Tag Archives: eni aluko

If The Women’s Game Is To Truly Grow, Players Like Eni Aluko Have To Take The Heat

And now, as the late, great Paul Harvey would say, for the rest of the story.

I really don’t have anything against Eni Aluko, she is an intelligent young woman (she’s on her way to being a lawyer), and obviously has enough soccer talent to be starting for England in the World Cup, which means she could literally do circles around me if we ever met on the field.

However, my job here is to analyze what happens in these Women’s World Cup matches, and in England’s opener against Mexico, Aluko had a poor match, she missed a few chances, and seemed to fade away as she (and her team) tired.

The previous paragraph has absolutely nothing to do with Aluko as a person, and it’s a difference that some of us can’t really wrap our arms around sometimes, but it’s an extremely significant one for those of us that like to watch the best of the best in athletics.

After the game, Aluko was understandably upset, but not so understandably sent this Tweet out:

EniAlu “Kate Markgraf’s commentary is probably going to be the most shocking thing about this WWC.Just sayin.Thank you.Good night. Onto the next one”

Ten years ago, even five years ago, Aluko wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do such a thing, and she quickly realized the error of her ways and deleted the Tweet (a couple of hours after sending it).

But not before a few people took her to task for criticizing Markgraf on Twitter. That probably should be the end of the story, Aluko learned her Twitter lesson, and we move on.

Instead, the story was spun into poor Aluko being the victim, first by ESPN (which is somewhat ironic, because it was Markgraf – as a conduit of ESPN – that Aluko seemed to be most upset with in the first place), then by the Guardian, of all people, both of whom seemed to ignore the fact that the brunt of the Twitter criticism didn’t seem to come until after the Tweet about Markgraf (in fact, it wasn’t mentioned at all in either story).

Aluko called her Twitter messages “intrusive and poisonous”, and went on to say, “I’m a very passionate person and if you’re going to write negativity about me I’m going to say something back.”

Again, no one deserves to be abused and Twitter (like the Internet, in general) allows people to “hide behind a keyboard”, as Aluko says.

But part of being a professional athlete is taking criticism and responsibility for what you say as well. Two weeks ago, Charlie Davies – who began the season as the feel-good story of MLS after returning from a near-fatal car accident – drew the ire of MLS fans when his dive gave DC United a late penalty kick and a 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake.

Davies (who was fined $1,000 for “bringing the game into disrepute”) is very active on Twitter, and first took to defending himself from comments which were much, much worse than Aluko received earlier this week. A few days after the incident, he Tweeted “Just had a drive of 250 yards!!! I’m felling it now hahaha”.

Person after person, of course, turned the word drive into dive, and it was a new round of abuse for Davies.

But this time, Davies (probably getting some good advice from somewhere) stayed silent – at least as far as Twitter was concerned. He came back, scored in his next start and never mentioned it again. While I’m sure the controversy will never completely be gone as far as opposing fans and idiots who are just out to get a rise out of people are concerned, it has mostly quieted down and Davies has gone back to his business.

Markgraf, to her credit, took the high road as well, saying on Twitter before commenting on the England-New Zealand match Friday: “Social media makes it possible 2 contact athletes. Want them perform better?don’t @ them twitter msg. they know! no 1 goes out 2 do poorly.”

Adrian Healey brought up the Twitter “controversy” a couple of times, and Markgraf – very professionally – stayed quiet.

Aluko got the start and actually had a much better time of it before getting substituted at halftime for Karen Carney as England came from behind to likely book a place in the quarterfinals with a 2-1 win.

So, the bottom line here is twofold. In my coaching (and teaching), I always stress the difference between controllables and uncontrollables. Eni Aluko – as with anyone – can’t control what people say about her. It’s part of the job of an eliteĀ  athlete where thousands of people watch the games and care about the results.

As I’ve said before, personal abuse – threatening, racial comments, talking about family members, etc. – has no place in any sport and should not be tolerated.

But if you can’t take criticism of your play on the field at this level, you’re probably in the wrong place. And when you make the first rude comment about someone else, then expect us to feel sympathy for you, there’s no way I’m going to feel sorry for you.

Sorry, Eni, it’s nothing personal.

Women’s World Cup – Things We Learned: Day 2

The “group of life” took center stage today, but anyone who thought Japan was a little bit of a soft No. 4 in the world may think differently after they handled New Zealand much easier than the final 2-1 tally would indicate.

Meanwhile, England looked like they were well on their way to doing the same until a 40-yard dancing missile out of nowhere from Mexico’s Monica Ocampo shook them so much they never really recovered. You’d still consider them favorites to go through, but finishing second in Group B will likely get you a date with Germany in the quarterfinals, and then likely get you on the next plane home.

So what happened? I’ll try to tell you in the 10 things we learned in Day 2 of Germany 2011.

1) The weather (and fitness) will be a factor for some

New Zealand had a pretty good gameplan to pressure Japan into mistakes and try to take advantage of their lack of size at the other end. Through most of the first half, despite conceding, it worked pretty well, they went into halftime 1-1.
But on a very warm day, New Zealand just couldn’t keep it up. Betsy Hassett and Katie Hoyle slowed down significantly in the center of midfield, players started cramping up, pressure was non-existent, and tackles were lazy, including the one Rebecca Smith put on Mana Iwabuchi, which eventually led to the winning goal. New Zealand never did get a shot on goal in the second half, and obviously never threatened.
You could argue the same for England, they seemed to run out of gas in the final 30 minutes, not as creative, not as fluid, and it nearly allowed the Mexicans to steal the game. Add the fact that teams will be playing a lot of games in a short period of time, too.

2) You can add Mana Iwabuchi to the list of youngsters to keep an eye on

Some of it is what you just read in No. 1, New Zealand was very tired in the second half, but if Japan was gaining momentum already, Iwabuchi put them over the edge, running at the Kiwis at will. She came on relatively early for Shinobi Ohno (55th minute), so you wonder if Norio Sasaki thinks about starting her, but probably not for now.

3) You can talk about a lot of things, but sometimes quality just shines through

Yes, it came from a New Zealand giveaway, but if you get a chance, look at the pass from Ohno that set up the first Japanese goal in the 6th minute. Ridiculous. And it wasn’t an easy finish for Yuki Nagasato, either. Brilliant goal, men, women, or martian. And Aya Miyama’s winning free kick goal was also pure class. Class that New Zealand just doesn’t have, unfortunately.

4) It’s going to be tough to outprepare Japan

Did you notice that Japan seemed to be putting all of their corner kicks toward the same long spot, even though they had a significant height disadvantage? It wasn’t an accident, New Zealand had obviously been scouted zonal marking and left the spot 12 yards high on the far side open. Japan hit that spot, put it back into the mixer and nearly got a couple of goals.
To a lesser extent, Japan also tried to take advantage of New Zealand “squeezing” them to one side of the field, preventing them from switching, but they couldn’t exploit it too often (they did once when Mizuho Sakaguchi should have scored in the 18th minute, but hit the post).

5) Japan may struggle with Mexico, too, though

New Zealand’s goal came because Japan was caught pretty high up the field and right back Yukari Kinga couldn’t get anywhere near Amber Hearn, while goalkeeper Ayuma Kihari was a little lost, resulting in a pretty easy finish. Mexico won’t have the height, but they will have the counterattacking ability to possibly take advantage, although they probably won’t wilt like England, either. OK, maybe they won’t struggle.

6) Speaking of goalkeepers, Mexico’s Cici Santiago was the best of the four today

She really doesn’t look all that intimidating, but she makes the saves she’s supposed to make, and doesn’t do anything stupid. There’s something to be said for simplicity. She didn’t get scored on from 40 yards out like her counterpart Karen Bardsley, for sure.

7) Hope Powell’s substitution pattern left plenty to be desired

How Eni Aluko goes 90 minutes in that game is beyond me. First, she was struggling phyiscally from about the 60 minute-mark onward, and I thought she might come off with an injury. Second, she was ineffective, missing a couple of chances and giving the ball away on a few other occasions after a decent start.
Add to that the weather, and the fact that Powell didn’t use her second sub until the 83rd minute and never did use her third with her team in dire need of energy from somewhere. Surely, there was someone on that bench who could have done something. Ellen White had an impact in her 18 minutes of work, but probably should have been called on earlier.

8) The women’s game is officiated a little differently

In the 57th minute, Jill Scott was cleaned out with a late, studs pretty far up challenge by Mexico’s Stephany Mayor. The referee (Silvia Reyes of Peru) never did give a card to Mayor, and Kate Markgraf thought it was a “fair challenge”. If that were MLS, people would be screaming for a suspension.

9) Mexico’s Leonardo Cuellar doesn’t share the “defending through attacking” philosophy of CONCACAF rival Carolina Morace, but it worked nonetheless

The 4-1-4-1 Mexico put out today started out by giving England a ton of space, but Maribel Dominguez ran until she couldn’t run anymore, Mexico had enough players behind the ball, and was able to steal a goal at just the right time, because if they had to come out and play down 1-0, they might have been picked apart.
In the second half, Cuellar and Mexico took advantage of a tiring England and pushed higher up the field, which is why they not only had more of the game, but prevented England from coming at them in waves as well. Good tactical game from Cuellar, he certainly won that battle.

10) The United States has to feel a little better about themselves

Well, except for the England part, I guess. But they did handle Japan pretty well in friendlies and despite a 1-0 scoreline, completely played Mexico off the field. Japan was very good today and Mexico was obviously no slouch, either, meaning the U.S. should be pretty confident heading into a game against North Korea, although I don’t know how confident you can ever be about playing North Korea.


I wish Alina Garciamendez was American

Wait, she is? Someone alert US Soccer, quick.