Monthly Archives: August 2014

NCAA – Chris’ Eye-Test Field of Sixty-Four (Week Two)

Who does Chris feel would be in the field of sixty-four right now? These sixty-four teams…

America East (1) – UMBC
AAC (2) – UCF, UConn
Atlantic 10 (1) – La Salle
ACC (7) – Virginia, Florida State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, Notre Dame, Clemson
Atlantic Sun (1) – Florida Gulf Coast
Big XII (5) – Texas Tech, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas
Big East (3) – Georgetown, DePaul, Saint John’s (NY)
Big Sky (1) – Portland State
Big South (1) – Liberty
Big Ten (7) – Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio State
Big West (1) – Long Beach State
Colonial (1) – James Madison
Conference USA (1) – Rice
Horizon (1) – Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Ivy (1) – Harvard
MAAC (1) – Monmouth
MAC (1) – Eastern Michigan
Missouri Valley (1) – Illinois State
Mountain West (1) – San Diego State
NEC (1) – Fairleigh Dickinson
Ohio Valley (1) – Tennessee-Martin
Pac-12 (8) – UCLA, Stanford, Washington, USC, Cal, Washington State, Arizona State, Utah
Patriot (1) – Boston University
SEC (5) – Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky
Southern (1) – Furman
Southland (1) – Stephen F. Austin
SWAC (1) – Alabama State
Summit (1) – Denver
Sun Belt (1) – Texas State
WCC (4) – Pepperdine, Santa Clara, Portland, BYU
WAC (1) – Seattle

NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 08/31/14 – Oklahoma vs Florida State

Oklahoma vs Florida State – 2:00 PM

I don’t think anyone in their wildest dreams had expected this one to be the top match of the day before the season started, but Oklahoma has made an astonishing start to the season with wins over Oklahoma State and Florida on their record. Those alone have made the Sooners shockingly viable candidates for an NCAA Tournament berth after just one and a half weeks of the season. OU will be looking to claim the biggest scalp of all on Sunday afternoon in Norman though, when College Cup contender Florida State comes calling. As you might expect, the Sooners’ win over Florida on Friday was more of a smash-and-grab effort than anything, with OU putting up just two shots on goal in the run of play but still prevailing after jumping all over the Gators early before sealing the deal with an Abby Hodgen penalty kick in the second half. UF tried to mount the comeback but could only get a solitary Savannah Jordan strike. Considering the Gators had been scoring for fun on opening weekend, for OU to hold the club to just five shots on goal was impressive. Of course, Florida State is no less deadly, though the Sooners may like their chances in the Oklahoma heat after FSU needed extra time to polish off Oklahoma State. The odds are decidedly against Oklahoma pulling the upset…but then again, that’s what we’ve been saying the past few weeks to no avail.

Florida State made awfully hard work of Oklahoma State on Friday night, going down 1-0 in the first half and taking until the eighty-first minute to claw back level before netting a golden goal winner less than five minutes from the end of extra time. This all despite bludgeoning the Cowgirls’ goal for the better part of the match, having outshot OSU, 38-5 and 16-2 in shots on goal, including a 21-1 shot disparity in the second half. The winner was off a Megan Campbell long throw, the Irish international again proving how deadly those throws are to opposing defenses. The offense hasn’t quite found its scoring rhythm yet, but clearly from the volume of chances created, there’s so much potential here. However, the defense clearly isn’t as bulletproof as it has been in past seasons, evidenced by the just one clean sheet kept in three games thus far. You’d guess that FSU’s odds of shutting out Oklahoma aren’t bad, but overlooking the Sooners would be a mistake, as FSU’s rivals Florida can testify. A win here would be another solid step towards a #1 seed come November and would keep the momentum coming before the Noles’ big showdown at home next Friday against Florida.
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NWSL – Final Preview – Tactics Board – Seattle vs FC Kansas City

Projected Lineups (Reed injury status uncertain)

Clearly the two best teams in the NWSL in 2014 will meet in Seattle on Sunday afternoon to decide a champion.  Seattle won the season series, but the last two meetings of these teams, including one less than a month ago in Kansas City, have been 1-1 draws.  The final regular season meeting saw a late Megan Rapinoe strike cancel out Amy Rodriguez’s early opener.  Notably, in that last match, Seattle did not start Naho. Kendall Fletcher, or Elli Reed, while FCKC played with Sarah Hagen in the attack.  Tactically, this one will look similar, but with shifted personnel.

How They Got Here

Regular season champions Seattle raced out to an early lead in the table with seven straight wins and sixteen matches unbeaten.  They finished losing just two games, including one against Portland on the last day with everything already wrapped up.  The semi-final win against Washington was a tense match, with the club again being forced to come from behind and needing a Hope Solo penalty save on Diana Matheson before Megan Rapinoe’s late winner.

FC Kansas City started slowly, winning just one of their first four but were just about Seattle’s equals for a good chunk of the middle of the season, going nine unbeaten and winning seven in a row at one point before a shattering 7-1 defeat to Portland.  Despite winning just one of their final four regular season matches, the club outclassed Portland in searing heat in their semi-final, never looking like conceding against the Thorns’ high dollar superstars and easing to a 2-0 victory to reach the final.

Coaching

Laura Harvey got a contract extension from Seattle after a torrid 2013 season, raising skepticism across many corners, but the Reign brass were proven right after Harvey delivered the regular season title to the club in dominating fashion this season.  Harvey successfully rebuilt an embarrassingly poorly constructed squad in the offseason by adding international attacking talent like Naho and Kim Little, trading for Sydney Leroux and signing veteran American grafters like Beverly Goebel and Kendall Fletcher for depth.  There were perhaps questions about the club’s mental fortitude under Harvey after they seemingly mailed it in late last season, but Seattle gained the most points from losing positions this season with twenty-two, underlining the Reign boss’ motivational skills and tactical acumen.

Big questions and big expectations also hung over Vlatko Andonovski going into the new season after the meltdown at the end of last season.  His side was deeply criticized for the late-game blowups that ultimately cost them the regular season title and the semi-final against Portland at the end of 2013.  It’s arguable as to whether they corrected that totally, as FCKC was still guilty of dropping the third most points from winning positions in the league this season.  Still, Andonovski was able to steer the ship to safer waters after a rough start, and the club came up big in the semi-final win against Portland to kill off the ghosts of last season.  Continue reading

NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 08/30/14 – Portland vs Stanford

Portland vs Stanford – 10:00 PM

It’s the appetizer in a delicious weekend of women’s soccer in the Pacific Northwest. Less than twenty-four hours before the NWSL title is decided in Seattle, Portland will try to protect their house on Saturday night against a Stanford side that looked all the world like a College Cup team in their opening weekend sweep of North Carolina and Duke. Portland themselves were impressive in shaking off an opening night shutout defeat to Florida State to down their ACC brethren NC State, 2-1. Danica Evans delivered the goods, netting a brace, which has to be a relief for Garrett Smith and co. after the offense was pretty much shackled against the Noles a few days earlier. Stanford’s defense isn’t any less formidable, having not conceded in two games, so Portland’s going to have to have a good day at the office on the attack to penetrate the Card defense. Portland’s defense has bent more than they’ve broken thus far, but there’s room for improvement having conceded thirteen shots on goal on opening weekend. If the Pilots want a national seed in the NCAA Tournament, they’re going to need a marquee win, and the Card offer up the best chance for that before league play starts in October.

Stanford will be looking to slay another dragon away from Palo Alto on Saturday after that opening weekend sweep. The Card certainly haven’t shied away from early season challenges with this three match road trip before playing six in a row at home to close out non-conference play. The Card’s defense held Duke without a shot on goal on Sunday, a mighty impressive feat considering less than forty-eight hours earlier, the Blue Devils’ array of young talent had bludgeoned Ohio State’s defense (though they didn’t score). Stanford were more opportunistic than explosive against Duke, but a win’s a win, especially after being pushed to extra time on Friday night. Getting some goals from the likes of Lo’eau Labonta and Haley Rosen also had to be music to Paul Ratcliffe’s ears, showing the club isn’t going to totally be reliant on Chioma Ubogagu and Taylor Uhl for goals this season. If Stanford emerges here with the win, they’ll likely be 4-0-0 heading into a huge showdown with Notre Dame next Sunday. Impress against Portland, and Stanford may just make an argument for themselves as the #1 team in the nation after UCLA’s draw with North Carolina on Friday.

NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 08/29/14 – UCLA vs North Carolina (UPDATING)

Previews for the seven other top games coming throughout the day.

UCLA vs North Carolina – 10:00 PM

For once, the monster doesn’t wear Carolina blue. After a weekend in which they gave up just one off-target shot against Maryland and UC Irvine while capitalizing ruthlessly on opposition mistakes, UCLA has more than justified their standing as overwhelming favorites to add a second star to their shirt this season. Taylor Smith and Darian Jenkins have both shown strides leading the line for the Bruins, while midfielder Annie Alvarado has stepped in almost seamlessly for the departed Jenna Richmond. Midfielder Sam Mewis has been in transcendent form through two matches and could finally be making The Leap to superstar level that has been expected for so long. The defense has been better than expected, if that’s possible, but faces their sternest test yet against an athletic and aggressive North Carolina attack fronted by Summer Green. UCLA’s last win against UNC in the NCAA Tournament was their first ever over the Tar Heels, who had won six of nine previous meetings by multiple goals. But those were different times, and UCLA will want to further validate their status as national title favorites with a convincing victory in Westwood on Friday night.

North Carolina seemingly answered many questions about their veracity on Sunday with a convincing performance against Ohio State last Sunday, though their dominance wasn’t really reflected on the scoreline. It spoke volumes that after a crushing extra time loss to Stanford the club could come right back and take out an OSU team that had themselves taken a smash and grab 1-0 win against Duke on Friday. It’s plainly obvious that much of the club’s offense is going to run through Summer Green, though getting her in amongst the goals sooner rather than later would likely ease many concerns about the offense. Joanna Boyles and Megan Buckingham, the latter off the bench, also were strong against OSU and will need to have an impact in all likelihood for UNC to stand a chance. The defense did well to render Ohio State’s attack mostly inert last Sunday but face a much more difficult challenge on Friday. One wonders if Anson Dorrance will opt for the 4-2-3-1 from the start given the opponent and the setting or keep the faith with the 3-4-3 at the beginning of the match. Regardless of tactics, if the Heels emerge with a win, they’ll immediately put themselves back amongst the national title contenders after just a week and a half of the new season.
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NCAA – Hey, All Those Other Conferences – Projections, Part II

* = Projected NCAA Tournament Team

Missouri Valley

*1. Illinois State – 43
2. Loyola (Ill.) – 24
3. Evansville – 22
4. Missouri State – 19
5. Indiana State – 16
6. Drake – 15
7. Northern Iowa – 10

As is usually the case in the MVC, everyone’ll likely be looking up at ISU when all is said and done, as the conference bully looks to again have the best squad in the league by a mile. The Redbirds are going to likely drown opponents in goals with Rachel Tejada and Hannah Leinert to supply the firepower. It remains to be seen if the defense can stand up against tougher non-conference opposition, but that’s of little worry in the league. The Redbirds have already taken a big scalp in the NCAA Tournament last season and could very well match that this year.

Of the best of the rest, Loyola (Ill.) figures to stay in the upper half of the table. Getting nine starters back should help considering some of the other losses around the league, and the club returns a fair amount of strength in depth, though losing last year’s best player, Tricia Stonebraker, hurts. Evansville are largely in the same boat, losing their top player in Stephanie Thompson but returning almost everyone else. They should be able to improve on last season’s fifth place finish with ease.

Missouri State doesn’t have as much strength in depth as the above but does return the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in Kelsey Fouch. Indiana State are likely on the road down given the loss of star midfielder Abby Reed and top defender Shelby Troyer. Drake may struggle to make an impact after a wretched 3-12-5 season losing a league high five starters, including excellent defender Megan Fisher. Northern Iowa are favorite for the bottom of the league again with a shortage in top talent at this level and lost their best player from last year in defender Sam Copley.
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Lori Lindsey retires 12 years after turning professional

Someday there should be a DC Women's Soccer Hall of Fame, and Lori Lindsey should be in it

Someday there should be a DC Women’s Soccer Hall of Fame, and Lori Lindsey should be in it.


The Washington Freedom had a laudable tradition that I hope the Spirit eventually decide to emulate: they created a “Hall of Freedom”, an honor bestowed on former players and personnel “in recognition of exceptional achievements, dedication and service.” The first year’s honorees were the obvious ones: forward Mia Hamm, goalkeeper Siri Mullinix, midfielder (and later World Cup organizer) Steffi Jones, and the late David Vanole, goalkeeper coach during the WUSA era. Those were chosen by the staff. In 2010, they set up a voting process that involved fans, media, and staff, and defender Jennifer Grubb – who both captained or co-captained the team and played every single minute during the WUSA era – was elected the next inductee.

There was no 2011, of course, but the next thought is who should have been honored but wasn’t. First on the list would definitely be John and Maureen Hendricks, who helped establish both the WUSA and WPS and supported the Washington Freedom from 2001 through 2010. Next, in my opinion, would be coaches Jim Gabarra and Clyde Watson, who were part of the team through the entire WUSA era and most of the WPS era, and as well kept the team going during the lean years from 2004-2008 when there was no professional league to participate in.

Finally, there are people who have earned the honor but are still too active to be awarded it yet. (Gabarra might arguably fall into this category as well.) Abby Wambach is clearly in this category, having led or co-led the Freedom in scoring in every year they’ve played professionally. Louise Waxler – the operations manager for the Freedom for most of its existence – would also get my vote. The only other person who’s definitely earned the honor – again, in my opinion – is Lori Lindsey.
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NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 08/25/14 – BYU vs Washington State

BYU vs Washington State – 7:30 PM

It took a while thanks to some disagreeable weather, but Washington State made a winning start to 2014 and under Steve Nugent with a 3-0 victory over Big XII side TCU. The Cougars did an incredible job in putting their efforts on target, with thirteen of their fifteen shots on goal. In reality, given the above, the scoreline could’ve been a lot worse on TCU, and the likes of Cara Wegner, Sofia Anker-Kofoed, and Kaitlyn Johnson up front and Mesa Owsley and Jocelyn Jeffers terrorized the Horned Frog defense all night long. The defense did give up seventeen shot, but at the same time, only four of those were on frame, which WSU will probably take most of the time. Historically a team known for their suffocating defense, it’ll be interesting to see if WSU’s identity morphs into a more attacking side under their new boss. BYU on Monday will be a big acid test though. Provo has a way of breaking even the toughest teams, and WSU winning at high altitude against a hard nosed Cougar side would be a bit statement just one weekend into Nugent’s reign on The Palouse.

BYU found out that life without a whole lot of last season’s stars isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Against Big West contenders Cal State Fullerton on Friday, the Cougars had a bit more of the offense on the stat sheet and had a win in the bag seemingly after sophomore Ashley Hatch netted at 77′. They’d give up an equalizer just six minutes later though and tapered off in the extra frames to walk away with a draw. All things considered, it wasn’t the worst result in the world given that BYU was blooding a whole lot of new young talent to replace all the graduated players they lost after 2013. BYU did end up playing five of their subs for forty-five minutes or more, so you have to wonder if there’ll be some serious lineup changes ahead of the club’s home opener. Also keep an eye on the goalkeeping situation, with Hannah Clark and Taylor Campbell Isom splitting time against Fullerton, something that hasn’t happened in a long time in Provo. BYU’s non-conference slate is brutal, and getting a win against WSU would be big, with a grueling road trip to Knoxville to play Tennessee ahead on Friday.

DC-area AmWoSo 2014 summer in review

Four of the year's best players: Spirit Reserves' Sam Lofton and Ashley Herndon battle Braddock Road's Allie Wisner while Marisa Park looks on.

Four of the year’s best players: Spirit Reserves’ Sam Lofton and Ashley Herndon battle Braddock Road’s Allie Wisner while Marisa Park looks on. (photo by Larry J. Clark)

Power Rankings:

1. Washington Spirit Reserves
2. ASA Chesapeake Charge
3. Braddock Road Stars Elite
4. ACF Torino USA
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NCAA – What Chris Is Watching – 08/24/14 – Crunch Time in Chapel Hill (UPDATING)

Updates to come…

All times Eastern.

Duke vs Stanford – 12:00 PM

Stanford’s win over North Carolina wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty, but the result would’ve been something that Duke would’ve taken after the Blue Devils dominated the stat sheet against Ohio State on Friday but fell on a single goal. While the likes of Imani Dorsey and Toni Payne showed some scintillating potential in the attack, the club just couldn’t find the decisive goal and paid the price as OSU found a winner in the second half. Duke pounded the woodwork three times but couldn’t find a breakthrough, and come November, one wonders if the Blue Devils won’t rue Friday if they fall short of a national seed or a high national seed. Much will be forgiven if they can upset the odds against Stanford on Sunday though. Duke will probably be favored until Penn State comes to Durham in a few weeks, so this might be seen as a chance to start a big string of wins. It might also be an invaluable opportunity to get the offense in scoring form after Friday’s misfire, though it’s not likely to be easy against a Stanford side that shut down UNC’s attack with Jane Campbell in fine form in goal.

Campbell was needed on more than one occasion on Friday night as the Card were forced to turn back a relentless North Carolina attack in the first half before gradually getting more of a foothold after the intermission. The Card would seemingly be rueing a handful of missed opportunities through the second half and extra time before Chioma Ubogagu made herself an instant heroine with the golden goal. Ubogagu was strong all night, and there’s little doubt that her form is going to be crucial to Stanford’s form this season. Especially considering Taylor Uhl played just forty minutes against UNC and failed to put a shot on goal. Ubogagu’s experiment with an attacking midfield role looks to be over, and Card fans will be hoping she can continue to show end product in front of goal to go with her spectacular dribbling ability. The defense will probably need to tighten up a bit to keep Jane Campbell from being so overworked, but there’s a ton of potential here all things considered. The only worry is if the extra time match against UNC drained the batteries a bit. But if the Card triumph on Sunday, they’ll likely be favored in every match until the showdown with UCLA in October.
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