Tag Archives: kyah simon

WPSL Elite: Sometimes Journey More Important Than Destination

The plan to come to Chicago for a July vacation was made well before the WPSL Elite schedule came out, or even before the decision was made to cover the league at all this summer (which I thank AWK for, it’s been fun).
I knew I would basically miss a weekend of games, but when I saw July 7: Boston at New England, I had a sneaking suspicion it may be bad game to be absent for.
Of course, we know what happened next. Paul Riley had said all season that one “amateur” team would beat a “pro” team before the 2012 campaign concluded, and the Mutiny did so in spectacular fashion, scoring twice in stoppage time to give them a win over their intrastate rival Breakers, 2-1.
New England does not have the best team in WPSL Elite (as their 31 goals conceded in 11 matches can attest to), but they may be the most interesting thing to come out of this makeshift domestic women’s soccer season, at least on the East coast.
The Mutiny have a marketable star in youngster Morgan Andrews, one of the best attacking talents in Kate Howarth, and recently added to that with veteran Tiffany Weimer who – for my money, at least – was one of the most entertaining players in WPS (this side of Marta) when she played with FC Gold Pride just a couple of years ago.
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, New England is only 4-5-2, and although it has a fairly favorable schedule to close, finishing above .500 will be difficult. But, even in competitive athletics, sometimes it’s not about the destination, but the journey to get there.
With goals galore, upsets of more heralded teams, and just entertaining soccer, the Mutiny journey has been a lot of fun.

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WPSL Elite: Morgan Andrews Continues To Impress, Smiling All The Way

Despite the tough result for the Flash, Meghan Klingenberg and Lori Lindsey took time to sign autographs after the 3-3 draw with New England before rejoining the U.S. national team this week.

EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. – Soccer, like most sports, like life, is about moments. We live for those quick rushes, sometimes we know when they’re coming, sometimes not.

As soccer fans, we rarely know when the hour is at hand, which is part of our enjoyment, but we inherently know special players have a proportionally greater chance to give us them.

Morgan Andrews still has a long way to go in her soccer education, and the last thing I want to do is put undue pressure on her as she begins to prepare for her senior year of high school (try to think back to what your priorities were the summer before yours for comparison) that will include a trip to exotic Azerbaijan as captain of the U.S. national team for the U-17 World Cup among other things.

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WPSL Elite: Boston Stops New England Behind Jones, Simon; Howarth Impresses In Defeat

The teams line up before kickoff on a brutally hot evening at Dilboy Stadium.

SOMERVILLE, Mass. – The record will show that the Boston Breakers defeated the New England Mutiny 4-2 Wednesday night, a result that brought us one step closer to what you have to figure is the inevitable: the four “professional” teams battling it out for the inaugural WPSL Elite title in Rochester at the end of July.

But – as I’ve occasionally pointed out to my teams over the years – sometimes life is about the journey not the destination, and on an oppressive New England night outside of Boston, there was plenty to take notice of outside the final scoreline.

Even in a losing effort, New England striker Kate Howarth continues to shine. On a team full of local talent, Howarth – a Michigan native who will be heading into her senior year at Miami in the fall – decided a summer in New England would benefit her. And, at least among people who are paying attention to WPSL Elite, she has. Statistically, she leads the Mutiny with five goals, but she’s probably been better than that, giving a Breakers’ veteran backline all kinds of fits Wednesday night before scoring a striker’s goal in the 59th minute.

For a player who suffered a somewhat gruesome leg break less than two years ago, Howarth definitely doesn’t take anything for granted and it shows in her play, which has drawn rave reviews from her opponents as well.

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WPSL Elite: Breakers Open With Sell-Out On Day WPS Breathes Its Last

The teams line up at sunny Dilboy Stadium before the Breakers-FC Indiana game last week.

SOMERVILLE, Mass. – Officially, the plug was pulled on Women’s Professional Soccer last Friday, and while its certified demise led some that were out of the loop to shed a tear or two over its death, most of us that saw it in its vegetative state the last few months were able to say our goodbyes long ago.

And so, on the very day, the old league was put out of its misery, there were plenty of smiles from the people who used to be a big part of it. The Boston Breakers hosted FC Indiana in their home opener in the newly formed WPSL Elite before a sell-out crowd at Dilboy Stadium, and it seemed like – for everyone involved – the pressure was off.

Yes, it was great that 2,312 paying customers showed up to watch, but the number didn’t really matter, unlike last year, where that number seemed to be everything. There was a decent amount of media present, but there was no lamenting that the major media outlets weren’t there with cameras and beat reporters. In short, it seems that in WPSL Elite thus far, everyone is free to be themselves, which is refreshing.

If there was a problem evident with the WPSL Elite Friday night, it might be finding good competition for the clearly talented teams at the top of the pyramid. Much has been made about FC Indiana and the wonderful work Shek Borkowski has done in Haiti in a short time, but his almost exclusively Haitian outfit was outclassed from the opening kickoff.

Borkowski came out in a 3-4-3 hybrid, but Indiana gave Boston plenty of space to start their attack. And anyone who has watched Cat Whitehill over the years knows that if you give her time and space anywhere within a 40-yard radius of your goal, she’s going to take aim. You could almost see Whitehill’s eyes light up from the press box as her first shot just minutes in forced an uncomfortable save out of Indiana keeper Geralda Saintilus, who would be more than a little busy in this match. In the ninth minute, Saintilus got a hand to another Whitehill missile to push it off the crossbar, but Katie Schoepfer was there for an easy tap-in.

To Indiana’s credit, they came back two minutes later to tie the game. Sophia Batard, probably Indiana’s best player, got the ball on a counter and slipped in Nadia Libertin and the game was even.

But that would be Indiana’s only shot of the first half, and Kyah Simon’s brace before halftime pretty much sealed Indiana’s fate. The visitors’ shape in defense was much better in the second half, and they conceded only once after the break, when Simon found fellow Aussie international Tameka Butt in the 57th minute, making the final 4-1.

It is the additions of the Aussies that might push Boston to the favorite role in WPSL Elite this summer. Simon, particularly, did just about as she pleased Friday night, and her workrate will make her a handful for anyone in this league to stop. She doesn’t turn 21 until next month, and has the potential to be one of the best strikers in the world. She signed with the Breakers when the WPS was still alive back in January, and there was some question whether she and Butt would still come over when the league collapsed, but there was little doubt in her mind.

“I think any opportunity to go overseas was definitely in the cards,” Simon said. “What better place to come than America? I’d definitely prefer rather to be here rather than in Denmark or in Sweden where the weather is cold, but definitely going overseas was an easy choice at all stages. Hopefully, I might be back here next year, too.”

I’m assuming if you’re here, you know most of Simon’s remarkable story, but if you haven’t seen “No Apologies” and you’re a women’s soccer fan, it’s definitely worth your time.

Boston, like New York, has a veteran core that starts down the spine with Whitehill and Taryn Hemmings in the middle, joined by Leslie Osborne and Mary Frances Monroe playing holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 for coach Lisa Cole. Cole made an interesting sub late in the game when Kristi Lefebvre replaced Monroe, significant because both are Division I head coaches in the same conference, Monroe now running Albany, while Lefebvre is at Vermont (both are always former UConn standouts, although they played at different times). Both are splitting time between their job and the Breakers this summer, meaning they probably won’t be available for every road game, but will be a big veteran boost to the squad nonetheless.

Butt tucked in behind a front three of Simon, Schoepfer, and Jess Luscinski, who picked up an assist. The Breakers should also get Melissa Henderson in uniform at some point this summer. Courtney Jones – formerly of UNC – and Julie King round out the backline, and you start to understand why the Breakers are the likely league favorites.

“We’ve played a different lineup in all three games,” Cole said. “We’re still missing three of our U-23s today, they’re all starters, so it will change in and out throughout the season.”

It’s been nearly 12 years since Whitehill made her full debut for the U.S. national team, so she has certainly earned the right to speak about the state of women’s soccer these days. And she, like many players, just seemed happy Friday that the WPS ordeal of the last few months can finally be put to a semi-permanent rest.

“Sometimes it takes a couple of blocks to go down, then you have to keep building it up to keep making it stronger,” Whitehill said. “We keep learning from our mistakes from each one. This is an awesome opportunity for so many young women, and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Hopefully this season will be a good, relaxing start:

Elsewhere in WPSL Elite:

SATURDAY

NEW ENGLAND 4:2 CHESAPEAKE

Kevin had a good recap on this game and included our conversation with Chesapeake coach Albert Oni, which had some good responses on joining WPSL Elite.

Oni’s squad didn’t roll over for the Mutiny, trailing 3-1 at halftime, they were the better side in the second half, and nearly equalized on a couple of occasions. And while no one is ever happy to lose a game, I left impressed by the Charge, who had a goal scorer – Shannon Collins (a phenomenal left-footed curling strike from a good distance out) – and the player that impressed me most – Riley Barger – that were both high schoolers. You knew it was a young team when you saw some of them giddy after the game about the opportunity to grab some free pizza, and a couple of voices yelling, “Mom, get my bag.” The juxtaposition of a team like that against the likes of the veteran Breakers and Paul Riley’s New York Fury should be interesting.

Incidentally, the Charge played without Christine Nairn – their most accomplished player – whom Oni said had to take care of some things at Penn State.

New England was without Morgan Andrews – at her high school prom – and has had trouble getting a full roster together, seemingly more so than other squads. They also faced a scheduling dilemma with another game at Philadelphia 24 hours later. But three points is three points, I guess.

Another beautiful night at East Longmeadow High as the Mutiny and Charge squared off.

Random cool fact of the night: Jenny Maurer – who scored the opening goal from long range – not only played her high school soccer on the East Longmeadow High field where the Mutiny plays, but is now the varsity coach there. So at least we know she knows how to get to the games, which is nice.

WESTERN NY 0:1 NEW YORK

The Flash can take plenty of positives out of this one, but it was Brittany Taylor’s goal off a corner kick early in the second half that gave the Fury three points and kept them perfect in the early season. The Flash, though, showed that they will probably be a factor in the league before all is said and done, although you have to think the Fury will keep getting better as well.

SUNDAY

CHICAGO 2:0 INDIANA

As expected, the Red Stars dominated possession in their opener, but had more trouble than expected breaking Indiana down, eventually getting goals from Julianne Stich and a Lauren Fowlkes penalty kick to get the result.

Other than the new uniforms (I like them), Lori Chalupny continues to be a factor in whatever league she plays in, taking the field without headgear and dominating. Tough to get a read on the Red Stars after just one game, we’ll have to wait until they play one of the top teams to get a genuine read on whether they’ll be a factor in the title race.

PHILADELPHIA 2:2 NEW ENGLAND

Like Chesapeake the day before, the Fever proved to be feisty and – according to reports – could have won the game at the end a couple of times. Tiya Gallegos has scored in all three Mutiny games and her brace here gives her four on the young season, a nice problem for Tony Horta to have. Unfortunately, his defense – in flux for various reasons – has now conceded nine times in three matches – and that’s going to have to be sorted out quickly if they want to make a playoff push.

As much as it was disappointing for New England to struggle this weekend, it is probably good for the league, which feared that Chesapeake and Philadelphia may struggle to be competitive. Neither has played one of the “big clubs”, but it’s a good (and entertaining) start.

New York hosts Boston on Wednesday in a marquee league matchup, as the league should finally start to stabilize with schedules and rosters soon.

The scene outside Dilboy Stadium before last Friday's game.

Women’s World Cup – Things We Learned: Day 4

Sometimes the real world can be a cruel, cruel place. Australia and Equatorial Guinea began Wednesday’s action as underdogs, teams that would likely have to get very lucky to get a result against Brazil and Norway, respectively.

As it turned out, they had no luck at all.

Now, in the end, just as in any of life’s endeavors, you make your own luck and neither the Aussies or the Equatoguineans (my favorite world of the World Cup, by the way) could find a way to score a goal, and therefore got nothing, absolutely nothing, they lost (say it in your best Willy Wonka voice).

But as the final whistle sounded on the Australia-Brazil match, while the poor Matildas looking disconsolate after a last-second corner kick rattled around the box for one seemed like an hour, I thought, “Darn it”.

I didn’t pick Australia or Equatorial Guinea, I have no ties to either, they just didn’t to deserve to lose today. And, as these things go, they may not get a better chance to win than they did today.

Onto the 10 things we learned in Day 4 of Germany 2011.

1) It’s good to be Genoveva Anonma

Well, except for the whole “being accused of being a man, thing”. I’m sure that’s terrible.
However, imagine you’re Genoveva, you just turned 22, you led your tiny country no one ever heard of to its first World Cup, no one thinks you have a chance to do anything, and your coach tells you to run around, get the ball as many times as possible, and shoot whenever you get within the same zip code as the opponents’ goal.
I’d probably paint my hair Equatoguinean (2) green as well. Anonma took 13 (?!?) shots, and was the most entertaining player in the tournament. We hope she can keep it up for a couple more games. The only downside …

2) Finishing seems like a lost art at this World Cup

The only thing Anonma (the official roster lists her an Anonman, must be a translation thing) was missing was the finish. After trying her luck from distance in the first half, she got her first great look at the stroke of halftime when she hit Norwegian goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth right in the chest. In the 53rd and 71st minute, she was clear again, but couldn’t make it work either time.
Alas, she’s not alone at this World Cup, Norway took a page out of the Swedish handbook, and Australia missed more than their fair share of chances. We’ll see if it changes going forward, but it might be the difference between winning and losing the World Cup (yeah, pretty obvious, but still).

3) Equatorial Guinea had a couple of other players, too

I was particularly impressed with Carolina (Martins Pereira). Of course, until a few years ago, she was probably about as Equatoguinean (3) as I was, but the veteran Brazilian was a calm presence when her team needed it in the back. (And, hey, it’s not like men’s teams aren’t doing the same thing in naturalizing players, I guess). Despite Cat Whitehill talking about the weakness of Miriam (Silva da Paixao) in goal (another Brazilian), I thought she was reasonably solid, she punched out a few balls and didn’t make any glaring mistakes. Of course, Carolina was taking her goal kicks, however, which is never good. But there’s reason to think, they’ll at least make things interesting in their last two matches.

4) I don’t despise direct play, but you need a Plan B, too

It looked like either Norway was surprised how good the Equatoguineans (4) were in the air, or didn’t really have another plan other than to lump the ball forward at every opportunity and hope for the best. I guess it’s a good sign for the women’s game that a team like Equatorial Guinea forced Norway to try something else, as I said, it’s a shame they didn’t make them pay for it at the other end.
I was encouraged to see Norway start in a 4-2-3-1 (not a 4-4-2), and and they did have some bright spots…

5) There were some bright spots for Norway, so there’s hope going forward

You can add 19-year-old (and just turned it two weeks ago) Emilie Haavi to our growing list of young standouts, as other than Anonma, she was probably Woman of the Match, which made it fitting that she got the winner in the 84th minute (with Equatorial Guinea going for the winner). Of course, Haavi is a decidedly un-Norwegian like player, and not just because her hair is not completely blonde. She has skill, and wasn’t afraid to use it.
The only other player on the Norway roster shorter than Haavi was second-half sub Lene Mykjaland, who made an immediate impact, but had to be subbed out herself after just 24 minutes on the field. Elise Thorsnes on the other wing had her moments as well, Norway is going to need those players if they want any shot of advancing, even with this result.

6) Brazil was using a sweeper

Like finding evidence of a reportedly extinct animal, there it was for Brazil (of all people) against Australia. I made fun of Nigeria for using it in past World Cups, and it was personally jarring.
My playing career was mostly as a sweeper, and my coaching career started a decade using a 4-4-2 with a sweeper because that’s all I ever played. But once more and more games came on television, especially the 2002 Men’s and 2003 Women’s World Cup, no one was using a sweeper (except the Nigerian women). No one. I really haven’t seen it since, except among some local coaches, who – like me – probably knew nothing else and don’t watch as much television.
And it wasn’t a high sweeper, it was a deep sweeper, with Daiane way back and Aline and Erika basically man-marking the two Australian forwards in front of her.
And so Kielton Lima is either revolutionizing tactical soccer, or he’s 20 years behind the times. Obviously, I’m biased, but I’m going with the latter. Australia and Lisa Da Vanna should have made them pay and didn’t, and Brazil (which was listed as a 3-4-3) never seemed sure where they were supposed to be defensively. But Lima got his clean sheet and three points.

7) Again, it’s about the goals, stupid

We can talk tactics and 100 other things, but when Christiane keeps the ball alive early in the second half and Rosana takes two brilliant touches and buries it, that’s the difference in the game. It’s the reason why Didier Drogba has been so valuable, why Chicharito is so valuable, and the difference between a good team and a championship team.
You can blame young right back Caitlin Foord for not stepping up, or the center backs for failing to clear the ball, but give credit to Rosana, too.
Despite all their failings today, Brazil is capable of scoring just like they did today – in lightning quick fashion – and I don’t know how many other teams in this tournament are.

8) Australia has a future, if not a present

Foord was excellent at right back and doesn’t turn 17 until November, fellow teenager Emily Van Egmond didn’t stand out as much, but didn’t stand out in a bad way, either. Center back Servet Uzunlar just turned 22. Kyah Simon, who didn’t score, but was pretty dangerous and lively celebrated her 20th birthday earlier in the week. And, based on today’s performances, you’d still have to make Australia a favorite against Norway, wouldn’t you?

9) However, let’s not get too worked up over one game

Brazil and Norway, my picks to advance, were not good today, I’ll readily admit that, but one game does not a tournament make. What kind of adjustments do Eli Landsem and Lima make going forward is the big question? Does Lima scrap the pseudo 3-4-3 and old-school sweeper? Does Landsem order the ball played to the feet of her skill players?
We may look back on the first game as an aberration if Brazil and Norway make a deep run.

10) Low-scoring does not necessarily mean bad or unentertaining

Scoring is down, way down, in this World Cup, but the Equatorial Guinea-Norway match was the most entertaining of this World Cup and would have been even if it had finished scoreless. So I’m not worried about the lack of scoring, even if people that don’t actually watch the games will point to it as reasons why people shouldn’t watch.

Bonus:

Europe is the only undefeated confederation

But yet between Sweden, Norway, England, and France, they probably haven’t been as impressive as CONCACAF or Asia (with Australia). Discuss.