Tag Archives: morgan andrews

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 Review: Some Teams Just Dreaming Of Having A Full Squad

The WPSL Elite deserves to be cut some slack this season. It was hastily thrown together, yet was able to give us eight teams and a 14-game schedule on very, very short notice. And so, I can understand when everything was thrown into the blender that  four teams that basically came out as “professional”: Western New York, Chicago, Boston, and New York; and the other four: New England, Chesapeake, Philadelphia, and Indiana as basically “amateur” sides.

It’s obviously better than having no league at all, which was the very real alternative. In a way, it set up those “other” four teams in the underdog role.You knew right off the bat, it was going to be tough when I went to New England’s opener and they were hammered by New York, 5-1. But that was alright, there were reinforcements on the way for the Mutiny that at the very least would make things exciting in the coming months.

While Shek Borkowski’s Haitian experiment in Indiana was interesting and noble, there were three players on the “amateur” squads that I had a particular interest in seeing this spring and summer: Kristie Mewis and Morgan Andrews – both of New England – and Christine Nairn of Chesapeake. None of them is older than 21, and while there are many obstacles (and players) in their way, it’s at least possible that could be your trio in the midfield when the United States plays in the 2019 World Cup (In Japan?). Nairn and Mewis certainly have a shot you’d think to be on the 2015 Canada roster as well. So the chance to see them against “professional” competition was a fortunate consequence out of the unfortunate WPS collapse.

Regrettably, as we approach the midpoint of the WPSL Elite campaign that trio has combined to play a total of two matches: Nairn played her team’s opener against Boston and Andrews played last week against Philadelphia.

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Sky’s The Limit For Morgan Andrews: On And Off The Field

Morgan Andrews was the star attraction after the game for Mutiny fans last Saturday.

EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass. – The first time that Morgan Andrews had to sign an autograph last Saturday, it was early, real early. She was half-awake, nervous, surrounded by people she didn’t know, all kinds of thoughts running through her head about what lay ahead.

She quickly put her name on the dotted line.

The SATs can be pretty nerve-racking for high school juniors.

Twelve hours later, Andrews was signing her name again, this time as the star attraction for the New England Mutiny. Andrews had just gone 90 minutes in a 2-1 win over Philadelphia in WPSL Elite – one of the top women’s leagues our fine country has to offer – and had no trouble showing herself as one of the best players on the field, starting the play that led to the winning goal late in the game.

“I woke up at 6 a.m., and made my way over to Manchester (N.H.) Central at about 7,” Andrews said. “I was there until about 1:20 (p.m.). Then I pretty much came right here. I think I did well. It was just a long day.”

There have been a lot of “long days” for Andrews in the past few years, but she’ll be the last one to complain about it. Her hard work and rise through the ranks of youth soccer circles culminated in her captaining the U.S. national U-17 team to a CONCACAF championship in Guatemala last month (and a berth in the U-17 World Cup in Azerbaijan in September).

“The cultural experience was amazing,” Andrews said. “We actually got a chance to go to the market one day, which was really cool. Our last game we got 2,000 people at our game, I’ve never had 2,000 at my game before.”

(Random personal Guatemala note: When I hear the word repeatedly, I immediately think of Kevin Spacey as Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects, “back when I was picking beans in Guatemala”. Morgan was born in March of 1995. That movie came out five months later. Time flies.)

Two weeks ago, Andrews went where no New Hampshire athlete had ever gone before, getting named Gatorade national Girls Soccer Player of the Year, the first person from the state to ever win the award in any sport. National team start Ali Krieger came to her high school to present her with the award, which Andrews was made to believe with a cyberbullying assembly.

Last Saturday, Andrews started in a holding midfielder role, but showed an ability to get forward, recording four shots in the first half. She was most impressive in her field vision and distribution of the ball, especially in the opening 45 minutes, even though many of the players on the field were college graduates.

“The speed of play was very fast,” Andrews said. “All these players are such great players to play with, so I love playing with them. It took me about 20 minutes to settle in, but I was O.K. after that.”

Things will get tougher for Andrews and the Mutiny, who currently sit in fourth place in the eight-time WPSL Elite, but have yet to face Boston, Western New York, or Chicago, all stocked with veteran talent collected from the remnants of the collapsed WPS. Andrews, however, is the rare player that will be helped by WPS’ demise, at least in the short term, as her level of competition is about as good as it can get, especially for someone with a year of high school remaining.

Without putting too much pressure on her, it certainly appears Andrews is being groomed to be a national team player at some point. Before going to the U-17 CONCACAF Championships, Andrews trained with the U-23 national team, and is at the top of the board of just about every list ranking the players in her class (she’s committed to Boston College after she graduates next year).

“It’s great for all of our young players to see the next level,” said U.S. Soccer Technical Director April Heinrichs to ussoccer.com. “For some it might be playing with players who are just one year older, but for Morgan it was a six-year bump up. What we found in the camp was that the young players can thrive in many situations, but inevitably a weakness gets exposed. It’s a gentle reminder that they are not complete players yet. It’s both an honor and a humbling experience to be in a camp like that. It gives them a taste of what their futures could be like if they can continue to develop their individual games.”

Of course, Morgan has more pressing matters to worry about at the current time. After getting back from Guatemala, she missed a Mutiny game against Chesapeake to attend her junior prom. It is an approximately two-and-a-half hour drive from her home to Mutiny training in Connecticut (and about the same to matches, East Longmeadow is right on the Connecticut border).

A typical practice day sees Andrews get out of school, go home briefly, make the drive to Connecticut, train, then drive back to New Hampshire, getting there at about 11 p.m. after a total of five hours on the road. She does, however, get a lot of help.

“I’m not allowed to drive to Connecticut yet. My dad drives me and I sleep, and then I do homework on the way home,” she said. “Hopefully later on in the summer when I get the GPS figured out (I can drive).”

Andrews is very thankful for the commitment of her parents (as many are in our youth soccer culture). She played for many years for the Stars of Massachusetts, one of the top clubs in the Northeast, but that required driving long distances to and from their home base in Lancaster, Mass. (about an hour).

As rave as her on field reviews have been, Andrews seems to be doing just fine off it as well. She stayed long after the game to sign each and every autograph the young Mutiny fans asked for.

“The autographs were awesome,” Andrews said. “The kids are always so gracious, I love it.”

After every other Mutiny player had left and Andrews was done talking to the stubborn media, at the end of a long, long day, Andrews saw that a couple of water buckets hadn’t been emptied, and turned to the Mutiny staff matter-of-factly, “You need any help with any of this?”

That one sentence might tell you all you need to know about the future of Morgan Andrews.

 

WPSL Elite Review: Strikers Wanted, But League Shows It Strengths, Too

The rain before the New York-WNY match left quite the scenery in pregame warm-ups last Sunday night.

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – In the end, it was just a scoreless standoff between two of the best teams the 2012 version of WPSL Elite has to offer, but if there was a game that summed up the fluid scene that is women’s soccer at the highest level in America, it might have been Sunday’s draw between New York and Western New York.

You had some great technical soccer, a world-class Flash midfield of Angela Salem, Lori Lindsey, and McCall Zerboni controlling the game (and driving opposing coach Paul Riley nuts in the process). You had big, strong central defenders, like Riley’s pairing of Kia McNeill and Nikki Krzysik, who let very little through them. The teams played very hard, were able to knock the ball around, and it wasn’t hard to tell that it was a high-level match.

But it lacked a cutting edge, a goal scorer, someone that could make things happen in the final third.

“We need a striker badly,” Riley said. “I told you guys before we started the season, we don’t have enough up front to win this league, so unless we get a striker between now and July 1 -Amy Rodriguez-esque or Tasha Kai-esque – I don’t think we’ve got a chance to win the championship, to be honest with you. We’re just not cut-throat enough up front.

“I’ve got nine (strikers) on the hook right now from everywhere in the world. And I’m talking on loan, trying to work out something. Anything.”

And, of course, that last crack led to a perhaps unfair Marta reference.

“I can offer her a couple hundred bucks. She can have free apple pie at my house any time,” Riley said.

Aaran Lines – who had Marta, Christine Sinclair, and Alex Morgan at his disposal last season – was more diplomatic, and was probably the happier coach with the draw, as his team outshot New York 7-1 in the second half and nearly won the game twice in the dying minutes.

“Not quite the same (as last year), but this is a group that I’ve put together,” Lines said. “It’s a very, very talented group, as you can see tonight we had some good experience with Lori (Lindsey) in there and (Klingenberg), it was nice to get them on the field and give them a game, but obviously a little bit different than last year, a little bit inexperienced.”

And there’s another rub, Klingenberg and Lindsey showed their quality in this match, but as alternates for the U.S. Olympic team, they left for Sweden on Tuesday, and who knows when or if they’ll return to play again for the Flash?

“Honestly, it’s been a weird year,” Klingenberg said. “The WPS folded, and that was unfortunate. We really want a women’s league to be around. But then when we heard the WPSL Elite was going to be kind of picking that up, it was great because they were going to work with us with the national team duties. Getting out here with the girls and playing with them is incredible, a great environment to come back to after national team training.

Klingenberg worked extremely hard  as she always does – for 90 minutes, and you could tell she was more interested in talking about her Flash teammates then her U.S. teammates, at least on this night.

“We’re glad to be here,” Klingenberg said. “I want to be a part of the team, and we got a good week of training in. I thought that we played well, had some good attacks, hit the crossbar. We were solid in the back, but unfortunately it just wasn’t our day to put the ball in the goal. We have to be a bit better at finishing our chances.”

I guess it’s at this point that we should bring up the line of the great Norman Dale from Hoosiers, “I would hope that you would cheer for who we are, not for who we are not.”

There are things the league has to work out: getting teams to games on time, getting the right uniforms for games (both teams had red on which led to a delay in this game), promoting itself a little better, figuring out what balls to use (Molten is apparently the official ball of WPSL, but New York and Boston were both using Puma in games I went to).

But these are minor things that will hopefully be taken care of. As I’ve pointed out repeatedly, it’s certainly better than nothing at all, and I’m really not trying to be overly negative about what the situation is. Everyone is upset we don’t have the best players in the world here this year, and this is certainly a transition year, but there’s some good things happening. By next year with no major international tournaments to worry about, who knows?

It seems nearly official that the playoff format will be the top four making the postseason, and the semifinals and finals being the weekend of July 27-29 in Rochester. That should mean a really good weekend of Boston, Chicago, New York, and Western New York, although it might take some of the luster out of the rest of the regular season.

“We have a good defense,” Riley said. “I’m pretty comfortable that the defense will get us into the playoffs, but getting into the playoffs is not where we want to be, we want to win the championship.”

Of course, as the standings sit now, New England is in fourth, the Flash are only in fifth, both teams having played four games. Although WNY’s schedule has been much, much tougher, the Mutiny could throw the door wide open if they can get a result in Rochester this weekend.

“We’re hosting, we’d better be there (in the playoffs). Otherwise, there might be someone else coaching the Flash next year,” Lines said.

ELSEWHERE:

THURSDAY

NEW YORK 3:0 PHILADELPHIA

This will be known as the “bus game”, which saw the Fever end up somehow going through Times Square to get to Hofstra from the greater Philly area. The game started 90 minutes late, which is obviously embarrassing for all involved. But as I talked to about before, not much you can do about it now, is there? Live and learn. It actually took the Fury a long time to break the Fever down, which was a bad omen for Sunday.

“Thursday is a day I’d like to forget,” Fever coach Stuart Gore said. “When you’re sitting there and it takes us four hours to get to New England, how does it take us six and a half hours to get to New York? Those are the wrinkles that need to be ironed out. We were never told we couldn’t take a commercial vehicle on the Belt Parkway, things like that. But I don’t mind being the guinea pig if it will help someone else out. Hopefully, the league will get stronger and stronger and get more and more professional over time.”

FRIDAY

INDIANA 0:4 BOSTON

It was funny to watch the battling Tweets from the two clubs in this game, as Indiana tried desperately to find positive things out of this one. To be fair, all of Indiana’s first five games have come against one of the “big”clubs, and no “big” club has even dropped a point yet against a “small” club, so there are some games ahead where Shek Borkowski’s group can think they should be competitive.

SATURDAY

NEW ENGLAND 2:1 PHILADELPHIA

The Mutiny escaped with three points in this one, but safe to say they didn’t look great doing it under new coach Chris LeGates, who took over for Tony Horta after Horta took a leave of absence. But three points is three points, and as I said, the Mutiny is three points clear of Western New York heading into this weekend’s showdown in Rochester, one in which they should have Kristie Mewis to go along with the impressive Morgan Andrews (more on her later in the week) in the midfield. And we’ve already mentioned that the Flash has had trouble scoring, so who knows?

SUNDAY

CHICAGO 1:0 BOSTON

Must admit, I was quite surprised by this result, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been. I was most surprised that the Breakers were blanked, but the Red Stars certainly have the players to compete for a title and used a Michele Weissenhofer first-half goal to take over the top of the table. The game was very even throughout, which means that all four of the top teams are very close to each other, it would appear.

 

 

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.