Monday, November 08, 2010

New Year in the Women's Soccer Calendar Cycle

Wow. It's so hard to get worked up for writing a lather-filled screed about a game that was a giant pile of meh, so let's have a gallon or two of coffee and try to ramp up gradually here.

The US-Mexico Women's World Cup qualifying match exposed the same US weaknesses we have fretted about since 2007 (lack of speed, lack of technical precision, snooze-inducing tactics, over-reliance on Route 1 to Abby's head), but did so in a way that we hope is horrifyingly novel enough to have gotten somebody's attention. You know, somebody else who might be able to do something about the situation.

The 4-4-2 is over. Time for a 4-3-3, a 4-2-3-1, something to beef up the attack. Something with options besides Wambach, who can find the back of the net with her head like no other and is demonstrably tougher than nails (say what you will about her occasionally limited game and questionable past leadership; nobody could watch her standing there with blood pouring from her head and being stapled--stapled!--up on the sideline and not bust out with a well fuck all, go America!). Keep her up there in the middle as an aerial option, but please, please, please, start Alex Morgan and Lauren Cheney up there with her as more mobile, slashing, versatile attackers. Amy Rodriguez is very fast, very very fast, but until the goals are expanded (see: barn, broad side of), she isn't a realistic scoring threat on the international level.

Speaking of scoring threat, any level, Carli Lloyd? Really? Still on the roster at all, let alone starting? Really? Pia, honey, we can put that long-overdue discussion about the merits of wearing a bra on the back burner for now, because we really need to talk about some of your personnel decisions. Lloyd sucks. Trust me on this; I'm a Red Stars fan. Boxx? Oh god. I love Boxxy. But at 33 she's lost a step, and holding mids (remember that position?) need a step. She is perhaps emblematic of a problem where many players appear to be on the roster because, well, they made the roster at some point in the past and you're reluctant to discard people that are past their shelf lives. You can afford one long-long-long-term savvy veteran on the field, if you surround that player with a bunch of young legs, so sure, keep Lil parked in the midfield. Everyone else, though, needs to perform or lose their spots.

Krieger? Nogueira? Averbuch? Rapinoe? Until Heath is healthy again, I do not know where the answer lies in the midfield. Back line? Brrrr. LePeilbet is fine. Rampone, I suppose, can still get it done but needs to have some real afterburner speed next to her. Mitts? Not so much. Cox? Maybe.

Keeper? Until Solo is back and demonstrably her old self, what the hell, throw Loyden in there and see what happens. Or Ashlyn Harris, who has demonstrated the ability to stand on her head and pirouette and tap dance all at the same time if it keeps the ball out of the net.

Just change it up, Pia. Jesus. Please. What you've been doing does not work. Player combinations that first fielded ten years ago do not work now. The baffling lack of a short passing/creative runs control game really does not work. Just running full out worked fifteen years ago, but now the rest of the planet has caught up, and we no longer have the monopoly on good athletes who can run circles around everyone else well into their thirties. Now we need great young athletes and tactical superiority just to keep up with Germany, and Norway, and... Mexico.

One and done territory, kids. Lose and the US does not go to the World Cup, which is on the level of the Yankees being mathematically eliminated on May 15. Win and the prize is a two-leg play-in game against Italy, with the last leg on November 27. In Chicago. Fucking hell. Catch the carnage on ESPN2 at 6pm EST tonight.

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