Impressive debut leads US to 4-1 win over Scotland

Jess Fainberg February 9, 2013 148

Christen Press celebrates after scoring in her first cap for the U.S. women's national team. (Photo copyright Steve Bruno.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tom Sermanni’s tenure as US women’s national team head coach started off in style. So did the team’s 2013 season.

The US women kicked off 2013 with a 4-1 win over Scotland. Sermanni showed that he is not afraid to insert youth into the lineup, giving three players their first international caps with the senior team. Familiar faces also returned to the lineup Saturday night.

Christen Press impressed in her senior team debut, scoring two goals in the opening 32 minutes. Sermanni spoke highly of Press’s week in camp leading up to the game.

“She’s been outstanding all week in training and she brought that training performance into the game tonight,” he said.

She is no stranger to playing around members of the US women’s national team. At Stanford, Press played alongside fellow national teammates Kelley O’Hara and Rachel Buehler (who was not on last night’s roster after arriving to camp late for family reasons), and Press’ first professional stint was with magicJack with the likes of Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Shannon Boxx, Becky Sauerbrunn, Jill Loyden, Hope Solo and Christie Rampone. She is currently playing in Sweden for Tyresö FF.

In a chippy, physical game, Press gave fans the opportunity to start cheering early, scoring on her third shot of the game in the 13th minute. Press added her second of the night with a header off a Tobin Heath cross in the 32nd.

Two other players in US women’s national team history have scored a brace in their international debuts: Cindy Parlow in 1996 and Sherrill Kester in 2000.

The US controlled the pace in the first half, creating numerous opportunities. In the 38th minute, forward Alex Morgan was kicked in the left ankle and left the game moments later, not putting any weight on it leaving the field. Scottish defender Joanne Love was given a yellow card for the foul. US Soccer officially called it a “hard knock to the ankle” for Morgan and she was to be evaluated postgame. Her status is still unknown.

Ali Krieger looked strong in her return from surgery on her right ACL and MCL just over one year ago to the day. The US defense has struggled at times over the past year and Krieger’s return helps solidify one spot on the backline.

“This has been the toughest year of my life,” Krieger said. “With this injury and to be able to start 2013 with such an appearance and game is a great feeling.” Krieger played the entire 90 minutes. Throughout the game, both outside backs, Krieger on the right and converted forward O’Hara on the left, seemed comfortable attacking the flanks, causing problems for Scotland.

In the 53rd minute, Shannon Boxx scored a beauty from 25 yards out. Boxx looked strong in the midfield all game, creating many chances for her team. For Scotland, Kim Little beat US goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart in the 54th minute to give Scotland their only goal of the night. Barnhart subbed in for Jill Loyden at halftime. Tonight’s game marked the second start of Loyden’s career; veteran goalkeeper Hope Solo was not rostered due to a calf strain.

To finish off the scoring, Leroux added the US’ fourth in the 89th minute chipping the keeper, Yael Averbuch with the assist. For Averbuch, it was her first cap in over two years. The holding midfielder nailed the post in the 76th minute off a free kick from about 35 yards out.

Aside from Press, Kristie Mewis and Julie Johnston earned their first caps for the US at the senior level, as well. Post-game, Press credited her teammates.

“My team made it really easy, I’m thankful for them,” Press said.

Talking about their experiences overseas in Sweden, Press and Averbuch mention being exposed to different styles of soccer attributing to shaping them as players. Sermanni jokingly stated that putting Press in the starting lineup was “a good selection by the coach.” I think most would agree.

  • http://twitter.com/Deegley Diane

    Nice to see your name again, Jess. And equally nice to see the new and the old on the field together.

    • Steglitz49

      Hear hear!
      A tip to the Equalizer: please could you put in a summary line for each team at the bottom giving the starting line-ups and the substitutes (with time) for each team.

  • Kernel Thai

    If Morgan is OK color this one a big offensive success. On the flip side, Sermanni is lucky he already has gray hair cause the defense will give them to u.

  • KSA

    Don’t you think the praise for Krieger is a bit overblown? She in fact looked a bit slow to many in attendance, and was hardly tested. While it was a promising return I certainly wouldn’t call it strong nor speedy.

    • http://twitter.com/lawyersutd Vanessa Wyndham

      Sorry, but the coach disagrees with you. He showered her with praise after the match.

      • KSA

        Of course he did. What else is he going to say with a microphone shoved in his face?

        • Steglitz49

          Try:
          – “the ball is round”;
          – “it is a game of two halves”:
          – “the winner takes it all”:
          – “super trouper”:
          – any other cliché that comes to mind.

  • KSA

    Don’t you think the praise for Krieger is a bit overblown? She in fact
    looked a bit slow to many in attendance, and was hardly tested. While
    it was a promising return I certainly wouldn’t call it strong nor
    speedy.

    • luke

      No, she played very well.

      Considering the time off national team, surprisingly well.

    • Sackman

      While I wasn’t in attendance, I watched the whole game on live stream. To me, Ali was the Best U.S. defender by a mile tonight; she shut down anything that came into her area of the field. More importantly, her speed up the right side helped press the attack for most of the game. At times, she looked like a mid-fielder.

    • vert2013

      I was there, Kreiger and O’Hara were really the only 2 defenders. Rampone was getting beaten on almost everything and Sauerbrunn might as well have stayed on the bench.

      • Steglitz49

        Sermanni seems to have to do some work with the defense. A team of USA’s quality should not even concede a goal against a team like Scotland. The Scotch ladies did not qualify for Euro-13 (their men’s NT have not been a significant force for 20 years).

        • Matt

          Scotland’s goal was scored by Kim Little, whom many would argue is one of the best center mids in the world. She was absolutely fantastic in the Olympics for team Great Britain and since the U.S. conceded a goal, at least it was to her.

          • http://twitter.com/lawyersutd Vanessa Wyndham

            Broon made a bad clearance and to make matters worse she screened Barnie. Kim Little is indeed a really good player and she made good on a bad mistake by Broon.

          • Steglitz49

            I respectfully dissent.

            The top forward today in the world is Alex Morgan. She scores with both her feet and her head, and she has as many goal-giving passes as goals plus all her other passes.

            The second top forward is a toss-up between the Wombat and Mrs Ogimi. I prefer Abby but I cannot quarrel with those who tug their forelocks to Yuki. (And there is Ohno, Ando and Yuki’s little sister.)

            The third top attacker is Lotta Schelin, though the poor lady has struggled with injuries. When on song, maybe she is the World number one.

            Then there is a bunch of German ladies. Take your pick.

            Where do we place Lindsay Horan, Sarah Hagen and Kosse Asllani?

            I am not persuaded that Kim Little is as good as her PR agent let’s us believe. After all, Scotland did not qualify for Euro-13. Please prove me wrong.

          • TsovLoj

            I’d argue Sinclair’s better, but the point is moot considering she’s not one of ours.

  • wow

    I stopped watching after Alex left….I know they say womens soccer is super slow, but seriously watching on ussoccer stream they looked even SLOWER every player and mentally slower. normally i watch all 90 mins, but i couldn’t i was so bored in this game, they should have killed scotland. Tobin and Press seemed mentally stronger than the other players.

    Also i think this proves to Sermanni good bye Lloyden. The girls should just go to europe and stop playing against these sad teams like ireland and scotland.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eric.bauer.71619 Eric Bauer

      This seems awfully harsh. This is the first game of the season with most players having had quite a bit of time off. And how is 4-1 not killing Scotland? In this day and age, that’s a high score in anyone’s book. How are you judging mental strength? Did you talk to the players before and after the game? Do you have intimate knowledge about what they were thinking during the game? As for going to Europe, where the heck do you think Scotland is? It’s hard to line up games this time of year, especially when teams are strapped for cash. I think Sermanni did a great job getting these games lined up before the Algarve cup. Normally the team has to go in without having any recent games played. By the way, what did Lloyden do wrong? She barely even saw the ball? How about finding something positive to focus on, or at least use some sort of reasonable logic for your critiques.

      • http://www.phasedma.com Anthony

        Just to note these games were scheduled before Sermanni a part of the decision process.

        • http://www.facebook.com/eric.bauer.71619 Eric Bauer

          Good to know. That is a strange coincidence.

          • http://www.phasedma.com Anthony

            I’m pretty sure the process was artificially long, but that’s just a suspicion I have no facts to back that suspicion.

            With that in mind I don’t think it was a coincidence.

      • Steglitz49

        I think “wow” has a point. 4-1 against Scotland at home is not good enough. A team of USA’s quality should not concede a goal against a team like Scotland, and ought to have scored a couple of more goals. Granted, this was a friendly, new USA goalies and field players were being tried out, but USA has such strength in depth.

        “wow’s” second point is also well taken. Compare France’s, Japan’s and Canada’s preparation last year. France played friendlies against weak teams and one game against Japan just before the Olympics which they won 2-0 because France played their strongest team while the Nadeshiko experimented and used every substitution they were allowed. Canada also played some serious opposition. Remember which team went home with pig-iron (for the second time of asking, incidentally) having been second favorites.

        CanWNT will play some friendlies in Europe prior to Euro-13 as will Japan. I can’t remember what Mexico and USA have arranged.

        • http://www.facebook.com/eric.bauer.71619 Eric Bauer

          I can see your points, but my main problem with “wow” is the attitude. Anyone who leaves the game because it’s “boring” shouldn’t be posting alongside die-hard fans. Who needs all the negativity? Criticism can be done without bringing everyone down.

        • google_it

          FYI, I believe the US plays Germany, in Germany, as a run up to their Euro campaign.

    • James

      Hop off the bandwagon, please.

    • necron99

      Goodbye Loyden? She didn’t have a goal scored against her, that was Barnhart. What the hell are you talking about? Other than chauvanism.

      • Steglitz49

        This is the toughest position. There is only one and the substitute only plays in case of injury. Therefore, were I one of the top US goalies I might look for a foreign NT that might value my talents because if Hope Solo is fit and continues to play, the position is spoken for.

  • http://twitter.com/hercircumstance hercircumstance

    I’m thrilled for Press. She already got more burn than I could have hoped for and made the most of it. She is a 90 minute player IMO. Try to catch her games in Sweden. She really has been this awesome for a while now. Read her blog too. Great stuff.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eric.bauer.71619 Eric Bauer

      She’d probably be starting for any team in the world except for the US. We’re so deep in forwards right now. You’re right about her blog. I’ve read some stuff from it before, and it is very introspective. I think she will be a unique addition to this team.

      • http://twitter.com/hercircumstance hercircumstance

        I think she is a different kind of forward. Abby obviously stands apart. Morgan and Syd are the ones with the style overlap question mark I think. Abby, Press, Morgan/Syd and your collection is complete.

        • http://www.phasedma.com Anthony

          I hate to say this, but I would like to see Morgan flipped with Sydney. Especially in friendlies. Sydney just comes off the bench and scores. I’d be curious if Morgan would do the same thing off the bench. Sydney might be the better player…

          Is it worth potentially messing Morgan’s mindset to find out? Not a chance. But I don’t think you ever play games with the mindset of a All-Star player. Even when you don’t think the change would get in the players head.

          • http://twitter.com/hercircumstance hercircumstance

            Morgan started off as a sub even during the ’11 wc on through Olympic qualifiers. While I am all for shaking things up during this part of the cycle Morgan has already done well in a supersub role. Sydney deserves more minutes though. Full games. Abby playing less minutes makes sense too. Maximize her current energy levels for meaningless friendlies. Today being an example.

          • Steglitz49

            Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was nicknamed the “baby-faced assassin”. (He hated the nickname.) Solskjaer’s main role in his career was as a supersub. His most famous moment is the 1999 CL final.

            Alex’s nickname has “baby” in it too, but with a more positive qualifier.

            Alex is one of those rare sports-persons who is admired, respected and loved by everyone. She is up there with Stenmark, Forsberg and Neuner. (Were she a bit more outwardly fiery I would say McEnroe.)

          • http://www.phasedma.com Anthony

            The forward position is so messed up on this team in the best possible way. I’d even love to see what Cheney could do as a starter, but she clearly isn’t as good as Morgan or Sydney.

            I like that they are trying to convert (with success) Cheney to a midfielder, but that central position isn’t much better. It might actually be even worse.

            I know what I would try, but I won’t even bother posting it because I’m pretty sure I’d get nasty looks.

            The only thing I would say is the older players would start losing their playing time. Why? Because good young players should be given the chance to become awesome players at a early stage. After all it’s harder to teach older players set in their ways new tricks.

          • Steglitz49

            Friendlies are for experimenting but you also have to keep the punters happy. For that reason Alex needs to be in the starting line-up, at least this far from a major tournament. She is the super-star of north-American soccer.

            As for motivation, this is a perennial problem for those to whom success comes early. In a year when nothing serious is happening — focus will be on the CL final at Stamford Bridge and then Euro-13, none of which applies to Alex, she will coast a bit. That is self-evident.

            Worse, how many gold medals do you need to be happy? The history of all sports is filled with competitors, male and female, making unusual choices. Why should ladies’ football be an exception?

          • Don B.

            No disrespect, but where have you been? Can Morgan come off the bench and score?

            Let’s not forget that when Morgan was coming off the bench she scored huge goals that saved the teams butt many times. China (her first international goal) to preserve the US unbeaten streak at home, Italy to get them to the World Cup, France in the World Cup to ice the game, Japan in the WC (the first woman to have a goal and assist in a WC final), Japan to tie in the Kirin Cup. All high pressure situations, and she came through. When has Leroux done anything similar?

            Granted, Leroux has the record for goals off the bench, but against what teams? She had five goals against Guatemala, but a high school team could have won that game. Her biggest opportunity to make a dramatic difference as a super sub in a game of true importance was against Canada in the Olympics, and she didn’t. In fact, she was virtually invisible. Morgan, during Syd’s time on the pitch, created several chances for Wambach to score and finally finished it herself.

            Syd has talent, speed and a good nose for the goal. But until she shows she can come in and change the outcome of a match in a high pressure situation against a quality team, I’ll not put her on the same level as Morgan.

          • NYRick

            All your points are true, and very well written.

          • http://www.phasedma.com Anthony

            First I’m not putting her on the same level as Morgan. However I would like to know if she is on the same level as Morgan. You can’t figure that out without giving her the same chances to develop.

            Morgan is my second favorite player (Tobin is my first). Sydney is unranked as far as that goes. As you can see though I like dynamic players, and I feel like Sydney is dynamic.

            You probably make a good point about Morgan coming off the bench. To answer your question though – I wasn’t as excited about soccer. I was watching Rochester games, World Cup games and Olympic games. Now I’m trying to watch everything I can get my hands on. Give me a chance :) I’m trying to convert from a heavy NFL fan to a heavy soccer fan, but the process takes time :)

          • Don B.

            No problem.

            My point was that Morgan has already proven herself to be a phenomenal player coming off the bench, and we don’t need to rehash that. If you want to see how well Syd would do now, she needs to start a few games and let Abby be the flipper. I personally think that having Syd and Alex up front would be a complete nightmare for opposing teams. They already have a basic chemistry together, but once they begin singing regularly from the same page in the hymnbook,..

          • Steglitz49

            “Abide with me”?

            (The Wembley hymn. Since 1927 this hymn has been sung at every FA Cup final — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DMl5Mkr_mc .)

          • Steglitz49

            This is an even better rendition of the Wembley hymn:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLBBqU5yfPU

            The NWSL needs to start building these sort of traditions. Like “You’ll never walk alone” and Old Trafford breaking out in the Marseillaise when King Eric was playing, it is part of soccer’s great appeal worldwide. Bread and circuses. Entertainment!

        • http://www.phasedma.com Anthony

          I hate to say this, but I would like to see Morgan flipped with Sydney. Especially in friendlies. Sydney just comes off the bench and scores. I’d be curious if Morgan would do the same thing off the bench. Sydney might be the better player…

          Is it worth potentially messing Morgan’s mindset to find out? Not a chance. But I don’t think you ever play games with the mindset of a All-Star player. Even when you don’t think the change would get in the players head.

      • NYRick

        I know it’s just one game, but it’s arguable as to why she shouldn’t be starting for the US team now. She most definitely should have been on the Olympic final roster of 18, not just an alternate. She is a far better player than ARod or Lauren Cheney for that matter.

        So glad Sermanni is now on the scene. He’s the perfect coach to take the US team to an even higher level. In the words of Ian Darke, this team has “an embarrassment of riches.” A smart coach, not one playing favorites like Pia, will understand how to exploit that. Julie Johnston is going to be a stud on the backline as well. Sermanni will see to that. Plus, the best thing Pia ever did was injecting Kelley O’Hara in the lineup as left back and on the field. Play your best players. They will figure it out on the field over time.

        • http://twitter.com/hercircumstance hercircumstance

          She got caught up in that MagicJack circus of a team in ’11. She did fine there as a rookie, but MJ wasn’t the best with providing scouting tape despite league rules. Pia did go watch a game, but by then it was the Abby show again. Because of the cycle and how well the WC squad did you wouldn’t expect a lot of movement. Press deserved a look as much as Leroux got though. At that point they were still giving Arod chances at forward. No room I guess.

          This is the time in the off season any coach would be capping players before tightening it up nearing the WC. Pia did it back in the day. Pia did have her as an alternate at the Olympics. Once again going with Arod who could double in the midfield if need be.

          • NYRick

            I agree with your points. As for Leroux, she’s a major talent and I have no problem with her getting her shot last year. She obviously performed well and is in my opinion the future star of this team. Even over Morgan.

            But Press is a better player than ARod. And nothing against ARod, but it isn’t even close. And as for Arod being a player who can double up int he midfield, I think Press proved last night she’s very capable of that as well.

          • Steglitz49

            ARod is pregnant and we do not know what the young lady will do after her maternity leave. Some ladies have returned to take the highest honors, while others have preferred other avenues and occupations. To each their own.

          • NYRick

            I know that ARod is pregnant and wish her the best. But last year she wasn’t pregnant and I think Press was the better player and deserved to be on the Olympic roster. That’s all.

          • Steglitz49

            Maybe I missed something or dreamt, but USA won the Olympic gold, did they not?

            Well understood, the German referee had a bad day at the office, something for which she was lambasted for by the German media, but the Nadeshiko did not (outwardly) complain. Instead they clowned around on the podium while the crowd booed Blatter in good old British tradition.

        • Steglitz49

          I think that by now we have gotten the point that you are not a fan of Pia Sundhage. Why not?

          Kindly, please explain yourself bearing in mind Pia’s record with the USWNT.

          • NYRick

            I really have no problem with Sundhage. She will deservedly go down as one of the greatest US women’s coaches ever. Two Olympic golds and a WC final (in a match the US team badly outplayed Japan and lost on a penalty shootout) is a record to be extremely proud of.

            I also applaud her for getting Kelley O’Hara on the field as a backline starter with an influx of forward talent. That will turn out to be one of her best moves last year and moving forward. So my gripes are probably minor:

            - Waited too long for Morgan to be a starter. Her talent was so obvious that she was a prodigy. She needed to play 90 minutes right from the start. Wambach was floundering for 2 years without her.
            - Not capping Press as I’ve mentioned. Don’t understand that one.
            - Favoritism to older players which every coach seems to do.

            One thing I give you major credit for is instilling a belief in the US players to be more skillful and technical (ie Heath, Rapinoe, Morgan, O’Hara) and stop just trying to win games on brute force, size and athletic ability. It was progressive thinking and the US now has that mindset which will allow them to dominate now and into the future.

          • Steglitz49

            I was hoping you would argue that we should wait till we know the outcome of Euro-13 before we passed judgement.

            The USA has such strength in depth and so much talent that you do not know which way to turn. It is like the proverbial donkey starving to death between two haystacks because it cannot make up its mind which one to eat from.

            Sweden had a great WC-11. Leading up to the Olympics they had injuries in critical positions. Sweden lost the organizer of their defense and a couple of their attackers were not fully fit. By the time of the tournament the leaky defense had been plugged but the attack was suspect and the manager persevered with a mercurial keeper. Thus, though Sweden drew 0-0 with Japan (how?) the sands of time ran out.

            The proof of Pia’s pudding will be Euro-13 on home soil. Sasaki, as you wrote elsewhere, brought tactical innovation to the Japanese game and in 4-5 years Japan went from a ghost to a team to beat. I am not sure that Pia, excellent coach that she is, has been quite as creative — but then she did not need to be, so why bother?

          • http://www.phasedma.com Anthony

            Morgan was not ready to start until she did. Rochester and Buffalo enjoyed her services for 2 years. She wasn’t there.

            In addition her style has changed drastically from when she played for the Flash. You can tell she has more confidence now. You can also tell a lot of this has been caused by Morgan playing alongside Wambach. Morgan head the ball? Not in NY…

          • necron99

            Morgan was the first pick in the 2011 WPS draft. She did not play for the WNY Flash for 2 years, and she only really played for 1/2 of the one season she was there. She was also 3rd fiddle to two players named Marta and Sinclair. There was plenty of reason for her play to be different for WNY.

          • http://www.phasedma.com Anthony

            I’m not sure why I always thought she played in Buffalo – Not that it matters. Her style while in Rochester doesn’t change based on where she played the year before.

            But yes. She did play second fiddle. That’s the point of everything I said – She wasn’t “there” yet.

          • necron99

            The year before she was in college.

            It had nothing to do with being “there”. It had everything to do with 2 of the greatest players to ever play the game already being established pros playing on the same team with her. Add to that the fact that Morgan was away from the Flash for many more games than Sinclair or Marta, because the USWNT plays far more often and has more camps than Brazil or Canada.
            You aren’t comparing Morgan with the play of her USWNT forward “peers” which is what is relevant here.

          • Steglitz49

            I think we can agree that “baby horse” has passed the Canadian by now. Whether she has passed the “baby-faced assassin” I leave to any Norwegians reading this column to decide.

    • Steglitz49

      I agree. Ms Press may well be able to establish herself in the starting line up with Abby coming on as a substitute 20 min from the end. On the other hand, you have both Lindsay Horan and Sarah Hagen waiting in the wings, both of whom have proven their worth for their clubs.

      Ms Press also proved herself for her club but she has changed club in Sweden and will now play for Tyresö. It will be interesting to see if her star will shine as bright in outer Stockholm suburbia as it did in the football-capital of Sweden.

  • vert2013

    I was there, Alex was walking around after the game without assistance but with a pretty serious limp. I think the lack of crutches indicates most likely a bad sprain, I’d be really surprised if she played Wednesday but from what I saw I think she should be good for Algarve.

    Press, Heath, O’Hara and Kreiger were really the only notable players tonight. Boxxy’s tackles were a bit off, her goal was amazing though. Abby was kinda in lala land, but she’ll be fine, not really worried about her. Syd had some good runs toward the end of the game too. Alex needs to watch her temper, she was getting shoved a bit but she wasn’t innocent in anything either. She’s got to accept the fact that teams know about her now and they’re going to foul her and double/triple team her.

    • Steglitz49

      I was not aware that Alex had a temper. She is highly competitive for sure. This was a friendly match. No need for fouling.

      Japan figured Alex out in the WC final 2011 and Iwashimizu dealt firmly with her — too firmly for the referee’s liking. Oddly, the Canadians had forgotten that a year later, much to Alex’s amusement no doubt.

      • Don B.

        Alex doesn’t seem to lose her temper when someone challenges her fairly and without intent to injure. I’ve only seen her lose her temper a couple of times, and last night was one. Alex obviously felt that the first strong challenge was unnecessarily rough, and pushed back earning a foul. That caused #6, Joanna Love (who wasn’t involved in the play), to spike the ball, earning her a warning from the ref. The next foul, by #6, was obvious retaliation (and earned another warning). Morgan said something to her which set her to screaming at Alex. The next foul, as we know, put Alex on the turf, out of the game, and earned #6 a yellow card. Some have said it was just a solid challenge, but I’ll defer to the ref who was standing right there and had followed the situation from the beginning.

        The only other time I’ve seen Morgan angry was in the first friendly against Germany. A defender challenged her, and once the ball was away from both, the defender purposefully ran her cleats down Alex’s shin. I don’t know what Alex said to her (her back was to the camera), but it raised a few German eyebrows and stunned the offender. Morgan was respected after that.

        • Steglitz49

          Yellow cards should never be necessary. Gary Lineker did not receive a card in all his career. It is the job of the captains of the teams to keep their players in line.

          OK. It used to be said that 1-0 was a high-scoring match in Serie A in the bad old days and if three players were not stretchered off, it had been an anemic contest. The arrival of strong referees, who took the game by the scruff of the neck, changed that.

          In the last Olympics, in the group match between Canada and Japan, early on there was a “strong” tackle. The referee spoke severely to the offending player but did not book her. At the same time, it was obvious that the referee explained to the lady that if she did it again she would be sent off, and please could she tell her team-mates. The match was played in a comradely and mutually trustful spirit. There were no significant incidents.

          In a friendly there should never be a need for yellow cards.

      • vert2013

        The last couple games I’ve noticed it more. China was beating her up, but she can’t retaliate and the other day against Scotland, she was getting pushed around a bit, but she was doing a fair bit of pushing as well and I’m not talking about normal soccer contact. She’s got to get used to the fact that she’s going to get fouled now.

        • Steglitz49

          Do we need to train the referees to a stricter standard? Much of the gratuitous fouling has been stamped out from the men’s game by strong referees — the WC final in 2010 appears as an aberration in the modern men’s game.

          Maybe for the ladies game sin-bins should be introduced. Off the field for 10 min? Yellow card = off for 20 min?

          • TsovLoj

            Do we really want to, though? That strong refereeing is part of why the men’s game has so much diving and flopping. The women’s game, aside from South America, has largely avoided that so far. I think there might be a bit of a trade off, and I’d hesitate to get too heavy handed and encourage that.

          • Steglitz49

            Yes. Players like Alex Morgan and Yuki Ogimi must be protected. Kill the foulers!

            Why foul in a friendly? Send them off!!!!

            The USA must stop playing these 3rd:rate nations. Play the major teams.

          • Steglitz49

            Ladies like Ms Morgan and Mrs Ogimi and her little sister needs protecting. Their husbands and boyfriends can hardly be expected to run on the field and beat the s&%t out of the miscreants.

            Tackling from behind, which essentially Ms Morgan was subjected to — and in a friendly to boot — is totally unacceptable.

            The USA must refuse to play these 3rd:rate teams. the USA can afford to play but the top drawer teams.

          • Anon

            Do you realize how sexist that sounds?

          • Steglitz49

            Good grief, Anon! 136 comments and now you enter the fray. Vow!! Would you please explain to Ms Morgan why she should have her ankles destroyed because of poor quality refereeing?

            Are ladies playing soccer now go to go through the dark ages that men’s soccer went through before men like Frisk and Colina showed the way to a better game?

            Referees must put these 3rd rate players to the sword before they damage the ladies’ game!

          • Anon

            Do you even think about what you are typing? I don’t know where you assumed I’d be fine with poor refereeing. I was mainly talking about the line that “their husbands and boyfriends can hardly be expected to run on the field and beat the s&%t out of the miscreants.” That doesn’t sound sexist at all to you? Normally I’m not one to talk about sexism, but that comment was just ridiculous.

    • NYRick

      Thanks for update on Alex. Although those types of injuries can be worse in a couple of days or linger over time. Hope she’s OK. I think the girl is made of titanium though. I don’t know how she walked off the field in the New Zealand game in Olympics after her knee collided with the goalie’s head. Plus, the friendly before Olympics with Canada she looked to be seriously hurt, but was fine. It’s getting to the point where now every game she’s down for awhile, but then OK and running like a deer again. She’s got the big soccer star drama thing down pat already.

      Great point on her temperament. She’s got to understand she’s a big star now. The biggest name in the women’s game by far based on her looks and immense talent. Teams are going to push her around far more, and she won’t be able to simply run by people with her speed as much. Good teams, like Japan and Germany, will strategize to stop her. Simply, you stop her. You stop the US team. Even with all their weapons. That’s why I’m excited about the emergence of Press. How in the world this girl never got a national team cap before if quite frankly a disgrace to Pia’s coaching tenure. Was there a grudge?

      • Steglitz49

        “Good teams, like Japan and Germany, will strategize to stop her”. Japan already did. Morgan tumbled, Iwashimizu walked and Japan are World Champions. Canada forgot to strategize, as you put it. Losers weepers.

        “is quite frankly a disgrace to Pia’s coaching tenure”. Pia Sundhage took over a dysfunctional USWNT. She read them the riot act. The USWNT has two Olympic golds back-to-back. They lost the World Cup final on penalties, having lost to Sweden in their group game, a Sweden that the Nadeshiko put to the sword 3-1. Most, if not all, managers would die for that record.

        Please join the real world. It is a toss-up whether Sasaki or Sundhage is the best ladies’ coach but seeing that in soccer the World Championship trumps the Olympics, we ought to give it to Sasaki, I guess, though the gnomes of Zürich did not think so this January.

        • NYRick

          First off, my statement on Sundhage concerned her not capping Press during her tenure. That is a disgrace. I said nothing more about her coaching ability or record.

          As for Canada forgetting to strategize against Morgan, if you recall they pretty much did stop her. A goal in the 123rd minute comes along oh, well once in about never. The Canadian coach did learn his lesson about Morgan in the January Olympic qualifiers last year. She embarrassed them. The next time they met, they gave a hard tackle and took her out of the game in a pre Olympic friendly. In the Olympic semi, Rapinoe saved the US bacon in that game. In the Olympics, it can also be easily argued that Canada deserved a better fate. I’m a US fan, and the 6-second call on the goalie (at the 72 minute mark) and subsequent hand ball call to tie the game for the US were borderline ridiculous and certainly questionable. Canada has a good gripe.

          And Sundhage was coach of the year in 2012. In 2011, Sasaki won Coach of the Year for the WC. In 2012, it was an Olympic year and the US coach should win in that scenario.

          • Steglitz49

            “The next time they met, they [Canada] gave a hard tackle and took her out of the game in a pre Olympic friendly.” The CanWNT’s needlessly “assertive” (to use a euphemism) play in friendlies leading up to the Olympics cost them the sympathy vote. It is called the beautiful game for a reason.

            I agree with you that Pia Sundhage deserved the manager of the year award for 2012. It is worth noting, however, that she won it through the media section of the vote. The votes of the captains and coaches went Sasaki’s way. Let’s see how it goes in Euro-13.

            It could, indeed, be argued that the peculiar refereeing of both one semi-final and the final ,which both favored USA to get the gold, might not have been a coincidence. Lightning does not often strike twice. On the other hand, had the USWNT lost again there would not be a NWSL today, something which FIFA seems to have been more than well aware of.

          • NYRick

            Steglitz49: I’m enjoying the back and worth banter. You are obviously a very knowledgable soccer fan and fan of the women’s game.

            Also, as a ManU fan, once you mentioned Ole Gunner Solskjaer earlier in this thread, I was very impressed. I personally think Sasaki is the most brilliant mind in the women’s game. He reminds me historically of what Herb Brooks did for the US Miracle on Ice Olympic team of 1980. Brooks studied the Russian game for years. Which was superior in terms of creativity and teamwork and really starless and selfless. He got a bunch of hard-working college kids to buy into it, and they shocked the world. Japan has come out of nowhere really in women’s soccer and their men’s game has rapidly improved on the same philosophy. Sasaki, in turn, has studied the Spanish tick-tac short passing game and instilled it into his Japanese (albeit less talented and less athletic than the US players) team. The results are astounding. In terms of pure coaching, he is the best coach.

            And conspiracy theories aside, I do think the US had to win gold at the last Olympics or there is no NWSL.

          • Steglitz49

            Thank you for your kind words. Much obliged.

            The Japanese players are, indeed, shorter and lighter than the American players but they are not less talented. The expression, that it is the fight in the dog and not the dog in the fight that matters, springs to mind. OK, instead of dog we might prefer to use “feline”?

          • TsovLoj

            A Canadian gold might have produced an NWSL as well, but I think the dynamics would be somewhat different.

          • Steglitz49

            I beg to disagree.

          • vert2013

            I really think Press not being called in was a timing thing more than anything. She played club in Sweden and was unavailable for most of the pre olympic camps. They already had a rookie sub in Syd and Press would have been uncapped going into the Olympics, and she had only been with the team a short time because of her Swedish club. It’s really risky to have 2 of your 4 forwards have minimal senior experience, especially with one who has none.

          • Steglitz49

            Seeing that the USA won the gold all went well.

            Nevertheless, it raises the point that USA needs to start following the FIFA guidance on training camps etc because essentially the ladies who play abroad are being discriminated against.

            Ms Press is a good example. She has been highly successful for her club but has changed club allegedly to be able to be away for longer spells at the USA training camps. Christen took her old club to the QF of the CL, where they face the weaker of the two French teams, ie a good chance of getting to the SF. In cup-ties anything can happen. Should Gbg win the CL, unlikely though it is, Christen will eat her heart out and should they lose in QF the team’s supporters would sigh and say “if only she had kept faith with us, we would have won [the cup]“. Christen, of course, must look out for herself; no-one else will.

        • TsovLoj

          Herdman beats either of them hands down.

          • Steglitz49

            Unfortunately, the record books do not quite reflect your statement. Maybe the WC in 2015 will keep us right?

          • Don B.

            When he wins something of note, come back and see us.

          • TsovLoj

            Just saying, I’m calling it now. Come 2015 I’ma be saying I told you so.

          • Steglitz49

            Please remember the Wonders of Bern and Frankfurt ….

          • Steglitz49

            Maybe. Meanwhile, the wonders of bern and Frankfurt live forevermore.

          • Don B.

            If Canada wins the WC, you can crow all you want.

          • Steglitz49

            Do any Canadian players play in Europe, Asia or Australia? Some must do, one presumes.

      • necron99

        Actually people stopped Morgan in the Olympics, and Rapinoe and Lloyd did the business. Wambach picked up some slack. With Wambach drawing bodies, her history means teams must take her seriously and teams trying hard to mark Morgan out of the game, players like Rapinoe and Lloyd and in the future Press, will get plenty of goals. Watch the Olympics final, Japan was following Morgan and let Lloyd come right up the pipe for that second goal.

        • Steglitz49

          Strength in depth. Why do you think men’s soccer has been dominated by Brazil and Germany? Holland is the only small country in the men’s game to make it to final of the WC in the last 50 years or so.

          The ladies’ game is going that way too as illustrated by the Olympic vs WC semi-finals.

        • NYRick

          Yes, I agree with you on this. But I think the way Japan plays AM is the correct way to play the US team. I’m a big believer of the “don’t let the star beat you” theory in just about any sport. If Lloyd or Boxx is going to get an unmarked goal coming into the 18-yard box late so be it if I’m the opposing team. I think you stop Alex, you stop, or at the very least, give yourself a chance against the US.

          I know it’s one game, but I do think Press needs to be on the field with Morgan, even from a midfield position. It’s sacrilege to say, but Abby is the one slowing everything down and impeding the progress of Syd as well. I get her dominance on set pieces, but that shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of not having Press or Syd on the field.

          If you had AM, Press and Syd on the field all at once for 90 minutes (no Abby), and couple that with the creativity of Tobin and Pinoe, along with Kelley coming forward the US would simply demolish teams. Even Japan and Germany. The hardest thing for Sermanni is figuring this all out, bruise a few egos and deal with the old guard and seniority system that plagues the program from time to time. Now is going to be one of those times. These girls never want to step down. They all now want to play to 35 and beyond for the national team, and that just can’t happen anymore. Just too much talent here and coming up. Even Rampone is starting to make careless mistakes (Japan Olympic final, last 5 minutes) and I just don’t see why (after all she’s accomplished) the need for her to be on the 2015 WC team at 40. She’s a legendary player for the team. No need for more at this point. She can enjoy the NSWL to continue playing if she chooses.

          • necron99

            I think we have to wait an see what happens with Abby. If she declines and ceases being a scoring threat then she needs to be let go. However at this time this has not happened. She was extremely successful in both the 2011 WWC and 2012 Olympics. Alex Morgan has increased her longevity with her threatening scoring abilities and willingness to draw in defenses and make the pass. Abby wasn’t getting that as often until Morgan came along.

            While I am positive that Press, Morgan, Leroux is an amazing lineup of strikers and could all be in the worlds top 10 right this moment, I am not so sure they will destroy all other teams. While they are all fast and can control the ball or pass, Abby brings something fairly unique right now. There are not many big physical players who score with her regularity in the women’s game right now. Sure Renard scores a few goals for Lyon or even the FranceWNT, but she isn’t a forward or consistent. Abby may have been around forever, but players the world over are not going up against someone like her in each of their league games. Some leagues have no one like her in them. It is a combination of size, skill, and shear will that makes her so effective. With speed and finesse players around her, the defenses must react. Even on set pieces when everyone knows what is coming she still finds a way to get the ball in the net.
            I think a set of 3 speed/finesse forwards while formidable are similar to what teams face in high quality teams in Europe. When Frankfurt and Lyon play each other, or Tyreso, Malmo, Turbine Potsdam. Those teams have combinations of high quality strikers. Maybe not all at that top level, but definitely similar. There is a comfort in having played against that style many times.

          • Steglitz49

            Why do you go on about France? They failed to achieve anything both in WC-11 when they were one player up, nor in the Olympics when the Nadeshiko hung on for grim death. All they brought home was pig-iron. Looser weepers. Let them cook the meals for the true players! A German can teach them to knit.

          • necron99

            Go on about France? What are you talking about. I was pointing our a high ranked team that is currently playing very well, that lacks an Abby Wambach. I was pointing out that Abby Wambach is unique in what she brings to the game, and hence her importance. When she is gone, Morgan,/Press/Leroux might, might, be as good as Morgan/Wambach was this year. But surely top players in top leagues see more Presses than they do Wambachs. Mittag/Morzsan is much closer to Morgan/Press than it is to Morgan/Wambach.

          • Steglitz49

            Wendie Renard is a tall central defender. She comes up in attack for set pieces like corners.

            I first watched Abby 10 years ago. It was obvious that here was an exceptional talent. She is America’s best player of all so far. Nevertheless, a wise manager will plan for her stepping off the NT. I expect that Abby will be a sub in the WC, maybe come on for the last 20 min if needed.

            The standard of play in the NWSL will be high. This will further muddy the NT manager’s life because the fans will find it hard to think in terms of the players who play abroad, most obviously a striker like Lindsay Horan. Because of these friendlies, Americans are reminded of how good Ms Press is but there are many other fine American players in foreign fields.

            Abby is one of those rare players that come along once in a lifetime. In the men’s game maybe Nordahl — Il cannoiere — is the best similie. Maybe we should nick-name her “La cannoniera”?

          • Snish

            Completely agree with you on your 2nd and 3rd points. I don’t believe your criticism of Abby is sacrilege. I think more and more people see that her speed really is her problem anymore. It might not of been a big deal if she was paired with a forward who wasn’t fast, but she has Morgan, which is unfortunate for her. However, I don’t agree with the philosophy of focusing only on the star. The USWNT isn’t number 1 in the world because of Morgan or 1 sole player in general. If you stop her, you will get a better chance. However, if all or most of the defenders are focused on her, you can bet that Wambach, Syd, Press, Pinoe, Cheney, Heath, Lloyd, or HAO will capitalize on that lack of focus on the other players who are threatening goal. In my humble opinion, it doesn’t matter who scores against you, a goal is still a goal. It’s still going to hurt whether it’s Morgan or Boxx. The USWNT is too good for any team to be focused on 1 player and that player alone.

    • http://www.phasedma.com Anthony

      Abby needs to break that stupid record. I know she says she doesn’t care about anything but championships, but she does and I think it’s getting into her head.

  • jlr

    Actually, Press, Mewis and Johnston are already capped at the youth level. These are their first caps at the senior level. (By definition, a cap is at the national level.)

    • its_cool_I_<3_newbies

      Not actually, but thanks for trying. Being “capped” at the youth level means nothing as far as FIFA is concerned.

  • Matt

    The center of the defense still needs a lot of work. I think it’s time to start phasing Rampone out. Not saying she needs to go immediately, but she hasn’t looked very impressive for over a year now. Give players like Engen and Johnston a chance to lead the back-line Hopefully we at least get to see Engen play on Wednesday. If any player is the answer to our back-line woes, it’s her.

    • Marie

      If LePeilbet can return healthy, and with Sermanni’s open mindset, she should be given her due at CB. She is a star in that position (you may recall that at CB she beat Rampone for WPS Defender of the Year twice…by landslide votes). Pia forced her into outside back roles which were unnatural for her, but to her credit she played the card she’d been dealt as best she could. Now with Rampone starting to showing cracks, a healthy LePeilbet could provide veteran expertise very needed at center.

      • Steglitz49

        “Pia forced her into outside back roles which were unnatural for her …”. Respect, please!

        Pia took over a dysfunctional USWNT and gave them two Olympic golds and a WC final lost by the players themselves on penalties. Maybe Pia had players play out of position but most managers would envy that record. Verily, history speaks loud and clear in any language.

        It is a toss-up whether one considers Sasaki or Sundhage the greatest manager of the modern game. They stand side by side with Herberger, Schoen, Zagalo, the Kaiser, Robson and Ferguson …..

      • TsovLoj

        I was never particularly impressed with LePeilbet. If it’s not Rampone, we should give someone new a shot.

      • lol

        Agree that LePeilbet was beyond solid as a central defender, but time’s to tell if she still is. I think she did as well at the outside positions as she could, given they really don’t suit her strengths.

        As a coach, Pia likes changing players’ positions. She’s been doing the same with the Swedish squad since she took over (see Nilla Fischer : Central Defender). It’s not a bad thing, but it’s experimental and not always guaranteed to work.

  • Kendra

    Press I thought did an OK job especially playing out of position. She lost most of her 1v1 battles but her finishing was excellent. Heath, O’Hara, Press, and Krieger all stood out the most. I would have loved for Heath to move into Lloyd’s CM position but it seems that Sermanni likes her just roaming around the field getting into good positions. The best change to this team was getting rid of the kick and run type balls and instead just working the ball out the back and keeping possession.

    Next game would I would like to see Press get the start up top, possibly with Cheney as the target forward, to see what she can do in her natural position. Also I would love to see what Crystal Dunn and Whitney Engen have to offer on the backline. Overall the Sermanni definitely looks like the best person for this job.

  • NYRick

    The crowd was 18,600+ last night. Serious question here: how many were there to see Alex Morgan? I understand the USWNT is at the height of its popularity now, and the women’s game is certainly bigger than it’s ever been. But even with that, I kind of think that last night’s game would have only drawn about 10-12K without Morgan. We can deny it all we want, but the women’s game crowds are more filled these days with guys. High school and college guys, not just dads with their young soccer playing daughters, there with one thing in mind…to see Alex in person.

    That’s why an injury to her makes the US Soccer Fed hold their collective breath. And that’s extremely risky to the continued growth of women’s soccer in this country. The new NWSL (in my opinion) and really the continued popularity of the USWNT rests totally on her shoulders. Whether she likes it or not. She certainly seems to have the talent, smarts and looks to handle it. But she has one major weakness. She’s never met a camera that she didn’t like. I’m not saying she needs to become a jerk. She certainly seems to be a nice and humble person. But as a US soccer fan, and a fan of the women’s team, I’d almost prefer a less high profile personality as the star of the team.

    For that reason, I’d so love to see Christen Press emerge as just that. Something about her that is more approachable and more likable. Plus, she’s pretty and Stanford educated too. And the girl has a world of talent. I think we just witnessed the start of it last night. Sermanni is not going to hold her back like Pia.

    • Steglitz49

      Your points are well taken. Ladies’ football needs a whole string of glamorous players who have got “it”. This is true for all ladies’ soccer all around the world. Ms Sawa & Kumagai and Mrs Ogimi get more exposure than Miyama or Iwashimizu — wonder why?

      Some Japanese dinosaur got into trouble when he stated that it was not enough for a young lady representing the Nadeshiko to be able to play well, she also had to be “presentable”. My Japanese is non-existent but I was advised that the Japanese expression he used, which was translated “presentable”, allegedly meant something more along the lines that it should be possible to fold a player out in a gentleman’s magazine without the protection of body paint. Maybe that is an exaggeration, but it fits with your assessment about the NWSL.

      I also have the highest regard for Ms Press’s ability, but there is a whole host of other players knocking on the door. Sermanni’s headache is that whichever lady he picks, unless the team wins, the grumbling against Ms Sundhage will be a like nothing to the noise he will face.

      • NYRick

        It can easily be argued that Alex’s best play of 2012 came not at the 123rd minute against Canada, but instead when she appeared in a body painted bikini in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

        Before that, only a handful of hardcore US soccer fans knew who she was. She put herself and US women’s soccer (lacking momentum and PR since 1999) back on the map. And I seriously challenge anyone to deny that.

        • Don B.

          And currently, only a handful of hardcore US soccer fans know who Press is.

          I find it hard to follow your reasoning here. You’ve implied more than once here that Morgan is somewhat less than what the team needs as an image. You say that Morgan is smart, talented, easy on the eyes, but that her main attribute and drawing appeal for many fans is her SI spread? Even if that is the case, so what? As you said, without her there the attendance might have gone from 18,000+ to 10 – 12K. They might have come to see her, but the USWNT certainly benefited from her presence if that is the case, and the stands didn’t appear to empty out by half when she was injured. By the way, I don’t think anyone, no matter how testosterone driven, is going to pay $22+ to come see Alex Morgan in a soccer kit solely because they saw her in SI or a photo shoot from Maui unless they have a thing about bare knees. She’s also been featured a couple of times in ESPN’s top 10 plays of the day, once as number 2. Perhaps that sold a few tickets as well. Does her publicity or her looks detract from her presence on the field, or does it harm the image or integrity of the team? I think not. The USWNT is damned lucky to have her, and the complete package she is so blessed with. The little girls love her, the women love her, the guys love her. Listen to the crowd when she’s introduced.

          And as for her never meeting a camera she doesn’t like, that is now part of her life and her job. She herself has said on many occasions that she is primarily a soccer player and has no real interest in being anything else. Sure, she attends functions that have nothing to do with soccer, but if you notice every article about her always mentions that she’s a US women’s team soccer player. You can’t buy publicity like that.

          I hope that Press finds her place on this team, and if it turns out that she becomes the new face of the team, I’m sure that Morgan will continue to do exactly what she is doing now. Being the public face of the team isn’t a position given by administration, it’s something that grows organically. Morgan didn’t ask for the job, but she’s taken it on because it needs to be done. If that is meant to happen for Press, then happen it will.

          As far as an injury ending her career and her influence, that can happen to anyone. Hope, Wambach, Morgan and even Press could be history at any moment with one serious injury. I don’t remember anyone saying that perhaps Brandi Chastain should take over from Mia Hamm because, God help us, she could be injured.

          • NYRick

            I understand your points, but I think you’re being way too defensive of Morgan here. Mine is not an attack. I’m a fan, and I think she handles it all quite well. In other parts of this thread I’ve called her a prodigy who always needed to be on the field for 90 minutes, immensely talented and the biggest name in the women’s game by far. I personally think she’s a sensational player and I’m very glad she plays for the US. If I were Klinsmann I would make a video of all her goals for the men’s team to watch. I would say, “Don’t watch the beautiful girl, but instead watch how beautifully she finishes.”

            With all that said, it is extremely naive to think that her mass appeal, at least a good part of it, is not based on her stunning sex appeal. I can’t honestly ever recall a story about her, on TV, internet or print that did not mention her looks. And she and her handlers play to that. The way you defend her, I think you may quite be one. I get it. That’s what sponsors want and that’s how she gets rich. Not from a women’s soccer player’s salary. Nothing wrong with that.

            My argument is basically, is this a good thing for the women’s game? Is this good for Title IX? I don’t think I’m necessarily wrong, nor do I think you are wrong in your argument either. It’s an interesting topic. As for leaving at halftime when she was injured or forking over 22+ bucks to see her in soccer gear, it’s not about that. She’s a sensation to the male audience. That’s what they are there to see. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I saw the bikini photos from Maui recently too. They were all over the internet. They were well planted and intentional.

            I do think she feels the importance of being a strong role model to young girls. Apparently she’s writing some children’s books too. But I ask, can you have it both ways? Not being a prude here. I don’t personally have a problem with it, but it is what it is.

          • Don B.

            I’ve been a fan of the USWNT for over 20 years, and since Mia Hamm retired, I’ve been hoping for someone to step in and not only be a force on the field (Wambach’s ‘partner in crime’ as she calls it – which was a long time coming) but also someone who can ignite a renewed interest in the team and the women’s game. The reception the team got after winning gold in 2008 was not at all what it should have been and the victory tour had a hard time putting butts in the seats.

            Fast forward to the World Cup. We didn’t win it, but the reception was almost as if we did. America noticed, and in my opinion Alex Morgan was the focus of much of that attention coming home. Yes, her looks were a factor, but her ability to bring excitement and firepower to the game when it mattered were huge too. “Alex Morgan time” was coined long before any swimsuit photo shoot. And just to be clear, I have no issue with bikini photos and don’t feel they demean the sport or make for an unwholesome image. Athletes, male and female, work hard to develop their bodies and if they want to show them off in the latest beach fashion, that’s fine by me.

            If it seems I’m being defensive of her, it’s only because she’s brought something that this team has needed for a long time – excitement and interest, and I don’t see anyone yet capable of taking her place. She’s done it with grace and a willingness to take on the responsibility for an image she doesn’t feel she has earned yet, but which she works hard to live up to. We’ve gone far too long without a face for this team and now that we have one, I for one am a supporter. Someone more capable may come along, but it takes a particular combination of qualities and circumstances to create the image and charisma that Morgan brings to the table.

            As I said, I’ve been a fan of this team for more than 20 years. I’m not naive and I’m not some fanboy blinded by Morgan’s good looks. I’m a fan of Morgan because we need someone like her to help grow the game. If her looks put bodies in the seats and cause someone to watch a sport they otherwise wouldn’t, that’s a positive in my book. I respect the effort she’s making to live up to the responsibility that has settled on her shoulders, and watching her learn to walk and then run in the shoes she has to fill is, and will be, a fun experience. I’m a fan because I have respect for her game and her efforts to grow the sport.

          • NYRick

            Yep, totally understand and respect your position and thoughts.

            It’s interesting that you mention 2008 Gold and barely a whisper or good reception when the team came back for a victory tour. A little may have had something to do with the games being in China and airing at ungodly hours that few people saw. Plus, it was slightly before the social media boom. All the USWNT players have pretty big followings on Tweeter. Morgan has over 1 million I think. Also, at the time, I think soccer fans were turned off to the whole Hope Solo “quitting” the team (or whatever the heck happened) between her and the coach at the 06 WC. All the equity built in the women’s game from 1999 was somewhat tarnished at the time.

            The 2011 WC team restored that with the exciting win over Brazil. You’re right, losing the final didn’t hurt as much, and the team had a new fresh face, a very pretty face, front and center leading the way. And it needs to be said also that Morgan is one clutch player who has a penchant for delivering in ridiculously big spots.

            So now she’s here and certainly selling the sport to the US and it couldn’t be more popular. Especially with a mediocre USMNT. As I’ve stated, I’m a fan of the women’s game (fairly recent, not like you), but I know the history of the sport and Mia, Foudy and the rest. My only fear is that a lot (maybe too much) is being placed on one girl. Can she handle it? Maybe. Probably. And you’re also correct that if her looks help promote and grow the sport too, what’s wrong with that. I just think she may go a little too Hollywood (and very soon), and that could have a negative or ripple effect on the women’s game as well. I hope not. BTW, you articulate your thoughts very well, nice talking with you.

          • Don B.

            Thank you, and the sentiment is returned.

            I also was concerned about the “Hollywood” aspect, but I listened to an interview she did for The Weaze in Rochester after the WC, and he joked with her about her celebrity and hanging around with Hollywood types. Her response was simply “That’s not me.”

            The interview is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GfVQSvFVBo&playnext=1&list=PL247D0EA0488CE549&feature=results_video

            I apologize if links aren’t welcome here.

          • NYRick

            Thanks for the link and insight. My only concern for AM is that she really hasn’t had to deal with an ounce of adversity yet. It’s been all roses and adulation so far, right from a young age on the national team. Mia Hamm was about 28 before she really achieved more national stardom. And social media changes the equation will that now to massive proportions from back in 1999.

            As you can start to see, she’s going to be a target of the opposition now. And in many cases not in a good way, as evidenced by the cheap shot and injury the Scottish girl put on her the other night. Plus, there’s Canada and their resident thug, Tancredi, to worry about the next time the two teams play. Call it jealously or whatever you like, but she could be adored by fans young and old, but the opposing players on the field might not enjoy it and start pushing her around and rattling her. Let’s face it, I’ve watched enough of the USWNT the last two years and it’s fairly obvious. You stop AM, you stop the US team. How she handles all this moving forward, now that she’s the biggest name in the sport, will be quite interesting. I’m rooting for her. It won’t be easy.

          • Steglitz49

            Saki Kumagai was 20 when she slammed in that final penalty. She was not phased by the American goalie’s antics.

            These top achievers are cast from a mould of their own. They look forward, not back — except to learn from their mistakes. When they lose interest, they walk off the stage. In some ways Moser-Proell is maybe the greatest example for she did not ski in the Olympic year because her father was ill. Four years layer she took the Downhill gold, a nice symmetry with Stenmark winning his two in the technical events — the two greatest Alpine skiers of all time with the top honors in Lake Placid.

          • Don B.

            Agree.

            Not sure what to think about this growing thuggery in the women’s game, or how FIFA plans on dealing with it. Alex is certainly a target, as are others. I don’t get to watch many matches between other national teams, but I do know that the US seems to bring out the worst in other teams. Tancredi is certainly, in my opinion, a dirty player as evidenced by the number and nature of fouls she committed in the OG semis with her feet and elbows. Colombia certainly showed a willingness to bring fists to the match (Wambach black eye anyone?) The North Koreans and Chinese seem to have no regard for the rules of clean play and certainly don’t care if they injure someone.

            I’m a big fan of letting them play on, but I also feel that referees are too often letting things get out of control. That yellow in the Scottish match was given one foul too late in my opinion and should have been handed out for the first foul by #6 since it was obviously made in retaliation (she had already been warned off for her temper). I don’t want to stifle the game, but a clear message needs to be sent that some things simply will not be tolerated. It’s a problem with no easy solution.

            For the US, perhaps the solution is simply numbers and quality able to dominate, including off the bench. It’s easy to make Alex a target because Wambach, while a true force on set pieces, really isn’t a solid threat anymore when left on her own. The addition of Leroux and Press to the starting lineup will help considerably because it will spread the targets around and help deflect the attention away exclusively from Morgan.

            I’m confident Morgan will figure it out. I’m frankly surprised that she hasn’t been injured more than she has because of some of the shots she’s taken, but she’s tougher and physically much stronger than most people realize. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of the fire she’s shown lately toward the thugs. She can afford a yellow every now and again if she’s obviously wronged. I don’t think the fans would mind, and if she’s judicious it will even earn her more respect than she has now. How she chooses to deal with it will be interesting to see.

          • Steglitz49

            Your pint is well taken. I watched the video of the second foul again. In my humble opinion the referee should have sent the player off (it is a red card offense in my book). As you type, had the referee at the first foul severely reprimanded the player and made it clear to her that next time she would go for an early bath and please could she tell her team-mates, she need not even have given a yellow card.

            No match should have cards and a friendly least of all. Poor leadership by the Scotch captain.

            Answer: No more friendlies against Scotland.

          • NYRick

            The thing that will best serve Morgan from bullish tactics from opponents will be the emergence of Press and Leroux, all on the field AT THE SAME TIME with her.

            This will open things open considerably with the likes of playmakers like Heath, Rapinoe and O’Hara also together on the field with her. Throw in a new influx of speed from the backline (Johnstone and Dunn) and you have a monster team. Quite frankly, the US team is so loaded talent-wise, that it’s absurd. I don’t see how teams will come within 5 goals of them in any match. And that will include Japan and Germany in the future. Just too much talent, and now the US is starting to play a Euro-style, less brute force and size, thanks to Pia’s influence. They will be unbeatable for the next decade at least in my opinion with TS as coach.

            I really wish Abby would get her record soon and move on from the national team too. No disrespect to her, she will go down as one of the greats of all-time, but she is so slow and lumbering out there now. And she’s 32. If she sticks around for the 2015 WC, she’ll be 35 and I can’t imagine at what pace she’ll move around. She had a rebirth with Morgan this year, but that won’t last. She can still enjoy the game and be a force and influence in the new NWSL for the next several years, but for the national team I think she greatly impedes the progress of Press and Leroux, and in turn, Morgan. Most will say, well she just won FIFA Player of the Year. I’m glad for her, she deserved that at least once in her storied career. But in all fairness, AM was by far the Player of the Year in 2012. That was complete robbery.

          • TsovLoj

            I believe the Canadian/hockey term is “enforcer”

          • NYRick

            No, in Tancredi’s case the correct term was used: thug. A better hockey term for her would be “goon.”

          • Steglitz49

            The enforcers seem to come to a premature untimely and lonely end while great defense-men live forevermore — such as, Börje Salming (who never won a Stanley cup) and Stefan Persson (who won 4 and played in a 5th final).

            Maybe the middle-class genteel background of NCAA players is not enough for the modern game? Maybe the young ladies need to slum it on the wrong side of the railway tracks to pick up a trick or two of how to put the fear of the Lord into their opponents?

          • randomhookup

            Well, that partially torn ACL in her senior year of HS might be a bit of “adversity”. And she certainly had to fight to get a starting spot under Pia.

          • NYRick

            She shouldn’t have had to fight for a starting spot under Pia. That was ridiculous and a mistake. She’s a prodigy. A once in a generation player and she should have been on the field for 90 minutes from day one. Any coach with half a brain could have seen that. Arod and Cheney playing ahead of her was a complete joke. Wambach was floundering for over 2 years until AM began starting. And the US simply does not come anywhere close to winning Gold at the Olympics unless that change was made.

            Sadly, they are making the same mistake with Leroux and Press. Both need to be on the field with AM. Even at Abby’s expense. This US team has a history of seniority and old school politics. The best young players aren’t always playing. It sounds like sacrilege and their defenders will come forward but Rampone, Boxx, Lloyd, Mitts, HAO etc. need to be phased out. They can still play the game at a high level in the NWSL, but they need to step aside for the good of the national program. They are all great servants to the program, have won their trophies but it’s time for the next wave to move forward. I realize why they won’t. They see the big crowds now. Something they never had. The adulation they never got and want to stick around and enjoy it. But it’s wrong in theory.

            They may still be effective, but winning the 2015 WC will be contingent on letting the young players get acclimated in the starting lineup now (Dunn, Press, Johnstone etc.) This is the perfect year to do it. But none of these long-time girls want to consider leaving the scene until they are at least 35+. That has to change. Too much young talent gets wasted on this team. Press getting her first cap the other day is really absurd and two years late.

          • NYRick

            And by “old school,” I mean Abby and Hope too. Ashlyn Harris is a terrific young goalie. It should be her time now too.

          • Steglitz49

            Patience. The WC is in 2.5 years time, not tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day!

          • Steglitz49

            It is the problem for all managers of countries that have strength in depth. Whichever team they pick out, someone knows better. It was good for USA that Pia seemed a bit deaf or, like Nelson, saw no signal.

            Japanese rumours have it that their manager, Sasaki, will take young players to the Algarve Cup. It is predicted that Yuki Ogimi (25 years young, who plays for Potsdam), her little sister Asano Nagasato (who has just joined Potsdam – who would want to play with your big sister, even if she is married and has chosen to play under her new surname), Ami Otaki (23, has been with Lyon for a while – plays like Solskjaer mainly as a sub), Iwabuchi (19, recently joined Hoffenheim, the club in the German D2 supported by that
            software multi-millionaire), Utsugi (at Montpellier in France), and Saki Kumagai (22, Frankfurt – the face of WC-11) will go to the Algarve.

            It is also alleged that neither Ms Ohno (29, who like Ms Rapinoe joined Lyon) nor Ms Ando (30, at Frankfurt) will be in Algarve – probably.

            Likewise, for the France – Germany friendly in Strasbourg this week, the German manager is experimenting with several new faces while the French manager is staying with the old guard. One wonders why he bothers, seeing that they only ever brought back pig-iron.

        • Steglitz49

          Your point about the promotion of body paint as a new aspect of human relationships is well taken. The make-up artist did a cracking job for American ladies’ football.

          Your point is reinforced when you look at the media votes for lady footballer of the year. Only Ms Rapinoe polled less media votes than the Japanese players on the shortlist. Aya Miyama, probably the greatest lady player of all currently, was the lowest of the Japanese ladies, only marginally above Ms Rapinoe.

    • TsovLoj

      You want Morgan for prettiness appeal and Press for superlative talent? This seems kind of backwards for me. Not that Press isn’t incredibly talented. But you seriously think Morgan is cuter?

      • NYRick

        Well both are certainly attractive and talented. For me, I prefer Press over Morgan, whatever cuter can mean to either of us. I just think that (and of course I could be totally wrong here) that Press would be the more approachable, more likable face of the franchise of the two so to speak. And overall, better for the women’s game in the US. Just my opinion. No basis for it really.

      • Steglitz49

        Respect please! “Cute” and “pretty” does not cut the mustard here. Both of these young ladies are outrageously handsome. Most young men would die to take them to the ball (OK — they would have to die afterwards, though that make them sound like praying mantis, so I had better invoke Healey’s first law of politics …).

        Ms Press chose to ply her trade abroad and was not in the WNT. Therefore, she has not had the same exposure as Ms Morgan. Seeing that the body-paint slot is gone, maybe she could make some knitting videos?

        I wonder whether Ms Press may rue that she left Gbg för the Tyresö krona. How do you see it?

    • http://twitter.com/hercircumstance hercircumstance

      People need to let players be themselves and stop worrying about who will be the face of the team, add up offenses should they fail to line up with your criteria, judge their appearance, rate their media skills, decide who is more kid friendly etc. The “girl next door” era is thankfully over. Hopefully forever. Every player can be themselves. You can have Abby, Hope, Morgan, Pinoe, and even Press all doing their own thing. No need to select one to be the saintly face of the team. They are athletes first. That’s why people should like them. Everything else is bonus.

      • NYRick

        OK, I’ll buy your argument. I agree all the players could do their own thing and have their own individual appeal to whoever. Your “athletes first” argument is interesting. I agree, that’s the way it should be. But that’s not reality. Morgan “is” the face of the franchise, and I’m wondering if that’s a good thing for the women’s game based on what you said in your paragraph.

        If Morgan was average-looking (and I hate to use that term because beauty is and should and always be in the eye of the beholder, but you know what I mean), the current USWNT would get half the PR and pub it does.

        • http://twitter.com/hercircumstance hercircumstance

          I’m a sports fan first, mainly male sports, so “athletes first” is the only way I care to understand it. All of this dithering about a face of the team and the waiting-for-the-messiah complex is weird to me. And this is coming from a lifelong Chicago Bulls fan who got to see the actual sports messiah. Amen.

          The sign of a healthy sport is moving beyond that notion that the Mia blueprint is the only way. IMO the fact we have five players (two in the mainstream), all top athletes in their positions and not just pretty faces, who appeal to different types of people is great. Way healthier. Talented players will rise to the top and should be appreciated for what they do on the field. To me the rest, just like in male sports, is a bonus. Not a requirement. There is a lot of sentiment insular to WoSo fandom which I just don’t get though.

          I find it interesting that it’s men (judging by the handles) that are the most concerned with womanly virtues. Is that how WoSo fans watch male sports too? Is this a discussion in the WNBA fandom? I find it much easier being a fan just as I’m a fan for other sports.

          • Don B.

            I hear what you’re saying. How wonderful it would be if all it took to get folks excited and interested in women’s soccer were to have world class talent right here in the US. Unfortunately, we do, and it still isn’t enough.

            Sports in the US are still dominated by the men’s games, and it has been and will continue to be an uphill struggle to bring the women’s sports into the mainstream. It’s not simply a question of talent, but of attitude. All one need do is follow the comments on any mainstream site where women’s sports are discussed (Fox Sports, ESPN, SI, NBC Sports, etc) to see that most male sports fans – at least the ones that comment – are neanderthals in their consideration of women in sports. Frankly, I see in the underlying tone a sense of inadequacy in some of these folks, who know that the women they ridicule would kick their butts on the turf or the court.

            That said, I do see a positive move. I’m finding more and more men who, while initially sitting down to watch a women’s soccer match because they wanted to find out what all the Alex Morgan hoopla was all about, are now actually tuning in because they enjoyed watching the play on the field. I may not particularly care for the initial motivating factor, but if it grows the game, I can live with it. Perhaps someday, and none too soon, it won’t be an issue and talent and excitement will rule. Let us hope.

          • Steglitz49

            The rednecked neanderthals are alive and kicking both in Europe and Japan as well. We all know about the Nadeshiko, reigning World Champions, being made to fly economy to the Olympics while Japan’s male U-23 side (who had achieved nothing) went business class!

            Sweden’s men did not qualify for the 2010 WC but their ladies did famously in 2011. You would not believe the invective and put-downs they got in the comment fields in the media. Worse, women did not spring to their defense. It was other men who wrote in and said “Hang on a minute” and “Respect, please” and stronger phrases.

            During Euro-12, Swedish TV paired male and female soccer players as talking heads. Caroline Seeger appeared with Henke Larsson and Lotta Schelin with Anders Frisk. Women as expert commentators in other sports is nothing new. With a pool like Pernilla Wiberg, Anna Ottosson, Anja Pärson, Magdalena Forsberg and Anna Olsson for the winter-sports the cup runs over.

            If the NWSL can get men aged 20-35 come and watch, this will be humongous. If they can get women aged 20-35 to the terraces in numbers, the NWSL will have achieved a miracle. More power to their elbows.

          • Steglitz49

            The fundamental issue is that ladies’ football is an artificial activity the world over in that it is subsidized. If the NWSL can crack that nut — cut that knot, if you prefer — then America will make another huge contribution to ladies’ football.

            That wealthy men’s clubs have started supporting their ladies’ divisions — Arsenal always did, but they are the exception that proves the rule — is excellent for those teams. Not such good news for the paupers.

            That the wealthy FAs around the world are putting a bit more lolly into the ladies’ kitty is also good news. Allegedly, last year UEFA put but 1% of what the men get to the ladies. Let’s trust that we can get it up to 3% and then 5% during this decade.

            Beggars can’t be choosers. If Ms Morgan and Press put the NWSL into orbit, let the NWSL maximize that asset and send them to the moon. The media voting for this year’s FIFA lady player of the year says it all.

            Messi and Zlatan are the poster-boys for the men’s game; X and Y are for the ladies. Is Zlatan better looking than Ms Press? It depends on what floats your boat.

            Soccer is a simple and cheap game. That is how it conquered the world. It is winter and when you check out the winter sports, just look at the efforts of the manufacturers. The rivalry between Vonn and Höfl-Riesch sold an awful lot of kit and icehockey is even more expensive on the pocket (sticks, blades, you name it).

          • TsovLoj

            I like how you think; if I just wanted to see pretty girls there’s a thousand other hobbies for that. But yeah, there’s a lot of fawning adoration in this fandom, for whatever reason. Still, I agree with Rick that the people who watch might start for those reasons, but if they stay and keep watching, they’re usually involved in a more sports-oriented way.

          • Steglitz49

            Fandom fills the stands. Last season the top attendance in the Swedish ladies’ league was the last match of the season decider between Malmö and Tyresö (Christen Press’s new club) which attracted 4032 spectators.

            Marta plays for Tyresö and when Tyresö earlier in the season visited Umeå, where she used to play, 3125 went along (the population of Umeå is about 1/5th of Malmö’s), the second highest figure for the league. Umeå’s median attendance was 525 per home match (IQR 425-611) last season.

            Both these figures are dwarfed by the spectators that watched Umeå in its glory days, when nearly 9000 turned out for the key matches and they averaged 3200 per home match.

        • necron99

          The problem with your statements is that Morgan has no control over whether “fans” chose to follow women’s soccer because they think she is pretty.
          You can hope they are there for another reason, but you can’t prevent it. Going to invent a mind reader to use when people order tickets, and deny anyone who find her attractive? Should the USSF try to keep ticket sales low? Please note that US Soccer has gone out of it’s way to do fun fan interactions such as bar events with many other players, and not Morgan. They aren’t pushing her into everyone’s face, people are clamoring for her.

      • Steglitz49

        Possibly the best marketed lady sportsperson in the past decade is Magdalena Neuner, the German biathlete (ski-shooter). First she was presented as the sweet girl next door who declined to be folded out in Playboy but instead made videos for her sponsor (Lana Grosso) teaching people how to knit and felt and wrote two knitting books. After her Olympic golds, the emphasis changed to the sophisticated young woman who did an advert series for a luxury lingerie maker.

        It is an intriguing question what makes one athlete go straight into the hearts of people and another, sometimes even better, player fail to connect. Every country and every sport has examples of such pairings. It is not enough to be extrovert, bubbly and comely. There is that “it” factor, part of which seems to be of a charitable, generous and free disposition.

        Alex cannot do it all herself on her own for the NWSL. Abby is a great asset and once the league gets into its stride, there will be more faces to add to the firmament.

    • vert2013

      I was at the game the other night and I’m sad to report that there were quite a few people in my general area that straight up left the game when Alex got hurt. I wish I was kidding. Also, there were guys behind me talking like she was a piece of meat. Like extremely vulgar language and there were a ton of kids around. If they hadn’t left when they did I would have probably found a stadium worker, it was that bad.

      I’m all for the growth of the sport, and if people tune in because they think Alex is pretty, fine whatever, no one can stop them. At least they’re watching and hopefully the team will win them over, but I draw the line at blatantly objectifying Alex or any female for that matter.

      • Steglitz49

        Thank you for your input. This is my experience also.

        Why women playing team sports elicit this reaction is bizarre because it does not seem to apply to sports where ladies compete as individuals. maybe the idea that women working together as a team is too much for the rednecks to cope with?

        Should all ladies playing soccer be issued with an AK-47 and a T34?

        • vert2013

          I don’t know what they need to do, but the fact that Alex has her own security guy with her when she signs autographs kinda speaks for itself. There are security spread sporadically when the team signs but Alex gets a guy glued to her hip. The fact that that’s necessary is saddening to me.

          • Steglitz49

            I understand the need for security given recent events. Do you think that this may make it harder to market the ladies’ game?

            Seeing that single women aged 20-35 do not seem to make up an awful lot of the spectators, the market seems more to be a family market + men interested in soccer for its own sake (+ a few red-necked neanderthals).

          • vert2013

            Yeah I understand the need for security, but the fact that Alex has received the kind of threats that she has is disheartening. I don’t necessarily think it’ll make it harder to market them though, even with security the USWNT is still the most accessible sports team around.

          • Steglitz49

            Let’s hope the first NWSL season is a cracking one. Lots of goals and a few controversial decisions that we can write 140 comments about! Roll on the league!

      • NYRick

        What you say is certainly disturbing to hear. Last May, I went to the friendly vs. China just outside Philly. I was there with my wife and we experienced exactly what you are saying. A group of lowlife college-aged guys were saying the most god awful sexual things about Alex. They were fairly loud and laughing, and to be honest, quite frankly it was disgusting. And yes, there were a lot of kids around.

        But I guess that is going to come with the territory for her. The shame is that she is such an outstanding player first and foremost. If she stays healthy and motivated, she will undoubtedly shatter ever women’s soccer scoring record over time. Plus, she handles herself with a lot of class, is great with the young kids attending the games, and seems to be a really nice girl. I just so wish she didn’t do the SI painted bikini thing. She really did that before she was very famous, but for all the positive pub and fame (she has over a million Twitter followers) she may feel it probably got for her, there are negative ramifications (i.e. Neanderthals at the game) that occur too. Her SI photos were not tasteless or anything, but she opened up Pandora’s box to her obvious stunning sex appeal. Something someone who looks like her didn’t have to do.

  • leftbacklion

    Thanks for the article Jess, but according to ussoccer.com this was Loyden’s second start for the US Women’s National Team. Her first was against China PR on October 2, 2010.

    • Jess

      Fixed. Thanks for reading.