Monday, July 18, 2011

The Bright side of the US WWC

First of all, hats off to the Japanese- an amazing tournament for them even as they came in as a sleeper pick, they showed tremendous ability in taking down favorites and hosts Germany, and outright beating down the third-place Swedes (who were the only team to outright beat the US), and tying the US twice to send it to PKs. Great heart, great ability, and surely a great salve for the nation recovering from tragedy. Btw, was anyone else touched that before each and every game they displayed that banner thanking the friends around the world for their support? Nicely done, there.

And for the US... yes, the penalty kick result was disappointing, and the fact that the US was minutes away from lifting the trophy (twice!) has to be heartbreaking for the members of the Women's team. It's as if all of the karma that USA spent in the Brazil game (late comeback won on PKs despite being outplayed) and against France (generally being out-passed and out-shot yet just not quite finishing - the sound of the ball hitting the pipes was less pleasing this time around) came back around against the Japanese. You then throw in the fact that one of the US' top offensive threats (Lauren Cheney) who had scored or assisted in four of the previous five games was almost instantly hobbled and eventually had to come off. And no discredit to the Japanese, but it's hard to look at the game or break down the stats and not think that the US was the better team that should have won. However, I would suggest that this was a tremendous success for both Women's Soccer and the US team in general. I won't say much about the Women's Soccer aspect (Hirshey has that covered), but it was a great tournament and a great final showed that soccer can about drama and scoring goals - this was certainly a far more exhilarating tournament than the 1999 World Cup where the US almost ran out of gas. After Michelle Akers went out in 1999, it was pretty clear that the Chinese were every bit as good and possibly better than the US. That wasn't the case here with the US after the injured Cheney was subbed out at halftime.

And the US doesn't quit, after dominating the first 30 minutes, and then reasserting itself after the loss of Cheney, it could've folded when Japan first tied it up. The US looked the better team through the OT, and still, it continued to look like it could pull off an outright win with late chances from Wambach and when Morgan was taken down late on her way to what seemed to be a winning goal, it was the 121st minute? The US team is making a name for itself with its level of endurance. Also, even though Wambach may have been the only player with the presence of mind to congratulate the victors, the US generally went out with class - the Japanese may have held them off for the PKs, but the US made them get issued first ever Women's World Cup red card prevent a winning goal - smart, but hardly laudable.

And finally, let's not forget that the US came in rather shakily - having to beat Italy in a playoff to assure its place in the WWC. And then, they looked like they might be heading for disappointment when they couldn't quite tie Sweden and faced Brazil in the first round. The US' thrilling success against Brazil and France made the nation sit up and notice the WWC again, and playing like the best team in the final of the WWC has re-established the Americans' international reputation as the heavyweight in Women's Soccer again. And furthermore, although we were already well aware of Wambach and Solo's dominance at their positions (I would submit them for all-time all-world), it was a coming-out party for Alex Morgan, who came into the Cup with a mere 16 caps, and just got better as the games went on. The US was familiarized with both domestic and international stars, which is great for the struggling Women's Professional League. Although I think Morgan (and perhaps Rapinoe) will be the US's next breakthrough marketing star, for the team it's good that the potent Lauren Cheney has also come into her own as a reliable creator, and best of all...

the Olympics await next summer!


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