Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Sermanni Dilemma: Where Does The USWNT Go From Here?

Tom Sermanni Courtesy U.S. Soccer

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – For those who have been around long enough to remember the reference, the U.S. women’s soccer team trip through Connecticut had the feel of the old-school Ice Capades last week. You know, when the Olympic figure skating stars came back and tried to make some money (because they were still amateurs previously) by touring the country showing off their routines and signing autographs for screaming fans?

No one really cared how well they did, no one kept score, the people just wanted to see the Olympic stars in action.

There were obviously no triple axels from Alex Morgan – at least not that I saw – and cool costume choices were limited to both teams’ kits (the Where’s Waldos? against a minor league hockey team someone in the press box commented), but although some of the best players in the world were on the field, you had the distinct feel that competition was secondary as the game ended in a 2-2 draw.

As you can probably surmise already, I was torn. For someone who loves tactics and competition, both of which made the World Cup and Olympics an instant hit, I wasn’t going to get much of it here, which was frustrating when the top two teams in the world (at least according to the FIFA rankings) were below me.

But it’s not like I was a victim of false advertising or something, I was attending the “Nike Fan Tribute Tour, presented by Panasonic” for crying out loud. Abby Wambach had a goal (her 148th) and was all smiles afterward, even though the U.S. was generally outplayed (and outshot) and was forced to settle for a 2-2 tie, the first time since 2004 the USWNT failed to win in consecutive home games.

Wambach, like me, seemed a bit torn, mentioning that “this wasn’t our best soccer”, but quick to praise the nearly 20,000 people who braved a fairly hideous weather evening to see her and the U.S. play.  Morgan voiced similar sentiments, and you got the feeling she was a bit tired – mostly mentally – although she did have two assists. She sounded like an entertainer nearing the end of a long tour, but knowing that the people here deserved the same show that the people who came a month ago did.

And the fans that dodged the raindrops in Hartford cannot be discounted when discussing the overall dynamic here. Having lived here most of my life, I can tell you that Connecticut is not a great sports market, and the fact that 18,000+ showed up on a rainy, chilly Tuesday night is a testament to the popularity and success of Morgan, Wambach, and the U.S. machine.

Also, let’s be honest, most of them could care less about tactics, or whether interim coach Jill Ellis is integrating new players into the fold, or even the final score. As a youth coach, the talk at our practice the following day didn’t involve rising German star Dzenifer Marozsan, how the U.S. can stop her, or even why the U.S. doesn’t seem to have any players like her ready to join the USWNT in the near future, but how nice Abby Wambach was after the game, and who got whose autograph.

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NCAA Soccer – The First XI for October 31, 2012 – Michigan vs Wisconsin

Haley Kopmeyer

Haley Kopmeyer & Michigan Hope That The Big Ten Tournament Semi-Finals Are Just Ninety Minutes Away

(21) Michigan vs (35) Wisconsin (Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinal) – 7:30 PM

Michigan will try to get back on the winning track and back in the hunt for a national seed in one of Wednesday’s most tantalizing games as they take on sixth-seeded Wisconsin. The Wolverines saw some valuable momentum slip through their fingers against Illinois last weekend, as Greg Ryan’s side coughed up a 2-0 lead, conceding an equalizer with six minutes to play before going down in extra time. It marked the club’s third straight game without a win, not a positive trend going into the postseason, even if a draw against Penn State was included in that stretch. The Wolverines had been on a roll up until then, having won four in a row with an unbeaten string of ten games in their wake. Most worrying perhaps is the defenses sudden freefall. Going into the Ohio State game, Michigan had given up just six goals all season. Since then? Seven goals conceded in three matches. It’s a dangerous trend that most be broken if this team harbors hopes of collecting multiple postseason wins. Wisconsin was in dire straits after the halfway point of the league season, having won just one of six league games. The Badgers looked to be flirting with the bubble after a bright start but turned things around late. Four straight wins in the league eased their bubble fears considerably, though a loss to Iowa on the last day of the regular season could prove costly in the end if the Badgers harbored hopes of hosting a first round game in the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers probably need at least one win to have a shot at that, but Michigan’s not going to be an easy mark by any means. The regular season meeting between the two clubs was a decidedly one-sided affair, with Nkem Ezurike running riot for the Wolverines en route to a 3-0 win for her side in Madison. The Badger defense has been nowhere near as effective as in prior years, which is obviously a worry heading into the postseason. One thing’s for sure: If the Badgers don’t do a better job against the big Canadian Ezurike, their stay in Bloomington will be a short one.
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NCAA Soccer – Tournament Week Bubble Cheat Sheet

Who needs what to be safely into the field of sixty-four? There’s still a lot of uncertainty on the table heading into the last week of play before the Big Dance, but here’s my best guesses for the clubs currently ranked 32-56 in the RPI, AKA “on the bubble”.

Arizona State – Win over Pepperdine, but not much else at this point. Still, defeat against Arizona unlikely to push them out of the field.

Auburn – Crazily enough, their fate could hinge largely on what Texas Tech does in San Antonio this week. If the Red Raiders put together a big run, Auburn’s win over them could edge them into the field. More than likely though, the Tigers need to get something against Tennessee on Wednesday.

Cal State Northridge – Going to be one of the most polarizing cases on Selection Monday in all likelihood if they’re on the bubble. Matadors need at least one win to move into the bubble range, but could they make it if they lose in the Big West Tournament final? Win over Michigan, draws against Tennessee and Portland definitely work in their favor, but they really need a lot of chalk in conference tournaments to extend the bubble.

Central Michigan – Should be in with win over West Virginia, draw with Marquette. How far would they drop with a bad loss though? May want the auto bid to be safe.

Colorado College – Another dicey team that probably wants to avoid the bubble. They do have wins against Denver and UCF, but how much is that going to help against some of the teams they could be on the bubble against? I think they need at least one win.

Dayton – Needs the auto bid.

Denver – Probably in, but really counting on their one win against Portland to see them through. Loss in WAC Tournament could be a bad one, so they probably want to take care of business.

Illinois – Wins over Ohio State and Michigan probably trump the results of many bubble rivals, but they’re also close to the bubble cut line. Defeat to Minnesota could push them out, while victory probably stamps their Big Dance ticket.
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NCAA Soccer – RPI Bracket v5.4

SEEDED TEAMS

1 – Stanford – Pac-12*
2 – UCLA – Pac-12
3 – Penn State – Big Ten*
4 – Florida State – ACC*

5 – San Diego State – Mountain West*
6 – BYU – WCC*
7 – Santa Clara – WCC
8 – Virginia – ACC

9 – Florida – SEC*
10 – North Carolina – ACC
11 – Baylor – Big XII
12 – Wake Forest – ACC
13 – Tennessee – SEC
14 – Texas A&M – SEC
15 – Duke – ACC
16 – Ohio State – Big Ten
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NCAA Soccer – Postseason Qualification/Elimination List – FINAL UPDATE

ACC (FIELD COMPLETE)
-Qualifiers – Maryland, Florida State, Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Virginia, Boston College, Miami (FL)
-Did Not Qualify – Clemson, NC State, Virginia Tech

America East (FIELD COMPLETE)
-Qualifiers – Hartford, Maine, New Hampshire, Stony Brook, Vermont, Albany (NY)
-Did Not Qualify – UMBC, Binghamton
-Ineligible – Boston University

Atlantic Sun (FIELD COMPLETE)
-Qualifiers – North Florida, Mercer, Florida Gulf Coast, Kennesaw State, East Tennessee State, Jacksonville
-Did Not Qualify – Lipscomb, Stetson, SC Upstate
-Ineligible – Northern Kentucky

Atlantic 10 (FIELD COMPLETE)
-Qualifiers – La Salle, Dayton, VCU, Butler, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, Charlotte, UMass
-Did Not Qualify – George Washington, Xavier, Temple, Duquesne, Saint Louis, Rhode Island, Fordham, Richmond

Big XII (FIELD COMPLETE)
-Qualifiers – West Virginia, Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU
-Did Not Qualify – Iowa State

Big East (FIELD COMPLETE)
-Qualifiers – Marquette, Georgetown, Notre Dame, South Florida, Syracuse, Louisville, Villanova, Rutgers, UConn, DePaul
-Did Not Qualify – Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, St. John’s (NY), Providence
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NCAA Soccer – The First XI for October 28, 2012 – #1 Stanford vs #2 UCLA – The Battle of Westwood

Mariah Nogueira

Mariah Nogueira & Stanford Still Hope To Be All Smiles Following Their Showdown With UCLA on Sunday Night

(2) UCLA vs (1) Stanford – 9:00 PM

It’s a true clash of the titans yet again, as the top two teams in the RPI meet on Sunday night in Westwood in a battle that is all but assured of deciding the Pac-12 champions for 2012. A rivalry that swung UCLA’s way all too often in previous seasons has now tipped back in Stanford’s favor as the Cardinal have risen to the top of the national hierarchy. The Bruins have reloaded with some of the nation’s top young talent though, and this may be their best chance in a while of upsetting the order and taking down the national champions. UCLA was certainly more than convincing on Friday, as they faced a stern challenge from an upset minded Cal side. The Bruins would have none of it though, netting their eighth straight victory and staying unbeaten on the season. It was a more than convincing win as well, as the Bruins shut down Cal’s normally powerful offense and put three goals past the Golden Bear defense en route to a 3-0 win. B.J. Snow’s side has now scored in sixteen of their seventeen matches and seem to be hitting all cylinders on offense at just the right time, having netted multiple goals in each of the past three. The Bruins have also shown their might defensively, having not conceded multiple goals all this season, while shutting out their past two opponents. Extending those streaks will be a challenge against a Stanford team full of confidence as they come into Sunday’s showdown. The Card have had a bullseye on their backs all season and have responded with the typical calm determination that defines a champion. Stanford have hit a groove in league play, having won their first nine games and know a win in Westwood on Sunday night will clinch another league title for them. Victory would also erase any small slivers of doubt as to this club being a #1 seed come the NCAA Tournament. Despite their success in the league, Stanford was also pushed to the limit on Friday night in the Los Angeles Coliseum against a hyped up USC team. The Trojans gave as good as they got, and Stanford would need an extra time winner from Alina Garciamendez to rescue them and pick up another three points. It typified these Card though. This is a group that simply knows how to win, and their confidence and swagger in winning time has seen them rise to the occasion time and time again in 2012. They’ll have to rise higher than ever this season on Sunday though, as they, on likely tired legs, will have to travel to enemy territory to try and down their great rivals one more time. It’s quite possibly the biggest match of the regular season this year and a potential preview of the national title game. The eyes of the college soccer world will descend on Drake Stadium on Sunday night in what could be an instant classic between these two titans of the game.
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NCAA Soccer – RPI Bracket v5.3

SEEDED TEAMS

1 – Stanford – Pac-12*
2 – UCLA – Pac-12
3 – Penn State – Big Ten*
4 – Florida State – ACC*

5 – San Diego State – Mountain West*
6 – BYU – WCC*
7 – North Carolina – ACC
8 – Santa Clara – WCC

9 – Florida – SEC*
10 – Virginia – ACC
11 – Tennessee – SEC
12 – Baylor – Big XII
13 – Duke – ACC
14 – Texas A&M – SEC
15 – Wake Forest – ACC
16 – Ohio State – Big Ten
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NCAA Soccer – Postseason Qualification/Elimination List – Through 10/27/12

ACC (FIELD COMPLETE)
-Qualifiers – Maryland, Florida State, Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Virginia, Boston College, Miami (FL)
-Did Not Qualify – Clemson, NC State, Virginia Tech

America East (FIELD COMPLETE)
-Qualifiers – Hartford, Maine, New Hampshire, Stony Brook, Vermont, Albany (NY)
-Did Not Qualify – UMBC, Binghamton
-Ineligible – Boston University

Atlantic Sun (FIELD COMPLETE)
-Qualifiers – North Florida, Mercer, Florida Gulf Coast, Kennesaw State, East Tennessee State, Jacksonville
-Did Not Qualify – Lipscomb, Stetson, SC Upstate
-Ineligible – Northern Kentucky

Atlantic 10
-Clinched (5) – La Salle, Dayton, VCU
-Eliminated (4) – George Washington, Xavier, Temple, Duquesne

Big XII (FIELD COMPLETE)
-Qualifiers – West Virginia, Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU
-Did Not Qualify – Iowa State

Big East (FIELD COMPLETE)
-Qualifiers – Marquette, Georgetown, Notre Dame, South Florida, Syracuse, Louisville, Villanova, Rutgers, UConn, DePaul
-Did Not Qualify – Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, St. John’s (NY), Providence
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NCAA Soccer – The First XI for October 27, 2012 – Michigan vs Illinois

Nkem Ezurike

Nkem Ezurike Will Try to Fire Michigan One Step Closer to A National Seed With A Win Over Illinois

(17) Michigan vs (53) Illinois – 6:00 PM

One fights for a national seed, while the other fights for their NCAA Tournament lives when Michigan hosts Illinois in Ann Arbor on Saturday night. The Wolverines will likely welcome the opportunity to head back home after a trying week on the road that saw them collect just one point from two games. Granted, those two games were against league heavyweights Ohio State and Penn State, but given the Wolverines’ hot start to the Big Ten season, it still had to be disappointing. Despite that, Michigan still came as close as anyone in the Big Ten to beating Penn State this season, taking a lead on the road before conceding from the penalty spot late. While Greg Ryan’s side lost their chance at a Big Ten title, they did gain valuable ground in the hunt for a coveted national seed. The Wolverines are currently close to the edge of that conversation, and while a win on Saturday probably won’t budge the needle much, defeat could be costly in the end. The situation as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned is much more dire for Illinois. The Illini in large part were done in by a five match winless streak in the league, which included a draw with Purdue and defeat to Northwestern. The club rebounded with a thumping win over Nebraska last week, but the Illini look to be currently off the bubble radar, meaning their earlier win over Ohio State probably won’t be enough to get them in the field. Another worry is staying at .500 and thus being eligible for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Currently just a game above the magic mark, defeat here would force the Illini to avoid a first round defeat at the Big Ten Tournament next week. Victory here though could change the game considerably for Illinois though. They’d likely jump right back onto the bubble, if not in the field itself, and they’d likely leapfrog some teams with lesser resumes, thanks to beating Michigan and OSU earlier. In their current form though, it’d take a brave soul to tip Illinois for three points, even with their last match ending in a resounding victory.

NCAA Soccer – RPI Bracket v5.2

SEEDED TEAMS

1 – Stanford – Pac-12*
2 – UCLA – Pac-12
3 – Penn State – Big Ten*
4 – Florida State – ACC*

5 – San Diego State – Mountain West*
6 – BYU – WCC*
7 – North Carolina – ACC
8 – Santa Clara – WCC

9 – Florida – SEC*
10 – Tennessee – SEC
11 – Virginia – ACC
12 – Baylor – Big XII
13 – Duke – ACC
14 – Texas A&M – SEC
15 – Wake Forest – ACC
16 – Ohio State – Big Ten
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