VIEW FROM THE ‘BURGH: WOMEN’S WORLD CUP PREVIEW: U.S. Looks To End Sixteen Year Drought

2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup – Group D – United States vs Australia

Winnipeg, Winnipeg Stadium – 7:30 p.m. (Broadcast TV: Fox Sports 1)

Gibsonia's Meghan Klingenberg and the U.S. Women's soccer team have their sights set on capturing their third World Cup.
Gibsonia’s Meghan Klingenberg and the U.S. Women’s soccer team have their sights set on capturing their third World Cup.

It may be hard to believe, but the United States Women’s Soccer team, for all their accolades and the hype that has accompanied them in recent decades, have not won a World Cup since their 1999 triumph on home soil.

Since their monumental World Cup victory witnessed before over 100,000 at the Rose Bowl and millions more around the world, this generation of U.S. Women’s soccer has produced the following:

  • Winning streak on American soil that has almost reached 100 games
  • Never been ranked lower than number 2 in the World FIFA Rankings
  • Won three Olympic Gold Medals

But, they have not lifted the most prestigious trophy of them all, settling for third place finishes in 2003 and 2007 FIFA World Cup, and as runner-up in 2011, losing to Japan in the Final.

This era has produced a number of stars – the biggest who include Abby Wambach, the top goal scorer in international soccer history (men and women), playmaking midfielder Alex Morgan and goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo, who has been the steady presence in goal for many years now, has been in the headlines for all of the wrong reasons – having been arrested and involved in multiple ugly domestic incidents.   Yet, despite her incidents, U.S. Soccer officials, and her new coach, have stood by their number one keeper.

But yesterday, ESPN’s Outside the Lines released the details from Solo’s arrest late last year – and it wasn’t pretty.

Now, with a cloud of controversy hovering over the team – with a lot of media attention now focused on Solo’s checkered personal life, her teammates and coach are backing her up.

A U.S. Soccer spokesman said the federation would not comment on Sunday’s ESPN report.

But Coach Jill Ellis told the Los Angeles Times she was still supporting her goalie.

“That was a long time ago,” she said of Solo’s arrest. “We’ve moved on. And she’s been a fantastic player and a teammate.

“So none of that’s even resonated with us. And I’m sure many of the players aren’t aware of it.”

One of Solo’s teammates is Gibsonia’s Meghan Klingenberg, a speedy outside back who has been a regular starter.

The U.S. women wrapped up their pre-Women’s World Cup friendly schedule last week with a somewhat disappointing result, a 0-0 draw at a sold-out Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., against South Korea.

Prior to that, they pummeled Mexico, 5-1, and Ireland 3-0, in matches earlier in May in California.

For those of you who will be watching closely, Klingenberg, who is known as “Kling” to her teammates, will likely be starting at outside back.  She has started in nine of the team’s 10 games in 2015. In each of the three friendlies, she played into the second half, but was replaced.

The U.S. has only lost once in 10 games in 2015, a 2-0 defeat to one of the other favorites, France.

ANALYSIS

The U.S. Women have something to prove.  

Maybe the sluggish result in their send-off finale could be somewhat attributed to the whirlwind media tour that has included in many appearances throughout the country– especially in the final weeks prior to departing for Canada.  

In fact, Kingenberg was in Pittsburgh a few times in the past month — including a few weeks ago when as part of U.S. Soccer’s #SheBelieves initiative, joined the Riverhounds Academy for a training with the girls teams.  

So, heading into the World Cup, some questions remain.

  • Is the U.S. Women’s Soccer National Team overrated, overhyped and an underachieving team?
  • Has the World caught up and are the U.S. playing an outdated, too direct style of play?
  • Is the U.S. team relying on too many veteran, older players?  

It’s likely a combination of these things that are legitimate reasons why it won’t be easy to reclaim the World Cup.  The world catching up definitely is a major factor.  While China was the major threat in 1999, the U.S. will likely have to get past teams like France, Brazil, the defending Champions, Japan and the host team, Canada, who they’ve developed a pretty intense rivalry and the emergence of the World’s top ranked team – Germany.  

In the 2011 World Cup, they needed a miracle finish to advance to the final as Wambach scored a goal in the dying seconds of extra time to tie Brazil in the Semifinal. They also were able to win dramatic matches on their way to the Gold Medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics. They would lose to Japan in the Final.  

For Solo, Wambach and Christie Rampone, the venerable 39 year-old defender, this will likely be their last chance, while with younger players like Klingenberg and the team’s star midfielder, Morgan, who are in their primes, the future is now.    

The game has now evolved from when the U.S. was dominating the World stage in women’s soccer.

Now that other countries are investing more resources and opportunities for women to play soccer, traditional soccer nations such as France and Germany, which were once an afterthought on the women’s side, now have very strong teams.   We are watching more teams that are technical, more tactically adept and highly sophisticated. Top teams like France, Japan and Germany are known for their possession and ball movement.

It seems that to some, the U.S. women look to be playing the same game they always have and that might not be good enough.

Just last month, Ireland coach Sue Ronan remarked to Fox Sports, that “the US has become quite direct under [coach] Jill Ellis.” When the Americans were shut out by Iceland at the Algarve Cup this spring, their coach Freyr Alexandersson said he would have been unhappy if he were in charge of the US team.

“We saw that when they get under pressure, they tend to resort to the long ball,” he said. “I don’t understand it because they can play the ball on the grass.”

We’ll have to see how this plays out. The experts are saying that the U.S. Women are in a “Group of Death” along with Australia, Nigeria and Sweeden.

It won’t be any easy path by any means.

SCHEDULE

Here’s a look at their  schedule in group play:

  • Australia        Monday, June 8              Winnipeg Stadium (FOX Sports 1)
  • Sweden           Friday, June 12               Winnipeg Stadium (FOX)
  • Nigeria            Tuesday, June 16            BC Place in Vancouver.(FOX)

You can follow Pittsburgh Soccer Report’s John Krysinsky for his commentary during the U.S. Women’s World Cup on Twitter @johnkrysinsky

 

 

 

 

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