Something about national anthems and solid soccer that has to get me excited for World Cup Soccer. The opener in France was electrifying.
The US Ladies get underway Tuesday at 3 pm vs Thailand on Fox with coverage starting at 2 pm. Replay is 8 pm on Fox Sports 1 in case you miss it! So can this team repeat or has the rest of the world caught up with the US ladies? The creation of women’s leagues in Europe with really strong teams in France like Lyon, and PSG, and England, has led to a resurgence in top-ranked European teams as Germany, England and France fill out the top 4 along with the US. Canada is also strong at #5, while former lady powers Japan, Brazil, China and Norway have fallen off. A potential Quarter Final match-up with France in Paris if both they and the US win their groups is why I am still worried for the US. I am just not sure our current defense can stand up to France’s attack (yes they put up a 4-0 win in game 1) and could have scored 2 or 3 more with any luck. Still the US are defending champs for a reason – and with more than half their team back from the 2015 World Cup they have plenty of experience returning. New to this team are former forward Crystal Dunn stepping in at right back, Naeher in goal for the Crazy Hope Solo, Abby Dahlkemper is solid but this is her first WC at center back for Julie Johnson Ertz who has moved into the #6 slot. And the addition of Lindsay Horan and Rose Lavelle or Sam Mewis in the midfield. Returning superstars Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath head up a front line that is among the most deadly in the world, while behind them are Ally Loyd, Christen Press and Mallory Pugh all of who could start for anyone else in the world. I think this US team is good – but losses on home soil to France and England a year back have me concerned especially on with those teams probably having more fan support in France. I seriously might consider not winning the last game to finish 2nd in the group and not have to face France until the Finals rather than the Elite 8. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
US ah Men – crawl into Gold Cup
Any questions about how important Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore are to this US team for the Gold Cup they have been answered in the first 2 warm-up losses. Bradley has yet to play while horrific Will Trapp tried to hold down the #6 and was “ “ captain. Are you kidding me – Trapp has neither the speed, the intelligence or the bite to play the #6 at the international level much less serve as the US Captain. And Altidore looked better in 45 minutes than any US forward has looked since that fateful night of World Cup DISQUALIFICATION 2 years ago. I realize our new coach is getting his VERY INEXPERIENCED feet wet so I’ll wait until after the Gold Cup before making full judgment – but man back to back losses including a 3-0 loss Venezuela (a team that hasn’t made the world cup out of South America in like 3 cycles, and loss to an undermanned Mexico 3-1 last week) is not a good start. This team needs to actually score a goal, solidify its defense, start playing with HEART like most former US teams have done and honestly get to the Finals of the Gold Cup. Good thing our Ladies Team actually plays with the heart and skill expected on an American squad because our men seem to have lost that. Sad, sad times for the USMNT. We’ll see if they recover as the Gold Cup gets underway next Tuesday.
Nation’s League Success
So this Nations League thing might be a good idea after all. After watching the final 4 this past week in Portugal – with full stadiums and huge crowds on hand for the very exciting final 4. Portugal defeated the Dutch 1-0 in the Final. Heck even the 3rd place game went to shoot-out with England’s GK Pickford the star to provide some extra excitement – along with the Hat Trick by Renaldo on Wednesday.
Carmel FC Tryouts & Camps are Set
Tryouts for kids from U11 till 18 wrap up today. Carmel FC is a community-based club who has put tons of kids on the local high school teams at Carmel High, Guerin, University and more. Tryouts are June 10 & 11 for U11 & above. Click here for more info about CFC Tryouts. Also Carmel FC is looking for Coaches for the 2019/20 Seasons please click here if interested.
Indy 11 Soccer Camp – Carmel Dad’s Club Badger Field June 17-20 9-12 noon.ages 6-14 $135
Carmel Dad’s Club Alumi Soccer DEADLINE TODAY 6/11– College Aged or just out of college players are invited to play Carmel Dad’s Alumni Soccer on Wednesday nights, all summer long. Cost is just $95 for the season – bring a team or we can add you to one – guys and girls – rec play thru travel play – there is room for everyone!! Please click here to register for this league. Registration is open now- June 11. Questions please contact the office 317-846-1663 or League Coordinator Mercedes Martin firstname.lastname@example.org
US Women’s Cup
US Men Gold Cup
GAMES ON TV
USA Women’s World Cup June 7-July 7
- Tues, June 11: 3 p.m. ET, Fox S. vs. Thailand,
- Sun, June 16: Noon ET, Fox S. vs. Chile,
- Thurs, June 20: 3 p.m. ET, Fox S. vs. Sweden
- Sun, July 7 3 pm ET, Fox Women’s World Cup Finals from France
Tues, June 11
- 11:30 am Fox Sports 2 U20 WC – Ukraine vs Italy
- 12 noon FS1 WWC Chile vs Sweden
- 2:30 pm ESPN2 Italy vs Bosnia – Euro Qualifying
- 2:30 pm FS2 U20 WC – Ecuador vs Korea
- 3 pm FOX USA Women vs Thailand
Wed, June 12
9:30 am Fox Sports 1 WWC Nigeria vs Korea
12n Fox WWC Germany vs Spain
- 3 pm FS1 WWC France vs Norway
- 7:30 pm ESPN+ Cincy vs Louisville City US Open Cup
- 10:30 pm ESPN+ Seattle vs Portland US Open Cup
- 10:30 pm ESPN+ La Galaxy vs Orange County FC US Open Cup
Thur, June 13
12 noon Fox WWC Australia vs Brazil
Thur, June 13
9 am Fox Sports 1 WWC Japan vs Scotland
12 noon Fox WWC Jamaica vs Italy
2:30 pm Fox Sport 2 U20 WC 3rd place game
3 pm Fox WWC England vs Argentina
- 8:30 pm ESPN+ Copa – Brazil vs Bolivia
Sat, June 15
9 am Fox Sports 1 WWC Netherlands vs Cameron
12 noon Fox Sport 1 U-20 WC Final
- 3 pm FS2 WWC Canada vs New Zealand
- 3 pm ESPN+ Venezuela vs Peru Copa America
- 6 pm EPSN+ Argentina vs Colombia Copa America
- 7:30 pm ESPN+ Loudoun United vs Indy 11
- 7:30 pm FS2 Canada vs Martinique GOLD CUP
- 10 pm FS2 Mexico vs Cuba GOLD CUP
Sun, June 16
9 am Fox Sports 1 WWC Sweden vs Thailand
12 noon Fox WWC USA vs Chile
3 pm ESPN+ Uraguay vs Ecuador COPA
6 pm Fox Sport 2 Haiti vs Bermuda Gold Cup
8:30 pm FS1 Costa Rica vs Nicaragua Gold Cup
Mon, June 17
12 noon Fox Sports 1 WWC China vs Spain
12 noon Fox WWC South Africa vs Germany
3 pm Fox WWC Nigeria vs France
3 pm FS 1 WWC Korea vs Norway
Tues, June 18
3pm Fox Sports 1 WWC Italy vs Brazil
3 pm Fox Sport 2 WWC Jamaica vs Australia
7:30 pm FS1 Panama vs T&T Gold Cup
8:30 pm ESPN+ Brazil vs Venezuela
10 pm FS1 USA Men vs Guyana Gold Cup
Gold Cup TV Schedule June 15– July 7
Is the U.S. a clear favorite at the 2019 Women’s World Cup?
We’ve covered the tournament and the USWNT plenty already. But I felt compelled to reinvent the Mixer for one reason, and one reason only: I think we – as a Yahoo Soccer staff, and as an American soccer media collective – are being far too pessimistic with respect to the U.S. and its chances in France this summer.From my not-expert-but-thoroughly-educated perspective, the Yanks are pretty clearly the best team in the world. They’re only slightly less clearly the World Cup favorite. And all the hand-wringing over Jill Ellis’ tinkering and faulty tactics and bunker-breaking difficulties is waaaaay overblown. What’s more, I feel pretty confident I can refute any argument to the contrary. So I invite you to fire away with your reasons to worry. (Or with your reverential acknowledgements that I’m right. But that would be boring. So please, convince me to doubt my own confidence.)
Doug McIntyre: I sort of pride myself on being an optimist, both in life and in soccer. And I completely agree that by just about any measure, the USWNT is and deserves to be the odds-on favorite to repeat this summer. They’re absolutely the best team in the tournament. Coach Jill Ellis cut players who’d be starting for other contenders. Hell, she has the likes of Carli Lloyd and Christen Press coming off the bench. None of it means a thing. Look, things rarely go how we think they will in sports. As often as not, the best team doesn’t finish on top of the podium for any number of reasons. The USWNT was probably also the deepest and most talented team at the 1995, 2003, 2007 and 2011 World Cups (not to mention the 2000 and 2016 Olympics) and they didn’t win any of those tournaments. Plus, it’s really hard to win back-to-back World Cups. There’s a reason why it’s only happened twice on the men’s side and once on the women’s. So, sure, the U.S. has the best chance out of the 24 participants to hoist the hardware. But do I take the Americans over the entire field in France? That’s a much tougher question to answer.Then you consider that Ellis’ team hasn’t performed at its best in the months leading up to the World Cup. You add in the fact that the U.S. is on a collision course with the host nation long before the final – the U.S. and France will meet in the quarters if both squads top their groups, as expected – and I think it’s reasonable to have some doubt.Les Bleus are widely regarded as the second-best team in the world. Athletically, they present a matchup nightmare for the Americans, relatively speaking. They’ll obviously be playing in front of their own fans. And after beating the U.S. 3-1 in January, they will not fear the Yanks. It would be a shame in some ways if that do-or-die match happens so early. If it does, though, I see the victor riding that momentum all the way to the title. Just don’t be shocked if it’s not the U.S. this time around.
Leander Schaerlaeckens: Hi again. It’s me, the unpopular-opinion-haver. I’m not at all convinced of the USA’s invincibility in France. It’s easy to look at your national team with rose-tinted glasses ahead of a World Cup. Just as it’s easy to see a contender in just about any baseball team during Spring Training, if you squint hard enough.Is this team talented? Absolutely. Deep? Oh yeah. The best version of the national team ever? Probably not. But all the same, the U.S. is one of the favorites. The talent up front and in the midfield is staggering. But look for them, and you’ll find plenty of weaknesses as well. The U.S. no longer has a goalkeeper who will paper over mistakes in the back. The defense isn’t entirely convincing. The full-back positions are thin and staffed by players who don’t play there for their clubs. The best center back from the last World Cup, Julie Ertz, has been moved into midfield and Becky Sauerbrunn can be exposed for her lack of speed.Meanwhile, France and Germany have stupefyingly good forward lines, backed by heavyweight midfields. Both of these teams can give the U.S. defense fits. And it only takes one bad day when the shots won’t hit the net to go crashing out in any of the four knockout games you need to win to defend the World Cup.This is why it’s so hard to repeat as winners. Everything has to go right. Twice. And there are enough question marks there for me to feel that the French and Germans have as good a chance as the Americans, if not better.
Henry Bushnell: Alright, a couple points to push back on.
But first, let me clear: I agree with the vast majority of Doug’s first two paragraphs. Of course I wouldn’t take the U.S. over the field. Taking any World Cup team, ever, over the field would be loco. I’m by no means saying a repeat is automatic. Single-elimination tournaments inherently introduce more randomness than we realize.And that’s why it’s “hard to repeat.” Not because it’s particularly difficult for a defending champion to win a World Cup, but because it’s difficult for anybody to win a World Cup. There have been six opportunities for repeats at Women’s World Cups. Probabilistically, based on the number of true contenders in a given year, 1-in-6 is about what you’d expect. And as I discussed after Germany’s flameout last summer, the idea of a team “repeating” some 1,400 days after winning the first time around is somewhat silly, simply because four years is a long time.But I absolutely think the U.S. is more likely than any other individual team to win this thing. And I’m not sure why we’re so convinced the French are a “matchup nightmare.” The U.S. has never played them with more than six of the 11 who’ll be first-choice starters this month. France is great, but what makes us think the U.S. wouldn’t be a definitive, though perhaps not heavy, favorite in that quarterfinal?
Joey Gulino: So much, at least for me. France’s strengths almost seem engineered to either exploit or stonewall the United States’ strengths. The Americans are incredible in the attack? Central defender Wendie Renard and goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi are among the best in the world at their positions. The playmaking might have to come more centrally? Too bad Amandine Henry is there to clog everything up. The fullbacks are a question mark? Eugénie Le Sommer will be doing the asking. And that’s not something I’d find comfortable.This isn’t a new challenge the French are presenting, either. They hammered the U.S. in that January friendly, and drew the U.S. in the SheBelieves Cup last year, and gummed up the 2016 Olympic meeting, admittedly a narrow loss. So whoever’s been in the Americans’ lineup, France has had answers.They’re playing in front of their own country, too. The home soil boost hasn’t been as pronounced in Women’s World Cups as the men’s – only once, in 1999, has the host nation ever won it, and we’re already 16 years removed from the last time a host even made the semifinals – but this feels different. As much as I hate to say it as an American, it feels like the USWNT is walking into a giant exclamation point on the sentence about the rest of the world catching up.There are concerns with that take, like pressure and Le Sommer’s health and (yes) the USWNT’s overwhelming talent, but I really think the French women do what the men did last summer.Henry Bushnell: I like that this has evolved into a “U.S. vs. France” debate. Because, deep down, that’s how some USWNT players see it. Ask in public about top challengers, and they’ll give you the ol’ “we’re focused on Thailand.” But they’re boldfaced liars if they tell you they aren’t aware of the quarterfinal collision course. And, if you listen closely, they’re already playing mind games.Here’s Megan Rapinoe, on Wednesday, speaking about France: “I consider them the favorites, and I feel like all the pressure is on them.”And Lindsey Horan, at media day two weeks ago: “I think they do have a little bit of pressure on their back playing at home. … And they’ve gotten so much better these past few years. It’s kind of a mentality thing for them.”And honestly? That, more than any of your misguided arguments, gives me a bit of pause. Not because Megan Rapinoe thinks France is the favorite – I don’t think she actually believes that. But because mind games shouldn’t be necessary. All they do is lend to the idea that this French team is in the Americans’ heads a bit.But none of the matchup chatter scares me. It’s so selective and non-specific. The biggest individual mismatch, to be honest, is U.S. wingers vs. French fullbacks.And by the way, the home-turf advantage argument? I’d bet on move American fans being at the Parc des Princes on June 28 than French fans. The U.S contingent is going to blow us away. And there just aren’t too many reasons to think the USWNT won’t blow away the field just the same.
Women’s World Cup: Why France, Germany, three others can beat Team USA
Marcus WhiteNBC Sports BayArea•Jun 8, 2019, 4:41 AM
Women’s World Cup: Why France, Germany, three others can beat Team USA originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com. The United States Women’s National Team’s defense of their World Cup title won’t be easy. This summer in France, a handful of elite teams are poised to pose problems for the USWNT in the knockout stages of the competition. The Americans never have won consecutive World Cups, and they will arguably face their toughest opposition yet in pursuit of a repeat if (and when) they advance from Group F. Here are five teams from the other groups in the tournament that can stop the United States’ bid for a second straight World Cup.
The hosts got off to a smashing start Friday, kicking off the World Cup with a 4-0 rout of South Korea. Defender Wendie Renard took an early lead for the Golden Boot with two headed goals off of set pieces, and the French cruised en route to three points. France has been close-but-not-quite there for a decade, advancing to at least the quarterfinals in every World Cup, Olympics and European Championship during that time. It all seems to be coming together for Les Bleus, as the side has lost just three times since Corinne Diacre took over almost two years ago. The French only have been defeated once in 2019, and beat the USWNT 3-1 in Le Havre, France back on Jan. 19.A tournament on home soil could be just what France’s “golden generation” needs to win its first major title. The USWNT could face the French as soon as the quarterfinals if both sides top their groups, meaning one of the co-favorites could be responsible for the other’s tournament ending in trophy-less disappointment.
It’s always the Germans, isn’t it? Germany is the only nation to win back-to-back World Cups (2003, 2007), and won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. A lot has changed in three years, though. Nine of the 23 players on Germany’s roster were on the Rio team, and the Germans have had three managers (two full-time) since. Considering Germany had three total managers in the preceding three decades, that’s quite a bit of turnover for a country that has been Europe’s most successful in the sport. Still, the Germans have not lost in 2019, handed France its only loss of the year (so far) in a January friendly and are No. 2 in FIFA’s rankings. Germany has a favorable bracket path, too, and wouldn’t have to play another group winner until the semifinals at the earliest if it is able to top Group B. Assuming that happens, a match with the USWNT in the quarters is possible if the Americans don’t top Group F, setting up a revenge match with the team that knocked out Germany in the semifinals in 2015.
Australia made a coaching change itself back in January, leaving Ante Milicic with only a few months of preparation. That was apparent in the run-up to the World Cup, as the Matildas allowed three goals in both pre-tournament friendlies with the Netherlands.But the Australian attack is as fearsome as any team in the tournament, in large part because any Golden Boot/Ball conversation is incomplete without Sam Kerr. The 25-year-old will be playing in her third World Cup, but is still looking for her first goal in the tournament. Chances are the NWSL’s all-time leading scorer won’t wait long in France. Australia’s group is sneaky-tough with up-and-coming Italy and Marta-led Brazil waiting in the wings. A Kerr-Marta showdown on June 13 will offer plenty for neutrals, but should prepare the Matildas well for the knockout stages. Depending on how results shake out in the group stage, the Australians’ path to the Final in Lyon could go through the Netherlands and Germany in the quarters and semis, respectively. Kerr is prolific enough to see Australia through.
The English have good reason to believe football’s coming home in 2019. After semifinal runs in the 2015 World Cup and the 2017 Euros, the Three Lionesses are arguably the country’s best chance at winning its first major soccer trophy since the men won the World Cup on home soil in 1966. England won the round-robin SheBelieves Cup back in March, drawing 2-2 with the USWNT. Lucy Bronze is considered by many to be the best fullback in the world, and could complete a quadruple — she won the French league, French cup and UEFA Champions League titles with Lyon — if England raises the trophy in her home stadium on July 7. Expect England to win Group D, thus dodging another group winner until the semifinals. Awaiting the English there could be France or the United States, possibly leaving the obligatory penalty shootout with Germany for the Final. England is more than capable of writing a different ending to that familiar story this time around.
Canada has not lost in 2019, and lost three games in 2018 by a combined four goals to France (1-0), Germany (3-2) and the United States (2-0). In other words, the Canadians can hang with the world’s elite. Aging star Christine Sinclair remains Canada’s focal point in the attacking third, and she can surpass Abby Wambach’s all-time international record (184) with four goals in France. Canada’s defense, led by central defender Kadeisha Buchanan, is sturdy, having allowed just one goal in eight matches this calendar year. The group stage will be a different matter entirely, with the European champion Netherlands lurking. Both teams likely will have advanced from Group E by the time the two square off on June 20 in Reims, and the winner’s path won’t be much easier than the loser’s. Group E’s runner-up will, in all likelihood, face Germany in the quarters, while its winner probably draws Australia. But Canada can beat either side on its best day, and is capable of ensuring a North American side lifts the World Cup once more.
Shaky defenders and France’s threat: our writers’ US World Cup predictions
Caitlin Murray, Gemma Clarke, Shireen Ahmed and Beau Dure,The Guardian 5 hours ago The Guardian
USWNT’s key player is …
Julie Ertz. No one else in the squad offers the same physical disruption in central midfield, and the USWNT’s defense, which has looked shaky, needs all the cover it can get. Her scoring ability on set pieces could also be the difference. CM
Tempted to say Lindsey Horan but I’m going to go with Becky Sauerbrunn. She’s rightfully described as the soul of the team, and they’ll need her experience and steadying influence both on- and off-the-field. At her best, she can bring calm and composure to a young defense, the rest of whom haven’t competed in a World Cup before, barring Ali Krieger. GC
Megan Rapinoe. She is a key playmaker, is lethal on set plays, and has an unapologetic drive and energy that fuels her teammates. She has played with some of the top players in the world, and her experience gives her the ability to read the game and act accordingly. ‘Pinoe’ also often acts as the moral compass of this team. And that makes her even more powerful. SA
Becky Sauerbrunn. The old joke about Roberto Carlos – that left-back wasn’t his address but the place he could be found in case of emergency – applies to both full-backs. Aside from them, the only defender who has played in a major tournament is surprise call-up Ali Krieger. Sauerbrunn, criminally omitted from 2015 post-Cup honors, will need to be the cornerstone at the back once again. BD
Unheralded USWNT player to watch …
There isn’t much attention on Rose Lavelle because this is her first major tournament. But her creativity in midfield could be crucial if the USWNT’s usual approach from the flanks is unsuccessful. Lavelle is the only playmaking No10 on the roster who can pull the strings in the attack. CM
It’s hard to pick an unheralded player in a team of all-stars so I’m going to go with somebody who is currently unheralded in Carli Lloyd. She’s going into this tournament as a sub due to her age but she’s incredibly focused, hard-working and still has the capacity to come on and change a game with a moment of brilliance. GC
Jessica McDonald. The US have notable talent up front (Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath) but McDonald has a point to make. She is bold, and I love that. She’s the only mother on this squad, and has worked relentlessly to get better, and be noticed. She brings a confidence to the pitch that tells us she has nothing to lose. She is ready. SA
Rose Lavelle. The US have never been known for playmaking midfielders, but they have one now. In the NWSL, where wily veterans typically humble incoming draftees, Lavelle was a rare immediate-impact rookie before injury trouble struck. If the USA face a bunker, as they did in the fateful 2016 Olympics loss to Sweden, she’ll be the key to unlocking it. BD
USWNT’s biggest weakness …
Defense, defense, defense. When the USWNT have faced teams ranked in the world top 10 this year, they have conceded multiple goals on all but one occasion. The USWNT attack is potent, but the forwards will have to work extra hard to make up for all the goals the USWNT looks poised to concede. CM
At the back. The defense has looked a little shaky at times, particularly against other big teams. It doesn’t seem like they’ve quite gelled and I think part of that is a lack of experience. On top of that, Briana Scurry and Hope Solo set an incredibly high bar in goal and Alyssa Naeher will need to keep a cool head and put in some great performances to reassure the players around her. GC
Overconfidence. The USWNT have a tendency to hold to notions of what they were, not what they are. They are not the youngest team out there, and did not perform well at the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year. I am pleased they have huge support from their fans but that doesn’t always lend itself to humility. SA
Depth at the back. The puzzling roster decision wasn’t Ali Krieger over Casey Short, a capable left-back. It was Jessica McDonald, a seventh forward, over Short, who could give Crystal Dunn a break or a chance to play in the attack. Meanwhile, in goal, starter Alyssa Naeher has been shaky this year, and third-stringer Adrianna Franch didn’t make her debut until March. BD
The biggest threat to the US …
France. The host country have a supremely talented group and are widely considered the favorite of this tournament. Unfortunately for the USWNT, the draw has put the Americans on a collision course to face France in the quarter-finals, which could spell the USA’s earliest exit in a World Cup. CM
France. They carved the USWNT apart in the pre-tournament friendly, they’re on home soil and look extremely dangerous. What they lack in experience, they make up for in fluid, dynamic attacking play. They’re a team who can sit back and soak up the pressure, then produce clinical finishes on the break. GC
There are plenty of threats out there. This year they have been beaten by France and faced tough battles against England, Australia and Japan. They also rely heavily on physicality and not necessarily technical skill. SA
The cruelty of the World Cup draw is that the USA will likely face bona fide contender France in the quarter-finals. The hosts routed the USA (admittedly rusty in the NWSL offseason) in January, and they have a strong mix of experience and youth. BD
One bold prediction …
There’s no good reason to think Spain will make a run in this World Cup. They only qualified for the first time in 2015 and were knocked out in the group stage. And conventional wisdom says they lack necessary depth. But World Cups are for chaos and what Spain lack in talent they may make up for in having an identity. Plus, keep an eye on goalscorer Jenni Hermoso. CM
This is very bold, but I think Thailand may hold the USWNT to a draw in their opening fixture. They held Australia to a shock draw in the semi-finals of the Asia Cup last year, only to lose on penalties. It’s a huge tournament, all eyes are on the reigning champions and all that scrutiny could cause an upset in their opening game. If the forwards aren’t on their game and they don’t score early, the pressure of the occasion could produce a shock. Unlikely, but possible. GC
Despite their opening loss to Italy, Australia will get to the final, because Sam Kerr is flanked by a squad that often gets unnoticed as they toil Down Under. SA
The ticket fiasco is the last domino to fall for Fifa. Western Europe, North America and a few South American and Asian countries form their own soccer federation, and we endure a decade of dueling international organizers before everything is resolved. Hey, it worked for chess, more or less. BD
Will the USWNT’s gender discrimination lawsuit affect their campaign?
If the USWNT falter in this World Cup, it will be because women’s soccer is more competitive than ever before. What I learned in researching and writing my book on the USWNT, is that they have been in these sorts of off-field battles continuously over the years. In the past it just happened a lot more privately. CM
If they don’t win, it’s what some lazy pundits will suggest but no. The battle between the USWNT and US Soccer for fair pay has been ongoing for decades, just in different forms. Now it’s a legal matter. That US Soccer continues to undervalue and undermine its most successful team is an embarrassment. There’s no loophole or pernickety justifications of pay structure that can justify this persistent inequality. GC
Much to their credit, the USWNT have been champions despite the incompetence of US Soccer. There is a part of me – albeit, as a Canadian, a very small part – that hopes they win everything to spite the people who will not give them proper remuneration. These women deserve everything that America can give them. SA
Not at all. The team’s veteran leadership, especially US Soccer Athletes’ Council member Sauerbrunn, won’t let that happen. BD
USWNT’s campaign will end with …
The realistic expectation is that the US should make it to the semi-finals, because that has always been the standard. But after years of asking whether the world has caught up to the USWNT, I think this could be the year we finally see it happen and the US exit in the quarter-final, which would be their worst World Cup ever. CM
Defeat in the semi-finals. Possibly to a heartbreaking, last-minute goal or a questionable refereeing decision. I feel like the USWNT have benefitted from some of those over the years and the football gods tend to exact their revenge every once in a while. GC
They’ll ease through their group but the reigning champions will not advance beyond the quarter finals. The competition is very, very tough. Which makes this the most exciting World Cup yet. SA
Misguided takes from US pundits who pay attention only when the spotlight is on. Depending on results, that could be “Why didn’t they take Hope Solo?” or “When will Congress intervene?” Or maybe “They won, so why won’t they get paid more,” not realizing that they will. We don’t know all the CBA details, but winning matters.
Oh, and they’ll win it. They’ll get past France in extra-time, beat England 3-2 in the semi-finals and take the final 4-1 over Australia, who won’t be able to build on the momentum of ousting Germany in the semis. BD
The unbreakable bond between U.S. midfielders key to World Cup success
8:02 AM ETGraham HaysespnW.com
REIMS, France — They wear the same uniforms. They are around the same age. They occupy the same space on the field, literally the middle ground between those tasked with producing goals and those expected to prevent them. And none of them has been here before, not like this.Any number of superficial strands connect Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis, the four midfielders who top the United States depth chart and who competed for three starting positions throughout the buildup to this World Cup. But as the middle without which the entire U.S. effort on the field will crumble, the personal bonds that knit together their individual promise are anything but superficial. None of them know what it’s like to play in the midfield in a World Cup, but all of them know they aren’t alone.”I call them soul ties,” Ertz said. “Because I think when you have history with somebody your bond just is stronger.”The U.S. will play Thailand on Tuesday with a starting midfield that collectively lacks even one World Cup start in midfield. The front line is loaded with experience. Likely starters at forward, Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe have played 34 World Cup games. The defense, including goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, has its share of inexperience, but Becky Sauerbrunn is hardly a newcomer in the middle of the back line.
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- Team preview: U.S. women
Among the four midfielders who received most of the minutes in recent years, on the other hand, only Ertz has World Cup experience — and that as a center back in 2015. Horan played in the midfield in the 2016 Olympics, but started only once in four appearances in Brazil. Lavelle and Mewis have yet to play a minute at any position in any major tournament.Nowhere did Jill Ellis have more of a blank canvas with which to work after 2016 than in the midfield. What emerged is a reflection of how she wants to play.”Obviously it’s a coach’s preference in terms of profile and what they want the function to be,” Ellis said of what goes into shaping a midfield. “I think for me it was important to have balance in there. It’s not just about [one thing]. It’s obviously breaking up plays, but then players that can play the final pass. With the front three, the attacking profile of our forwards, the ability for us to break lines requires players making the final pass in midfield.”She referenced recent Champions League winner Liverpool as an example. Liverpool’s collection of “hard, strong, physical, hard-working” midfielders, as Ellis put it, did the work that fed the star-studded front line and aided a back line built around one undeniable talent. It sounds familiar. All of those midfielders fit an athletic profile for an aggressive system. But rather than interchangeable parts, each complemented the others. That’s the model.While Horan got her foot in the lineup during the 2016 Olympics, the midfield truly took shape in the 2017 Tournament of Nations. With the U.S. trailing Brazil in San Diego, Ertz came on as a substitute at the holding midfield position. It wasn’t a coincidence that a 3-1 deficit became a signature 4-3 win. Ertz scored a goal in the comeback, but more than that, she brought an energy and intensity to winning back that spread throughout the lineup that day.The energy is still different when she’s out there. And as the U.S. settled on an aggressive 4-3-3 formation, taking cues from her hard-tackling, ball-winning ways, it relied on her even more. They take risks going forward knowing she will throw her body in the way to back them up.”Just that sort of transitional style and getting after it and always wanting to go forward and push, push, push, she kind of provides that anchor for us,” Rapinoe said of Ertz. “She’s good box to box and can get up and down, but we want to send the [other two midfielders] and be able to have them go unattached from the back line and get our outside backs forward. So Julie provides that anchor for us and the ability to break up the counterattack.”By her own analysis, Ertz plays the No. 6 with a more defensive mindset than Lauren Holiday, the maestro who retired after the 2015 World Cup (and Morgan Brian, who filled the same role in the later rounds of that tournament with Holiday higher on the field). But Holiday still has a successor in Horan, the 25-year-old NWSL MVP who came into her own for both club and country in 2018, when she was also a finalist for U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year.A forward for much of her youth career, including when she signed with Paris Saint-Germain out of high school, Horan developed into a true box-to-box midfielder, the No. 8 who can do everything from a pinpoint 30-yard, switch-of-play pass to a header in the box on set pieces.”Her presence in the midfield already intimidates other people,” Ertz said. “She’s fantastic in the air. She is feisty on the ground to be able to win tackles with her strength alone. But not only that. Her foot skills, being both-footed and finessing her passes, I think elevated me, for sure, but elevated the team’s standard for being able to pass and build out.”Lavelle was the final piece to fall into place, one that Ellis had to wait patiently for through a series of injury delays, mostly related to a nagging hamstring issue.”Rose is amazing at changing the tempo of a game,” Ertz said. “She is so much faster than I think people realize. She can create these chances out of nothing. Her creativity and her vision, especially in [the final] third, is world class. On top of that, she works so hard to get back, which obviously helps me. Her having that 10 role, more freedom and creativity, has been amazing.”Ellis tossed Lavelle in the deep end for her senior international debut against England in 2017. Yet despite the class of opponent and a wickedly frigid day in New Jersey, the rookie was one of the stars for the U.S. in an otherwise forgettable loss. It didn’t hurt that for all the newness, she was surrounded in the lineup that day by Horan and Mallory Pugh, all three teammates on the U.S. team that competed in the 2014 U-20 World Cup, and Mewis, one of her best friends.”I felt like I came in at a time that was a lot easier for younger players to transition into because we had a lot of each other to lean on,” Lavelle said. “The older players were great, but I think having someone you’re a little more familiar with off the field definitely made it easier because it is such a competitive environment.”It isn’t just those four midfielders who are intertwined. Ertz and defender Crystal Dunn go back years as friends and teammates. They won a U-20 World Cup together, along with Mewis and Morgan Brian. Colorado natives who shared youth rosters and bypassed college in favor of pro soccer, Horan and Pugh are inseparable — Lavelle often not far removed. Emily Sonnett is in the middle of most everything that goes on for the younger generation. And on and on.They weren’t thrown together as strangers on one of the most competitive teams in the world and forced to find common cause on the fly. They brought their bonds, formed long ago in club soccer, college soccer and youth national teams, to that crucible.”When you have somebody who has your back, it automatically creates a bond,” Ertz said. “The DNA of this team has had that, having each other’s backs, fighting to the last whistle. That is what makes this team so dangerous in tournament because people can’t touch that.”You can touch tactics, you can sit back, you can change that stuff. But you won’t break somebody’s will to fight for each other.”The fourth member of the quartet exemplifies the collective strength best of all, precisely because she may be the odd one out when starters are announced June 11. Mewis has done plenty to merit a place in the starting lineup, coming into her own in 2017 and bouncing back this year after an injury-marred 2018. A powerful presence who can play any midfield role, she will play important minutes in France, starter or not.”When I’m on the bench, I’m cheering the loudest for Lindsey and Rose, even though they’re in front of me and they play my position,” Mewis said. “Because their success is my success. We’re all working in this together, and it feels really like a team in that way. And of course, it is, but this team is so competitive, and I think that having those strong bonds of support and caring for each other is going to carry us a long way.”The American midfield in 1999 was already full of World Cup winners from eight years earlier. The midfield in 2015 had Olympic champions multiple times over. This group doesn’t have that history. But it has its own history. So while the individual parts are what the U.S. needs to play the way it wants to play, the friendships and trust that bind them together are what the U.S. hopes will let them shine.”It’s all there for them,” Rapinoe said. “We’ll do our best as older players to sort of embolden them and encourage them, but I think [they should] realize that they have everything that they need. Their individual strengths and talents that they have coming out of the midfield is exactly what we need them to do. We don’t need them to be anything different than what they are.”And if the middle holds this summer, anything is possible.
Berhalter, U.S. have myriad problems to solve before upcoming Gold Cup
8:02 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent
CINCINNATI — After the U.S. men’s national team lost 1-0 to Jamaica last Wednesday, it didn’t seem as if things could get much worse for the Americans.Four days later, they’re worse. Way worse.The U.S. was absolutely hammered 3-0 — on home turf no less — against a Venezuela side that gratefully accepted all the gifts the Americans gave them. And to be clear, the U.S. was in giving mood. There was the horrible pass from goalkeeper Zack Steffen that set up the first of two goals from Salomon Rondon. Then there was Venezuela’s second from a throw-in, with the U.S. defense seemingly set, that allowed Jefferson Savarino to fire a shot off the post and then score himself on the rebound. Finally, a simple long ball found Rondon in space, isolated against Aaron Long, before the West Brom forward carved out enough space to hammer a shot past a helpless Steffen.Yes, Jhon Murillo looked to be offside in the run-up to Rondon’s first but bad calls happen, especially when there is no VAR on hand, as was the case in this friendly. The fact that Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Michael Bradley were all missing didn’t help either, but the U.S. cannot hide behind excuses such as this. In moments of adversity a national team must come together, collect itself, and find a way to get back in the game. Instead the U.S. crumbled here.When the half mercifully reached its end, boos could be heard from the Nippert Stadium crowd. Midfielder Wil Trapp didn’t blame the fans.”It’s unacceptable to lose 3-0 at home,” he said.Manager Gregg Berhalter tried to project an air of composure after the match, though given the nature of the defeat his words didn’t inspire much confidence.”I think we need to be calm. I think we need to look at the game, look at what we need to improve on, and then set out to do it,” Berhalter said. “It’s really tough after a result like this and start making excuses. I don’t really want to do that. But what I’d say is we’re still getting guys where they need to be, and we’re not there yet, and that’s pretty clear. So we’re going to keep working on it.”So now Berhalter finds himself in something of quandary heading into the Gold Cup. Does he persist with the same tactics and personnel? Have some players played themselves out of the lineup? These are questions that apply to almost every part of the field. I say almost because Jozy Altidore, after coming on at halftime, gave the team a spark with his movement, link-up play, and being an overall attacking presence in the final third.Everywhere else there appear to be problems. The midfield lacked bite overall, and seemed incapable of doing anything to stop Venezuela’s attacks. At the other end of the pitch, the chances the U.S. did create were squandered fairly easily.Most sobering of all is the frailty of a defense that had been among the more stable parts of the U.S. team since Berhalter took over. On this day it had all the tensile strength of papier-mache. The three goals in that first half were more than the U.S. had conceded in the five previous games combined under Berhalter.There were several reasons as to why. The team’s press wasn’t cohesive and communication was lacking. Certainly Long looked as if he were shaking off some considerable rust after having not played for the last month because of an injury, but Berhalter defended his decision to put the New York Red Bulls defender on the field.”We need to get Aaron where he needs to be. We need to get him fit,” Berhalter said. “So the question is: Do we not play him? Do we not give him this game routine because we’re worried he can fail the challenge? Or do we know where we need to go and because of that he plays. To me it was clear. I needed to play. He needs fitness. Forty-five minutes was enough. He came out injury-free, which was positive. And then we build.”Despite the result, Berhalter is determined to stay the course.”The guys worked hard. They gave what they had. They came up short,” he said. “And it doesn’t mean that we’re going to scrap all the plans. We’re always evaluating, we’re always seeing how effective we can be, and where we need to improve. And we’re just going to continue that process.”When the likes of Pulisic, Adams, Bradley and Altidore return to full fitness, the U.S. will no doubt be a better and more dangerous side. But even then, there are questions. Can Berhalter afford not to have Adams play in the center of midfield? The U.S. manager wants Adams’ aggression, but also the passing ability of either Bradley or Trapp. But can either provide the defensive presence needed on their own? The answer, particularly in Trapp’s case, seems to be no. That is in part why Adams has been put in the hybrid right back/center midfield role. The issue becomes exacerbated when the team isn’t on the same page with its press, as was the case Sunday against Venezuela.”When we were in good shape, sliding side to side, they weren’t able to really break us down,” Trapp said. “As soon as we allowed ourselves to get stretched, they found balls forward, second balls, and could create chances.”Another question is whether the U.S. has the personnel to play out of the back. It’s easy to dismiss Steffen’s mistake as a one-off, but he made a similar error against Jamaica, although that one went unpunished. And what of the U.S. team’s ability to score goals? The Americans probably will have no problems doing that against Guyana, but what about the more difficult games that will follow?Then there is the troubling matter of the team’s competitiveness. This is an issue that Berhalter brought up after both of the recent friendlies. That used to be a calling card of the USMNT. Now it seems to come and go like the wind.It’s as if there are too many balls in the air right now for Berhalter to juggle.The team did what it could to put a positive light on what transpired.”The games showed us what we need to work on, that’s a good thing,” Steffen said. He later added, “It’s all up here, it’s all mental. It’s really just about everyone buying into that system.”Trapp added, “From the midst of adversity, we have to respond and build character, and that’s what it’s about. Are we happy with the results? Absolutely not. Are the fans happy? Absolutely not. But all we can control is getting on the field, training, and having time together to work through these things.”Is there enough time to do that? It seems unlikely, but Berhalter & Co. have nine days to figure it out.
Berhalter: Won’t scrap tactics after USMNT loss
6:18 PM ET Jeff Carlisle U.S. soccer correspondent
CINCINNATI — U.S. men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter said his staff and players “need to be calm” and that he won’t scrap his system in the wake of the Americans’ 3-0 defeat to Venezuela.
The match was intended to serve as the final tune-up for the U.S. ahead of the Gold Cup, which opens for the Americans on June 18 when it takes on Guyana in St. Paul, Minnesota. What transpired instead was a brutal performance that saw the U.S. fall behind by three goals within the first 36 minutes.”I think we need to be calm,” Berhalter said. “I think we need to look at the game, look at what we need to improve on, and then set out to do it. It’s really tough after a result like this and start making excuses. I don’t really want to do that. But what I’d say is we’re still getting guys where they need to be, and we’re not there yet, and that’s pretty clear. So we’re going to keep working on it.Salomon Rondon scored the first of his two goals in the 16th minute following a wayward pass from U.S. keeper Zack Steffen, though there was a strong hint of offside in the buildup. Jefferson Savarino doubled La Vinotinto‘s advantage in the 30th minute, scoring from his own rebound after his initial effort hit the post. Rondon grabbed a second six minutes later when he latched onto a long pass from Tomas Rincon, evaded the attentions of Aaron Long, and rifled his shot past Steffen.For the Venezuelans, the win provides a boost ahead of the Copa America in Brazil, which kicks off on Friday (watch all matches on ESPN+ in the U.S.).For the U.S., it was a sobering performance with the Gold Cup nine days away, and one that came on the heels of another disappointing defeat against Jamaica four days ago.”We talked about wanting to be more aggressive, wanted to get behind them, wanted to get balls into their penalty box. I think to a certain extent we did that really well,” Berhalter said in his post-match press conference. “We gave up the goals. I didn’t love the response. And then, I don’t feel like for 90 minutes we competed on the level that we needed to compete on; the mentality. I’m understanding that it’s hot, that guys some have been playing 90 minutes every week for the last month, some have been on vacation and we’re getting everyone to where they need to be. But you still want more competitiveness, I think. It starts with putting guys in good positions to be able to make tackles and to do in on duels.”But Berhalter said he wouldn’t be scrapping his system as a consequence of the two recent defeats. Linchpin Christian Pulisic is still working his way back to full fitness after getting two weeks off. Tyler Adams is also getting a break and won’t join up with the team until June 11, while Michael Bradley is still recovering from a hamstring injury. Jozy Altidore played just 45 minutes. All four will be expected to start once the tournament begins. But Berhalter was keen to defend the players who played in this match.”The guys worked hard. They gave what they had. They came up short,” Berhalter said. “And it doesn’t mean that we’re going to scrap all the plans. We’re always evaluating, we’re always seeing how effective we can be, and where we need to improve. And we’re just going to continue that process.”One bright spot for Berhalter was the second half introduction of Altidore, who looked active and helped out the U.S. attack with his passing and movement. “It’s what I’ve said all along about Jozy. He has top quality,” Berhalter said. “His ability to combine with players, his ability to see passes, his ability to hold the ball up, he’s a real quality striker. It would have been nice to get him a goal. I think we moved a lot of balls into the penalty box in the second half and it was unfortunate that he wasn’t on the end of one of those. But overall, it’s exciting to think about his quality coming back into the team.”But Berhalter is well aware of the negativity surrounding the U.S. team at the moment, one that is still reeling from the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.”Obviously, I know what the narrative is going to be, that we have no chance [at the Gold Cup], that we’re going to lose or maybe not even make it out of the first round,” he said. “That’s fine. We’ll deal with it.”
Steffen 2/10, Long 3/10 as U.S. thrashed in final Gold Cup tuneup
4:57 PM ETJason DavisU.S. soccer writer
Coming off a depressing loss to Jamaica on Wednesday night in Washington, Gregg Berhalter and the United States men’s national team needed a strong performance Sunday against Venezuela in Cincinnati to reclaim some confidence ahead of the Gold Cup.They did not get it.Thanks to a series of defensive errors in the first half and an attack that failed to break through Venezuela’s deep-lying defense, the Americans fell 3-0 in front of 23,955 at Nippert Stadium.
The international debut of Tyler Boyd and the return of Jozy Altidore stand out as the lone positives on an otherwise disastrous day for the Americans on the eve of the Gold Cup. Boyd’s first appearance for the U.S. showed small signs of promise, while Altidore made a significant difference with his hold-up play and passing in the second half.
Too many to count. The U.S. was toothless and sluggish against Jamaica and did not improve in either category against Venezuela. Simple errors at the back and an inability to press effectively as a team handed the South Americans easy opportunities to score. Whatever improvement there was at the back in the second half was undercut by the visitors’ willingness to sit back and an American attack that rarely created meaningful threats.
Manager rating out of 10
3 — The USMNT was missing Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, and Michael Bradley — the first is not yet with the team, the other two were held out — but those absences don’t excuse a loss like this just nine days before the start of the Gold Cup. Energy and effort were in short supply, something that falls squarely on Berhalter’s shoulders. The system installed by the USMNT boss seems fragile and overly dependent on the influence of a few players.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Zack Steffen, 2 — Horrific giveaway — a second egregious error in two games — gifted Venezuela the opening goal and took the air out of the United States early in the game. Oddly adventurous, a trait that bodes ill for the tourney.
DF Nick Lima, 5 — Mixed bag in attack as he provided a handful of good crosses that went unfinished. Recovered well enough to provide adequate defending when Venezuela countered.
DF Aaron Long, 3 — Poor in individual moments when defending and was beaten soundly on Venezuela’s third goal by Salomon Rondon. Struggled with aerial duels. Missed just a single pass, an indicator he was passing the ball very conservatively.
DF Matt Miazga, 4 — Improved in the second half, but played a disastrous first 45. Beaten on a header that led to Venezuela’s second goal and kept Rondon onside on the third.
Zack Steffen’s first-half mistake was just one of a number of blunders from the USMNT on Sunday vs. Venezuela. Getty
DF Tim Ream, 5 — Mostly competent, but struggled when facing quicker players. Played conservatively, rarely getting forward.
MF Wil Trapp, 3 — Rarely passed upfield, choosing to play negatively for most of the match. Complicit when failing to press the ball on Venezuela’s second goal and gave the ball away easily on more than one occasion.
MF Tyler Boyd, 4 — Some good and some bad in an international debut. Provided good set-piece service but was ineffectual with crosses and combinations when on the attack.
MF Weston McKennie, 4 — Saw the best chance of the first half saved, but had a limited impact on the game overall. Played only 22 passes in 90 minutes and lacked his usual energy on both sides of the ball.
MF Cristian Roldan, 5 — Worked to carve out opportunities to get the ball forward on the right side, working well with Lima and Boyd. Unable to create real chances with passing in the final third.
MF Paul Arriola, 4 — Made runs in behind to try to open up Venezuela when the U.S. labored with the ball in midfield. Energetic and good defensively but not sharp enough with the ball.
FW Gyasi Zardes, 4 — Limited by a lack of service, he provided help defensively tracking back, but was ineffective as part of a disjointed (and haphazard) press. His hold-up play left a lot to be desired.
FW Jozy Altidore, 6 — Improved the U.S. dramatically dropping in and playing runners into the final third. Missed on a touch in the 66th minute that might have led to a chance. No shots.
DF Walker Zimmerman, 4 — Picked up a yellow card immediately upon entering in the second half but made no obvious mistakes in his 45 minutes on the pitch.
MF Duane Holmes, N/R — Showed an ability to press space and move the Americans forward without making a dramatic difference in attack. Gave the ball away late in the match.
MF Jordan Morris, N/R — Managed one well-struck shot (wide) cutting in from the right. Got in behind and stretched the defense.
DF Daniel Lovitz, N/R — No significant moments in 12 minutes for the Montreal defender.
How personal turmoil helped Abby Wambach find her voice in retirement
NEW YORK – She still looks quintessentially like Abby Wambach, with the signature bleach-blonde mohawk and the tall, muscular frame. She still talks like Abby Wambach. That is to say, a lot and with great gusto and flair. She still is Abby Wambach, the world-record holder for international goals, male or female; the 2015 Women’s World Cup winner; the two-time Olympic gold medalist; the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year; the first-ballot Hall of Famer.It’s just the setting that’s different.
Wambach stands before a crowd that’s come to watch her. But this isn’t a soccer stadium, where she would wear down opponents with her bruising physicality and hammered headers. Instead, she takes a seat in one of two comfy chairs – literally between two ferns – arranged to face an amphitheater on the ground floor of PayPal’s New York City headquarters.More than a hundred employees sit on the long rows of benches. They munch on the bagels and lox and sip from the assorted coffees set out in the sleek lobby. There’s an actual gas pump in the next room, to reflect that you can pay with PayPal at the gas pump as part of their partnership agreements.It’s Pride Month, and we’re less than five blocks from the Stonewall Inn, the iconic gay bar in Greenwich Village. So Wambach has been asked to come give a “Fireside Chat” with the company’s CEO, Dan Schulman, who is wearing jeans and cowboy boots, just in case it wasn’t abundantly clear that this is a tech company. Cameras are set up to beam the talk to offices in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Brazil and elsewhere.Wambach understands innately how to move through this corporate space. She’s been doing it a lot lately. She proclaims herself a “huge fan” of Schulman’s and seems sincere about it. She compliments PayPal several times on everything it’s been doing to achieve gender equality.A few parents brought their kids. Some U.S. Women’s National Team jerseys dot the crowd. Wambach begins to talk.
It didn’t occur to Wambach that she would have to reinvent herself until she’d been anointed an icon. In 2016, eight months after she’d retired following the celebration tour on the back of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, ESPN gave her, Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant its Icon Awards at the ESPYs. That’s when she realized that whereas Manning and Bryant only need worry about how to fill all that leisure time, she had to build a new career.“At night, I was laying in bed and really trying to understand, ‘How could this happen? I just represented my country. I have a world record. I have gold medals. I’ve won a World Cup,’” Wambach recalled. “These guys, their hustling days just finished and mine are just beginning. Their biggest worry was where to invest their hundreds of millions of dollars – of which they earned every penny. And I was trying to figure out how I was going to pay my mortgage.“I was really trying to figure out what the hell I was going to for the rest of my life,” Wambach continued. “As a soccer player, I reached the highest highs. How could I replicate that? Why would I even try? I was just really struggling and abusing alcohol.”When soccer ended for her, after 256 national team appearances and an obscene 184 goals, Wambach fell into an abyss, just like a lot of other longtime athletes. She drank to excess and took prescription pills. She went through a divorce. She was arrested for DUI. “It was literally the worst thing that had ever happened to me, the most embarrassed I had ever been,” Wambach remembered. “It was all over ESPN.” She took pictures of how many days in a row her arrest was on the ticker, just to remind herself later.Wambach called her mom from jail and promised to somehow turn it all into something positive. She’s been sober since that night. “I had to go through a lot of self-work to get to where I am now,” she told the rapt PayPal audience.After her very public humiliation, Wambach stepped out of the public eye. She fell in love again and remarried, to author Glennon Doyle. She became a “bonus mom” to her three step-children and moved to Florida. She coached her 10-year-old stepdaughter’s soccer team. To the title game, of course. But late on in the season, it transpired that at least some of the girls had no idea who she was, or had been. When they found out, they asked if that meant she knew Alex Morgan.The DUI was indeed a tipping point.“Everything good in my life has happened because of that moment,” Wambach said. “Because of this really bad thing that happened, that forced me to make changes. The Barnard speech would never have happened.”
So about the Barnard speech, the genesis of all this.A year ago, Wambach was asked to give the commencement speech at Barnard College, the elite women’s college at Columbia University.“At 36 years old, I was able to sit down and really write down and figure out what I believed to be true about the world and what I wanted to do with it,” Wambach tells Yahoo Sports. “And I feel really grateful that the message is being received at some level.”The speech, about how women are less Little Red Riding Hood than the Big Bad Wolf and how the female graduates should band together as a wolfpack, was not just well received. It went viral. The speech begat Wambach’s motivational book, Wolfpack: How to come together, unleash our power, and change the game. And the book begat a business.That’s how Wambach finally discovered her second calling. As a motivational speaker, women’s rights activist and gender equality consultant, all rolled into one. She regularly gives corporate talks like this one, telling stories about her career and life and encouraging women to ask for things: a raise, more responsibility, more seats at the table, more of whatever.Wambach sometimes took speaking engagements during her playing career, but now she’s turned it into a business.“Corporate America and corporate cultures are interested in knowing what I know about leadership because of my time on the national team,” she says. “And because of that, I was able to go around doing enough of these speeches that not only was I able to work on my public speaking, but I also learned that there was a void in all of these companies that I was talking to.”Some weeks, she now does multiple events, her message resonating in the time of #MeToo and the ongoing fight for gender equality and equal pay. She commands about $50,000 per appearance, according to her agent.She goes on extended book tours. And her company, Wolfpack Endeavor, creates programs to help mentor women and change the culture of companies. One such program at Verizon Media – full disclosure: Yahoo Sports is owned by Verizon Media – went through multi-day modules on “communication,” “self-reflection” and “emotional intelligence” and just graduated its first class. The idea is to send waves of women up the corporate ladder to begin to alter the fabric of companies from the inside. “It’s about getting more women at seats at tables where decisions are made,” Wambach explains.“It’s not a job per se,” Wambach says about the new career she’s crafted. “Finding a purpose feels a lot like this is what I’ve been meaning to do this whole time. I never sat down and figured this stuff out. Now I feel like I’m finding my lane and the thing I was put on this planet to do. It doesn’t make you worry about what the outcome is. Because when you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing all that other stuff is bonus and byproduct.”
If you’d spent any time at all around Wambach during her playing career, none of this will have come as a surprise to you. She always was a gifted talker. As a reporter covering the women’s national team, all you really had to do was ask her a broad question and turn on your recorder. Job done.U.S. head coach Jill Ellis remembers a game against France at the 2012 Olympics, when the Americans had gone down 2-0 early on. At halftime, the coaches could hear Wambach from outside the locker room, stirring her teammates with a rousing speech. So they waited until she was finished before going in. The U.S. won 4-2.“Having heard Abby many times in the locker room when I was the assistant and as the head coach, I knew she had that in her – her ability to command a locker room and inspire people, and not just by her actions, but also by her words,” Ellis says. “I think Abby was born to do this. She’s very good off the cuff, finding the right words and framing things in the right way that can connect to people. I saw it in the locker room. It didn’t matter if it was a brand new player or it was a seasoned veteran. She could adapt and reach everybody.”USA midfielder Morgan Brian only overlapped with Wambach for a few years, but she was there for that period around her final World Cup when the towering striker was on the team as much for her impact as a supersub as to inspire.“That was a large role for her, to be a motivational presence,” Brian says. “She has always been able to speak in front of people and to relay messages and what she wants to get across and articulates her words very well.”Alex Morgan, Wambach’s longtime strike partner, chuckles when asked about the latter’s capacity to persuade.“Abby could convince anybody on anything, whatever it is,” she says. “Whether she’s selling a product or a motivational speech, you buy into what Abby is saying. She has so much passion in what she says and says it with such grace. She really encouraged us and motivated us with those speeches. So I just see how that transitioned so fluidly.”
Now Wambach is telling the PayPal crowd, still paying close attention some 45 minutes into the event, about the way all those years in a locker room informs her current work.“Growing up in that environment taught me about different personalities, rubbing against each other. How to communicate,” she says. “How to get the best out of a group of folks. For whatever reason, I think it’s allowed me to sociologically become obsessed with how people connect and communicate and interact.”And then she reveals something interesting and fundamental about herself. How, as the youngest of seven children, all of them good athletes, she’s been fighting for attention all her life, whether it be with her goals or her words. “I’m a performer,” she says. “If anybody is watching me do anything, I’m like, ‘Yes, this is amazing.’ So now I do this. And this is basically me saying, ‘Mom! Watch!’ I just have made a complete career of doing that and I think that that has a lot to do with wanting to get attention from my parents.”What a very Abby Wambach thing to say. Funny. Introspective. Honest. Insightful. It’s what’s made her such a compelling speaker all her life. It’s what has given her life purpose again.Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist and a sports
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