Tag Archives: Amy Rodriguez

NWSL Week in Review: Five Things (Week 3)

Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers had just seen one of the biggest championships in sports, the English Premier League, potentially slip through his fingers. It had been two decades – an eternity for a club like Liverpool – since its last title, and Rodgers’ team had kept the ball for the majority of the afternoon, yet ended up on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline.

So Rodgers was a little ticked off.

“We were the better team with the ball. We just could not unlock them,” Rodgers said, decrying Chelsea’s winning tactics as negative and unsporting. Did I mention winning tactics?

For one match, we know (and surely Rodgers should have) that can work extremely well, especially with a master tactician like Jose Mourinho at the wheel. But for a whole season? Well, the jury’s still out on that one.

Under relative unknown Vlatko Andonovski, FC Kansas City appeared to be on its way to the inaugural NWSL regular season title, using a possession-based, fluid style that drew lots of admirers far from Kansas. But then FCKC lost its last two games and followed that up by losing to Portland in the playoff semifinals.

Whoops.

And now three games into 2014, Kansas City – somewhat predictably – leads the NWSL in shots attempted and, although Seattle might be giving them a big run for their money, is probably near the top of the possession statistics. For their troubles, they have just a single point and sit at the bottom of the NWSL.

Time to panic? FCKC did lose Desiree Scott in the offseason and the defense has not been close to the same without her, having conceded seven times. But they’re still seeing a lot of the ball and getting shots off. Amy Rodriguez has looked lively, and there has to be better soccer ahead for two of last year’s stars, Lauren Holiday and Erika Tymrak.

In short, I don’t think it’s time for Vlatko and crew to throw out the playbook that worked so well last season. At least not yet.

Onto what we learned in Week 3 of the NWSL season:

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The USWNT & CanWNT Battled in a Scrappy 1-1 Draw

The first of the two-game friendly series between the United States and Canada resulted in a 1-1 draw in front of a near capacity crowd of 16,191 packed into Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Boisterous fans created a lively atmosphere to welcome home their Women’s World Cup heroes, whose performance in this summer’s tournament ignited interest all over the US. Of the three friendlies played at home in 2011 prior to the WWC, two took place in comparatively large stadiums, like Red Bull Arena (25,000 capacity) and Columbus Crew Stadium (20,000 capacity), but had only managed to draw attendance merely in the 5,000s.

The situation for both teams couldn’t be more different: the USWNT was playing with the exact same group who recently propelled themselves to newfound celebrity status, and a coach whose unwavering loyalty to a particular formation and players have drawn cries for change and ingenuity from fans and commentators alike; in contrast, the CanWNT was playing under a new coaching staff following a sorrowful WWC with new players and new tactics.

September 17 was to be a battle of old and new. Yet, surprisingly, both teams stepped onto the pitch to test new strategies.

Pia Sundhage implemented a 4-2-3-1 for the match, a departure from her favoured 4-4-2.  The USWNT coach expressed her hopes of adding another dimension of unpredictability to the attack. Sundhage experimented by moving Lauren Cheney and Carli Lloyd, both of whom normally occupy more offensive roles, back to act as deep-lying midfielders. She was quick to point out that the pair would be “possession midfielders” as opposed to holding midfielders. Still in search for the team’s true No. 10, the Swede had Megan Rapinoe assume that role in the starting XI. The new formation was to emphasize play in the centre of midfield, but the US still found the most success attacking from the wings, especially in the first half.

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Women’s World Cup – Things We Learned: Day 7 – United States Edition

It took a week, but we had our first day that you can consider “meh” in the Women’s World Cup.

Unfortunately, North Korea is probably never going to be terribly entertaining, while Sweden is set up to defend first, and its strikers didn’t help matters by being fairly inept in front of goal.

Elsewhere, while it was fun to watch the United States knock the ball around against Colombia, and it’s always nice to see creative goal celebrations: a) we shouldn’t have been surprised at the result; and b) Colombia looked like they were almost treating the match as a scrimmage, making a fairly ludicrous five changes off a good performance against Sweden.

But there are always things to learn, and here are the 10 things we learned in Day 7 of Germany 2011.

1) Being able to strike the ball is an underrated skill

John Ellinger may have been a mediocre MLS coach (OK, he was probably worse than that), but he’s been very good at the youth level, and I refer to his “Five things that make a successful player” with my young kids, and two stand out as things we probably don’t do enough, for different reasons.
One is being able to head the ball, which is tough with younger players, and the other is “the ability to strike a ball cleanly”.
All three goals for the U.S. today were definitely cleanly struck balls, and although Carli Lloyd’s goal should have been saved, there are very few women in the world that can hit a ball as cleanly as Lloyd. Sometimes it’s a skill that gets overlooked when you’re talking about players, but it’s certainly a weakness for Amy Rodriguez, and a reason her days of starting in this tournament may be gone. Until she pulls a Megan Rapinoe, at least.
Sometimes that ability can be used as a decoy, if a team knows you can strike the ball from distance, they have to stretch their defense, and that might open up some other things in different places.
But it’s not – as even I tend to treat it as sometimes – a periphrial skill, it’s an essential one.

2) The U.S. looked very sharp today

They were able to “ping” the ball around, a lot of one and two touch stuff that kept the ball moving and the Colombians chasing. That type of play allows the team to stay sharp, and showed that they should be able to keep the ball a decent amount no matter who they’re playing and what round it is, but …

3) At some point, the U.S. may have to be able to go at people a little more

This comment is mostly about the first half, once Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath came on the field, they went at people and I thought that part of the game improved. However, the Colombians seemed to be giving space in the middle, and Lloyd and Lori Lindsey (or Shannon Boxx, for that matter) didn’t have the confidence to run at them with the ball, although Lloyd’s goal is kind of an example of what I’m talking about.
Unfortunately, that’s not likely to change in this tournament, so I guess I should just let it go.

4) Colombia is not good

Having seen everyone twice (almost), I think we can say Colombia is the worst team in the tournament, so you’d expect the U.S. to do what they did today.
On top of it, Ricardo Rozo made five changes, even taking Yoreli Rincon out, presumably to become a little more defensive, but it was always going to be an uphill climb.
Of course, it’s one thing to expect it and another to do it, so they should be happy. But the harder work is yet to come, and I think everyone knows it.

5) The U.S. might be vulnerable to speed, but we may not know it in the group stage

There were a couple of times where it looked like Colombia might have had Christie Rampone and Rachel Buehler split. Would a team with better strikers have been able to take advantage of that? Problem is, it’s not like Sweden seems to have strikers that the U.S. has to be overly concerned about right now, either, so it may be an open question into the knockout stage, and no one likes open questions in the knockout stage, which leads us to…

6) The win the group vs. rest argument

The format for this tournament is asking a lot of the players, the U.S. quarterfinal game will be next Sunday, with the semifinal three days after and the final four days after that, so it would seem to be a good time to give some tired legs a rest as Pia Sundhage did with Shannon Boxx against Colombia.
The U.S. needs a draw to win the group, and probably play Norway or Australia instead of Brazil. Can the U.S., which is ridulously deep, get a draw against a Caroline Seger-less Sweden squad with a lot of changes? I think they can.
And, who’s to say Thomas Dennerby and Sweden aren’t thinking the same thing? It looks like second in Group C will get Brazil, but that’s not a certainty after they struggled in their first game, either. Finishing second allows you to avoid Germany until the final.
Just thinking out loud, we’ll see how it develops.

7) There are better ways to get yourself on the field than complaining

For instance, scoring a magnificent goal four minutes after coming on, as Megan Rapinoe did. Her first touch was nearly perfect and her second touch was, an unstoppable blast that was taken quickly. Rapinoe did lose the ball a couple of times and had some interesting tackles, but it’s hard to argue that the team’s best attacking team doesn’t include her in it after the goal she scored, and I think Sundhage has to give her the start against Sweden.

8) You have to have a little but of fun, too

An early goal obviously helps the nerves, too, but the (quite brilliant) celebrations show that there might not be as many nerves on the inside as there are on the outside, and a team that’s playing loose is usually a team that’s playing with confidence as well.

9) Most people aren’t worried about you, Abby

It is a little annoying for Abby Wambach not to have scored a goal in this World Cup, but the U.S. hasn’t needed her, she’s scored 118 goals in her career, and it’s not like she’s playing poorly, it just seems to be a bout of unluckiness more than anything else.
I’d be more worried about the card situation, another one in the last group match sees her suspended for the quarterfinals, so I think Sundhage will give a lot of thought on whether to give Wambach a rest or not in the Sweden match.

10) Despite their offensive woes, Sweden might still be a threat

Two goals in two games is far from impressive, but two things Sweden can hang their collective hats on (boy, that’s a horrible cliche): a) North Korea had less chances to score than they did against the United States, and b) they are creating some good chances even if they are not finishing them, so if they ever do start finishing, look out.

Bonus:

Colombia vs. Columbia

Colombia is the country is South America, Columbia is a university in New York City and some cities around the United States (and is the spelling for the District of Columbia).
But please don’t spell the country, Columbia.
Thank you.

Photo Essay of the 2010 WPS Championship Game

Click the link below for the full Photo Essay.

Photo Essay | 2010 WPS Championship

I woke up this morning with slightly blackened knees and grey shins. Three  bags littered my bedroom floor with gear half-strewn around them. My favorite Coachella hat was resting on my airplane sized Pelican case with a crumpled FC Gold Pride press pass nestled in the dimple of the fedora. I woke up this morning, and all was right with my world.

Let’s go back a day. I was up out the door by 9:15am, scooting straight to the absolute best corner store/deli to grab the key ingredients for the morning: OJ and cheap Champagne. This was not just any day, this was WPS Championship Day. Tailgating was a must. Shooting out a few tweets then I was on the road, my red Prius scooting through a California marsh towards the better-smelling-greener-grass other side; Hayward.

Tailgating with some Twitter buddies, I grabbed my press pass and set up on the field to the right of what soon would be Val Henderson’s goal. This placement was key, as it kept me out of the incredibly unflattering view of the FSC cameras.

The beating Cali sun kept the sweet turf field rather toasty. So a short period of kneeling down quickly gave way to me perching on my Pelican case. Perfect. Great day, great atmosphere and a great behind-the-scenes coordination by the FC Gold Pride crew. Was a fun shindig all around.

Rather than cut down the hundreds of shots into just a few beauties to share with you all, Jenna let me have some fun. I love enablers.

Click the link above to browse my Photo Essay, and enjoy!