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Archive for November 2010

USA Women’s Youth National Team: Baa Baa Black Sheep

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When people yammer about the United States’ lack of development in women’s soccer, especially at the senior level, they often bring the “the USA U-17s didn’t even qualify!!” meme as part of their argument. Now I won’t argue all of the merits and failures of that, because talking to those people is like talking to a brick wall. However, I will say one thing: it is foolish to blame the USWNT’s crappiness on the failure of the youth system to groom skillful, instead of merely ‘athletic’, players. (This athleticism vs. skill thing has been around forever, I mean, look at gymnastics fans who work themselves in a tizzy over crap that happened in the 1980s!) Rather, the USWNT’s crappiness is due to politics and outright stupidity.

After all, isn’t it true that so many great, ‘skillful’ players fall through the cracks on the way up the US Soccer pyramid — most egregiously demonstrated by people ignoring the better college players in the U-23 pool? Aren’t there WPS players with experience that don’t get what they deserve? The same is happening here to the 2010 U-17s, who, just because they panicked and started screwing up when they couldn’t breach Canada’s 9-person backline, failed to qualify and therefore are doomed to obscurity. Aaron Heifetz was with that team, demonstrating US Soccer’s confidence that they would breeze through those qualifiers, and now I am damn convinced that fat fool, and his bosses, washed their hands of them once they didn’t, pretended that they didn’t exist. Now people are going to believe that players like Olivia Brannon, Alex Doll, Abby Dahlkemper, etc., etc., aren’t really as good as they actually were.

But their problem wasn’t “too-much-athleticism”. The U-17s, in terms of ‘skill’, were superior to the U-20s and the senior team, if not the U-23s as well. If you watched their games, you would know what I mean. They play the pretty soccer that Pia Sundhage only dreamed of having the entrenched, complacent senior team play. Here you can’t trot out the “youth soccer is big business so all they focus on is winning instead of skill! Blah blah” argument here. The U-17s problem was all mental. These were 14-17 year olds, basically kids not groomed in the “let’s sign on to a club and play soccer all the time” player mentality of the Europeans. They were just plucked out of their everyday lives, put through training camps, and then tossed onto the world stage. Of course, Europhiles wish US Soccer, or SOMEBODY, would have implemented some sort of club system like the Germans have for their young players, in order to counteract the mental inexperience factor. Ha ha like that will ever happen.

Look, Canada’s U-20s didn’t qualify for their World Cup either. Morace coached them. And yet I don’t see any Canadians shouting “OMG! The world is ending!” because Morace brought the Canadian senior team through qualifying with a spotless record. No one is yelling that Canada’s development system isn’t working. And in the USA, when the U-17s don’t qualify, and the U-20s don’t get past the quarterfinals, and then the senior team scrapes through on a FIFA playoff thing…well, what? What’s all this “Winning isn’t everything, skill is more important” screed coming from people who also believe that “winning is the way to show that your development system is working”? Wait, only the senior team can win, is it? So why does it matter to the pundits that the U-17s and U-20s are losing, hmm? Oh wait, I forgot — we’re not supposed to care. Silly me! We are only dragging this out because the senior team is playing like crap and Pia isn’t calling up the players from the U-20s who can’t even win their competitions!

The U-20s could have won it all with a different coach, I am pretty well convinced of that. The U-17s deserved to win, if skill was the be-all-end-all. But it isn’t. Canada’s U-17s won because they bunkered and successfully made the Americans second-guess themselves. Nowadays it seems that the USWNT has pretty much distanced themselves from the youth system (thanks so much, Kristine Lilly) so that using the youth teams’ success as a measure of how well or how badly US Soccer develops its players is…contentious, at best.

(And yes I KNOW DiCicco blathered about this in his 2008 U-20 WWC report, I freaking read the thing like twice.)

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Written by teamongolia

November 28, 2010 at 5:04 pm

NCAA: Oh the weather outside is frightful

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Once again the Cardinal outdo themselves again with a video. On Facebook.

(Although Palo Alto weather is NEVER ever that frightful.)

If you couldn’t tell from the previous post, I love the holidays (even if I don’t love certain things about it, but don’t we all). So from this blog to you and yours, Happy Advent Season!

Written by teamongolia

November 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm

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Happy Thanksgiving To All

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From the 2008 U-20 Champions to you.

Written by teamongolia

November 25, 2010 at 3:34 pm

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USA Women’s National Team: Can Twitter Save Your Ass Like Alex Morgan Can?

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I wasn’t asked to respond to this, but I will anyway.

Can Twitter save women’s soccer? My personal, heartfelt answer is, well, HELL TO THE NO.

At least not now. And not so soon. It’s hard to be optimistic about any sort of “Pro-USWNT Campaign For the Common Man” when people don’t know that Mia Hamm isn’t playing anymore. It’s all her damn fault for being so dominant!

As I was saying. Ahem. Yes, Twitter is a wonderful platform to get people to notice things. Hell, I only heard of who Justin Bieber was because his name kept popping up in the Trending Topics section. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t looked him up on the All-Seeing Google Machine. And now you will be sorry too!

I dare you to listen.  I DARE YOU. And I bet you won’t be able to get that earworm “Baby, baby, baby noooooooo” part out of your head.

But the people who are hashtagging #USWNT right now are basically just an echo chamber; you’re going to need a bigger echo chamber — a much bigger echo chamber — to get it trending. People who don’t care (and there are many of them!) will continue to not care. The only hope to get new fans on Twitter is to catch people who are curious/bored enough to figure out what “USWNT” stands for. I’m not even sure how likely that’s going to be. The USWNT just isn’t as popular as Justin Bieber (despite Amy LePeilbet’s attempts to trick preteen girls into thinking that she is Justin Bieber so that they’ll come to Boston Breakers games). Not to mention…what if they play crappily and lose? Will people ever want anything to do with them ever again? [/korean drama]

The lone encouraging thing I see on Twitter in this regard are random people loudly declaring their newfound crushes on Alex Morgan and watching a game just to see her. (By the way, she’s spoken for. Sorry to burst your bubble.) The Cross-Conference Collector asked, “Or it’s about Alex Morgan. Who can say, for sure?”

DUH IT IS ABOUT ALEX MORGAN, IT IS ALWAYS ABOUT ALEX MORGAN. BOW DOWN TO THE PRINCESS ALL YE UNWORTHY PEOPLE, YES YOU TOO A-ROD!!!11!!eleventy!!1!

Despite my cynicism, however, I still encourage you all to tag your tweets with #USWNT early and often. If not for the terrible awful horrible stagnant USWNT who is playing shitty soccer, then do it for my fellow Golden Bear, Alex Morgan! The echo chamber will never grow if we just leave it be.

P.S. I will be gallivanting in New York City on the 27th and will miss the game. Joy.

Written by teamongolia

November 24, 2010 at 4:33 am

NCAA, USA Women’s National Team: Here we go Irish!

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That is for Alex Morgan, because Kings Of Leon is apparently among her preferred music artists.

  • Quite frankly, everyone’s said it. The USWNT sucked. Her Serene Highness Alex Morgan scored a goal that made me puff up with Cal Pride, but did not do justice to how crappily the USA was playing. Ironically, Lloyd wasn’t behind most of the suckage: it was two former Florida Gators (AHEM) who had the worst performances of the game, in my opinion.
  • I don’t understand how anyone can cheer for the Evil Clones Tar Heels. They got what they deserved, which was a 4-1 crushing at the hands of Rose ‘Laser’ Augustin and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. There is no such thing as a heart breaking for the Tar Heels, because people who say their heart breaks for UNC don’t really have hearts at all. Or are just bandwagoners.
  • Granted, the Irish still have to face a surging Oklahoma State — which is completely ridiculous because now people think Adrianna Franch is better than Bianca Henninger.
  • If you actually think  Adrianna Franch is better than Bianca Henninger (like Top Drawer Soccer apparently does), you’re an idiot. Certifiable.
  • Kerri Hanks popped up in UND’s interactive liveblog during the game. That made my day! Even more so than all the Twitter people throwing themselves at Morgan’s lovely feet and worshiping thanking her for saving the USA’s ass. You’re welcome, guys.

USA Women’s National Team: Are you kidding me

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So here I was, being a troll on Twitter and thinking about how junk food I coveted as a child is actually quite disappointing when I finally eat it as an “adult”, when I stumble upon this tweet:

Someone on conference call wanted to make a suggestion rather than ask a question. Immediately shut down.

Shut down? As in “sit down, shut up and let Pia blather about how awesome everything is”? Is that fool Aaron Heifetz out of his mind? The fool needs to be forcibly retired; his retirement can’t wait for whenever Lilly finally gets the hell out of there.

While pundits are really annoying (which means I find myself annoying — wow, what a rush), I think that the USWNT is in no place to consider itself above any suggestions that pundits — even the stupid ones — might give. The team is a-shambles, it needs fixing, but nobody is fixing anything. The fans may be idiots, but at least after the Mexico debacle, less of them have tunnel vision.

It shouldn’t surprise me though. US Soccer is based in Chicago. If they don’t want it fixed, it ain’t going to be fixed. Nyeh! See?

Written by teamongolia

November 18, 2010 at 10:44 pm

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NCAA, USA Women’s National Team: Being right is not always fun

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So now that we’ve seen how terrible the USWNT actually is, and how Coach Pia has all let us down in the moment of truth, I would like to return to the entry I wrote some time ago about la guapa y fortisima Alex Morgan (thanks CONCACAF commentators for being loyal Alex Morgan fanboys to the end!).

As an opinion, I admit it was not well formulated, but I wasn’t going to be professional about it. This isn’t that sort of blog.

Once again I must reiterate that I am far from a Morgan hater. Nor am I a blind college-only fan. Just because I think she should be with the Cal Bears instead of the national team doesn’t make me a Morgan hater OR a USWNT hater. I have always been a supporter of the USWNT, but if Lloyd keeps deluding herself into thinking that she’s some Spanish guy named Xavi, I can’t continue to cheer for them.

My beef with Pia isn’t just that she called Morgan away from a team that desperately needs her. (And I would be remiss if I didn’t clarify that this was ultimately Morgan’s choice. Yes, it was a reasonable, if not my favorite, choice. After all, what American female soccer player hasn’t dreamed of playing in the USWNT? And no, I do not hold that against her. There is honor in representing your country, and I am sure that if , say, Christen Press were presented with the same opportunity, she would do the same — but Stanford has less to lose in letting her go than Cal does. And Morgan’s absence from Cal has very likely already taken her out of any consideration for the Hermann Trophy, although it was Press’ to lose all along.)

No, my biggest beef with the Alex Morgan call-up thing, and I have to repeat it because apparently some people didn’t catch it the first time: Pia isn’t taking the youth development seriously. If she were, as I said in my previous entry, then other colleges would be missing players. Pia could have looked to the U23s, to players like Press, Hagen, Foxhoven, Fowlkes, Shipley, Reed, Winters, etc. Heck, she didn’t even need to call up college players, she could’ve called up young WPS players; the likes of Becky Edwards and Nikki Marshall. Hell, since we’re in such desperate straits, let’s call up Jordan Angeli for God’s sake. But nooooo.

The USWNT deserves all the acrimony it gets now, after seeing the poor performance they turned in against Mexico and Costa Rica. Even as a Canada hater I can confidently state that Rutgers’ Jonelle Filigno would have single-handedly crushed the United States. The difference between Canada and the USA is illustrated by the difference between Filigno and Morgan. Both are about the same age, both are hot, both are offensive presences, and yet Filigno is the only one that radiated confidence. Even Pellerud was an asshole, but he’s responsible for getting Filigno all of that senior team experience that Morgan doesn’t have/isn’t allowed to have. And of course Morace has been to Canada what we hoped Pia would be for the USA. (I really don’t know what is impeding Pia’s brain signals. Really, I don’t. I am too lazy to discuss all the conspiracy theories regarding that.)

But anyway, this was supposed to be about Morgan. Not Filigno.

There had been feedback on other blogs about the Cross-Conference Collector’s post and mine, something to the effect of “Too bad, Megan Jesolva, the USWNT is too important for you right now to spare the Cal Bears a shot at making it past the first round of NCAAs, much less getting to NCAAs, because Cal sucks anyway and why should Pia care?

Well, the USWNT certainly didn’t do Morgan any favors, did they? She was ineffective against Mexico and in the “must-win” second Costa Rica game, mostly because

  1. The midfield was lazy (even lazier than Tania Morales, who is the Laziest Forward Ever)
  2. Heather O’Reilly had been subbed out.

Not to mention that had the USWNT won versus Mexico (like you all said they would, but they didn’t), Morgan could go straight to NCAAs with the Bears (they go to Florida to meet Duke in the first round) and that would be the end of it. She would not have to rush home to get in a few days’ schooling before shipping off to Italy. It was lucky that Cal did manage to topple Oregon State, the Pac-10 runner-up, without Morgan, but I can’t see that they’ll be so lucky against Duke.

Morgan hasn’t had the “breakout” tournament with the senior side that people were expecting her to, although a lot of that isn’t really her fault. Even the USWNT’s worst critics (i.e., the pundits who just recently were confidently expecting a USA blowout win against dear old Mexico) think quite highly of her.

But now the USWNT’s chance of going to the WWC is now slimmer than anyone ever thought it would be — and so what then, if they don’t make it? And what if she can’t stick through the next cycle, for any reason you can think of? She’ll be remembered as the youngest kid  in (to date) the worst edition of the USWNT ever since its inception. Where then is the prestige, the career-building that you said she deserved and promised that she would have if she went all in?

Written by teamongolia

November 10, 2010 at 2:35 pm