Monthly Archives: December 2011

The CanWNT Year in Review

For better or for worse, many things happened over the course of 2011 for the Canadian Women’s National Team. Let’s take a look at what transpired:

Kara Lang’s Retirement

A promising career came to an end when Kara Lang announced her retirement from club and international soccer [watch here] on January 5. The then 24 year-old had suffered two ACL tears in her right knee, first in 2006 and again in 2009. Lang weighed her options for managing the pain in her knee in order to continue playing, but the ultimate decision was the best choice for her long-term health as knee replacement surgery, a lifetime of arthritis and continual use of anti-inflammatory drugs were potential aspects of her future.

Arguably one of the most well known figures of the CanWNT, Lang initially gained recognition as a 15 year-old on Canada’s U-19 Women’s World Cup team that finished in second place in 2002 and as the youngest player to suit up for the senior national team. She went on to represent Canada at the 2003 Women’s World Cup where they achieved their best ever result finishing fourth overall, as well as at the 2007 WWC and the WNT’s first Olympic appearance in Beijing 2008. With her apt for scoring goals from distance, the midfielder/striker rounded out her career with 34 goals in 92 caps.

Lang continues to have an active post-soccer career. She’s appeared as an analyst on Rogers Sportsnet for the 2011 WWC and hosts Rogers TV’s Your World This Week. Lang is also a yoga instructor at Shunyata Yoga, while being the Technical Director of Street Soccer Canada and coaching Toronto’s Street Soccer women’s team.

All White Kit caught up with Lang in August as she helped to raise money for Athletes for Africa’s Rock the Pitch Charity Soccer Tournament.

Yongchuan Cup Four Nations Tournament

The 2011 season began in China January 21-25. Late heroics by a tandem of veteran strikers made Canada’s opening match against the host country one of the most exciting of the year. After trailing by 2 goals through the first 45 minutes, Melissa Tancredi cut the score in half in the 56′ before assisting Sinclair’s equalizer in the 80′. The duo combined again in the 94′ for the game winner by Sinclair.

In the following game, the CanWNT’s 11 game unbeaten streak (9 wins, 2 draws) came to an end with a 2-1 loss to the USWNT. Lauren Cheney opened the scoring in the 54′ while Tancredi answered back just two minutes later. Lindsay Tarpley’s goal in the 71′ would prove to be the difference maker [watch here].

The tournament concluded against Sweden where Sinclair proved that she’s gotten leaner and faster within the past couple of years. Latching on to a clearing header by Emily Zurrer, Sinclair outran three Swedish defenders to slot in her third goal of the tournament [watch here]. With Canada and the US tied in wins, the latter was awarded first place for holding the head-to-head advantage, while Sinclair claimed the MVP award.

Carolina Morace vs. the CSA: Round 1

Well, on the bright side, at least this bit of news appeared on the front page of The Globe & Mail’s sports section, right?

On February 4, Carolina Morace announced her intentions to resign as head coach of the CanWNT upon the conclusion of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, citing differences in her vision for the program from that of the Canadian Soccer Association’s. One such disagreement stemmed from Morace’s desire for greater budgetary control.

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2011 Review: Names We Won’t Soon Forget, Part II

And the list continues.

 

It will be hard to forget Genoveva Anonma’s electrifying performances this summer. Equatorial Guinea may have been well out of its depth, but Anonma singlehandedly kept her side afloat in its three group games. The explosive striker’s brace against Australia helped her crack into the tournament’s All-Star team. She was also a one-woman team with USV Jena in the Frauen-Bundesliga, who have become relegation fodder since her departure this summer. Anonma made the jump to Turbine Potsdam, and has needed no time to adjust. She scored in her each of her first eight games with the club, and currently sits atop the league’s scoring table on fifteen goals. Her goal production in 2011 has been utterly prolific, and there’s no end in sight.

 

Who says there’s no place for inanimate objects on this list? ESPN’s coverage of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup brought an additional sense of spectacle to the tournament. Time for Big Blue to get the recognition it so richly deserves. An engineering marvel, ESPN’s mobile unit was a state-of-the-art television studio and accompanying control room on wheels. It traveled to six different host cities as an 18-wheeler and could expand and contract to steer through Germany’s many narrow streets. Big Blue was specifically designed and produced for the Women’s World Cup. ESPN made all the right moves in its assemblage of on-air talent, marketing, and tournament coverage on sites like espnW. Big Blue was perhaps the network’s most outstanding feat.    

 

It’s been said that Bruno Bini doesn’t merely want to be a coach, he strives to be an educator. The head coach of the France Women’s National Team clearly taught his pupils well. Japan’s brand of attacking soccer was deservedly praised for its technical precision and team cohesion. With all due respect to the world champions, Les Bleues played the sexiest football of the tournament. Although France’s lack of cutting edge upfront betrayed the team in the latter stages, it’s expressive, one-touch style of play was often visually arresting. It harkened back to the acclaimed French men’s teams of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Raymond Domenech’s squad infamously disgraced itself at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Hopefully Bini’s side restored some faith in the nation’s footballing ethos.   

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2011 Review: Names We Won’t Soon Forget

Dan Borislow can be characterized as many things: a self-made gazillionaire on a personal crusade to ensure the viability of women’s soccer for future generations; a renegade who prefers to operate as a lone wolf; a George Steinbrenner figure whose many eccentricities match his wild ambitions; a megalomaniacal, unhinged control freak; a merciless, grammatically challenged bully who incurs wrath on those he lacks respect for; an asshole. Anyone who has visited this blog (or hell, the Gawker network) in the past two months has likely already formed an opinion on him, and it’s needless to rehash the wacky and often ludicrous happenings that occurred throughout Borislow’s time in WPS. His intervention may be viewed as a necessary evil that ensured the league’s survival in the most critical of years. That era is over now, and the league looks ahead to what is likely the best of all words, albeit without the South Florida fan base: a fourth season without Dan Borislow.

 

Lauren Cheney’s intrinsic value to the USWNT may not be illustrated in stats, but you should get a sense of it from watching the team play. Cheney was the ultimate utility player in 2011; a support striker behind the central forward, a playmaker in central mid, a left winger, a left winger/left back when needed, the attack-minded deep-lying midfielder in a double-six pairing. Aside from perhaps the last one, Cheney succeeded in each of those roles. The 24-year-old is a wrecking ball of an attacker, but is also tactically disciplined enough to carry out any task she’s assigned. Her maturation as an all-around player has been a wonder to watch these past two years. There’s no stopping her.

 

Robbie Church celebrated his tenth year at the helm of the Duke Blue Devils by guiding his side to the College Cup final. The team began the 2011 campaign outside the top 25, but would finish the season in the top two. It was quite a feat for a squad that lacked the services of experienced seniors. The team’s front three was entirely comprised of underclassmen, but that didn’t prevent the Blue Devils from edging past Wake Forest in the semifinal. Duke eventually fell to Stanford at the last stage, but Church and his side certainly made a memorable account of themselves. They’ll surely be back for more.

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Rachel Buehler Joins the Atlanta Beat

Statement of Intent: Buehler will help usher in a new era for the franchise

The Atlanta Beat promises to be a new-look team in 2012. AWK has learned that defender Rachel Buehler is the newest addition to James Galanis’ side. She recently signed a one-year deal with the club.

The 26-year-old has been a mainstay with the United States Women’s National Team since 2008 and holds 66 caps with the senior team.  Buehler appeared for the Boston Breakers in 2011 before spending two years with FC Gold Pride. The California native was an important cog in the Gold Pride team that won the 2010 WPS Championship. She anchored a defense that allowed the fewest goals in the league that season.

It’s been a different story for the Atlanta Beat. The franchise has finished last in the table in each of its two years in WPS. The team’s defense has conceded the most goals in the league in those two seasons as well.

The Atlanta Beat’s current incarnation has yet to match the mark left by the WUSA franchise of the same name. Helmed by Tom Stone, that Atlanta Beat team reached the playoffs in each of the WUSA’s three seasons, becoming the only side in league history to do so.  

The Beat will likely be forced to part with Buehler for the Olympics, but the signing affirms that it’s a new day in Kennesaw.

The additions of Buehler, Rebecca Moros, and Lauren Fowlkes should buttress Atlanta’s defense. Last night Jeff Kassouf reported that the Beat are also interested in goalkeeper Val Henderson.

The team made its first splash of the offseason in December by acquiring Hermann Trophy winner Christen Press.  The Beat will look to use its two first round draft picks to round out its squad at the 2012 WPS Draft on January 13.

(Photo courtesy of NC-Soccer.)

My 2012 (Mostly) CanWNT Wish List

1) More good memories from London 2012 and beyond

The 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup provided a slew of memorable moments. For Canadians, the highlight was probably watching Christine Sinclair break her nose, refuse medical attention, then continue to play and score a stunning free kick goal [watch here] to snap Germany’s 622-minute WWC shutout streak that stood since the 2003 edition of the tournament. (The clip even made it on to “The most indelible televised sports images of 2011″ list).

Somehow, the 2-1 loss to Germany felt like a glorious victory. In the four days that followed the opening match and preceded Canada’s second game against France, the Internet was set abuzz with fans expressing unprecedented belief in and support for the team. Canada stood their ground for a close match against the all mighty Germans so, in our eyes, anything from hereon in was possible. That, coupled with Canada’s winning ways in the lead up to the tournament, made the team seem like a worthy contender for the coveted trophy.

The hashtag #ChristineSinclair began trending on Twitter, even when it wasn’t game day, and Chuck Norris had to step aside as Sinclair took the spotlight with her Zorro mask. What’s not to love when it comes to:

  • If #ChristineSinclair passed you the ball, you would put it on your resume (@Gregair13)
  • #Christine Sinclair can’t go within 500 meters of a pool. She hates diving that much (@cdnsoccerblog)
  • The Oxford English Dictionary is changing the spelling of the word “legendary” to S-I-N-C-L-A-I-R (@page1of1)
  • Christine Sinclair can punch a Cyclops between the eyes (@Kim_Notorious)

As fans blissfully rallied around the team, national news outlets like The Globe and Mail pumped us up with headlines that read, “Christine Sinclair enters pantheon of Canadian sporting icons,” while the soccer section of their website featured not one, not two, but seven items at once related to Sinclair and the CanWNT.

Needless to say, things eventually fell apart… badly.

However brief that sense of utter perfection may have been, those precious four days gave fans everything they could possibly want when it came to media coverage and a sense of national pride and renewed confidence in our team. As national team fans, we can savour the glory that surrounded events like the 2002 FIFA U-19 WWC and that brief moment from Germany 2011 and hope to create new hype, new belief and a new generation of fans with London 2012 and into the future with Canada’s 2014 U-20 WWC, 2015 WWC and Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.

Who doesn’t want to experience this kind of atmosphere at a Canadian soccer match again and again? Canada vs. Brazil FIFA U-19 Edmonton and USA vs. Canada FIFA U-19 Championship Stadium Entry and National Anthems (Thanks for the links, Jenna!)

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All I Want for Women’s Soccer in 2012…

Ah, the end of the year. Those last few days before you start writing the wrong dates on checks for another six months. According to the Worldwide Rules of Blogs, year-end recaps/lists/etc. are mandatory as those last few days of page-a-day calendars across the globe make their way into the trash. Ray Curren kicked off AWK’s year-end coverage yesterday with his piece, “My 2011 On AWK: At Least We’ll Always Have Germany,” and today it’s my turn.

2011 was, despite a few bumps in the road, a pretty awesome year for women’s soccer. There was a World Cup for the ages, where Homare Sawa, Kelly Smith and Abby Wambach cemented their places among the greats of the game and a whole lot of new faces gave us hope for where things are headed. And where our cool little underground spot suddenly became the hottest club in town, for better and maybe a little for worse. There was a pretty damn entertaining WPS season – from the opening whistle back in April to that final PK in August – and the good news that we’ll be getting another season that promises to be, at the very minimum, just as good.

On a personal level, I got to go to the WPS Draft in Baltimore and check out games not only from my usual spot in the Yurcak press box, but also in Boston, Philly and Western NY – p.s., Other States: your self-serve gas is dumb, you don’t know what you’re missing here in Jersey. I got to see a WPS Final live for the first time (and do the ten-hour-plus round-trip drive all in one day, the last hour or two home through a hurricane). Jenna and I started a podcast, then got distracted and accidentally put it on hiatus. I got to write about soccer a whole bunch in a few different places, including here on occasion, and I got to make a small contribution to an awesome project that two people whose work I admire a whole bunch put together – and share in being blown away at the response from all of you. And of course, I got to meet/see again and talk soccer with some pretty great people.

But, enough with the sentimental, reflective stuff. Here’s what I’d like to see for the world of women’s soccer in 2012:

For the Atlanta Beat to be not completely horrible. Jenna and I had many a discussion about how bad the Beat would be before the 2011 season – I thought they’d be bad, Jenna thought they’d be less bad than I thought they’d be. Neither of us thought they’d be as bad as they actually were. The Beat will enter 2012 riding a totally-impressive-in-the-wrong-way 757-minute goalless streak, but have made some pretty impressive-in-the-right-way offseason moves. Christen Press and Nikki Washington in particular bring some offensive hope Atlanta’s way. Just don’t think about the fact that Press’ eight goals in 2011 are more than the seven the entire Atlanta Beat team scored in 2011. Or that Washington has now been associated with as many teams as the Beat have scored goals. Seriously, don’t think about it. Your head might explode. Atlanta will have three picks in the 2012 draft, and with what people who know more than me say is a strong draft class, maybe the Beat have a chance to really build a real team. Then again, if the 2011 draft is any indication, you really never kn— you know what, just don’t screw it up.

For something good to happen for Lori Chalupny. This one shouldn’t need an explanation.

That Cat Whitehill can make it though a season without having to play the part of emergency goalkeeper. Wait. Forget that one. I think I’d miss it if it didn’t happen.

That James Galanis doesn’t declare halfway though the season that he had no plans on his team making the playoffs anyway, so like, whatever. Really, James Galanis, don’t do this again.

That new Boston Breakers Head Coach Lisa Cole can give post-game interviews that are at least half as interesting as former Breakers Head Coach Tony DiCicco. I had no idea what the guy was talking about half the time, but it all seemed really important and insightful.

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Brief Notables for December 29, 2011

To recap yesterday’s signings:

  • Leslie Osborne was definitely on to something. The Boston Breakers officially announced the signing of Heather O’Reilly from Sky Blue FC. The 26-year-old outside midfielder has apparently already made her home in Boston. She began tweeting about moving from to Beantown from NYC in early September.   

 

  • Not to fret, Sky Blue FC would quickly recover its loss of a solid USWNT player. The team announced that former magicJack and Washington Freedom defender Becky Sauerbrunn is en route to Piscataway. Sauerbrunn is set to reunite with former Freedom head coach Jim Gabarra and one time Freedom Technical Director Emma Hayes.

 

  • Speaking of SBFC/Washington Freedom connections, last night AWK learned that Nikki Marshall will also be joining Sky Blue FC. The versatile 23-year-old last appeared for the Boston Breakers.

 

  • Nell Enriquez of Pitchside Report also confirms that 2011 MVP Vero will be re-joining the Philadelphia Independence, despite receiving a higher offer from the WNY Flash. The report also has a status update on the signings of Lori Chalupny and Frida Magnusdottir.

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AWK’s 2012 WPS Mock Draft v1.0

Some notes:

-I’m using the version of the draft order that I came up with, because I think I’m right. So there. I’ll switch things around if WPS’ official draft order comes out and says otherwise.

-I tried to take into account player signings and team needs, but it’s a bit hard with some official rosters looking sparse at the moment. The final mock closer to the actual draft should be a little better in this respect.

-Players having committed to playing overseas are not included (obviously). So no Ingrid Wells.

1 – Atlanta – Sydney Leroux – F – UCLA

Common logic would dictate that a club that has been starving for a true #1 between the pipes since the beginning of their existence would take one of the best goalkeeping prospects in the past decade with the first pick of the draft. Then again, common logic and the Atlanta Beat have never really gone hand in hand, and the tea leaves seem to be pointing to last season’s basement club taking UCLA’s Sydney Leroux with the first overall pick of the draft.

Leroux in many ways resembles former Tar Heel forward Casey Nogueira at this point in her career. The Bruin starlet has shown her brilliance at the U20 level in 2008′s U20 World Cup triumph as well as at club level but has also shown some maddening inconsistency in some of her most important college matches. Leroux’s shown a frustrating tendency to disappear at times in crunch encounters, something that she’ll need top coaching to alleviate if she wants to become an impact player not only in WPS but with the USWNT as well.

On paper a Press and Leroux combo up top could be dynamite if Leroux plays up to her potential. But even if she does, who the hell is going to play in goal for this team?
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My 2011 On AWK: At Least We’ll Always Have Germany

Mere seconds after Abby Wambach’s dramatic equalizer in the World Cup quarterfinals back in July against Brazil, I got a text message: “Wambachhhhh” was all it said.

What was significant was not the message itself, but who it was from. My friend Steve (the name may or may not be changed to protect the guilty) is not a soccer fan. He’s certainly not a fan of women’s athletics, occasionally prone to both negative comments about soccer (“How could you call it a sport if you can’t use your hands?”) and women that play sports (I’ll let
you insert your own sexist remark here).

Maybe (or maybe not) like you, my life is divided into “soccer people” and “non-soccer people”. They usually stay as far away from each other as possible.

But for a magical week or two in July, as the noted philosopher George Costanza first theorized, my worlds were most definitely colliding.

People like my mother – whom I love very much but I can probably count how many soccer matches she’s watched on television on my fingers – wanted to know when the U.S. was playing next. Radio stations that I’d heard the week before begging to go to their website to vote for “The Hottest Moms in Connecticut” were talking up the semifinals and finals (and not just Alex Morgan and Hope Solo). People turned down Yankees tickets because they wanted to stay
home and watch the games in the knockout stages.

In some ways it seems like years ago, and in some ways, the final shootout against Japan seems like yesterday. And I can’t thank Jenna enough for the opportunity to give analysis and perspective for All White Kit. It was probably the highlight of my year, and I’m guessing the World Cup might have been the highlight of some of yours as well.

I began in June on AWK with my (horribly wrong) previews this way:

“Jenna and the finest women’s soccer website on the planet has been nice enough to ask me to add my two cents (or $2) on the Women’s World Cup. I spend most of my time writing on MLS and the men’s game, but I am a big fan of the women’s game. In my coaching career, I’m primarily a girls coach these days, and it’s always nice for them to have someone to look up to. Sadly, some of the youngsters I coach were barely born in 1999, and obviously have no
recollection of that wonderful summer.”

And 1999 mirrored 2011 in so many ways. Well, except the end, of course. But after spending years trying to get my players to learn by watching games on television, suddenly everyone has seen the games.

“That girl Necib is awesome on the ball.”

“Look how quickly the Japanese play, all one-touch stuff.”

“I wish I could head the ball like Abby Wambach.”

“Alex Morgan never stops running.”

When the high school season began, the girls had not only seen the games, but some could talk intelligently about individual players and teams. A few had even watched the WPS as its season wound down.

Ooooh, did I mention WPS? That brought our party to a screeching halt, didn’t it?

Seemingly just weeks after our glorious time in Germany was over, there was the WPS in the hospital again, near death. I don’t need to rehash the reasons, you can find them splattered all over this site, surely. But it did make me a combination of sad and angry.

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A Calendar of Women’s Soccer Events in 2012

Friendlies that fall during FIFA reserved dates are bracketed. As always, please leave any corrections/omissions in the comments section. Will add WPS dates when they’re made available.

 

“January – February” South America U-20 Championship in Brazil

January 9 Ballon d’Or in Zurich

January 9 LA Vikings friendly/Canada friendly

January 12 LA Vikings/Mexico friendly

January 14 LA Vikings/Mexico friendly

January 13 2012 WPS Draft at NSCAA Convention in Kansas City

January 14-19 FIFA reserved dates

[January 17 Sweden/Norway friendly in La Manga]

January 19-29 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying in Vancouver

February 11-16 FIFA reserved dates

[February 11 USWNT/New Zealand friendly in Frisco, TX]

February 14 Euro 2013 qualifying – one game (Portugal/Armenia)

February 15 Euro 2013 qualifying – three games (Turkey/Germany, Greece/Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium/Northern Ireland)

[February 15 France/Netherlands friendly in Nimes]

[February 16 Finland/Russia friendly in Finland]

February 25 – February 26 OFC Olympics Qualifying

February 28 – March 6 Cyprus Cup (Canada, England, Finland, France, Italy, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland)

February 29 – March 7 Algarve Cup (Sweden, Germany, Iceland, China, Japan, USA, Norway, Denmark, others TBA)

March 1 – 11 CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship in Panama

March 14-15 UCL Quarterfinals first leg

March 21-22 UCL Quarterfinals second leg

March 30-31 2012 African U-20 Cup of Nations – first leg of second round

March 30 Euro 2013 qualifying – twelve games

March 31 Euro 2013 qualifying – one game (Armenia/Austria)

March 31 - April 5 FIFA reserved dates

April Two USWNT away friendlies*

April 1 Kirin Cup – Japan/USWNT in Sendai

April 3 Kirin Cup – Brazil/USWNT in Chiba

April 3 Euro 2013 qualifying – seven games

April 4 Euro 2013 qualifying – seven games

April 5 Kirin Cup - Japan/Brazil in Kobe

April 14-15 UCL Semifinals first leg

April 13-15 African Cup of Nations Second Round – second leg

April 21-22 UCL Semifinals second leg

April 24 Draw for Olympics group stage

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