7/31/21  US Men vs Mexico Gold Cup Final – Sunday 8:30 pm FS1, USA Women Win in PKs face Canada Mon 4 am on USA  

7/31  US Men vs Mexico Gold Cup Final – Sunday 8:30 pm FS1, USA Women Win in PKs face Canada Mon 4 am on USA  

US Men vs Mexico GOLD CUP FINAL Sunday 8:30 pm FS1  

WOW the 2nd half of the US 1-0 win over Qatar was fabulous full highlights.  The 85th minute goal by sub Zardes from sub Giochinni had been building up for the 20 minutes prior to the goal as Berhalter’s subs we spot on.  Roldan, Cannon and Zardes really made a difference in the final 20 minutes of the game as they put huge pressure on the Asian Cup Champions.  Listen this Qatar team is good – the best team in Asia – winners of the Asian Cup 2 years ago – tons of experience – the leading scorers and assist men in the Gold Cup.  But when Qatar missed the PK early in the 2nd half – the young US team grew up and found a way to win it.  GK Matt Turner stood on his head and kept the US in the game – in the first half with 3 SPECTACULAR Saves –  as the US gave up way too many shots in the first half. (He’s making his bid to put the pressure on Coach to consider him as a starter come Qualifying time especially if he can keep the US in the game vs Mexico.  (Listen Turner starts and plays 90 minutes every game for New England – so having him start over 2 guys sitting on the bench in Horvath and Steffan may not be so crazy).  But back to this game – I thought Hoppe was good again tonight in his 75 minutes along with Sam Vines at left back.  Dike, and Arriola just didn’t work up top.  Hopefully Dike is hurt – because he did not look good.  (I love that Coach B started him again because he’s giving his young guys chances to get better- but he’s simply not ready yet.)  Zardes was great off the bench along with Giochinni – both might deserve starts vs Mexico or perhaps Hoppe at the #9.  For the US this was the youngest/least capped team to ever start a Gold Cup knockout game – much less a Semi-Final with a berth vs Mexico on the line. 

Now can this team beat Mexico?  Wow – Mexico brought their A team and coach Tata Martino is under a lot of pressure right now – honestly if he loses – they might fire him.  I think Mexico has too much against our very young B/C team but Canada took them to the wire Thurs night when Mexico needed a 99th minute goal to win 2-1.  Full highlights  If the US can keep it close – 2-1 loss maybe?  That would be huge – and if Matt Turner stands on his head in Vegas – in what will be a 70/30 Mexican ROAD GAME then Berhalter will have really proven he’s making some serious progress on building the US program back up.  Remember the US has not lost on US soil in 13 games – but this will be THE BIGGEST test especially without our European starters.  Either way – I am fully back on board – this young, exciting US Men’s team deserves your time, deserves you buying back in again !! Go USA !! Oh and by the way tickets will be on sale soon for US Men Qualifying games in Columbus Oct 13 vs Costa Rica (Anyone wanna roadtrip??) and in Cincinnati vs Mexico on November 12.  Interesting to see the US Men putting their opinion out regarding the equal pay argument as they support the US ladies

Here’s my starting line-up for Sunday night vs Mexico  I like Mexico 2-1 (refs will give Mexico a PK)

Zardes

Hoppe //Arriola 

Lletget //Williams

Acosta

Vines/Robinson/Sands/Cannon

Matt Turner

Full USMNT roster for 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup

Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

Defenders (8): George Bello (Atlanta United), Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Shaq Moore (Tenerife), Donovan Pines (D.C. United), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), James Sands (New York City FC), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids),

Midfielders (6): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

Forwards (6): Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Daryl Dike (Orlando City), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen), Matthew Hoppe (Schalke), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

US Ladies vs Canada USA Network Mon 4 am Semi-Finals

Thank goodness I was wrong – I thought the Dutch would beat us 3-2 and in the 85th minute I looked to be right as the Netherlands got a PK.  But US GK Alyssa Naeher proved once again that she is probably the least respected yet one of the best Goalkeepers in the world.  She dove and made the save to keep it tied.  GK Naeher Saves US vs Netherlands Then as the US went to penalties – she did it again saving the first against the leading scorer in this game and this tournament Dutch’s Vivianne Miedema before making the 3rd save sending the US into the Semi-Final against Canada who also won on penalties.   Coach A surprised everyone by starting winger Lynn Williams, the 2nd leading scorer in NWSL history, on the right side and sending Heath to the left with Lloyd up top.  The combo was effective as Williams scored the Brace in her first legit action in this tourney.  (She’s been injured some).  The Dutch were lethal most of the game  peppering Naeher from all over the field.  Miedema (10 goals) scored two goals as she bossed America’s center backs Sauerbrunn and especially Dahlkemper most of the night.  Dunn was strong defensively in helping especially in the 2nd half when the game really opened up.  Coach A may have been thinking PKs as he sat some of our top scorers – as subs Morgan, Press and Rapino all scored from the spot to close out the game.  I don’t think Canada is as good as the Netherlands – but this is still a huge game with Sweden probably waiting in the Gold Medal game. 

About Canada – They got out of their group with a win (Chile) and two draws (Great Britain and Japan), and then played a goalless 120 minutes with Brazil before besting them in the shootout. We most recently faced them back in February in the SheBelieves Cup, winning 1-0 c/o Rose Lavelle. That match didn’t feature Christine Sinclair, the all time leading scorer in the known universe. This one very likely will. Three of her 187 goals for Canada came in the 2012 Olympics semifinal match, which … well, if tomorrow’s match is half as nuts as that one was, it’ll be a classic. Win, and we play Sweden or Australia again for the gold. Lose, and we play Sweden or Australia again for the bronze.

Here’s the team I would send out if I were coach A against Canada Monday morning.  Dahlkemper really struggled – she has to come out this game.  I like getting Press back into the starting line-up and giving Williams a shot up top – she’s plays the 9 for her club and maybe she’ll actually stay onsides unlike Morgan and Lloyd.  (The US had 2 more goals called back on offsides for an Olympic Record 9 goals wiped out to the flag.) 

Announcer Arlo White was classic when he said – the Americans would like to get their HANDS ON THAT FLAG – man he’s good!!  Horan needs a rest at mid and Kristie Mewis deserves a run along with Lavelle in the middle. 

My Starting Line-Up Monday – US Wins a tight one 2-1

Press/Williams/Heath

K Mewis, Lavelle

Ertz

Dunn/Davidson/Sauerbrunn/Ohara

GK Superwoman -Naeher

US Ladies Roster

GOALKEEPERS (2): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash)

DEFENDERS (6): Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit), Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars),

MIDFIELDERS (5): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Catarina Macario (Lyon),

FORWARDS (5): Tobin Heath (Unattached), Carli Lloyd (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Unattached), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage)

Olympics Local Ties

Lori Lindsey – a former US National Team Midfielder who is an Indiana Native and former Pike High School star who went to UVA has done a great job as an analyst on NBCSN for the Women’s Olympic Coverage.   Lori’s the blond with short hair giving us the half-time updates and occasionally serving as analyst on the non US ladies games.  Cool to see !! 

US Men    Sunday – 8:30 pm vs MEXICO FS1 Gold Cup FINALS

CONCACAF Gold Cup Final: Scouting Mexico


Zardes rewards Berhalter’s faith, wins Gold Cup semi for USMNT
  ESPNFC Jeff Carlisle
Gyasi Zardes’ goal pushes the USMNT past Qatar and into Concacaf Gold Cup final

USA squad blanks Qatar to reach Gold Cup final

Gold Cup: USMNT survives Qatar scare, sets up USA – Mexico final
Gold Cup: Mexico tops Canada, reaches final amid controversy involving homophobic chant

US Ladies –Mon 4 am USA vs Netherlands

Greatest Game Part 2? – Dan Wetzel Yahoo Soccer
Why USWNT won’t get an easy game vs. Canada in Olympic semifinal
  ESPNFC
Caitlin Murray
Opinion: Canada believes it can beat USWNT in Olympic semifinals. Except it rarely has

GK Naeher Saves US vs Netherlands – the 18
Vlatko Andonovski’s big gamble paid off in setting up USWNT showdown with Canada

U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Advances to Olympic Semifinals After Close Win Against the Netherlands

How USWNT beat dangerous Dutch: Naeher No. 1, Williams takes her chance  ESPN – Caitlin Murray

Video  USWNT wins thriller vs. Netherlands, Team USA swimmers make statements in and out of water | What You Missed  

The USWNT needed a hero, up stepped Alyssa Naeher

U.S. Women’s Soccer Goes Where It Hasn’t Gone In 9 Years After Win Over Netherlands

The hero of the US Women’s Soccer knockout stage win took a winding journey to Tokyo after a 2019 World Cup snub

Re-Watch USWNT’s Full Shootout vs. Netherlands, with Red Stars Goalie’s Diving Saves
Opinion: Alyssa Naeher lets her play do the talking in USWNT’s win over Netherlands at Tokyo Olympics

U.S. women’s soccer team edges Netherlands on penalty kicks to advance at Olympics

USWNT uses penalty kicks to escape with quarterfinal win against Netherlands at Tokyo Olympics

Is Mexico the Best Men’s Team Left Standing?  

GAMES ON TV

Sunday, Aug 1

2:45 pm     Super Cup France Lille vs PSG (beIN Sport)

8:30 pm GOLD CUP FINAL USA vs Mexico FS1

Monday, Aug 2 Women’s Olympics

4  am        Semis – USWNT  vs Canada (USA)

7 am           Semis – Aust vs Sweden (USA)

Tuesday, Aug 3 Men’s Olympics

4  am         Semis – Mexico vs Brazil (NBCSN)

7 am           Semis – Japan vs Spain (NBCSN)

Wednesday, Aug6

8 pm          Indy 11 @ FC Tulsa myIndy TV, ESPN+

Thursday, Aug 5

4 am          Bronze Medal-Ladies (USA)

7 am           Gold Medal-Ladies (USA)

Saturday, Aug 7

7:30 am     Men’s Olympic Finals – (NBCSN)

12 noon Leicester City vs Man City Community Shield (ESPN+)

3 pm Troyes vs PSG (beIN Sport) French League 1

Sunday, Aug 8

8:30 am Fulham (Ream, Robinson) vs Middlesbrough ESPN+

7:30 pm     Indy 11 @ Atlanta United ESPN+

USMNT, Mexico meet in Gold Cup final with expectations high for differing reasons

Jul 31, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

LAS VEGAS — When the U.S. men’s national team and Mexico meet in Sunday’s 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup final, it will be the second time in 56 days that the longtime rivals have faced each other with a continental title on the line. And yet the two matches could not be more different in terms of the relative stakes involved.Back on June 6, the sides met in the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League final, and it was the U.S. in desperate need of a win because, for the entirety of manager Gregg Berhalter’s tenure, there had yet to be a victory that confirmed that the team was back on an upward trajectory. A statement was needed, not only to generate some confidence in the coach’s methods but also to give this generation of players something tangible to go with its undeniable talent. And, regardless of the wild sequence of events that took place during the game, the collective group stepped up, absorbed the pressure — and a bottle or two to the head — to ultimately walk away with a 3-2 win after extra time.As for Mexico, while the loss stung — they always do against the U.S. — there was a belief that Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s men had played well enough to win, having led twice and with the chance to make it 3-3 but for Ethan Horvath to save Andres Guardado‘s penalty. As it stood, El Tri would be back to fight another day. So what has changed heading into Sunday’s encounter at Allegiant Stadium? In a word: expectations.

The U.S. came into this tournament with an intentionally youthful, inexperienced roster, with one fundamental reason the desire to give presumptive first-team regulars — Christian PulisicWeston McKennieGiovanni Reyna and others — rest ahead of what is expected to be a busy season for both club and country.But there was also a need to get a better idea of how impactful up-and-coming members of the player pool could be at the international level. This is especially important given that triple-fixture windows dot the horizon for World Cup qualifying, which begins in September, and depth will be tested.Expectation-wise, this left the U.S. in a bit of a conundrum. Berhalter has said from the beginning that the goal was to win the tournament, regardless of roster construction. And yet there have been times when the team’s youth has been trotted out as an explanation for shaky performances.

A 1-0 group-stage win against Canada, who had a slight edge in experience but also fielded some new faces in the absence of stars such as Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, was seen as a case in point, yet it was not so much the young players who let the U.S. down that day but rather veterans who did not step up.In Thursday’s semifinal win, Qatar looked a cut above in the first half but were unable to find a way past the impressive Matt Turner in goal, which allowed the Americans to rally late in the game and seal victory through an all-important Gyasi Zardes goal.That this U.S. squad has reached the final speaks well of its ability to adapt, grow and grind out results. Moreover, while injuries to the likes of defender Walker Zimmerman, midfielder Paul Arriola and defender Reggie Cannon have limited options, they have also given Berhalter data points on players like Shaq MooreMiles RobinsonJames Sands and Matthew Hoppe.Given those developments, the U.S. would seem to be playing with house money on Sunday, although Berhalter denied that was the case in his pregame press conference. Its objectives have largely been achieved and little is expected against the pre-tournament favorite. Yet Berhalter wants his side to be greedy and finish the job.

“We’re not done, and that was the message to the team,” the U.S. coach said after the semifinal. “It’s nice to make the final, but we want to win the final. Our No. 1 goal is to win the Gold Cup. We said that before the Gold Cup, and we’ll say it again.”By contrast, the stakes for Mexico could not be more different. This is a game it dare not lose, even if it almost cannot win; beating a short-handed U.S. team to claim a 12th Gold Cup title would prove little, even if there are a players absent like Raul Jimenez and Hirving Lozano.But in the event of defeat, pressure would increase and doubts would be raised heading into World Cup qualifying. Would it even be enough to cost Martino his job?There has certainly been that impulse at times in the past, but the tenure of predecessor Juan Carlos Osorio is instructive. The Mexico Football Federation stuck by him after a 7-0 thrashing by Chile in the 2016 Copa America Centenario quarterfinals, and that patience and emphasis on stability was rewarded with World Cup qualification and a famous victory over holders Germany in Russia.This Mexico team has found a way to get results, even if the actual play has sometimes fallen short of its lofty standards. Jonathan dos Santos has been rallied around following the death of his father, and one would expect that its experience edge all over the field, but especially in a midfield led by Hector Herrera, will tell at some point.Berhalter noted how poor his side was in terms of winning duels against Qatar, with just 42.7%, while the tackle success was even worse at 30%. If that happens again, the likes of Rogelio Funes Mori should benefit and make it a long night for a back line that has performed so well.But the very nature of this long-standing rivalry means that another drama-filled chapter seems inevitable. Given the mental fortitude shown over the past few weeks by the U.S., as well as the must-win nature of the game for Mexico, expect another compelling encounter.

USA vs Mexico, 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup final: What to watch for

The two regional titans meet for another trophy.By Brendan Joseph  Aug 1, 2021, 10:07am

The United States Men’s National Team has the opportunity to win a second trophy this summer, progressing to the final of the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Once again, the opponent is Mexico, which Gregg Berhalter and an almost wholly different roster dispatched in June’s Nations League championship. The rivalry is renewed one again at Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada, the last remaining test in advance of World Cup qualifying.Neither team has looked completely convincing during the competition, an understandable state considering the squads range from the C+ to B+ range. The struggles have provided the opportunity for both managers to discover and integrate depth options, mild experimentation that should continue into the final. However, this is still the United States versus Mexico, with all of the elevated tensions expected from such a fixture. Both programs would receive a slight boost from winning this Gold Cup, although perhaps El Tri manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino would face more criticism after a second consecutive defeat.“We are calm to be in one more final,” the Argentine said in his press conference. “It is what always has to happen with Mexico and more because we know that it is not easy despite the favoritism. We are going to face the United States team. We have the United States jersey in front of us in another final and we will seek to win it.”

What To Watch For

Limit defensive mistakes. Playing in possession is always a risk, with harsh lessons ideally learned in less meaningful matches. The USMNT back line has made a few catastrophic mistakes in the defensive third. Opponents have thus far been unable to take advantage, failing to get past goalkeeper Matt Turner during the run of play. Mexico’s attackers, which includes elusive target man Rogelio Funes Mori, will not be as forgiving.

Keep pace. Outside of the rout against Martinique, there is a paucity of goals. Striker Daryl Dike appears to have hit a mild cold streak relative to his high standards and could probably use a break. If Mexico scores multiple times, the USMNT might not be able to keep pace. The team that finds the back of the net first will probably win.

Fullbacks will be tested. Sam Vines and Shaq Moore have been two of the better USMNT players at this competition, likely solidifying inclusion on future rosters. Both have been involved in the build-up while helping to put out defensive fires, although the occasional opponent counter attack has outpaced their arrival. This final presents their greatest test, as wingers Jesús Corona and Orbelín Pineda play high up the field and cut inside, making space for additional raids from overlapping fullbacks. The American defenders may be instructed to commit fewer runs forward, in turn limiting their influence in possession.

Lineup prediction

Berhalter has some interesting choices to make, particularly in light of recent results. The attacking group has experienced the most rotation throughout the competition, although the same lineup featured in both knockout round matches. Expect the same team except for a major change up top.

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/HrLmz9wkeEE8GiGXsrBfymG8iYI=/0x0:345x441/1200x0/filters:focal(0x0:345x441):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/22754533/Mexico.PNG

Predicted Lineup vs. Mexico (via LineupBuilder.com)

There is no sense in making any great alterations to the defense this late in the competition. Matt Turner has likely cemented himself as the permanent back-up or third choice at goalkeeper. The back line has continued to put in “bend but don’t break” performances, looking to see out one last match.The midfield could experience some changes, but Berhalter appears to have settled on this three as his preferred group. Mexico’s press will challenge Gianluca Busio, looking to force the young player into bad decisions. If the manager chooses to go with a more aggressive option, Cristian Roldan is available and put in an impressive performance against Qatar.The wingers appear established, as Paul Arriola overcame an injury and Matthew Hoppe displays intriguing positional versatility. After scoring the game-winning goal against Qatar, Gyasi Zardes could be rewarded with a spot in the starting lineup. Dike struggled to score outside of his brace against Martinique, possibly forcing Berhalter to instead select the veteran. Both players will likely feature, but the decision of which would serve as the greater impact substitution could wield the greatest influence over the result.

Prediction

The already precarious USMNT defensive depth was further stretched by the injury to Walker Zimmerman. James Sands has performed admirably, even stepping into a four-player back line against Qatar. Unfortunately for this group, Mexico simply has more talent and experience on the roster, handing Berhalter a 3-1 loss.

Gyasi Zardes rewards Gregg Berhalter’s faith, wins Gold Cup semifinal for USMNT

Jul 31, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

LAS VEGAS — When the U.S. men’s national team and Mexico meet in Sunday’s 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup final, it will be the second time in 56 days that the longtime rivals have faced each other with a continental title on the line. And yet the two matches could not be more different in terms of the relative stakes involved.Back on June 6, the sides met in the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League final, and it was the U.S. in desperate need of a win because, for the entirety of manager Gregg Berhalter’s tenure, there had yet to be a victory that confirmed that the team was back on an upward trajectory. A statement was needed, not only to generate some confidence in the coach’s methods but also to give this generation of players something tangible to go with its undeniable talent. And, regardless of the wild sequence of events that took place during the game, the collective group stepped up, absorbed the pressure — and a bottle or two to the head — to ultimately walk away with a 3-2 win after extra time.As for Mexico, while the loss stung — they always do against the U.S. — there was a belief that Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s men had played well enough to win, having led twice and with the chance to make it 3-3 but for Ethan Horvath to save Andres Guardado‘s penalty. As it stood, El Tri would be back to fight another day. So what has changed heading into Sunday’s encounter at Allegiant Stadium? In a word: expectations.

The U.S. came into this tournament with an intentionally youthful, inexperienced roster, with one fundamental reason the desire to give presumptive first-team regulars — Christian PulisicWeston McKennieGiovanni Reyna and others — rest ahead of what is expected to be a busy season for both club and country.But there was also a need to get a better idea of how impactful up-and-coming members of the player pool could be at the international level. This is especially important given that triple-fixture windows dot the horizon for World Cup qualifying, which begins in September, and depth will be tested.Expectation-wise, this left the U.S. in a bit of a conundrum. Berhalter has said from the beginning that the goal was to win the tournament, regardless of roster construction. And yet there have been times when the team’s youth has been trotted out as an explanation for shaky performances.

A 1-0 group-stage win against Canada, who had a slight edge in experience but also fielded some new faces in the absence of stars such as Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, was seen as a case in point, yet it was not so much the young players who let the U.S. down that day but rather veterans who did not step up.In Thursday’s semifinal win, Qatar looked a cut above in the first half but were unable to find a way past the impressive Matt Turner in goal, which allowed the Americans to rally late in the game and seal victory through an all-important Gyasi Zardes goal.That this U.S. squad has reached the final speaks well of its ability to adapt, grow and grind out results. Moreover, while injuries to the likes of defender Walker Zimmerman, midfielder Paul Arriola and defender Reggie Cannon have limited options, they have also given Berhalter data points on players like Shaq MooreMiles RobinsonJames Sands and Matthew Hoppe.Given those developments, the U.S. would seem to be playing with house money on Sunday, although Berhalter denied that was the case in his pregame press conference. Its objectives have largely been achieved and little is expected against the pre-tournament favorite. Yet Berhalter wants his side to be greedy and finish the job.

“We’re not done, and that was the message to the team,” the U.S. coach said after the semifinal. “It’s nice to make the final, but we want to win the final. Our No. 1 goal is to win the Gold Cup. We said that before the Gold Cup, and we’ll say it again.”By contrast, the stakes for Mexico could not be more different. This is a game it dare not lose, even if it almost cannot win; beating a short-handed U.S. team to claim a 12th Gold Cup title would prove little, even if there are a players absent like Raul Jimenez and Hirving Lozano.But in the event of defeat, pressure would increase and doubts would be raised heading into World Cup qualifying. Would it even be enough to cost Martino his job?There has certainly been that impulse at times in the past, but the tenure of predecessor Juan Carlos Osorio is instructive. The Mexico Football Federation stuck by him after a 7-0 thrashing by Chile in the 2016 Copa America Centenario quarterfinals, and that patience and emphasis on stability was rewarded with World Cup qualification and a famous victory over holders Germany in Russia.This Mexico team has found a way to get results, even if the actual play has sometimes fallen short of its lofty standards. Jonathan dos Santos has been rallied around following the death of his father, and one would expect that its experience edge all over the field, but especially in a midfield led by Hector Herrera, will tell at some point. Berhalter noted how poor his side was in terms of winning duels against Qatar, with just 42.7%, while the tackle success was even worse at 30%. If that happens again, the likes of Rogelio Funes Mori should benefit and make it a long night for a back line that has performed so well.But the very nature of this long-standing rivalry means that another drama-filled chapter seems inevitable. Given the mental fortitude shown over the past few weeks by the U.S., as well as the must-win nature of the game for Mexico, expect another compelling encounter.

USWNT won’t get reprieve vs. Canada in Olympic semifinals: Why this could be another classic in the rivalry

ESPNFC Caitlin Murray

After the U.S. women’s national team eked past the Netherlands, the reigning champions of Europe, following a grueling 120-minute slugfest and penalty shootout, it would be tempting to see Monday’s semifinal against Canada (4 a.m. ET) as a chance to take things easier. After getting clobbered by Sweden and landing in arguably the toughest quarterfinal of the Tokyo Olympics, Canada is the USWNT’s reward, right?

Not so fast. “This is probably going to be our hardest game: We know that, and we are preparing for it that way,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said Sunday. “It’s a semifinal — it’s four of the best teams in the world,” he added. “Regardless of who plays who, it will be a difficult game.” Whether Andonovski really feels that way deep down or not — cynics will surely doubt it — the U.S. ought to know better than to write Canada off. Here is a look at the history of these two teams, and why Monday’s semifinal could be an explosive one:

Could this be another Olympic classic?

It would be difficult to top the excitement of the USWNT’s quarterfinal match over the Netherlands, but the semifinal against Canada surely has the potential, especially considering what happened the last time these two sides faced off in an Olympics.If you’ve never seen the 2012 Olympic semifinal, then do yourself a favor and avoid spoilers, set aside 2½ hours, and go watch it. If you need your memory jogged: that was the wild back-and-forth shootout where Christine Sinclair scored a hat trick and the USWNT somehow came back three times to win 4-3. Alex Morgan scored the game-winner at the last possible moment in the 123rd minute.That match holds firm as a testament to the USWNT’s tenacity and never-say-die attitude, but it’s also the moment where Canada asserted itself as a top-tier team on the global stage. At the time, it was a bit of a shock to see the Canadians giving the Americans such a battle, but the Canadians earned a bronze medal in 2012, and then earned bronze again in 2016.”In 2012, we were kind of on a hope and on a prayer,” Canadian veteran Desiree Scott said Sunday. “We were hoping we could get to that match, but now we truly believe in ourselves and what we can do on a soccer pitch, and we believe we can get to that gold medal game.”What is perhaps most memorable about that 2012 semifinal at Old Trafford is the way Abby Wambach loudly counted into the ear of the Norwegian referee every time Canada’s goalkeeper, Erin McLeod, held the ball. After McLeod had been warned about time-wasting at halftime — there is a six-second limit on goalkeepers holding the ball that referees almost never enforce — Wambach counted to 10 and the referee blew her whistle, awarding an indirect free kick at the spot McLeod was standing. On the unusually close free-kick inside the box, the referee then called a Canadian defender for a handball, allowing Wambach to score a crucial penalty.As far as USWNT wins go, it was a messy one, but it was thanks in large part due to the gamesmanship and shamelessness of Wambach to needle the referee. That ref has never officiated in another major tournament since, but does the USWNT have another player like Wambach, willing to be a pest and do whatever it takes to win?The players have credited defender Kelley O’Hara as being the one who brings out the most aggression on the field — “I think we could all hear her voice the whole game,” Rose Lavelle said, as if she was putting it as politely as she could, after the U.S. beat New Zealand. O’Hara was also the one who gave a post-Sweden pep talk about being “absolutely ruthless” going forward.Then there’s Megan Rapinoe. Given her performances so far in Japan, it seems unlikely she will reprise her heroic role from 2012, but maybe she’ll dazzle for old time’s sake.The flagship game of Rapinoe’s career will surely be the quarterfinal against France at the 2019 Women’s World Cup — when the president of the United States tries to pick a fight with you and you then score two goals to shut him up, it’s hard to argue otherwise — but her 2012 Olympic semifinal against Canada is runner-up. She scored a pair of sensational goals, including an olimpico (at an Olympics!), and was an all-around menace to Canada.Another unforgettable aspect of that game? Canada’s brutal physicality, which included a pre-VAR incident of Melissa Tancredi stomping on Carli Lloyd’s head after she got taken out on a set piece.Canada’s game plan was pretty clear: do everything possible to disrupt the USWNT so they get frustrated and can’t get into an attacking rhythm. Monday’s semifinal will probably be a bruising affair again, but Canada is also plenty capable of bringing some extra sophistication.”Our team is completely different now,” Scott said compared to 2012. “We’ve developed as a program and the brand of soccer that we play has evolved. Now we’re an attacking threat: we’re not just that defensive Canadian grit.”

The one-sided rivalry due for a revival

The thing about that previous USA-Canada game is that it was the first time in the past 20 years the North American rivalry between these two teams has really felt real. That’s because Canada hasn’t beaten the United States since 2001. In their last 36 meetings, the USWNT won 30 of them and tied in six.As far as Canadians are concerned, the USWNT’s win at the 2012 Olympics deserves an asterisk because of the bizarre refereeing, and they are right. But at times it’s felt like optimism has fueled the rivalry. To wit, after Canada lost to the U.S. in 2019 Women’s World Cup qualifying, then-coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller was asked what it would take to close the gap with the Americans. His answer? “There is no gap.” He offered no further explanation.Ever since 2012, however, Canada has been firmly on the rise. In addition to their bronze medals at the last two Olympics, they reached the quarterfinals of the 2015 World Cup and the knockout stage of the 2019 edition after back-to-back group stage exits before that. Even if Canada covets the rivalry a bit more than the Americans do, it doesn’t matter — if one team plays like it’s a rivalry, the other one will have to follow suit.”It’s easy to get up for it because of the rivalry,” USWNT defender Casey Krueger said Sunday. “We know that they are going to bring their best and we have to do the same.”Although the Americans have comfortably had the upper hand in this rivalry and are the favorites heading into Monday’s semifinal, tournament soccer is often different, and Canada in particular has seemed to learn how to step it up on the world stage. The USWNT has played Canada more than any other team in history, and while that could be an advantage for the U.S., it’s certainly an advantage for the Canadians too.Canada’s coach, Bev Priestman, said that she, a non-Canadian, is more motivated by the last time the U.S. faced her team. In February, the U.S. barely eked out a 1-0 win after a tight match in which Canada did well to cut off the Americans’ chances for most of the game.”I do see the same opportunities available that we’d seen in February, so I’m excited,” Priestman said. “We have some freshness in areas where they don’t, which is critical in a game like this. The Canadian-U.S. rivalry is there — I don’t need to even talk about it, it’s a given. But more importantly, when you talk about having a strong vision and that driving everything, this is the game that changes the color of the medal.”There’s one more thing that stands out about that 2012 semifinal, and it’s the sheer brilliance of Christine Sinclair. She put the Canadian team on her back, scoring three goals while the supporting cast around her wasn’t nearly as talented.That’s still a bit of a future worry for this Canada team: once 38-year-old Sinclair retires, will the goals still come as often? The team does have quality attackers in Janine Beckie and Nichelle Prince, with fullbacks Ashley Lawrence and Alysha Chapman also adding attacking threat when they bomb forward. But Sinclair is irreplaceable.No man or no woman has scored more international goals on the planet than Christine Sinclair, who now boasts 187 goals for Canada. (She’s also two shy of tying Christiane’s record for the most goals in women’s Olympic play.) But crucially, Sinclair isn’t just a goal-scorer — she is the glue of the attack. It’s easy to see in Portland, where she plays for the Thorns, in the middle of the field: her vision for distribution is impeccable, she’s excellent at keeping possession in transition, and she sets up her teammates as much as she scores herself.The USWNT will need to limit Sinclair’s impact, in whatever form it comes. If not, Sinclair, who may be playing in her last Olympics, could be playing for a gold medal to cap off her international career.

USWNT’s Rose Lavelle on Alyssa Naeher’s Tokyo 2020 heroics: No one else I’d rather have in the net

12:20 PM ETESPN

United States women’s national team midfielder Rose Lavelle has said there is “no one else” she’d have in goal other than Alyssa Naeher, who stopped three penalties and made several other crucial saves in their Tokyo 2020 quarterfinal win over Netherlands on Friday.Naeher saved a penalty from Lieke Martens in normal time before saving two spot-kicks after the game ended 2-2 following extra-time.

“There’s no one else I’d rather have in the net than her,” Lavelle said. “She’s saved us so many times.”Netherlands were awarded a penalty on 80 minutes when Lineth Beerensteyn was brought down by Kelley O’Hara in the box. Martens stepped up to take the spot-kick but was denied by Naeher.The Chicago Red Stars keeper then saved two penalties from Vivianne Miedema and Aniek Nouwen to see the USWNT go through, 42, to the semifinal, where they will face Canada.”This team just kept pushing for 90 minutes, 120 minutes, and we just kept believing that we were going to find a way to get it done,” Naeher said. “Very proud of the four players to step up and score their four penalties to go four-for-four. That is huge.”Lavelle, Alex MorganChristen Press and Megan Rapinoe scored the USWNT’s penalties.”I just try to be calm,” Rapinoe said after the game. “I say to myself, the worst that’s going to happen is that we lose the whole thing.”Both Morgan and Press had found the net within four minutes of each other in extra-time which would have given the USWNT the lead but both were adjudicated to be offside.”I’m incredibly proud of them, proud of the way they handled, not just this game, but the way they’ve handled this tournament,” coach Vlatko Andonovski told a news conference after the match.”Coming in and losing the first game, and actually, not just losing but getting our butt’s kicked, it’s not easy for this team that is not used to losing. They’re not even used to having a bad game, and to lose like that was not easy.”It’s not easy to handle the pressure, to handle the loss, and to bounce back in to play the game that we did against New Zealand. That was not easy to do, to win by multiple goals and then to be disciplined enough to do something that is not quite who we are but to be disciplined enough to take it because it’s going to help us get to the point where we want to go.”Then to come in here and impose yourself from the first second, and literally I mean, I felt like we took the game over at the beginning of the game and showed who we are.”

With legendary core on its way out, USWNT will need guile to win gold in Tokyo

Dan Wetzel

Dan Wetzel·ColumnistSat, July 31, 2021, 5:38 AM·5 min read

Explore the topics mentioned in this article

TOKYO — When the United States women’s soccer team’s starting lineup was released ahead of Friday’s quarterfinal against the Netherlands, many fans were dumbfounded.The frontline that started the previous game against Australia — Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press — were all on the bench.Coach Vlatko Andonovski’s reasoning speaks to the underlying story of the Americans at these Olympics — if it’s legendary, yet aging, core is going to secure gold here in a last-dance, last-chance run to glory, it will be achieved through guile, strategy and duct tape. That includes the starting lineups.“I didn’t know if they started the game, if they would have been available at the end,” Andonovski said.It was the end, Andonovski correctly predicted, when they would be most valuable. As the 2-2 tie went to a shootout after 120 grueling, humid minutes, it was his veteran scorers (along with 26-year-old Rose Lavelle) who were most capable of rising up — rather than crumbling — under the pressure of the moment.Each was a second-half sub so they could do just what they did — step to the dot and bury shots into the back of the net, sending the U.S. to a semifinal showdown with Canada on Monday (4 a.m. ET).“If you noticed, those are the four players that took the penalty and scored,” Andonovski said.This is how it has to be for a team that is attempting — in its current form — one final run at a major international title. This crew has little to prove — they’ve already won two World Cups and an Olympic gold. But U.S. Soccer doubled down that an encore performance was possible.Rapinoe (age 36), Press (32) and Morgan (32) have a combined 520 appearances and 224 goals for the national team. They can still be great players, just not for 90, let alone 120 minutes, of grueling knockout-round play anymore.It’s the same for Carli Lloyd (39) and Tobin Heath (33), who started but were replaced by the others. Then there are backline mainstays Becky Sauerbrunn (36) and Kelley O’Hara (32). All but Press (who joined the team in 2013) won gold at the 2012 Olympics.

“2012 is a long time ago,” Morgan said.Back then no one wondered if she, or the others, could run for an entire game and still deliver late. Morgan was on her 123rd minute of play in the semifinals of those Olympics when she soared in the air to head in a game-winner against Canada in the semifinals. These aren’t tireless 23-year-olds anymore, though. They still have talent and tenacity and a will to win, but the challenges are different. Time is undefeated. It’s the opponents who have youth on their side.The Americans’ median age is 29.5. Canada’s is 26.“Right now it’s just getting our bodies ready,” Morgan said of the lack of rest days and quick turnarounds at the Olympics. “This tournament is incredibly short for six games.”That means Andonovski has had to find ways to find rest so the team isn’t shot in these later stages. All 16 of the active roster field players have started and 15 of them have also not started (only Crystal Dunn has begun each game).Andonovski even had to convince a notoriously competitive group to lay back in a 0-0 tie with Australia at the end of group play because that result was all they needed and they could preserve energy in the process.“We are disciplined enough to do something that isn’t who we are but will help us get to where we want to go,” Andonovski said. If that means the players best equipped to deliver on penalty kicks are fresh and ready, then so be it. Under the enormous stress of the situation on Friday, the Americans just shrugged. It was just another big moment in careers full of them.“[I just think], ‘The worst that is going to happen is you are going to lose the whole thing,’” joked Rapinoe. “’You are going to lose the Olympics for your country.’”

She laughed. That’s how you win shootouts. That’s why you have Megan Rapinoe in the game.There isn’t much public talk thus far about any potential finality to this tournament, but it’s there. By the time the U.S. heads to the 2023 World Cup in Australia, new blood will have to be pumped into the roster, perhaps drastically. Lavelle, at 26, is the youngest regular contributor. This isn’t a sport that is typically kind to 30-somethings.The greatness of this group is beyond reproach. They’ve been victorious. They’ve been dominant. They’ve been champions over and over.Now they are going for one last title, one last run for gold. No World Cup champ has ever followed up with an Olympic title. It may be their final accomplishment.It can’t be done the old way, though, just run them out and watch them run people over. You can see that in the starting lineup.

Let’s hope this USWNT-Canada Olympic semifinal lives up to the greatest women’s soccer game ever played

Dan Wetzel·ColumnistSun, August 1, 2021, 4:29 AM

TOKYO — Abby Wambach was desperate. A Christine Sinclair goal — her third of the game — had put Canada up 3-2 in the 2012 Olympic women’s soccer semifinal. Now the seconds, and the United States’ gold medal hopes, were melting away.And so Wambach did what he was always so brilliant at doing. She found a way to change the game … by counting.The referee’s decision that Wambach would inspire/force/bully would go on to infuriate the Canadians, give life to the Americans and set the stage for Alex Morgan’s epic winner in the 123rd exhausted, exhilarated minute to send the U.S. to the Olympic final, 4-3. They’d capture gold a few days later over Japan.It’s been hailed as the greatest women’s soccer game of all time. Comebacks. Heroics. Gamesmanship. Bitterness. Legacy.Nine years and two Olympics later, the two rivals, with plenty of familiar faces, meet again in the semifinals.“Are you guys hoping it’s like that again?” Morgan asked.Yeah, pretty much.Morgan’s goal — where she summoned the energy to win a Heather O’Reilly cross in the air and slip the ball just under the crossbar — is what is most remembered in the United States. In Canada, it’s what happened late in regulation, when Wambach managed to steal the game via clever referee manipulation.“We felt like we didn’t lose,” Sinclair said that night. “We feel it was taken from us … the ref decided the result before the game started.”Wambach was America’s all-time great goal-scorer and one of the most competitive athletes ever. Part of her game was to constantly seek any advantage in any way possible. Might be the intimidation of an opponent. Might be the working of a ref.“She’s well aware of the ‘dark arts,’” Riahn Wilkinson told the Globe and Mail in a 2015 retrospective of the game. “She uses them when she needs to.” Wilkinson’s comment wasn’t meant as a compliment. To Wambach, it might be.Either way, early in the contest Wambach noticed that Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod was trying to slow the game down by holding the ball for a long time before punting it away.For example, in the 27th minute, with the Canadians leading 1-0, McLeod held a ball for 16 seconds. The rule is no more than six seconds, although it is rarely, if ever, enforced, especially in a major international tournament.Wambach didn’t care. She later told Yahoo Sports that she began running toward Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen and counting as McLeod had the ball. In the 60th minute, McLeod held it for 17 seconds. In the 68th, about 15 — 10 or 11 of them while she was on her feet.Wambach said she would get into the teens, but Pedersen would ignore her. No whistles were blown.At halftime, though, an assistant referee had warned McLeod to be quicker on her kicks, but the goalkeeper told the Globe and Mail she assumed it concerned goal kicks.When the U.S. again trailed, 3-2, in the 78th minute, now with time drawing short, McLeod hauled in a Megan Rapinoe corner kick. Wambach again approached Pedersen and started counting.McLeod got possession of the ball at 76:36. She got up from the ground at 76:40. Wambach said when she got her count to 10, Pederson blew the whistle.The clock read 76:49, just as McLeod was kicking it away. Too late. Pedersen had called a delay and awarded the U.S. an indirect kick in the box.There was confusion and pandemonium at Old Trafford in Manchester — England’s ancient and storied “Theatre of Dreams” — where the game was played. The Canadians were confused. So were many Americans. No one on either team could recall such a decision.“The referee said I had the ball for 10 seconds,” McLeod said after. “She, obviously, counted the time when I was on the ground with the ball. Once I got to my feet, I calculated I only had the ball for five seconds.”It was at least nine, but you can understand McLeod’s immediate reaction.“Very harsh,” McLeod said.Sinclair and teammate Jonelle Filigno aggressively sought an explanation but got little they could accept. “[Pedersen] actually giggled and said nothing,” Sinclair claimed. “Classy.” Others couldn’t believe Wambach’s incessant counting had worked.

“I was by her when she was counting on that play,” Lauren Sesselmann told the Globe and Mail. “I wanted to punch her.”But she didn’t. No one did. Canadian coach John Herdman later said his team’s failure was not matching Wambach’s antics by either getting in her face, distracting the referee or, well, whatever it took. Of course, Wambach, at 5-foot-11, was an intimidating presence.Regardless, Rapinoe, who scored two brilliant goals that night, including curling in a corner kick (an Olympic Olympico), took the indirect kick. Her shot hit the arm of Canadian defender Mary-Eve Nault.The U.S. now had a penalty kick. Wambach would take it and, of course, make no mistake, banking a shot in off the left post. Just like that, it was 3-3.

Over the ensuing 40 minutes of regulation and extra time, there was a relentless back and forth, chances for both sides that just missed, crossbars and posts hit, incredible saves and inspired defensive stops, not to mention pushing, shoving, clawing and even more pushing.The game was a frenzy with Old Tafford (full of mostly neutral English fans) hitting states of delirium. At the 2019 World Cup, members of English women’s national team credited the game — its intensity, quality and dramatics — with helping the women’s version of the sport gain credibility in their country. Even skeptics of women’s soccer couldn’t deny this.Eventually, in the last moments, Morgan would end it.The United States won, the Canadians fumed.“[Pedersen’s] got that to live with,” Herdman said. “We’ll move on from this, I wonder if she’ll be able to.”“Put on your American jersey,” Canadian Melissa Tancredi said she told Pedersen. “That’s who you played for today.”For the Canadians, this was an upset denied. They hadn’t defeated their rivals in 11 years, a stretch that included 26 games. The Americans were the global powerhouse, rich with funding and talent, the chosen team of the establishment. They were … well, Canada.When they arrived that night for the game, the U.S. was given the opulent locker room of Manchester United, the stadium’s famed tenant. Canada got a small visitor’s space. The decision by Pedersen just played into it all. They would go into win the bronze medal, but it never felt right.One person with no regrets was Wambach. In this case, a woman whose 184 international goals were the most in the sport’s history (until Sinclair broke the record herself) figured out how to impact the game even when she didn’t even have the ball.“Yes [the call] is uncharacteristic,” Wambach told Yahoo Sports the next day. “But the rules are the rules. You can say it’s gamesmanship, you can say it’s smart, but I’m a competitor. We needed to get a goal. They’re trying to waste time, I’m trying to speed it up.“I wasn’t yelling, I was just counting,” Wambach continued. “I got to 10 seconds right next to the referee and at 10 seconds she blew the whistle.”

It was genius. Eventually even Herdman, the Canadian coach, would agree.“Good on her …” he said a couple days after the match. “She knows how to win matches … She’s a quality player who’ll do whatever it takes to win.”Both Herdman and Sinclair were “investigated” by FIFA for their comments about the refereeing. There are rumors of a heated exchange between Sinclair and Pedersen, but details are unknown. Sinclair eventually served a four-game suspension.Pedersen, meanwhile, returned to ref in Norway, but, according to the Globe and Mail, resigned from working international tournaments with FIFA in 2013, not long after the Olympics.The legacy of the game carries on. And now it’s back. Same two teams. A number of the same players (Sinclair, Morgan, Rapinoe).Same Olympic semifinals.So, yes Alex Morgan, one more like that on Monday, one more U.S.-Canada classic, would be quite fine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.