Tag Archives: Melissa Tancredi

Olympics – The All-Curren Team: Trying To Pick The Best 18 Not Easy

Well, here we are again, the end of another major women’s tournament, and time again for the AWK All-Curren Team. I call it that not out of a massive ego, but to indicate that it is indeed my choices and opinions. I point that out up front because for some reason choosing the best team from the Olympics was even tougher than the World Cup, even though there were fewer teams.

As with the World Cup, I sought to put together a real squad, one that could actually play (as opposed to starting nine forwards where we could score at will, but might end up playing Marta and Alex Morgan at outside back) a legitimate match.

And as always, feel free to put your choices in the Comments. Just remember, if you put someone in, someone has to come out and vice versa.

Among the players who barely missed the cut:

  • Portia Modise (South Africa), who had the goal of the tournament, and was very active in midfield for South Africa, who had their moments. Not enough moments for her to make the 18, though.
  • Renata Costa (Brazil) had a very good tournament defensively despite her team’s lack of organization.
  • Ali Riley and Ria Percival (New Zealand) might have cancelled each other out, as the entire New Zealand defense, including Jenny Bindon and Katie Hoyle, had a great tournament.
  • Two players who barely missed the cut at the World Cup did so again here in  Louisa Necib (France), who got off to a good start, but held the ball a little too long in some key spots for my taste, and Yukari Kinga (Japan), who was just edged out.
  • Lotta Schelin (Sweden), who probably suffered from a lack of support more than her failings.
  • And, perhaps the last cut, Yuki Ogimi (Japan), who scored three times in the tournament, including in the final, but in a tournament loaded with attacking players, we just couldn’t find a spot for her this time around. Next time.

So without further ado, here’s the squad:

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Olympics – What We Learned: U.S.-Canada – Sorry Canadians, But “Tuff S***”

SamuelLJackson: “Don’t know enuf about Soccer refs to know, but TV dude says he’s never SEEN that call made! Wow….we ll… TUFF S***!”

Yup, that’s what Samuel L. Jackson (indeed, that’s the same guy) sent to his 1,256,000 followers after the end of the U.S.-Canada game. I don’t know how much soccer Samuel has watched over the years (although we’ve seen him before), but in a game that is impossible to sum up in 1,400 words, let alone 140 characters, he did a pretty good job.

There is so much to talk about in this epic encounter that to spend too much time talking about a single referee’s decision will take away from how great this game (and this day) was for women’s soccer, but you have to start somewhere and we might as well get it out of the way.

In the 78th minute, Pia Sundhage and the U.S.,  trailing 3-2, had just played its trump card by substituting Sydney Leroux in for Amy LePeilbet and gone to a 3-4-3 formation. Megan Rapinoe put in a rare poor corner and Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod claimed it rather easily, falling to the ground as she did. She rose and was about to kick it quickly, then looked, saw her tired defense slow getting out, realized time was in her favor, took another couple of seconds, and punted the ball, as has been done thousands of times in last two decades (since the 6-step rule was changed to the 6-second rule for goalkeepers by FIFA) and likely hundreds of times at the Olympics.

We know what happened next. I don’t have a big problem with the ensuing penalty call that eventually allowed Abby Wambach to level the game, although common sense usually dictates that if you made one controversial call, you might let another questionable call against the same team go seconds later.

There are some that say that common sense has no place when we’re talking rules. They might be right. They might not.

But there is a rule that states that a goalkeeper must release the ball in six seconds. Not necessarily six seconds after they receive it (from the run of play), but – as it states here – six seconds after they are able to release it (as in not on the ground, how McLeod started). In watching the play again, I counted about eight legitimate seconds that McLeod had the ball.

So technically, she broke the rules, an indirect kick was correctly awarded and the U.S. eventually scored. There is no arguing that from here or anywhere, really.

However, to paraphrase Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee from A Few Good Men: “Yeah, but it wasn’t a real rule, was it? After all, it’s the Olympics. She wasn’t being asked to call a penalty or give out a red card. I mean, surely a referee of Christina Pedersen’s intelligence can be trusted to determine, on her own, which are the really important rules and which rules might, say, be morally questionable?”

If you know the movie, you know the response: “No she cannot.”

(Ironically, McLeod said after the game, she was warned, but “it wasn’t a real warning”. Really.)

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Olympics: Semifinal Preview – U.S.-Canada: One Small Switch, One Giant Leap for Canada

Perhaps one of my best coaching moves ever was a complete fluke, really. The summer months are technically a time for a break, but youth soccer takes few breaks these days, so of course a summer league was hastily organized. The games were glorified pickup, with a ref in the middle.

The parent organizers usually coach the teams so I went to watch one of my players to see how she was doing. Of course, parents always know what’s best in soccer coaching, so this dad thought his daughter (not the same player) was the best attacking midfielder and stuck her there accordingly, which was a little frustrating because I was hoping to see my player in her natural midfield position, the one she would play for my team.

The parent stuck my player at striker. Striker? Whatever. But then – keeping in mind my team had only managed 26 goals in 18 games the season before – a funny thing happened. She scored. Then she scored again. She finished with four goals the first game, a hat trick in another I watched.

Huh.

Six months later, she had the school single-season scoring record and the team erased just about every mark in the books on the way to its first league championship ever.

I’m sure John Herdman’s thought processes behind his tactical decisions are a little more complicated for Canada these days, but you never know. The Canadians were a team that I quite frankly thought was decent, but going to come up a little bit short at these Olympics after a somewhat disastrous 2011 World Cup. I went to Gillette Stadium to see Canada take on Brazil in March, and although Canada got a 2-1 win on two Christine Sinclair goals, my assessment on the Canadians was the same as I had since the World Cup (the Brazil stuff is a little telling, too), and probably all the way back to the 2007 World Cup, to be honest (although you may remember that the Canadians took the U.S. to extra time in the 2008 Olympics):

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Olympics – Matchday 3: What We Learned – Canada 2:2 Sweden

Canada scored only one goal (a consolation tally in their first game) at the World Cup last year, and their offense hadn’t shown too many signs of being respectable, yet alone explosive since John Herdman took over the helm from Carolina Morace last year. So the key at the Olympics was clearly scoring goals, their defense should be able to keep people in check if they could only find someone to help out Christine Sinclair.

Strike that, reverse it.

There are still many questions to be answered about the Canadians, but after a spirited 2-2 comeback against Sweden, one thing you can say for certain. It’s better than where they were last summer.

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Olympics – What We Learned: Day 1 – Japan 2:1 Canada

This game played out pretty much as you’d expect, although it looked like Canada – despite having little of the ball – was gaining in confidence before they relaxed for a moment and got burned by a wonderful Japanese opener in the 33rd minute (Nahomi Kawasumi). A second snafu just before halftime allowed Aya Miyama to score a header of all things, and all appeared lost. But Canada played much better in the second half, and that may give them some confidence going forward, even if they lost Candace Chapman to injury (with Emily Zurrer out), leaving their backline a little low on numbers. Unfortunately, Sweden doesn’t look like any less of a test.

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The CanWNT Year in Review

For better or for worse, many things happened over the course of 2011 for the Canadian Women’s National Team. Let’s take a look at what transpired:

Kara Lang’s Retirement

A promising career came to an end when Kara Lang announced her retirement from club and international soccer [watch here] on January 5. The then 24 year-old had suffered two ACL tears in her right knee, first in 2006 and again in 2009. Lang weighed her options for managing the pain in her knee in order to continue playing, but the ultimate decision was the best choice for her long-term health as knee replacement surgery, a lifetime of arthritis and continual use of anti-inflammatory drugs were potential aspects of her future.

Arguably one of the most well known figures of the CanWNT, Lang initially gained recognition as a 15 year-old on Canada’s U-19 Women’s World Cup team that finished in second place in 2002 and as the youngest player to suit up for the senior national team. She went on to represent Canada at the 2003 Women’s World Cup where they achieved their best ever result finishing fourth overall, as well as at the 2007 WWC and the WNT’s first Olympic appearance in Beijing 2008. With her apt for scoring goals from distance, the midfielder/striker rounded out her career with 34 goals in 92 caps.

Lang continues to have an active post-soccer career. She’s appeared as an analyst on Rogers Sportsnet for the 2011 WWC and hosts Rogers TV’s Your World This Week. Lang is also a yoga instructor at Shunyata Yoga, while being the Technical Director of Street Soccer Canada and coaching Toronto’s Street Soccer women’s team.

All White Kit caught up with Lang in August as she helped to raise money for Athletes for Africa’s Rock the Pitch Charity Soccer Tournament.

Yongchuan Cup Four Nations Tournament

The 2011 season began in China January 21-25. Late heroics by a tandem of veteran strikers made Canada’s opening match against the host country one of the most exciting of the year. After trailing by 2 goals through the first 45 minutes, Melissa Tancredi cut the score in half in the 56′ before assisting Sinclair’s equalizer in the 80′. The duo combined again in the 94′ for the game winner by Sinclair.

In the following game, the CanWNT’s 11 game unbeaten streak (9 wins, 2 draws) came to an end with a 2-1 loss to the USWNT. Lauren Cheney opened the scoring in the 54′ while Tancredi answered back just two minutes later. Lindsay Tarpley’s goal in the 71′ would prove to be the difference maker [watch here].

The tournament concluded against Sweden where Sinclair proved that she’s gotten leaner and faster within the past couple of years. Latching on to a clearing header by Emily Zurrer, Sinclair outran three Swedish defenders to slot in her third goal of the tournament [watch here]. With Canada and the US tied in wins, the latter was awarded first place for holding the head-to-head advantage, while Sinclair claimed the MVP award.

Carolina Morace vs. the CSA: Round 1

Well, on the bright side, at least this bit of news appeared on the front page of The Globe & Mail’s sports section, right?

On February 4, Carolina Morace announced her intentions to resign as head coach of the CanWNT upon the conclusion of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, citing differences in her vision for the program from that of the Canadian Soccer Association’s. One such disagreement stemmed from Morace’s desire for greater budgetary control.

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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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Tancredi Leads Canada 1-0 Over Trinidad and Tobago

Canada kicked off their CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifiers last night by defeating Trinidad and Tobago 1-0. The Canadians dominated in possession but were unable to put away more goals, which were partly related to not being able to develop rhythm against a very physical T&T side and some questionable calls by the referees. Play was sloppy, but “a win is a win” seems to be the theme of the night.

-The starting line up was very similar to the one that won 3-1 against China on September 30, with the exception of Carmelina Moscota being replaced by Sophie Schmidt. Karina LeBlanc was in net, with Marie-Eve Nault, Emily Zurrer, Candace Chapman and Rhian Wilkinson in defence, Diana Matheson, Sophie Schmidt and Kaylyn Kyle in midfield, and Melissa Tancredi, Christine Sinclair and Josée Bélanger up top.

-The number of goals is definitely a hot topic of discussion for this game. Most people were probably expecting a blow out. In past CONCACAF WWCQ meetings between Canada and T&T, high-scoring games had been the norm, including 6-0 (1991), 4-0 (1993), and 5-0 (1994) victories by Canada.

-Tancredi scored a hat-trick, but the first 2 goals were disallowed on questionable calls by the far side assistant referee. In the 36′, Tancredi held her run while anticipating a cross from Kyle. The ball bounced off a T&T defender and to Tancredi, who slotted the shot past the goalkeeper’s outstretched legs. Prior to Kyle’s cross, the AR appears to be a couple steps behind the defensive line, which would have made it difficult for her to make a proper call. Then in the 42′, Bélanger sent in a through ball past 3 T&T players to Sinclair, who was behind the last defender. Sinclair’s cross to Tancredi was roofed into the net but that goal, too, was also called back.

-The all-important goal finally came in the 63′. Following a poorly taken T&T corner kick, Canada made a quick succession of passes starting from a clearance by Nault to second half substitute Jonelle Filigno, who tapped the ball over to Matheson. She then passed it up field to Sinclair, who booted the ball over to Wilkinson making a run from her defensive position. She then looped the ball over to Tancredi, who muscled her way past the defender, settled the ball with her abs stomach, and sent a right footed shot into the back of the net, all while in stride and falling over. It was this type of quick decision making that was lacking in the early part of the game, but more on this later in the post.

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