I’ve been enjoying the top end of the Women’s World Cup in Canada, particularly the two draws – Germany vs. Norway and United States vs. Sweden.
My sense is that the players are operating at a higher technical and tactical level than in the legendary era of the great American team holding off Linda Medalen, police-officer/captain of Norway, and the Chinese squad that seemed like the future but wasn’t.
The players I have been seeing can swing the ball from side to side in ways I don’t remember from the 1996-99 era of Akers-Lilly-Hamm and the rest. They know how to widen the field, find a seam, push a ball upfield through traffic.
Watching the Eurohooskies and the Yanks grappling in tight space also tells me they have been working on their WWF tactics necessary in the scrum.
It has been a delight to watch Megan Rapinoe take off on angled romps – clearly the most compelling player so far. She is quoted as saying she is doing her Messi impression, but I would compare her more to Cristiano Ronaldo. She’s got more pizzazz than Messi, or you could call it ego.
Sometimes Rapinoe holds on to the ball too long, missing a teammate, but then again she scored two goals in the opening victory. There is room for ego in this sport. Rapinoe seems to have a dash of Keyshawn Johnson, the receiver who was heard to say, “Just give me the damn ball.”
It’s funny. Before the World Cup, Rapinoe was recuperating, not discussed as a factor, but she is the engine of this team, so far, backed up by energetic younger players named Johnston and Klingenberg and Press and Sauerbrunn.
Abby Wambach is a niche player now. I thought she was coming in for a late header Friday, but her real aim may be drawing a foul in the box. She’s been watching the male strikers, who go down easily to juke the referee.
There is nothing wrong with learning from guys who are bigger, faster, stronger, and play a game that has been evolving for many decades. The other day I read an essay in the Times proposing lowering the basket in women’s basketball. This is totally nuts, because the women’s game is appealing as it is now – rare dunks, but much more power and elevation and gutsiness than a decade or two ago. The men’s game has become a dunkathon, with muscles. Raise their basket. Maybe that sport would be more watchable.
Soccer is still a sport of frustration and patience and trial and error, and once in a great when a footballer like Rapinoe takes a romp. Jogo bonito, personified.
6/14/2015 05:50:50 am
Yes, Rapinoe can be fun to watch. But it's been pretty clear to me that these USA women are nowhere close to being as good as the hype surrounding them. As for Wambach, I think the fact that she was allowed to prepare for a World Cup by playing pickup games and regular rounds of golf, instead of training and playing regularly for a club, says an awful lot. I can imagine what Bruce Arena would have to say about that.
6/14/2015 07:48:29 am
Does the name Landon Donovan strike a familiar chord?
6/14/2015 11:18:41 am
Indeed it does. Wambach was included in the World Cup team despite being visibly overweight and very short of actual match practice. Donovan was not included in the World Cup team, even though he had returned to training months before and was playing well and seemed to be doing everything that could have been asked of him. Whatever was going on between Klinsmann and Donovan I don't think it had that much to do with what he could do on the field. One of Klinsmann's biggest mistakes, in my view.
6/14/2015 10:37:14 am
Sorry to change sexes. I saw England/Slovenia today and had two impressions. First, it appeared from my inexpert eyes that the refs called a great game by being in the background. (I'm hoping it's a sign of great post-Batter things to come). Second, I'm impressed with Rooney. He ain't fancy but is deadly and warrants the attention he gets from the other team. Enjoyable.
6/14/2015 11:43:56 am
Brian, Blatter has been known to second-guess refs..and to change priorities from one event to another. But the refs are prepared uniformly, and have been brought into the electronic age, and the field ref has been conditioned to ask his "assistants" for help during a match. They've also had reffing scandals. (In Italy the big teams could ask for refs they liked.) As for Rooney, he has grown as a player..not sure he is a very savory person, but he has been a versatile and gritty player for Man U....GV
6/15/2015 01:42:01 am
Greetings from the 14th Street (Brooklyn) Block Association's Title IX-compliant world cup viewing tent. At last year's block party, we set up a tent, a big screen, a projector and an I-phone (sorry George) to run the ESPN feed of that afternoon's games (I seem tor recall something about Germany, and maybe Ghana, but definitely beer). Apparently, ESPN knows and blocks access when you are trying to use a personal account through a projection TV, but not if you are using a phone. Anyway, the question came up for this year's party: "What about the women's world cup?" And so we set it all up again on Saturday for England v. Mexico,
6/15/2015 03:20:35 am
Josh, what a nice scene. The communal part of soccer is great. I have memories of watching Euro 2004 in, of all places, Waterloo, during the Tour de France...and watching with disgruntled Dutch fans. It's nice to know that boys are watching women's soccer....They could take lessons from Rapinoe...and the English (haven't seen them yet)... Enjoy the WWC and don't get busted for electronic activity. GV
6/16/2015 04:54:22 am
Wambach is blaming artificial turf for the lack of goals. For once I find myself agreeing with something Alexi Lalas has said. That that is, basically, bullshit from someone who elected not to prepare properly to play in a World Cup. I wonder what her teammates really think? I suspect we will know once this event is over. It seems the coach has made her opinion clear, that Wambach is now a role player off the bench.
6/16/2015 07:29:06 pm
So Jill Ellis reversed course and gave Wambach the start against Nigeria. And it paid off. She scored a goal. Things are looking up, even if the USA still looks less than completely convincing. With Nigeria playing with one less player the USA couldn't capitalize on the numerical advantage.
6/17/2015 05:50:33 am
USA/Nigeria was interesting, at least. Wambach's goal was very nice, and the defense looked pretty solid, although there may have been a few lapses that a top team might have capitalized on. The one thing that frustrated me as a fan was what appeared to my inexpert eyes to be a lack of set plays by the forwards around the goal area. They looked more like an NHL-type dump it in and see what happens group, rather than a Russian-type (hockey) team that dictated the action with set passing where everyone knows where to be at every moment.
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.