Tag Archives: Diana Matheson

Spirit fall to physical Seattle, 2-1

In a sane world, the main topic of this writeup would be the two sensational goals scored by Jess Fishlock and Megan Rapinoe to give Seattle the win.

Instead, it all started when the Spirit announcer messed up and announced Hope Solo’s as #2 instead of #1, then quickly corrected himself. Spirit season ticket holders have gotten used to these little goofs, whether it’s introducing Robyn Gayle as Crystal Gayle, getting Ali Krieger’s number wrong, saying Mike Jorden is the head coach, or failing to announce Crystal Dunn at all.

Then early in the game, Seattle owner Bill Predmore was at the Reign bench and refused to leave when asked despite it being explicitly against the NWSL rules for him to be there. Reportedly, he threw away the phone of the poor Spirit volunteer who asked him to leave. (I’d really like to hear about some repercussions for Predmore here, particularly since some of the activity on the field by his players was at about the same level of decorum.)

Meanwhile, on the field 15 minutes in Megan Rapinoe got around right flank defender Whitney Church to send a cross in. Katherine Reynolds was able to head the ball clear at the goalmouth, but it fell right to a wide open Fishlock, who had plenty of time to collect the ball and fire it toward goal from about 25 out. It deflected slightly off a Spirit defender and went into the upper right corner past a leaping Ashlyn Harris.

Ten minutes later Reign forward Merritt Mathias won a fight for the ball in the corner of the box and kicked it out to Megan Rapinoe, who, just as wide open as Fishlock, fired it into the upper left-hand corner past a leaping Harris.
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Spirit dampen Reign, 3-0

It was a clash of streaks: the Washington Spirit had yet to lose at home in 2015 (4-0-1) , while the Seattle Reign were undefeated in their last 8 matches (5-0-3). With the Spirit missing both their WWC champions (Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger) and their Nigerians, I thought a tie would be an accomplishment. On the other hand, it would be the first chance for Diana Matheson to team up with Crystal Dunn as a forward, plus Seattle would be missing their champs (Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe) as well as key defender Kendall Fletcher, who was out with an injury. As it turns out, the moral of the story seems to be not to take your streak to Maureen Hendricks Field if you want to keep it going.

Before an all-time record Soccerplex crowd of 5,413, Washington dismantled Seattle, 3-0, for the most lopsided win in the Spirit’s history. (The previous women’s professional soccer record for Maureen Hendricks Field was 5,149, set on May 3, 2009, when Hope Solo made her first appearance at the ‘plex as her St. Louis Athletica took on the Washington Freedom.)
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NWSL Week in Review: Five Things (Week 2)

When you read an article like this in the New York Times of all places, the first reaction – understandably – is straight up anger. Because if you’re reading this, it’s highly likely you have a passion for women’s soccer, and when you see misinformation, or more importantly, half-truths, about a cause that is near and dear to your heart, it hurts. You know the history, you know how hard people have worked to make this version of women’s professional soccer in this country work, and that it’s going to take time to succeed in this culture.

As poorly written as it is, though (hey, New York Times, I can write in proper sentences if you want to hire me), it’s hard to discount completely the overall premise, which is that the NWSL – while far from desperate – faces an uphill struggle to become somewhere where the best women’s soccer players in the world can draw a decent salary to play the game professionally.

And the juxtaposition was striking on Saturday in Maryland as Washington and Kansas City played what I thought was the most entertaining NWSL game I’d seen in two seasons, not just with the goals and chances, but with the technical display of the players. There were a few defensive miscues and poor touches, sure, but some of the best soccer players in the world showed why they are.

At the end of the day, 2,577 came to see it. Should we care? Probably not as much as people say we should, but you wish people could see what you see. Maybe someday they will. Until then, we’ll just keep fighting the good fight, and watching the beautiful game.

Without further ado, five things we learned from the second weekend of the NWSL campaign:

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Canada Brings Home Pan American Gold

Mexsport; CSA

That title has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? The Canadian Women’s National Team captured the top prize at the XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico by defeating Brazil in dramatic fashion. Following a come-from-behind 1-1 draw in regulation and a scoreless overtime, Canada struck gold with penalty kicks, 4-3.

Twenty year-old Debora opened the scoring just 4 minutes into the match. The Brazilian striker headed towards three Canadian defenders and was given an excess of space to dribble up field before unleashing a top corner beauty from outside the box.

Canada was able to stay in the game thanks to a series of critical saves by Karina LeBlanc, especially late in regulation time when Brazil began peppering the Canadian net. Brazil outshot Canada 22-13, while Canada maintained 57% of possession.

As the clock ticked away, it appeared that Brazil was on its way to claiming another PanAm gold medal. However, like the 2011 Women’s World Cup quarter-finals against the USA, Brazil was undone late in the game by an equalizer off a header. This time it was at the mercy of Christine Sinclair being her usual clutch self. Canada won a corner kick in the 88th minute and Diana Matheson sent in a perfectly struck ball. Sinclair circled around goalkeeper Barbara to head it in with ease and forced the game into overtime.

But 30 minutes was not enough to break the deadlock between the teams, so the dreaded, heart wrenching penalty kicks were to settle the score.

Matheson converted the first Canadian PK with confidence, as did Francielle for Brazil. Upon the second round, Barbara was in a rage when she got a glove on Sinclair’s shot, but it wasn’t enough to keep it out of the net. Maurine and Melanie Booth were both successful in their respective shots from the mark. Canada took the lead following Brazil’s third PK when Grazielle placed her attempt up the middle for an easy stop by LeBlanc. Sophie Schmidt put Canada ahead once again and Ketlen answered back. It was 4-3 heading into the fifth set of PKs; things got momentarily tense for Canada while Brazil saw a glimmer of hope when Candace Chapman’s strike rattled the right sided post. The next kicker, Debora, had an opportunity to play hero for Brazil once again if she could tie up the results, but LeBlanc guessed the right direction to make her second PK save and secure first place.

Watch highlights of the final, Canada vs. Brazil, Brazil’s medal ceremony, Canada celebrating the win and the gold medal ceremony.

The win marks Canada’s first PanAm gold in women’s soccer, and John Herdman’s first tournament win since taking over the team in September. Canada previusly claimed fourth (1999), second (2003) and third place (2007) since the sport was included in the PanAm Games 12 years earlier. Brazil had won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2007, and with the absence of any US team, it appeared to be theirs for the taking. Alas, it was yet another second place finish (see: the Women’s World Cup, Olympic Games and Torneio Internacional Cidade de São Paulo).

2015 will be a marquee year for the Canadian Women’s National Team with the Women’s World Cup being staged across Canada from June 26-July 17 and PanAm Toronto July 10-26. The overlap makes it highly unlikely that the senior team will be able to defend their title as the reigning PanAm Women’s Soccer champions. But with that aside, the build up in the next 4 years will be exciting times for the sport in the country. Whether it’ll be about seeking World Cup redemption or potentially instilling confidence in our youth team to represent us at the PanAms in place of the full squad, it’s all taking place in Canada. There’s no better feeling than playing (and winning) on home soil, right?

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USWNT vs. CanWNT: Wambach & Morgan were Left Unmarked and Made Canada Pay

The United States concluded their post-2011 Women’s World Cup Celebration Series tour against Canada with a 3-0 victory. Both friendlies were played in front of incredible crowds; Megan Rapinoe joked earlier in the week that the fanfare has been like if the WWC runner-ups had actually won the title.  18,570 strong serenaded the team with chants of “U-S-A” at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon, as did 16,191 at the first friendly in Kansas City, Kansas last Saturday (1-1 draw).

Similar to the previous game, the USWNT lined up in a new 4-2-3-1. As promised, Pia Sundhage featured all 21 players over the two friendlies, a full strength roster from the WWC. Notably in the starting XI, the experiment with Amy Rodriguez as a left winger continued, while Shannon Boxx and Lori Lindsey replaced Carli Lloyd and Lauren Cheney as holding midfielders. Stephanie Cox stepped in for Amy LePeilbet and Becky Sauerbrunn slide over from her usual role in central defence to the outside right.

John Herdman, who is playing without two of Canada’s regular starters Christine Sinclair and Candace Chapman, switched from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 and made two changes to his starting lineup from the first friendly, with Lexi Marton in place of Emily Zurrer and Karina LeBlanc in goal for Erin McLeod. Herdman’s fourth ‘keeper, 22 year-old Justine Bernier, was the only one of the 22 player roster not to see playing time. New talent was introduced as three players received their first senior caps during the two friendlies.

The US peppered the Canadian 18-yard box with dangerous crosses and well paced shots throughout the match, but were upstaged by great Canadian goalkeeping from Karina LeBlanc in the first half and Stephanie Labbé in the second.

Canada was kept deep on defensive duties for much of the game, but Melissa Tancredi got an early opportunity when she fended off a couple defenders before sending the ball over the net.

LeBlanc made her first of several great saves in the 17th minute. Abby Wambach started the play when she blocked Sophie Schmidt’s cross, which fell to Rapinoe. She was able to advance the ball up field before laying it off to Wambach, whose ensuing cross was met by an unmarked Rodriguez.  Her side-footed shot from point blank range was denied by a one-handed save.

About 10 minutes later, Heather O’Reilly led the charge forward when she beat Diana Matheson to send in a cross. Lauren Sesselmann was in a great position to block Christie Rampone’s initial shot. Her far post rebound was grabbed in the air by LeBlanc, who then sparked the Canadian attack with her goal kick. The bouncing ball eluded Rachel Buehler and fell favourably for Tancredi. Her header into space allowed her to turn and shoot, but the low bouncing ball went just wide to the right of Hope Solo.

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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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Interview with Diana Matheson

Matheson2009

If you’re looking to name a hard working midfielder then Diana Matheson has to be mentioned. The 4-time first-team All-Ivy honouree led the Princeton University Tigers (2004-2007) with 23 goals and 26 assists. Since debuting for the Senior National Team as an 18 year-old in 2003, Matheson has played every minute in 91 of her 101 caps. Most recently, she displayed her tenacity in Canada’s September 30 friendly against China while patrolling the midfield and playing great one-touch soccer with her teammates. Matheson started the match with a bang, scoring the opening goal after making a great run from the centre circle to the 18-yard box. Perhaps AWK likes the idea of Western New York signing her?

All White Kit: You, Kara Lang and the rest of the team recently hosted a clinic with the Oakville Soccer Club to help raise money for the Haitian National Team. Talk a little bit about that, and your experience playing for OSC as you were growing up.

Diana Matheson: I had a great experience growing up with OSC. It’s a huge soccer club and they do a great job with women’s soccer. Kara grew up there as well, so they do okay in producing soccer players I think ;). The clinic went really well. I think we basically wanted to try and connect with girls’ soccer players out there. With Kara and I being from Oakville and they being such a good club, we thought of them first. The club did a great job organizing the event, and Carmelina Moscato and Kara organized it on our end and the drills and everything. We did 2 hours of coaching with the girls and it was a great turnout. I think we had about 300 people from age 4 to age 51. We did signings afterward and we met everyone. It was a great experience for us.

AWK: Did you and Kara grow up playing against each other?

DM: No, Kara’s 2 years younger so we never played against each other.

AWK: You had a foot injury earlier this year. Are you all healed up and ready to go? Continue reading

Post-Match: Canada vs. China

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

On September 30 at BMO Field, Canada’s 3-1 victory over China was a promising display of what Carolina Morace’s team is capable of executing. The long ball game and rigid player roles of Even Pellerud and Canada’s past were replaced by a free flowing squad who held possession with quick passes and attacked aggressively.

Lining up in a 4-3-3, Canada didn’t hesitate to test China’s backline right from the get-go. Just 6 seconds into the game, forward Josée Bélanger got into the final third to set up Kaylyn Kyle, but Kyle’s chip bounced harmlessly into the box.

In the 2nd minute of play, Bélanger hustled down the right wing again and won a corner kick after the ball deflected off a Chinese defender. Diana Matheson served a high arching ball into the box that Christine Sinclair headed on target, but was cleared out of bounds by #2 Liu Huana on the near post.

Canada’s second ensuing corner kick turned into China’s advantage instead. After pinging around in the air, a heavy touch by Marie-Even Nault allowed China to play a 20 yard through ball to an unmarked #8 Xu Yuan for a breakaway opportunity. The Canadians were caught playing a high defensive line and could only retreat as they watched Karina LeBlanc tip the shot over the bar.

China’s first corner kick of the match in the 4th minute was played short, and Bélanger was there to intercept. It was difficult for China to gain any sort of rhythm with Canada constantly stepping in to challenge their passes. Kyle was a bully in the midfield and had a great sequence early on in the game with about 4 or 5 interceptions in the span of a minute, all on different parts of the pitch.

The Canadian defence had their fair share of interceptions as well. At one point, Candace Chapman stepped high in the midfield to cut off a through ball, and Carmelina Moscato‘s pass sparked an attack with Matheson and Melissa Tancredi playing one touch passes to one another to advance the ball while making good use of space. This was one of Canada’s many attacks throughout the night that displayed the possession-oriented and quick passing style that Morace has been trying to implement since taking over the team in early 2009.

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Match Preview: September 15 Canada vs. Germany

Canada’s head coach Carolina Morace has announced a 25 player roster for the September 15 international friendly against Germany in Dresden. Twenty-one players were selected from an 18 day camp held in Rome, Italy from August 25 to September 12, and the arrival of four others from Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) rounded out the squad. The match against Germany will take place at Rudolf Harbig Stadion at 6pm local time (12pm EST/ 9am PST), and will be broadcasted live on ARD in Germany.

The team held its first full training session in Dresden, Germany on September 13 at the Dresden Dynamo practice field. They will train again on the morning of the 14th. Morace, along with captain Christine Sinclair and co-captain Diana Matheson, will take part in a pre-game press conference the same day (1:30pm local time).

The roster is a mixture of veteran and youth presence. As noted on the Canadian Soccer Association website, 11 players from this roster have FIFA Women’s World Cup and/or Olympic experience. On the other hand, 7 players only recently debuted on the Senior National Team in 2009 or 2010, including Kendra Flock, Christina Julien, Alyssa Lagonia, Brooke McCalla, Caley Miskimmin Desiree Scott, and Chelsea Stewart. Additionally, 2 players, Gurveen Clair and Bahar Sansar, are yet to be capped at this level, and 12 of the 25 players have 10 caps or less. The eldest is Karina LeBlanc at 30 years of age and the youngest is 18 year-old Clair. The mean age of the roster is 24, while the average age is 24.32.

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