatchable beyond the very top level. And times change. George Mason won a national title way back when, but nobody is confusing them with a national power these days. That and the math was time consuming enough for five years. You think I’m going to calculate TEN years of data? Maybe when we get interns or PAs here at AWK World Headquarters.

-I’m going to guess that there may be some outrage among some parts that I’m including Notre Dame on the same level as North Carolina. I’ll be honest, Notre Dame really isn’t on the same level as North Carolina over the past five seasons, but they’re clearly number two over that time span. And I really, really didn’t want to have two levels with just one team on them. So consider North Carolina at the very top of the Pantheon, with Notre Dame just a little below them.

-National titles, as they should, matter. You win one, you’re on that second step (at worse) for five seasons.

-Getting to College Cups matters also, but realistically, if you don’t pull down the big prize you have to get to multiple ones to ascent to that second step in the pyramid. Think of it this way, is Ohio State on the same level as Florida State? Yeah, I don’t think so.

-The North Carolina Problem rears its ugly head beyond level two. The Heels have won just about everything in the ACC, but nobody’s going to argue programs like Virginia aren’t worthy of a spot relatively high up on the pyramid, because they’ve not been able to topple UNC, right? That’s why the other caveats for NCAA Tournament appearances (and progress) and % of points collected in league play are in place.

-Winning things matters at conference level also. Win a major trophy and you’re at the fourth step on the pyramid for five years at least. Winning multiple things matters also. And league titles are more valuable than conference titles, hence them counting more towards your Pyramid status.

-Beyond the top two levels, you can’t really compare prestige of teams between conferences. I mean, nobody’s going to realistically claim an ACC power is comparable with a SWAC power, right?

The Pantheon – National Level I (1 National Title Past Five Years, 2+ Past Ten Years)

-North Carolina
-Notre Dame

National Level II – (National Powers) (1 National Title Past Five Years or Multiple College Cups Past Five Years)

-Florida State
-Stanford
-UCLA
-USC
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2011 NCAA Soccer Preview – Northeast Conference – Style and Steel

LIU

Hard Road Ahead? - Defending League Champs Long Island Deal With Heavy Losses in 2011

Well away from the eyes of most of the college soccer world, one of the DI’s most interesting dichotomies was brewing throughout the 2010 NEC season. Two teams proved they were without a doubt the class of the field but did it in very different manners. The Long Island Blackbirds left their mark with a punishing, withering defense that steamrolled almost all of the NEC teams in its’ path and had freshman keeper Jessica Sexton going down in the record books as having, statistically, one of the best seasons in recent memory. Their rivals, the St. Francis Red Flash, a program toiling in anonymity for most of their history, were doing it in entirely the opposite manner, with a destructive offense that blew the rest of the league out of the water, the beneficiaries of a little Samba flair and a successful injury return.

In the end, St. Francis would prove that defense doesn’t always win championships (at least in the NEC), by beating their rivals twice and taking their maiden voyage to the NCAA Tournament. It was one of the most interesting league developments in years in a conference plagued by undersupported and underfunded programs and a clutch of teams who have long been unable to pull themselves out of an extended cycle of losing. It also represented a departure from the usual duopoly of domination from Central Connecticut State and Monmouth who had ruled the league with an almost iron fist for the better part of a decade and a half. More competition at the top can only be a good thing for a league with its name in lights all too rarely these days.
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The 60 Most Valuable Players In the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup: 40-21

And the list continues. Counting down this time.

 

40.) Nilla Fischer – The steely Swedish midfielder was immense against the U.S. and Japan and succeeded in disrupting opponent’s attacking rhythm. It’s a wonder how Fischer would have done against Japan in the semifinals match had she not missed the match due to suspension. 

39.) Kerstin Garefrekes - The tournament may not have ended the way the veteran outside midfielder had envisioned, but Garefrekes showed glimpses of her patented greatness. Her towering header against Canada was a real belter. She remained Germany’s most creative attacking option on the wing even though she could never quite forge a discernable link with her forwards. 

38.) Cristiane – Crafty and creative, the former Chicago Red Stars forward was a prominent part of Brazil’s scattergun attack. Cristiane’s crowning moment came against Equatorial Guinea when she helped herself to a brace and an assist in the team’s comprehensive 3-0 victory. She showed an intuitive understanding with strike partner Marta, even though that was largely absent in Brazil’s match against the U.S.   

37.) Ali Riley – The virtues that made Ali Riley WPS’s Rookie of the Year in 2010 were on full display in Germany. The WNY Flash right-back helped spur the attack for New Zealand with her probing runs and accurate crosses. It’s just a shame the Football Ferns attacked down the flanks as a Plan B and not Plan A.

36.) Celia da Mbabi Okoyino – Everything seemed to be going according to plan by the time da Mbabi Okoyino netted Germany’s maiden goal in the tournament against Canada. The host’s attack never quite looked in sync thereafter, even despite the Bad Neuenahr striker’s best efforts. The 24-year-old got on the scoreboard once more in the team’s final group stage match versus France and appeared to be the only member of Germany’s  star-studded strike force who consistenty lived up to the hype.

35.) Elise Kellond-Knight – The Matildas’ backline was oft-maligned for some truly woeful defensive collapses against Equatorial Guinea, Norway, and Sweden. Much of the blame can be placed on the shoulders of a certain center-back, however, and that shouldn’t gloss over the number of outstanding performances from the 20-year-old left-back. Kellond-Knight occasionally ventured forward, but had her area on lockdown when she remained in defense.

34.) Eugenie Le Sommer – The 22-year-old fulfilled much of her promise as she was a surefire weapon off the bench. The tricky winger helped carve up Canada’s defense in France’s second group match with her speed, ability to cut inside from the left, and positional intelligence. That match – aided by Le Sommer’s effectiveness –  marked France’s defining moment in the tournament.

33.) Kim Kulig – The precocious talent got off to a flying start as she and Simone Laudehr effectively became the first line of defense in Germany’s midfield. Kulig constantly harried opposing midfielders, even though Germany’s attackers seemed to struggle to make good use of the possession their holding midfielders helped win them. The 20-year-old had a thoroughly luckless end to the tournament as she tore her ACL minutes into Germany’s ill-fated quarterfinals match against Japan. The hosts could never exert their will in midfield from then on.

32.) Nahomi Kawasumi – It was Kawasumi’s fine brace against Sweden that propelled Japan into the final. Kawasumi spearheaded Japan’s attack in place of Yuki Nagasoto. Head coach Norio Sasaki’s move paid dividends as Kawasumi did not disappoint.  

31.) Lisa Dahlkvist – The 24-year-old wide player turned out to be one of Sweden’s most dependable goal-scoring options. Dahlkvist scored a trio of goals in the tournament including the eventual game-winner in Sweden’s second group match against North Korea. Every 4-4-2 system needs a player like Dahlkvist running the flanks.

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2011 NCAA Soccer Preview – Summit League – Chaos Theory

Kayla Braffet

South Dakota State's Kayla Braffet Will Be Hoping To Fire Her Team To The Top in 2011

Changing names, changing teams, changing…everything really. The Artist Formerly Known as The Mid-Continent Conference will be celebrating year thirty of its existence this year, the fifth season since changing its name to the Summit League. In its wake have been eighteen, eighteen former members. The league has survived mass defections to the Horizon League, members’ athletic departments going belly up (see Northeastern Illinois University), dumping unwanted flotsam (Chicago State), and most recently, having a member drop all the way down to Division III (Centenary).

While you probably needed a scorecard just to keep up with who was in the league in the turbulent nineties, the league seemed to have roared back in the new millennium, adding IPFW, North Dakota State, and South Dakota State to their ranks in 2007. The league looked to be further boosted by the news that Nebraska-Omaha, a capable DII team, was making the upgrade to DI (but not before gutting many sports) and would join up for DI in 2012, one year after the conference adds South Dakota to their ranks. But because there can never really be a moment of peace in the Summit League, Southern Utah announced before the season that they were jumping ship to the Big Sky after the 2011 season, mainly for practical geographic reasons. There was of course paranoia that South Dakota would make a hasty retreat to join North Dakota in the Big Sky, but those rumors died down when the program joined the MVFC conference for football.

Of course, all of the political conference wrangling off the pitch has taken some of the focus off of on the pitch developments which have generally been positive. South Dakota State was the first Summit League team to win an NCAA Tournament match in 2008, while North Dakota State nearly stunned Texas A&M last year. It’s all enough to almost make you forget that the league could seismically shift yet again at a moment’s notice. Almost.
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WPS Wednesday Edition: SBFC, Philly Star While magicJack, Boston Stutter

The WPS playoffs picture continues to take shape as four teams were in action on Wednesday.

Sky Blue FC defeated magicJack 2-0 to assume sole possession of third place. Allie Long opened the scoring after just 15 minutes when she finished off a pass from Heather O’Reilly. In the 68th minute, magicJack player-coach Abby Wambach attempted to clear a corner kick but ended up deflecting it into the home side’s net for an own goal.

This marks the first time a visiting team has ever come away with a win at magicJack’s ground in Boca Raton. The wheels appear to be coming off the mJ wagon as the team is now winless in six matches. magicJack are now out of a playoff spot for the first time all season, but are tied on points with the fourth place Breakers and have a game in hand.

A franchise record 3,286 fans attended the match. Before the match FAU expanded its soccer field’s capacity to accommodate the anticipated surge in local interest. Among the faces in the crowd were Sonia Bompastor, Eugenie Le Sommer, and other French internationals who apparently made their presence known. (A post-WWC holiday in South Florida, perhaps?)

In the other midweek match, the Boston Breakers looked to extend their unbeaten run to a record six matches but fell to the Philadelphia Independence 1-0. Vero continues her MVP campaign as she netted the game-winning goal in the 83rd minute.

The Spanish international’s goal was enough to seal off a match that had few goal-scoring opportunities.

 “It was not a classic encounter to say the least, but there was one moment of magic and that was Vero’s finish,” said Independence head coach Paul Riley. “A brilliant strike that deserved to grab all three points.”

The Independence are now three points clear of the second place WNY Flash although the Flash still have two games in hand. The two teams’ goal differentials are nearly identical. The Flash have scored just one more goal than the Independence while both teams have conceded exactly 15 goals.

 

The updated standings:

Philadelphia Independence 15 GP/30 PTS

WNY Flash 13 GP/27 PTS

SBFC 14 GP/19 PTS

Boston Breakers 14 GP/16 PTS

magicJack 13 GP/16 PTS

Atlanta Beat 15 GP/7 PTS

 

Form chart (Last five results included):

Philadelphia Independence W L W W W 12 points

WNY Flash D W W L L 7 points

Sky Blue FC W W L D L 7 points

Boston Breakers L D W D D 6 points

magicJack L D L D L  2 points

Atlanta Beat D L L L D 2 points

Part two of the WWC MVP list will be up late Thursday evening. Job.

The 60 Most Valuable Players In the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup: 41-60

Remember the World Cup? It ended about a week and a half ago, and it was pretty amazing. In a bid to refresh the memories, here’s a countdown of the tournament’s 60 most distinctive distinguished players. These aren’t necessarily in order by individual greatness, but by the amount of value added to the team.
Pardon the tardiness. The list will be completed on Friday.

 

41.) Caitlin Foord – The 16-year-old right-back was a surprise start for Australia’s opening group match against Brazil but quickly earned her keeps. Foord also showcased her versatility as she appeared in a right midfield position in Australia’s quarterfinals match against Sweden. Blessed with blazing speed and accurate crossing, Foord was highlighted as Best Young Player of the Tournament beating out the likes of Saki Kumagai and Kim Kulig.
42.) Kyah Simon – The precocious Sydney FC striker turned 20 on the eve of the World Cup’s opening kick-off and displayed a  youthful sense of adventure in front of goal. Her well-deserved brace against Norway helped ensure Australia’s passage to the quarterfinals.
43.) Elodie Thomis – With blistering pace and a voracious appetite for goal, the French winger proved to be one of the tournament’s most impactful substitutes.
44.) Laura Georges – France’s center-back showed acute positional awareness against Nigeria and then kept Christine Sinclair at bay in France’s next match. She wasn’t exactly helped by Bruno Bini’s constant defensive tweaks or her goalkeeper’s deficiencies. Georges also showed some proneness for lapses of concentration, but, let’s face it, she had a lot to deal with.
45.) Emilie Haavi – The 19-year-old  outside midfielder holds the distinction of scoring one of Norway’s two goals in the tournament. Haavi’s technical skill and ferocious shot helped her to become one of the brightest teenaged standouts of the Word Cup. Norway’s most promising young player by a mile.
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