Four Things Learned About the USWNT At the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Time to remonstrate, remember, and mostly reflect on what was an incredible three weeks.

 

Pia Sundhage is really clever.

Stubborn, unchanging, frustrating: all words used to describe Sundhage’s tactical and squad decisions. Up to the World Cup, at least. Sundhage’s many tactical and personnel amendments have been talking points, and for good reason. That from someone who, as Ian Darke once wrote, has shown a “slavish devotion” to the 4-4-2 that more likely than not featured a combination of Solo/Mitts/Buehler/Rampone/LePeilbet/O’Reilly/Boxx/Lloyd/Rapinoe/Wambach/Rodriguez.

Sundhage broke from tradition in nearly every single game in the World Cup. There could be three reasons for that, and each layer gets more interesting with each uncoiling.

1.) The match simply necessitated the changes. Lauren Cheney is an absolute force on the pitch, regardless of where she’s asked to play. Megan Rapinoe had been inconsistent at best prior to the tournament; explosive at some points, meek at others. Cheney got the nod, if only to add some might at outside midfield. It worked. The match against Colombia didn’t need a defensive midfielder. Shannon Boxx looked tired. Lori Lindsey’s game is well-suited against an opponent that allows plenty of time on the ball. It worked. Amy Rodriguez had had an anonymous tournament, while Megan Rapinoe looked so dynamic off the bench. Rapinoe got the nod to start. It almost worked.

2.) The moves were partly psychologically motivated. Much had been made about possible complacency emerging in the squad, especially if underperforming players weren’t going to be threatened with getting dropped. That all changed when it mattered most. Sundhage broke up the monotony as soon as Cheney’s surprise start was announced. It surprised a lot of people, perhaps the players included. And for the first time, it also fostered a real sense of competition within the squad. Cheney needed to prove she had the right to start, and did so against North Korea. Megan Rapinoe – the player she supplanted – needed to prove she was still of value. She entered as a substitute and made an immediate impact with the called back goal. She then went on to become the U.S.’ most reliable substitute. Perhaps she also felt the need to reclaim her starting spot, which she eventually did. It’s little wonder that both Cheney and Rapinoe were among the USWNT’s standouts: both had to play for keeps.

3.) Sundhage was 21 minutes away from successfully pulling off one hell of a ruse. It circles back to the beginning: this is a coach who almost never deviated from a certain way of doing things. That’s just how it was. And then right when it matters, she makes (somewhat obvious) changes she arguably should have made months ago, and earns plaudits for finally being a little bold.  

It was as if this was all part of a master plan. Drill a certain fixed impression into everyone’s heads and then feed off the excitement generated from the long awaited change.

 

Two other notes on Sundhage: Pia’s jolly, Simon and Garfunkel-singing, “everybody did great” attitude had clearly rubbed off on the players. It’s why the U.S. seemed to be one of the more relaxed and self-confident teams that had advanced out of the group stage – even after the Sweden loss, which Pia was characteristically sanguine about. Compare that to the tight-lipped and furrowed brow personas of Silvia Neid and Carolina Morace; two coaches whose teams seemed utterly joyless. That’s not the only reason for each  team’s results, of course, but it sure made for an interesting contrast.

The only time Sundhage looked truly flushed with concern was right before the penalty kick shootout on Sunday. And then the team lost.

The other thing has been noted a hundred times already. First kicker Shannon Boxx started a domino effect with her missed penalty kick. And Tobin Heath simply never ever ever ever should have been in that position. That’s on Sundhage.

 

The USWNT raises its level of performance as per their opponents and occasions.

For one, the U.S. played their best soccer in over a year against Japan, even if the match didn’t have the desired result.  

That could be why Abby Wambach scored four goals in the World Cup despite having scored one prior to that in the calendar year. Or why Christie Rampone seemingly turned the clock back and flat out beat most opposing attackers for pace (she’s got two kids!). Hope Solo was still recovering from surgery, but she hadn’t looked that monstrous in goal in at least a year (save for the final).

It’s the very reason why you can’t count the USWNT out, regardless of previous form or supposed tactical formations. And it’s also why the team lacks a true playing identity.

It turns out all those lackluster friendlies were little more than glorified scrimmages. And maybe it makes sense. Maybe it’s just really hard to get ginned up for a game that essentially amounts to naught. Especially if you’re a player with an established spot in the starting XI. And you have a World Cup on the horizon.  

That still doesn’t explain away the Mexico result last November. Or the tepid performances against Italy a few weeks later (even though the U.S. came away with victories both times).

The only time the USWNT showed signs of true mediocrity and “oh, c’mon USWNT, just play better” was in the first half against North Korea and most of the match against Sweden. The U.S. turned it around in the former and could afford to lose in the latter.

It’s also interesting to note that the U.S. really played some nice football on two occasions: in the first 20 minutes against France and much of regular time against Japan. The team bossed the run of play, connected passes well, and used the wings as primary outlets. France and Japan happened to be the two best footballing sides in the entire tournament. The U.S. had also played some really lovely stuff against Japan in May, particularly in the second game. And yet the team struggles to get that kind of possession game up and running against teams that play, well, kind of like the U.S.

The team’s eerily chameleon-like characteristics can be frustrating at times, but it can also be used in very big ways in tournaments.

 

Despite the disappointing finish…

And it was disappointing. The players looked truly terrified – and tired – heading into the penalty kick shootout. It was an ominous sight. Sawa’s goal had had a deflationary effect on the team, and it might have manifested itself in those three botched penalty kicks. It was the converse scenario of Wambach’s header against Brazil.

The United States couldn’t manage to hold their nerve while Japan did. And that’s what ultimately made the difference. That and the two conceded goals and the missed chances in the first half.

By dint of that, Japan are deserved winners of what was an absolutely epic match.   

 

…this team deserves serious credit.

Not only for outplaying a quality side like Japan for most of the match (not that it ended up mattering), but for almost everything else. Players found their form at the most apropos time. The team overcame every setback along the way (the first half against North Korea, the dozens of missed chances against Colombia, the defense’s shocking performance against Sweden, Marta’s goal, Bompastor’s goal, “rigid” tactics, and some “ugly” soccer) and made it to their first World Cup final since 1999. Considering all that, what a feat.

All this in a tournament that has been proven to be the most competitive yet. Brazil and France are no mugs, and the team turned the tide to beat each. The landscape is changing, and the U.S. successfully proved its place in the grand scheme of things wasn’t about to change with it.

And all this from a team that was, yes, the last team to qualify for the World Cup and had looked so thoroughly mediocre for months on end.  

There’s plenty of reason to be proud.

NYC’s warm reception was fitting.

 

(2015 is going to be a different story, though. Christie will be gone, maybe Abby, too, and we’ll see how Solo’s body holds up. The team clearly lacks technical precision, even despite all that inspiring spirit. And the country’s mode of development is as confused and fractured as ever. But that might just be the spurned cynic talking.)

29 thoughts on “Four Things Learned About the USWNT At the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup

  1. Maria

    “The team overcame every setback along the way (the first half against North Korea, the dozens of missed chances against Colombia, the defense’s shocking performance against Sweden, Marta’s goal, Bompastor’s goal, and some “ugly” soccer) and made it to their first World Cup final since 1999. What a feat.”

    What a feat? They were ranked #1 right? I think I missed your point. The players themselves said they believed all along that they could win The support and resources that they are given now versus 1999 and the rest of the women’s soccer playing international world and you ask what a feat to reach the final? Really? The US, geographically and population wise, is how big compared to Sweden? Are we lowering our standards since 1999?

    Lose beautifully or win ugly? Plain and simple Japan did what it needed to do and desrevedly got the trophy. What more can be said? Yes the US needs to develop more technical players, yes the US is bigger and has more resources, yes the players can be lackluster at times…when it counted Japan got the job done. Sawa has played professionally in the US. Is she any less passionate than Wambach or Marta about wanting to win (being in 5 World Cups)?

    On Sunday, July 17th, Japan was better at scoring goals than the US and for all the people out there who will ruminate about if the played 1000 times, the US would win 999, on the day when it amttered most they got the job done. In 1999 the US got the job done…with a little gamesmanship from Scurry, there’s no comparison so STOP bringing up 1999 and give Japan credit where credit is due and SHUT UP!

    Reply
    1. Jenna Pel Post author

      Japan are deserved winners, no doubt about it. The U.S. couldn’t finish their chances. That was it.

      I hear you on the no. 1 ranking/wealth of resources argument, even though history is weighted very heavily in FIFA rankings and resources don’t necessarily equate a sound system of player development. The population size, too. It’s just that *on current form* leading up to the tournament, the U.S. looked to be long shots to reach the final, never mind win the World Cup. They were so maddeningly inconsistent. It wasn’t even the style of play, it was the effectiveness of it.

      I understand that that line of thinking seems to be popular amongst people (perhaps a minority of people) that obsessed and over-analyzed over the team for months, and that the U.S. never should have been considered “underdogs”. And the players always believed in themselves, but why wouldn’t they? And why would they ever admit to anything otherwise?

      Even just the team’s journey to the final was quite a feat.

      Reply
  2. Maria

    “It’s just that *on current form* leading up to the tournament, the U.S. looked to be long shots to reach the final, never mind win the World Cup. They were so maddeningly inconsistent. It wasn’t even the style of play, it was the effectiveness of it.”

    And Japan wasn’t? Didn’t they lose to the US…twice before the tournament? The story here is Japan I think and not the US lack of play in qualifying, inconsistency…whatever. Japan got it done. You want to talk about “feat”…please. The Nike advertisement about “how pressure makes us” wasn’t about Japan and I think the pressure was more on Germany IF any team.

    The US sytem for identfying and developing players is flawed, ask any coach in college or youth soccer worth their salt and I think they will babble on about the flaws of the system of identification for our women’s national and youth national teams. Here’s a thought…with such a large geography and diversity, how come our team does not personify that diversity? What great female athletes are we missing and why?

    The US played well and should be proud, unfortunately for the USSF, WPS and the rest of the country I don’t think 2nd is good enough.

    Reply
    1. Jenna Pel Post author

      The U.S.’ tournament shouldn’t be deemed a complete failure just because of a loss in a penalty shootout in the final. It’s disappointing, of course, especially the way the U.S. had squandered the lead twice. But second best to a side as good as Japan in a WWC final ain’t horrible.

      And like I’ve said, Japan absolutely deserve it and were the best team in the entire tournament, IMO. No excuses for the USWNT’s loss.

      Reply
  3. kc

    I agree with a great deal of what you wrote, but….one thing that wasn’t learned about the USWNT, at least not by Pia even though it is painfully obvious….Amy LePeilbet is not a left back. Pia’s attempt to put a bandaide on the problem by moving Rampone next to her helped somewhat for two matches, but proved inadequate in the third. The attacks that led to both goals started on that side (remember the play before the corner kick), event though one was started by a turnover. Nothing against Amy who is a good center back. The United States gave up four leads after the 55th minute in the last three games. You just can’t do that at this level.

    Reply
    1. Jenna Pel Post author

      Agreed, and Buehler had a poor tournament as well. Which was really disappointing from a player who had looked so consistent up to then.

      Reply
  4. e

    So let’s move forward…how can US Soccer help identify better talent? How can we get more minorities involved? We all know the system is flawed so let’s do something about it.

    Major League Baseball has a program called the RBI initiative…Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities that has been around since 1989. It has grow to 300 leagues involving 175,000 boys and girls age 5-18. Their mission statement is to “expand participation and interest in baseball and softball, encourage academic participation and achievement, increase the number of athletes prepared to play in college and professionaly, promote greater inclusion of minorities into the mainstream of the games, develop self-esteem and teach the value of teamwork.”

    With the current status of many of our schools in this country, many schools districts have to eliminate sports programs or have combined teams. Here in Syracuse, NY, all 4 high school girls’ soccer programs have been combined into one city team. This is terrible…I had a better opportunity back in the ’80’s than what these kids are presented with now. Why can’t US Soccer-along with the other pro-teams and colleges, develop a program similar to this? Maybe there is something out there already but if there is-it isn’t being promoted. It should be on the US Soccer, every WPS/MLS, and college websites. Everyone needs to be involved and not just for a few weekends a year-a set program with specific goals.

    This would be a huge undertaking I know, but if we want change then let’s change. Let’s come up with a better way of developing talent, identifying talent and not cutting people off that cannot afford to be on elite/select soccer teams.

    Reply
    1. sasky

      First thing that should be done is to make soccer more affordable for inner city kids to play club soccer.

      Reply
      1. cambridge_footie

        That is the thing about soccer. Everyone can play. All you need is a ball. If you go to the poorest reaches of the planet you will see kids with tin cans or school bags for goalposts kicking around on whatever patch of ground they can find.

        Marta grew up with nothing but a love for the game and a country that reveres its players. If Pele was a basketball player she would have chosen that.

        Reply
        1. sasky

          I was talking about inner city kids being able to afford to play in CLUBS and /or organized teams not just kicking the ball around. A kid is not going to develop or learn to love the sport by just kicking the ball on the stree or green patch of grass. They need to play organized soccer but in the United States that is very expensive thing to do. Every major city organizes inner city basketball leagues specially during the summer months at little or no cost for kids to participate in. It would be nice if this could be done with soccer too.

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        2. katy

          My first thought is: never mind the *high school* teams, how about trying to play league/club soccer at younger ages? It’s prohibitively expensive and steeped in somewhat-obnoxious culture for parents and somewhat for the kids themselves.

          All you need is a ball to play – that’s right. But the players who get to develop their passion and talent typically have funds for coaching. Those who don’t have the resources may still play for love, but are less likely to fit into soccer culture in this country and may not be interested in the high school team by the time that becomes an option.

          If I was independently wealthy, I’d start a kid’s “cheap league.” The priorities are good coaching, positive experiences, and no unnecessary cost. Play in t-shirts, who cares if a team has matching socks? Just like every other league, the “cheap league” would have its select teams. Tournaments: foster a culture of carpooling (take turns with 1 or 2 parents and as many kids as your car will hold) and host houses in the tournament cities. If these were the expectations, the norm, that would be so awesome.

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        3. StarCityFan

          You’re not going to get on the track to playing for the USWNT (or even WPS) by playing street soccer, at least not in the US. You have to be where coaches can see you.

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  5. Yankeebrit

    i have been critical of the level of usa’s play for a long time. they certainly lack “technical precision” despite believing they played that way. aside from the japan game USA played to their strengths and they got the results they needed. at the beginning of the tournament i didnt expect USA to make it to the final. I think having to dig out results eventually caught up with them. surviving on an emotional rollarcoaster they hit the dip at the wrong time.
    the big question now is what if anything has been learned? reaching the final could in some respects be a negative as the flaws that are so apparent may be overlooked. to remain being number 1 in the world, to compete against more techincally sound teams USA needs to make big changes. will those changes occur due to “if it isnt broken dont fix it” train of thought as making the final is a success.

    Reply
    1. HSC DOC

      Spot on! My biggest fear was that our ugly winning would get the World Cup and calcify the sorry state of soccer in our country. This video says it all:

      Reply
    2. cambridge_footie

      Interesting point. I instantly thought of Canada. Technically much better than they were before Morace. But it all appears to have been for nought after a miserable World Cup.

      Reply
  6. JB

    It gets old hearing all the time about how everything relating to soccer in the US is flawed, lacking, etc.

    Unlike our men’s national team, our women have set the standard for success in international soccer. We’ve won two World Cups and were on the verge of winning a third. We did not lose this final because of anything wrong with the development of our players on the team, nor the absence of “yet to be discovered” players. We were fully capable of winning a third World Cup with the exact roster we had. We lost in the final because we didn’t finish our numerous scoring opportunities, we chose to sit on our lead each time we got one, and finally because we got rattled when Japan came back to tie us.

    I’m fully in favor of a more wide-open, aggressive, diverse and creative team, and of finding ways of scoring other than crosses to Wambach and long balls to Morgan, but this particular team didn’t fall short because of the much maligned United States’ short-comings in soccer. They just lost because they didn’t finish…

    Reply
    1. Greg

      I have to agree with JB. I don’t know why so many people are so panic-stricken about the state of US Women’s Soccer right now except for the fact that many probably don’t follow them closely, or at all, outside of the World Cup. Our early Cup success was always going to slow our technical growth – it was indeed the “if it ain’t broke” attitude that is inherent in any dynasty, and it’s cliche because it’s true – champions find a formula and stick to it until it no longer works, and 2 WWCs, 3 Olympic gold medals, 8 Algarve Cup titles, 6 CONCACAF Championships, and the #1 ranking since 2007 – and never below #2 – indicate US Women’s Soccer sure ain’t broke yet. If you don’t fail you don’t have an impetus for major change, and why should you (look at men’s basketball for a good analogue – European and South American squads countered our athletic dominance with skilled players and technical discipline on both ends of the court, thus the US decided that the best team wasn’t necessarily composed of the best athletes any longer, but the best basketball players. Now, the US has reestablished itself as the cream of the crop. And it only took a slight change in philosophy, certainly not a call for blowing up the country’s youth/college basketball systems.). Plus, when most people only follow women’s soccer during the Cup, of course they aren’t going to know how successful the team has been in the Olympics, Algarve Cup, CONCACAF, friendlies, etc. Check out our record over the last few years to get an idea of how (surprisingly) successful we’ve been http://www.ussoccer.com/Teams/US-Women/Schedule-Results/2011.aspx

      The reason nations like France and Canada and Japan have recently made strides towards a more technical style is because their lack of size and strength made competing against athletes produced by the likes of the US, Germany, and Norway a difficult prospect. However, as the Cup displayed, athletically superior teams like Germany and the US who have begun to incorporate more technical qualities (and, yes, the US is MUCH more technical than in say ’99 when we won the Cup) have cemented their status as elite squads, whereas a team like Norway, who has the athletes but lags behind in technicality, has suffered the consequences – #9 ranking, crashing out of the group stages.

      The changes have come (Pia Sundhage, a new focus on technical ability and possession), and will continue to come (hopefully the continuation of the WPS, continued reorganization of youth elite programs, more diversity). And we all need to have a little perspective here: you’re not panicking because the USWNT is no good, they are, you’re panicking because they aren’t the dominant steamroller they were in the ’90s. Guess what, that time is long gone and our dominance was never going to last. I think it’s pretty remarkable they’re still as successful as they are, AND that they’re still so driven to improve.

      And congrats to Japan for staying calm, showing guts and determination, and doing what they had to do to pull out a victory. Kind of like we did against Brazil.

      Reply
      1. TDK

        First a much belated thank you to Jenna Pel for hosting this excellent blog! I do think that the USWNT raising its game, however, is really the product of experience. We have so much corporate experience in both this tournament and the Olympic Games that we know what it takes to win. The deeper in the tournament, the more comfortable we become and the less the other sides do. France did not even qualify for the 07 Cup, and with a little better finishing (nerves?) could have been in the final. Even Japan looked tentative coming out in the championship match, and combined with a resurgent US were completely run off their game.

        As for the post this is in direct reply to, I have to disagree with much of it. “The reason nations like France and Canada and Japan have recently made strides towards a more technical style is because their lack of size and strength.” That may be true for Japan, but Canada certainly and France could select for large, physical players. Instead they select for skill, and if they’re not particularly big (though Renard, LePailleur, Delie, Sinclair, Kyle, Schmidt, and others certainly match us for stature) that’s because size is not a major consideration. Everybody knows where this game is going, including Pia Sundhage, and it’s not towards size and strength. Barcelona got bigger sides like Real Madrid and ManU to ask “Please, sir, can we play with the ball too?” If we continue to focus on size and strength, especially early on, it means we’ll never select the Andres Iniestas and Leo Messis for our NTs.

        Certainly the USWNT is still an elite squad, but the writing is just as certainly on the wall. We can’t take the result here — silver medal — and assume that we were just a little unlucky and that really we’re the best (to their credit, I don’t believe the USWNT players do). I do think after the results of the friendlies this Spring we thought we knew how to beat Japan. Going into London next year and Canada in 2015 we cannot be so complacent.

        The real difference wrt the rest of the world of course is support, in which only a few European sides can match us, and in which we had the head start. Even here it’s really a money issue — as many have noted the USWNT is not a terribly diverse side. The one side that consistently punches above its support level is Brazil (though this year Equatorial Guinea I think surprised a lot of people), and if the CBF ever decides to support its women look out. But as the game becomes more popular worldwide and support levels increase, as other sides gain experience deep in major tournaments, as the bar gets raised again, we’ll have to find something a little less nebulous than history to get us through.

        Reply
    2. TC

      JB you make good points, there are a lot of “natter nabobs of negativity” who were going to whine about the US team regardless of the outcome of the World Cup. I believe the experts when the say the development programs need to be fixed but that is no reason to go on and on about how bad the USWNT was/is/or will be.

      Reply
    3. Terry Lash

      I also agree with JB. In addition to the accomplishments he lists the USWNT can take credit to pointing the way forward for women’s national teams in other countries, and in generating a lot of active interest in soccer by USA youth. But as this WWC has shown other countries are improving and the US WNT cannot stand still and expect future success at the same high level as in the past. One area needing attention is to provide pathways to the WNT other than participation on a good college team. Hopefully, WPS will become more financially successful, allowing WPS teams the opportunity to support player development at a young age. This would be one way to identify potential world class skill at younger ages and provide for their development in a better structured program. The result would be the addition of teenagers to the WNT who do not participate on college teams. More younger players with world class skills would improve the WNT.

      Reply
    4. StarCityFan

      I can’t avoid the feeling that soccer at the highest levels has regressed since 1999. The US had a team for the ages back then, and still only barely won. You look at today’s team, and how many players could crack the 1999 starting lineup? Solo and Wambach, certainly. Rampone, Krieger, Cheney, and HAO, maybe. But forget A-Rod, Boxx, Lloyd, or Buehler – I don’t think they’d be on the roster, let alone starting. And yet the US still almost pulled out a championship.

      I give Sundhage credit for making the team more than the sum of its parts, but the US team still seems a shadow of what it once was. The 1999 team would have put Japan away in the first half and still not let up in the second.

      Reply
      1. Greg

        I have to disagree here. The reason the ’90s USWNT was so dominant was not only because they were fantastic players, but also because the rest of the world wasn’t as good as they are now. But if the 2011 team played the ’99 team in its prime, I would venture to guess 2011 would win more often than not. The reality is the current squad has benefited from the path created by the ’99 team, and thus they are more fit and more skilled than the ’99 team could ever have been given their resources and level of competition. It’s not a knock on ’99, it’s just the reality of the progression of sports; players get bigger, faster, stronger, and more knowledgeable. Twelve years from now, our USWNT will be even better than today’s squad – but so will the rest of the world. Progress.

        Reply
      2. Terry Lash

        I was not following women’s soccer closely enough in the 90’s to know whether the 99 team was better than the 11 team. But it is clear we need better players for the future. I agree with StarCityFan’s evaluations of players, based on recent WNT performances. But Rampone won’t be available for the next WWC, and I question whether Solo & Wambach will be up to the demands to play in the next WWC. Thus there has to be a lot of recruitment & player development over the next 3 years in order for the USWNT to compete for the Cup. The time to start bringing in new players is now, in the lead up to the Olympics.

        Reply
  7. grrljock

    Jenna, for a spurned cynic you sure sound positive and have quite an adroit sidestep to all the invitations for negativity. I agree with your points above, especially with Pia’s coaching method–which mostly works, until the final match.

    So yeah, the question is what now? What will US Soccer, in its ‘wisdom’ decide what the results mean? And what can we, as regular folks, do about it?

    The diversity issue is a very important one. As cambridge_footie stated, all over the world kids play soccer using any kind of material, so it seems that resources (human and materials) should not be a big hurdle. though the gender issue adds another layer of complexity to it*. Seems to me that the relevant soccer folks need to start something to address this now.

    *When I went home to Indonesia I noted that on Sunday mornings all available public green space was taken up with BOYS playing soccer. Sadly it doesn’t seem that much different from how girls/women approach sports here.

    Reply
  8. Bill

    The more I think about it, the more it’s all contradictions. On the other hand, they’ve looked pretty bad at times this year, and in the WC. On the other hand, they made it to the finals. On the one hand, Japan played awesome the whole cup and were steady in PKs. On the other, the reasons the US didn’t win before PKs were 1) bad finishing 2) a defensive turnover 3) a deflection, all of which can only be partly attributed to Japan.

    Interestingly, while we bemoan the state of soccer development here in the US, we have a reverse of the men’s situation. On the MNT side, we go scouring other countries’ development programs for people that can be brought into the US team. On the WNT side, other countries (albeit not the France/Germany/Japans of the world) do that to us – see what seems to be half of Mexico’s squad, or that NZ actually has a natural left back (argh). Perhaps the simplest thing to do development-wise is make sure those people feel comfortable in our development system enough to stay here.

    Reply
    1. Jenna Pel Post author

      To add to that:
      On the one hand Sundhage had a great tournament. On the other hand, it was because she did stuff that she should have done months ago.
      On the one hand the U.S. played really good soccer against Japan. On the other hand, the circumstance was special. And they still lost.
      On the one hand Abby Wambach was a true leader out there. On the other hand, other than those four headers, was she really noticeable?

      It’s endless.

      Reply
      1. Yankeebrit

        thats the beauty of sport. aside from Barcalona who play soccer at its finest holes can be picked about every team. NBA, baseball, american football, unless perfection is attained there will be criticisms.
        If the wambach goal against Brazil had’nt been scored the criticisms would be much worse. results count a great deal.
        Winston Churchill said “however beautiful the strategy, one should occasionally stop to have a look at the results.” the opposite is true for team usa.

        Reply
  9. Theo

    Hi, I am from Germany and during the world cup I became a big fan of the US-team.
    I agree on your analysis. The final game was exceptional and the outcome was on one hand disappointing but on the other hand not so much a surprise.
    The Japanese girls had two advantages. Firstly on tactics, they were able to slow down the pace of the game, controlling the ball and waiting for mistakes of the other team. This is not as easy as it seems, there was no other team in the tournament who could do this effectively.
    Secondly they had some sort of psychic strength which was almost weird. They kept calm, waiting for their chance, and the US-girls became obviously more and more nervous and therefore increased the error rates.
    Already in the mid of the first half I had the feeling that this doesn’t go well for the US.

    Surprising to me was that the Japanese team could do this three times in a row and eliminated Germany, Sweden and the US, who were all playing the same style. Just in the final I expected the US to be better prepared on this and have some sort of counter-tactics, but they had not.
    Of course this is not so easy, I used to play myself in a youth-team and know that it is better to concentrate on the own game rather than adapt to the opponent.

    The US-Team played a great tournament and the silver-medal is a huge success. There is no reason to be sad. This tournament was another step in the right direction. Keep it on!
    (The biggest disappointment was of course our German-team but this is another story…)
    Next year there’s another chance at the olympics.
    I also hope that the Japanese are able to keep up this level which will be very difficult. The more countries close in on the top of women’s soccer the better it is for the sport.
    Meanwhile the biggest task will be to find talented players. That is the key for enduring success.

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  10. JB

    My initial reaction to watching our women’s national team play in this World Cup was, “Wow, I wish our men’s team played like this!” Our women’s team works hard, pressures the ball, looks to attack individually and in groups when they win possession, and doesn’t go down every time they are touched by an opponent.

    We can point out that a dynamic playmaking midfielder is what is needed most, but to my knowledge, those are in rather short supply across the globe in both the men’s and women’s games — and Cheney, Rapinoe and Lloyd all showed some flashes in that role.

    Ultimately, what I take away from this World Cup is that we continue to develop new generations of committed, skillful and athletic players who believe that (1) they are good and (2) they can be successful playing their own game. While small, quick teams like Japan can model themselves after Barcelona (which is to their advantage both physically and culturally), from my perspective, its refreshing to see a US team that is confident in its own abilities and athleticism, and that is comfortable playing its own American style of soccer (albeit as interpreted by a Swedish coach).

    Our skill and first touch clearly require refinement, we need to be more precise and creative with our passing in the final third, and we can definitely make more insightful runs off the ball, but to me, our development as a nation in soccer is not going to come from copying others, but from developing confidence and belief in ourselves and our own style of play. That is something that these women can be held up as a great example of, and something our US men’s national team may someday hopefully aspire to.

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