Wednesday, July 25, 2012

America's Real Dream Team Starts With A Win

The US National Women's Soccer Team started out defense of its Olympic Gold Medal today with a 4-2 win over France.  Their next game is Saturday morning (US time).

How many United States citizens even knew the team was playing today, even though it was covered on live TV (NBCSP)?  How many people in the US even know the team exists?

Our Women's National Team is the most dominant national team in the world, and has been for years.  It is front page news in the sporing world when they don't win a game.  They are certainly favorites to win Gold again.  Since soccer was added as an Olympic sport, our women have won 3 of the 4 Gold medals awarded.

The Women's team has the most dynamic, powerful, and feared pair of forwards in the game - Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan.  They have arguably the best goalie in the world, Hope Solo.  When they play their game, no one in the world can beat them.

They are truly America's Team.  These women don't do it for the money, which for the most part is very little.  They do it for their country and their teammates.  We, as a nation, should be proud of them and be supportive of them.

However, other sports garner more attention.  Most of the coverage is given to that 'other' Dream Team - the pack of NBA superstars who come together for a week or so, and try to astound TV audiences by putting on a dunking exhibition.  When the Olympics are over, they will all go back to their multi-million dollar contracts, their sneaker deals, and their entourages of clingers.

The women?  Well, most of them will go back to practicing and participating in the occasional national team game.  Since the women's pro soccer league in the US failed this past season (for the second time), very few otf them will have a chance to play for pay - and those few will be in overseas leagues.  Only a handful have endorsement deals that will provide them a living.  They'll be forgotten, for the most part, until the next Olympic games come around.  Or for the diehard soccer fan in the US, the next women's World Cup (2 years).  Most of them will continue with their 'normal' lives until the next time they are called on to respresent their country.

C'mon folks.  Watch their games, and support them, even if it is in front of your TV.  These girls deserve our support, for they are representing us.

Photo Credit AP
Update - Game 2, the US girls defeated Columbia 3-0.  The game was fairly competitive in the first half, but the US got pissed when a Columbian player through a blind side roundhouse right and connected with Abby Wambach's face.  In spite of Abby's eye swelling closed, the ref and her assistants decided not to do anything about it - I hope because they didn't see it, but since it was in the middle of the field, I don't see how.  FIFA has the right to view the tape after the game and punish the violator by banning her from the next game, if they choose to do so.  If they do, OK.  If they don't, then take it that FIFA and the Olympics have it in for our girls. 

Update - FIFA hit the Columbian player who slugged Abby with a two match suspension, effectively kicking her out of the Olympics.  Good for them.  She got off lightly, too bad Abby can't meet up with her in a local bar!  A mad Abby Wambach is not something you would want to run up against!  Here's a pic Abby tweeted of her black eye.

Update - Game 3 saw the US defeat North Korea 1-0.  It was played in the rain at Old Trafford, home of the famed Manchester United (this was the first women's international game ever played at the famed old venue).  The girls missed several good chances in the first half, then settled back into a defensive game, fighting the rain as well as the opponents.  Our girls advance to the quarterfinals, and will play this Friday at 9:30am EDT.

Update - Game 4, quarterfinals.  Our girls beat New Zealand 2-0, though it was closer than the score indicates.  It was competitve until the last few minutes.  The poor New Zealand goal tender was heroic while getting pummeled.  In the first half, while making a sliding save, Abby tried to jump over her and didn't quite make it, dragging her back cleats across the poor girl's face.  Completely accidental.  In the second half, the goalie and Alex Morgan came at each other at full speed trying to beat each other to the ball.  Alex went high, the other girl low.  Alex's knee caught the girl flush in the face at full speed.  I've never seen someone's head snap back so quickly.  Both of them went down.  Medics were moving onto the field even before the ref blew the whistle.  The goalie was knocked out, and completely motionless.  After a few minutes, they got her awake, she shook it off, and completeld the game. 

The girls will face Canada on Monday in the next round.

Update - USA 4, Canada 3, in one of the most exciting soccer matches I've seen.  Our girls dominated the entire game, but gave up 3 goals to Canada's leading lady, Christine Sinclair.  Tied after full time, tied after the first overtime, and tied until 30 seconds to go in the second overtime, when a beautiful Alex Morgan header found its way over the Canadian goalie.  Canadians will be complaining about a controversial ref decision that led to the third US goal - US fans will think it was correct, Canadians will think they were screwed. 

Japan is next, for the Gold, on Thursday.

Update - The Canadians have melted down in the press in the aftermath of the game, accusing the ref of throwing the game for the US.  More info has come to pass on the controversy, which indicates the Canadian goalie was warned not once, but twice for time wasting prior to being called for it.  (The rule is that a goalie has to get rid of the ball within six seconds of taking possession of it - to cut down on time wasting by the team in the lead.  The Canadian was clocked on several occasions during the game taking over 15 seconds to do so.)  The Canadian goalie was whistled for blatantly violating an existing rule, multiple times.  Apparently, in Canada's eyes enforcing the rules is seen as favortism for the other team.

Also coming to light was the despicable behaviour of one of Canada's stars - Melissa Tancredi.  This very good player is about as dirty as they come.  she was whistled for almost 10 fouls during the game, somehow avoiding any car penalties.  Replays have shown that she purposely stomped on US player Carli Lloyd's head while Carli was on the ground.  These girls are wearing metal cleats - this cowardly attack could have permanently scarred Lloyd, or even taken an eye out.  If the ref had seen this happen, it would have been a straight red card (expulsion from the match). 

I used to have a lot of respect for the Canadaian women's soccer team.  No more.  Their coach, their goalie, and one of their stars are just plain douche bags.

Final Update - Well, by now you know our girls beat Japan 2-1 for the Gold.  Japan outplayed them for most of the game, and was victimized by two non-calls from the ref that could have changed the outcome of the game.  I applaud Japan's women for how they played, and how they comported themselves afterward and in the medal ceremony. 

Our team returns to the US with an uncertain future.  The next major meet is the World Cup, 3 years away.  The WPS folded, leaving most of them without a paying place to play soccer here in the US.  There is talk of another try at a pro league, but after two failures it is hard to see how it would succeed.  Some of the more talented members might go overseas to play, but the majority will not have that chance.  The US Soccer Federation has floated plans on keeping the national team together as a unit, giving them 25-30 matches a year.  That would be great, if funding can be found.  If a solution is not found, the ongoing excellence of this team is in danger.

Way to go,girls - thank you for representing us so well.

BTW - the US Women's Water Polo team captured its first Gold medal ever, playing at the same time as the soccer final.  Congratulations to them as well.

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