Posted on: July 17, 2011 1:38 pm
Edited on: July 17, 2011 1:40 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
We speculated yesterday that after substitute Megan Rapinoe's heroics in the U.S.'s two elimination games and the continued struggles of starting forward Amy Rodriguez, head coach Pia Sundhage might promote Rapinoe to the starting lineup or drop Rodriguez to the subs' bench for today's Women's World Cup final.
As it turns out, Sundhage has elected to kill both of those birds with the same stone. Midfielder Lauren Cheney has been moved to striker, both opening up a position for Rapinoe on the wing and moving Rodriguez to the bench.
Cheney has plenty of experience at striker and proved her goalscoring chops in the semifinal against France, finishing cooly to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the 9th minute. Her superior passing to Rodriguez's could also help what projects to be a substantial U.S. deficit in possession against the highly technical Japanese.
As expected, central defender Rachel Buehler has returned to the starting lineup after her red-card suspension against the French. Replacement Becky Sauerbrunn returns to the bench.
The full U.S. starting 11:
GK: Hope Solo
D (right to left): Aly Krieger, Rachel Buehler, Christie Rampone, Amy LePeilbet
M: Heather O'Reilly, Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe
F: Abby Wambach, Lauren Cheney
Posted on: July 16, 2011 10:25 pm
Edited on: July 17, 2011 2:00 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
We know they will run until their lungs burst. We know they will do anything and everything they can to get the ball to the head of Abby Wambach. We know Hope Solo will provide the steadiness in goal that comes with being the world's best female goalkeeper. We know, after their epic comeback against Brazil, that regardless of scoreline they will throw everything they've got at the Japanese for all 90 minutes. Or, if it comes to it, 120. Or 122.
But those things alone won't be enough. Here's five more the USWNT must do to win their first World Cup title since 1999:
Win the set-piece battle. This final matches up arguably the world's two most dangerous women's teams on free kicks, though each side creates that danger through very different means. Behind the precision shots of Aya Miyama, Japan is a substantial threat to score directly from a dead ball; Wambach, meanwhile, has used the tournament to again prove herself the greatest aerial target in the women's game. If the U.S.'s crosses to Wambach can cause more havoc for Japan than Miyama's free kicks can for the U.S, the edge could prove decisive for the Americans. (And given the huge physical advantage the towering Wambach has over Japan's size-challenged defenders, that's not unlikely.)
Keep pressing--but do it smartly. The U.S. is the soccer equivalent of Nolan Richardson's old "40 Minutes of Hell" Arkansas basketball teams, using their box-to-box pressing style both to 1. force turnovers and create scoring opportunities as well as 2. grind down opponents with their superior fitness and strength. But against France in Wednesday's semifinal, the U.S. became too aggressive at times, pushing five or even six players into the French side of midfield to pressure just four defenders. While this approach can pay huge dividends against the Colombias of the world, against the skilled French it more often resulted in a quick pass through or over the pressure--and a scramble in the American defense. And unfortunately for the U.S., Japan is much more France than Colombia when it comes to team skill.
Defensively, just don't make the killer mistake. U.S. fans should go ahead and accept that their team will lose the possession battle; tight, controlled passing is (as mentioned) the cornerstone of the Japanese game, while the Americans' direct approach often gives the ball up willingly in exchange for the chance of hitting a deep home run to Wambach or speedier forwards Amy Rodriguez and Alex Morgan.
Get the ball wide. Speaking of possession, central midfielders Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx struggled badly to maintain it against the French. But perhaps their even bigger sin was their failure to consistently get the ball to starting wingers Heather O'Reilly and Lauren Cheney. While Wambach is the finisher, it's the wide midfielders -- O'Reilly, Cheney, and in-form substitute Megan Rapinoe -- who provide the bulk of the U.S. attack's creativity and flow.
If all else fails, take it to penalty kicks. Between Solo and the penalty-taking clinic the U.S. put on in their shootout against Brazil, the Americans will be heavy favorites if the match reaches that stage. While the U.S. has never been the sort of squad to sit back and just let the clock peter out on a tie game, their likely advantage in this scenario suggests that once the clock hits the 110th or 115th minute, that might be the better strategy than risking a sudden breakdown at the back.
Tags: Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez, Arkansas, Aya Miyama, Aya Samashima, Brazil, Cali Lloyd, Colombia, France, Heather O'Reilly, Hedvig Lindal, Homare Sawa, Hope Solo, Lauren Cheney, Megan Rapinoe, Nolan Richardson, Shannon Boxx, Sweden, U.S. Women's National Team. Women's World Cup, USWNT, Yukari Kinga
Posted on: July 16, 2011 12:57 pm
Edited on: July 16, 2011 2:29 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
In short, on paper, the veteran Lloyd was the last player you'd think to remove from a tied World Cup semifinal, with the Americans under a second-half siege and desperately needing a stronger, steadier presence in the center of midfield.
On the field, though, it wasn't working out that way. Lloyd was struggling, giving up possession far too easily against the swarming French midfield and repeatedly failing to get the ball wide to the U.S.'s threatening wingers. So in the 65th minute, head coach Pia Sundhage did the nigh-unthinkable: she substituted Lloyd out of the game. Left-sided midfielder Lauren Cheney -- and her nearly 70 fewer caps -- took up Lloyd's spot in the center, while Megan Rapinoe (the supplier of the cross for Abby Wambach's heart-stopping goal against Brazil) went wide.
It was by far the most aggressive, most courageous, boldest decision made all tournament by the typically conservative Sundhage. And it paid off in a bushel of spades -- what had been one-way traffic toward the American goal slowly and steadily shifted in the opposite direction as Rapinoe terrorized the French backline and Cheney stabilized the center of midfield. Seventeen minutes after the Lloyd substitution, Rapinoe fed Alex Morgan for what became the clinching goal, and the U.S. was off to the final with a 3-1 victory. The match's turning point -- and the colossal impact of Sundhage's decision -- could not have been more obvious.
Now, with less than 24 hours until the U.S. takes on Japan for its first World Cup title since 1999 (Sunday, 2:45 ET, ESPN), Sundhage faces choices even bigger than those that decided the semifinal. The sort of coach who might celebrate victory with an air guitar solo or sing Simon and Garfunkel at a press conference, the Swedish-born Sundhage has often seen her tactics and roster management overshadowed by her quirky off-field personality. The irony there is that the latter plays a big role in the former -- Sundhage's (seemingly) laid-back, carefree approach to life is mirrored in her cautious, let-the-players-work-through-their-
Despite frustrating some of the more rabid followers of the USWNT, it's an approach that's paid impressive dividends during the Americans' World Cup run. After left back Amy LePeilbet's howler of a performance in the 2-1 group-stage loss to Sweden, the calls for her benching were long and loud. But Sundhage opted for a more subtle adjustment, moving veteran Christie Rampone from the right to the left of the U.S.'s central defense to give LePeilbet more support; the result was the American backline's best outing of the tournament against Brazil.
That win did come at the cost of a semifinal suspension for the U.S.'s other central defender, the red-carded Rachel Buehler. Many USWNT supporters suggested Sundhage replace Buehler by moving LePeilbet to her more natural central defensive position and starting the promising Stephanie Cox at left back. Instead Sundhage kept LePeilbet in place, simply moved the untested Becky Sauerbrunn into the starting lineup in Buehler's spot, and watched Sauerbrunn play the game of her young career against the French.
But just as it became necessary to yank Lloyd to turn the tide against the French, so winning a championship against a poised, confident Japanese side will likely require Sundhage to once again make some bolder decisions than she might be comfortable with.
Forward Amy Rodriguez, for instance, has started every game of the tournament, but has yet to find the net. Is it time to give the enterprising Morgan the start instead? The U.S. has frequently struggled to maintain possession and faces an even bigger challenge to do so against the technically gifted Japanese. Though the U.S. rarely plays with a five-woman midfield, might it be worth doing so to keep Lloyd and fellow central midfielder Shannon Boxx from being overrun, as they were against the French? And then there's Rapinoe, easily the best American player on the field in the semifinal. As stocked as the U.S. is at her wide midfield slot, shouldn't there be a spot for her in the starting lineup somewhere?
Those questions aren't easy to answer, which is why even the happy-go-lucky Sundhage is no doubt feeling the weight of the World Cup at this very moment. Stick too closely to her conservative guns or experiment too wildly, and she blows the biggest opportunity the U.S. has enjoyed in more than a decade in front of the biggest audience of her and her players' careers. Correctly weigh her cautious instincts with the right amount of aggression, though, and she wins the championship that etches her name alongside those of Anson Dorrance and Tony DiCicco as one of the greatest coaches in USWNT history.
By this time tomorrow, a new Women's World Cup champion will be crowned. And for the U.S.A., it all hangs in its manager's balance.
Tags: Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Amy LePeilbet, Amy Rodriguez, Anson Dorrance, Becky Sauerbrunn, Brazil, Carli Lloyd, Christie Rampone, France, Lauren Cheney, Megan Rapinoe, Pia Sundhage, Shannon Boxx, Stephanie Cox, Sweden, Tony DiCicco, U.S. Women's National Team, U.S. women's soccer, USWNT, Women's World Cup
Posted on: July 15, 2011 4:09 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
In Pamplona, when the bulls get their motors running, lots of people end up going for rides on sharp horns. (And people think football is violent.)
Most of them don't do it naked, though. However, the gentleman in the surprisingly-safe-for-work video below does just that, as he streaks into a crowd of would-be matadors and gets picked up by the bull and then summarily tossed on his naked backside.
Two points worth mentioning before go streaking: First, the kids filming the video start yelling "Kill Killer, kill!" That is, I believe, a direct homage to the stoner classic "Half Baked."
And secondly, we know this streaker is okay because he was able to chat with the police while they cited him for causing a public disturbance. Burn.
For more sports news, rumors and analysis, follow @CBSSports on Twitter and subscribe to the Eye on Sports RSS Feed.
Posted on: July 15, 2011 2:26 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
In between potentially being fined $1 million dollars and laying off his employees despite making their combined salary about nine times over from endorsements, Michael Jordan is still living the life. He's at Lake Tahoe for the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship this weekend, and in the process, wound up making a friendly wager with a spectator.
Courtesy of Busted Coverage (via The Basketball Jones) comes video of the exchange. Here's Jordan making the bet, from a distance:
And here's him winning whatever the bet was, and collecting his winning with a cold-blooded jaunt.
Brutal. All that's missing is the shrug.
My favorite part of this is the guy in the white shirt behind the rope line who wants Jordan to high-five him... and Jordan predictably leaves him completely hanging.
Nice to see that Jordan maintains A. his competitive spirit, B. his love/obsession with winning and C. his borderline addiction with gambling. Some things never change. And hey, he's not wearing Mom Jeans.
Posted on: July 15, 2011 10:35 am
Posted by Ryan Wilson
Two years ago, Tom Watson, then 59, showed up at Turnberry and almost won the British Open. Stewart Cink held him off down the stretch, but it was the latest evidence that Watson and the Open Championship are forever intertwined. He has five Claret Jugs on his resume, and he's one of the most popular players in British Open history.
So it was only fitting that he showed up at Royal St. George's this week to wild applause and ended up in the same group as 20-year-old British amateur Tom Lewis, who was named for Watson.
While Watson's two-round, 2-over total is currently good for 52nd, we got a glimpse of why he is one of the best links players ever. On Friday, he carded a hole in one on the par 3, 176-yard sixth hole.
The best part (other than the pleasure of writing "1" on the scorecard): when Watson saw the replay for the first time he shouted: "Oh! A slam dunk!"
For more British Open coverage follow CBSSports.com's Scribble Live Chat
Posted on: July 15, 2011 10:13 am
Edited on: July 15, 2011 10:17 am
Posted by Will Brinson
One of the truly great things about writing about sports from home is that you can watch the early rounds of golf tournaments on Fridays and Saturdays. Sometimes, however, this takes a turn for the worse.
Like when the network that airs the tournament decides to show video of Miguel Angel Jimenez stretching before Friday round of the British Open. (Hey, did you know we're live-chatting it? And that you can get all the coverage you could possibly want right here? You can!)
As Dan Jenkins of Golf Digest tweeted on Friday, "The Mechanic" "has a warm-up routine that would get a stripper arrested."
And cost me my breakfast.
Posted on: July 13, 2011 2:54 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2011 4:18 pm
Posted by Brian Stubits
This is how a country can endear itself to a sport it has yet to really accept.
The U.S. Women's World Cup squad has been gripping. It has been beyond entertaining. And speaking for myself, it has inspired an even stronger sense of patriotism.
I am still trying to figure out the more amazing part of this Women's World Cup: the fact that people in the U.S. are paying such close attention to soccer or that they are paying attention to women's soccer. Let's be honest, women's sports take a back seat in interest level. Even in tennis, a sport where the interest is near equal, the men always play their finals after the women.
I took in the quarterfinal game against Brazil in a sports bar and was somewhat stunned to see the people on hand watching the game, erupting into celebration with Abby Wambach's game-tying goal. Suddenly, Uncle Sam's army was spreading, bringing out some soccer aficionados cheering on the ladies in the red, white and blue.
Names like Wambach, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Heather O'Reilly now exist in a lot of sports fans' vocabularies. Moments like this from Rapinoe help too. Now there is more than Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain to Americans.
Of course, winning helps too. Winning always helps. Especially in such exciting fashion. Is there anything Americans love more than winning?
The Brazil win will go down as one of the greatest games in U.S. soccer history, men or women. But the 3-1 victory over France today was no slouch in the intrigue department. The Americans were dominated by the French for the first 70 minutes of this game. The U.S. had one chance early and scored. After that, it was all France, including a second-half score by Les Bleus, leading to a lot more nail-biting in the States. That was until Wambach found herself on the far post with a header opportunity again, this time coming off a corner kick. Suddenly, the USA was up again and flipped the game's script that fast. With the French defense forced to press, Morgan snuck by and tacked on the icing three minutes later. The U.S. is back in the World Cup final.
Now I'm no fool. I understand that in a few week's time this will largely be forgotten and soccer will remain more or less a niche sport in the States. But every time there is a team like this or moments like Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria last year, the game gains more steam in the States. It has to.
This has been great soccer. Yes, the team itself has made for some compelling games by their late-game heroics and the like, but it really has been good soccer. And fans who say they won't watch soccer with the flopping? It's just not as prevalent in the women's game as the guys.
It is getting hard to ignore this team. And at this point, I'm not sure why you would want to.